Causal overdetermination worries arise in a number of domains, but most notably in the philosophy of mind. ln discussions of such worries, alleged examples of causal overdetermination are uniformly viewed as primajzcie problematic. While all alleged cases of overdetermination might (or might not) be problematic, I aim to show that they are so for different reasons. Examples of causal overdetermination neatly divide into three varieties, corresponding to the connections between the mechanisms and the properties of the (...) causes. Future debates over overdetermination, and mental causation in particular, should pay heed to this distinction. (shrink)
The Exclusion Problem (EP) for mental causation suggests that there is a tension between the claim that the mental causes physical effects, and the claim that the mental does not overdetermine its physical effects. In response, Karen Bennett (2008, 2003) puts forward an extra necessary condition for overdetermination: if one candidate cause were to occur but the other were not to occur, the effect would still occur. She thus denies one of the assumptions of EP, the assumption that if (...) an effect has two sufficient causes, it is overdetermined. If sound, her argument does two things: it solves EP, and it shows how to use counterfactuals in order to make the notion of overdetermination precise. However, the argument is not sound. (shrink)
In trying to establish the view that there are no non-living macrophysical objects, Trenton Merricks has produced an influential argument—the Overdetermination Argument—against the causal efficacy of composite objects. A serious problem for the Overdetermination Argument is the ambiguity in the notion of overdetermination that is being employed, which is due to the fact that Merricks does not provide any theory of causation to support his claims. Once we adopt a plausible theory of causation, viz. interventionism, problems with (...) the Overdetermination will become evident. After laying out the Overdetermination Argument and examining one extant objection to it, I will explicate the relevant aspects of an interventionist theory of causation and provide a characterization of overdetermination that follows from such an account. From this, I will argue that the Causal Principle that undergirds the Overdetermination Argument is false and hence the argument is invalid; and I claim that the only other available characterization of overdetermination would render a key premise in the argument false. Thus, the Overdetermination Argument fails to provide us with any reason to deny the causal efficacy of macrophysical objects, and therefore provides no reason to doubt their existence. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss a famous argument for physicalism – which some authors indeed regard as the only argument for it – the overdetermination argument. In fact it is an argument that does not establish that all the entities in the world are physical, but that all those events that enter into causal transactions with the physical world are physical. As mental events seem to cause changes in the physical world, the mind is one of those things that (...) fall within the scope of the argument. Here I analyze one response to the overdetermination argument that has acquired some popularity lately, and which consists in saying that what mental events cause are not physical effects. I try to show that recent attempts to develop this response are not successful, but that there may be a coherent way of doing so. I also try to show that there seems to be a philosophical niche in which this way might fit. (shrink)
A typical thesis of contemporary materialism holds that mental properties and events supervene on, without being reducible to, physical properties and events. Many philosophers have grown skeptical about the causal efficacy of irreducibly supervenient properties, however, and one of the main reasons is an assumption about causation which Jaegwon Kim calls the causal exclusion principle. I argue here that this principle runs afoul of cases of genuine causal overdetermination.Many would argue that causal overdetermination is impossible anyway, but a (...) careful analysis of these arguments shows them to be misguided. Finally, I examine the reasons given in support of the causal exclusion principle, and I conclude that it is plausible if, and probably only if, a certain view of the nature of causation turns out to be correct. Since that view of causation is unacceptable to nonreductivists on other grounds, however, it turns out that exclusion-based arguments essentially beg the question. (shrink)
Jaegwon Kim argues that if mental properties are irreducible with respect to physical properties then mental properties are epiphenomenal. I believe this conditional is false and argue that mental properties, along with their physical counterparts, may overdetermine their effects. Kim contends, however, that embracing overdetermination in the mental case, due to supervenience, renders the attribution of overdetermination vacuous. This way of blocking the overdetermination option, however, makes the attribution of mental epiphenomenalism equally vacuous. Furthermore, according to Kim’s (...) own logic, physical properties, and not mental properties, may be in danger of losing their causal relevance. (shrink)
A morally objectionable outcome can be overdetermined by the actions of multiple individual agents. In such cases, the outcome is the same regardless of what any individual does or does not do. (For a clear example of such a case, imagine the execution of an innocent person by a firing squad.) We argue that, in some of these types of cases, (a) there exists a group agent, a moral agent constituted by individual agents; (b) the group agent is guilty of (...) violating a moral obligation; however, (c) none of the individual agents violate any of their moral obligations. We explicate and defend this view, and consider its applications to problems generated by anthropogenic climate change and electoral politics. (shrink)
An analysis and rebuttal of Jaegwon Kim's reasons for taking nonreductive physicalism to entail the causal irrelevance of mental features to physical phenomena, particularly the behaviour of human bodies.
The exclusion problem is held to show that mental and physical events are identical by claiming that the denial of this identity is incompatible with the causal completeness of physics and the occurrence of mental causation. The problem relies for its motivation on the claim that overdetermination of physical effects by mental and physical causes is objectionable for a variety of reasons. In this paper, I consider four different definitions of ?overdetermination? and argue that, on each, overdetermination (...) in all cases of mental causation either does not occur or is unobjectionable, even when mental and physical events are non-identical. I therefore conclude that the exclusion problem cannot be used as a reason to accept that mental and physical events are identical unless some other definition of ?overdetermination? is provided. (shrink)
This paper is about the causal exclusion argument against non-reductive physicalism. Many philosophers think that this argument poses a serious problem for non-reductive theories of the mind — some think that it is decisive against them. In the first part I will outline non-reductive physicalism and the exclusion argument. Then I will distinguish between three versions of the argument that address three different versions of non-reductive physicalism. According to the first, the relation between mental and physical events is token-identity. According (...) to the second, mental events are distinct from physical events, but the latter metaphysically include and determine the former. And on the third version, mental and physical events are entirely distinct. I will argue that the causal exclusion argument is not decisive against non-reductive physicalism in any of the three versions. According to non-reductive physicalism, mental events are dependent on physical events. Causal exclusion and overdetermination, however, requires distinct and independent causes. I will argue that the burden of proof lies with the opponents of non-reductive physicalism, who have to explain how metaphysically dependent events can possibly overdetermine an effect or exclude each other from being causally efficacious. (shrink)
If persons, cats and cellphones are not identical to the sums that constitute them, there seems to be a problem with symmetric causal overdetermination: anything the cat causes is also caused by her constitutive sums of microparticles, atoms, molecules, etc. But persons, cats and cellphones are not identical to the sums that constitute them. I argue that the problem of constitutive overdetermination is serious, in particular because of the problem of additivity: if there is constitutive overdetermination, there (...) is a transfer of energy, momentum, or some other conserved quantity from each overdetermining cause to the effect, but each quantity alone is sufficient to bring about the effect. If these conserved quantities are additive, constitutive overdetermination violates the laws. I then argue that constitutive overdetermination is an artifact of a flawed interpretation of the layered model of the world and propose a new interpretation. The argument is developed in the context of a discussion of the relations between objects, but there are obvious connections to debates in philosophy of mind, especially debates concerning mental causation. (shrink)
Jaegwon Kim argues that unreduced mental causes are excluded from efficacy because physical causes are sufficient in themselves. One response to this causal exclusion argument is to embrace some form of overdetermination. In this paper I consider two forms of overdetermination. Independent overdetermination suggests that two individually sufficient causes bring about one effect. This model fails because the sufficiency of one cause renders the other cause unnecessary. Dependent overdetermination suggests that a physical cause is necessary and (...) sufficient for a given effect, but it necessitates a mental cause of the effect as well. This model fails because the necessity of the mental cause renders the physical cause individually insufficient. (shrink)
This paper examines Jaegwon Kim's Supervenience Argument (SA) against nonreductive physicalism, concentrating on Kim's response to two of the most important objections against the SA: First, the Overdetermination Argument, according to which Kim has no convincing argument against the possibility that mental causation might be a case of genuine or systematic overdetermination; second, the Generalization Argument, according to which the SA would entail that causation at any level gives way to causation at the next lower level, thereby leading (...) to an untenable all-encompassing epiphenomenalism. It is argued that as of yet, Kim has failed to develop a coherent overall position, since various moves he makes in response to these criticisms are strangely at odds with other parts of his philosophical position. (shrink)
In traditional Frankfurt cases some conditions that make an outcome unavoidable fail to bring about that outcome. These are cases of causal preemption. I defend this interpretation of traditional Frankfurt cases, and its application to free will, against a dilemma raised by various libertarians. But I go on to argue that Frankfurt cases involving gen- uine (symmetric) causal overdetermination are even more eﬀective at achieving the compatibilist’s purposes. Such cases avoid the “ﬂicker of freedom” debate and better display the (...) central disagreement with regard to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. (shrink)
The paper argues against systematic overdetermination being an acceptable solution to the problem of mental causation within a Humean counterfactual theory of causation. The truth-makers of the counterfactuals in question include laws of nature, and there are laws that support physical to physical counterfactuals, but no laws in the same sense that support mental to physical counterfactuals.
The so-called problem of mental causation as discussed in the recent literature raises three central challenges for an adequate solution from a physicalist perspective: the threat of epiphenomenalism, the problem of externalism (or the difficulty in accounting for the causal efficacy of extrinsic mental properties) and the problem of causal exclusion (or the threat of over determination). We wish to account for mental causationas a real phenomenon within a physicalistic framework without accepting epiphenomenalism or overdetermination. The key ideas of (...) our proposal are an internal realism of causation combined with a relative notion of individuating events. We are arguing?contra Davidson?tha there is no absolute notion of events (neither as types nor as tokens) but rather one which is relative to explanatory interests and our intuitions concerning a relevant spatial and temporal overlap. Furthermore, we are presupposing a metaphysics of internal realism: We can only characterize entities by means of concepts produced within our epistemological framework. Physical concepts and mental concepts crossclassify the world as it is. Relying on this framework we try to explain how mental causation can be adequately described: Although mental concepts are not reducible to physical concepts and mental event-tokens may be different from "underlying" physical event-tokens, mental events are real phenomena that are realized by physical phenomena in special context conditions. (shrink)
Physicalists motivate their position by posing a problem for the opposition: given the causal completeness of physics and the impact of the mental (or, more broadly, the seemingly nonphysical) on the physical, antiphysicalism implies that causal overdetermination is rampant. This argument is, however, equivocal in its use of 'physical'. As Scott Sturgeon has recently argued, if 'physical' means that which is the object of physical theory, completeness is plausible, but the further claim that the mental has a causal impact (...) on the physical is no longer so evident. In this paper I assess the damage due to the ambiguity of 'physical' and provide a repair to the overdetermination strategy. (shrink)
The Exclusion Problem (ep) for mental causation suggests that there is a tension between the claim that the mental causes physical effects and the claim that the mental does not overdetermine its physical effects. In response, Karen Bennett (2003, 2008) puts forward an extra necessary condition for overdetermination: if one candidate cause were to occur but the other were not to occur, the effect would still occur. She thus denies one of the assumptions of ep, the assumption that if (...) an effect has two sufficient causes, it is overdetermined. If sound, her argument does two things: it solves ep, and it shows how to use counterfactuals in order to make the notion of overdetermination precise. However, the argument is not sound. (shrink)
Defenders of the subset view of realization have claimed that we can resolve well-known worries about mental-physical causal overdetermination by holding that mental properties are subset realized by physical properties, that instances of subset realized properties are parts of physical realizers, and that part-whole overdetermination is unproblematic. I challenge the claim that the overdetermination generated by the subset view can be legitimated by appealing to more mundane part-whole overdetermination. I conclude that the subset view does not (...) provide a unique solution to overdetermination worries. (shrink)
Scott Sturgeon has claimed to undermine the principal argument for Physicalism, in his words, the view that 'actuality is exhausted by physical reality' (Sturgeon 1998, p. 410). In noting that actuality is exhausted by physical reality, the Physicalist is not claiming that all that there is in actuality are those things identified by physics. Rather the thought is that actuality is made up of all the things identified by physics and anything which is a compound of these things. So there (...) are tables as well as their microphysical constituents. The argument that Sturgeon has in his sights is the Overdetermination Argument. In what follows, I shall argue that Sturgeon's criticism of the Overdetermination argument fails. I shall also argue that physicalism can accommodate his claim that causal statements concerning the mental and physical respectively may require diverse patterns of counterfactual activity for their truth. (shrink)
A model-theoretic realist account of science places linguistic systems and their corresponding non-linguistic structures at different stages or different levels of abstraction of the scientific process. Apart from the obvious problem of underdetermination of theories by data, philosophers of science are also faced with the inverse (and very real) problem of overdetermination of theories by their empirical models, which is what this article will focus on. I acknowledge the contingency of the factors determining the nature – and choice – (...) of a certain model at a certain time, but in my terms, this is a matter about which we can talk and whose structure we can formalise. In this article a mechanism for tracing "empirical choices" and their particularized observational-theoretical entanglements will be offered in the form of Yoav Shoham's version of non-monotonic logic. Such an analysis of the structure of scientific theories may clarify the motivations underlying choices in favor of certain empirical models (and not others) in a way that shows that "disentangling" theoretical and observation terms is more deeply model-specific than theory-specific. This kind of analysis offers a method for getting an articulable grip on the overdetermination of theories by their models – implied by empirical equivalence – which Kuipers' structuralist analysis of the structure of theories does not offer. (shrink)
In a recent and interesting paper “Experientially Defeasible A Priori Justification,” Joshua Thurow argues that many a priori justified beliefs are defeasible by experience. The argument takes the form of an objection against Albert Casullo’s recent book, A Priori Justification, where Casullo, according to Thurow, denies that if a justified belief is non-experientially defeasible, then that belief is also experientially defeasible. This paper critically examines Thurow’s two arguments in the first two sections I–II. In the last section, III, an alternative (...) line of argument for Thurow’s thesis is suggested that employs other parts of the framework that Casullo provides—especially the thesis of overdetermination of justification. It will be argued that the prospects for this suggestion are brighter than for bothof Thurow’s arguments. (shrink)
Necessary-condition analyses of singular causal claims are particularly vulnerable to cases of linked overdetermination, so named because the nonoperation of the back-up factor (in fail-safe cases) or the preempted factor (in preemptive cases) is linked to the operation of the actual cause. As an example J. L. Mackie's analysis is here challenged with a simple switch-light case. Three replies are considered, a facts-vs.-events reply, a different-effect reply, and an in-the-circumstances reply. All are found deficient.
Jaegwon Kim ha actualizado y resumido el problema cartesiano de la causación mental en tres ideas en conflicto: el principio deI cierre causal deI mundo fisico, la eficacia causal de la mente, y el principio de exclusión causal-explicativa (PEE). Este último principio nos dice que no puede haber dos causas/explicaciones causales que sean ambas completas e independientes para un evento determinado, salvo en casos de sobredeterminación. Aunque la forma habitual de afrontar este problema de exclusión es buscar una relación de (...) dependencia entre las propiedades físicas y las mentales, algunosfilósofos mantienen que puede tratarse de un caso de sobredeterminación. En este artículo, analizo la posibilidad de que esto sea así.Jaegwon Kim has very nicely updated and summed up Descartes’ problem of mental causation in three conflicting ideas: the principle of the causal closure of the physical, the causal efficacy of the mental, and the principle of the causal-explanatory exclusion (PEE). This last principle tells us that there cannot be two causes/causal explanations that are both complete and independent for one event, excpt in eases of overdetermination. Though the usual way to this exclusion problem is look for a dependency relation between mental and physical properties, some philosophers hold it can be a case of overdetermination. In this paper, I analyze the chances that this could be so. (shrink)
The intimate relationship between X and Y consists in the existence of (metaphysically) necessary truths correlating their occurrences/existences/instantiations. E would be in some sense “overdetermined” if caused by both X and Y.2 Some philosophers say this would be bad, that this cannot or does not happen, that we should construct theories ruling it out, at least in certain cases.3 But why? Given the necessary truths correlating objects and their parts, objects and events concerning those objects, physical and supervenient mental properties, (...) and so on, X and Y do both seem to be causes of E. Should we say that a baseball.. (shrink)
According to an increasing number of authors, the best, if not the only, argument in favour of physicalism is the so-called 'overdetermination argument'. This argument, if sound, establishes that all the entities that enter into causal interactions with the physical world are physical. One key premise in the overdetermination argument is the principle of the causal closure of the physical world, said to be supported by contemporary physics. In this paper, I examine various ways in which physics may (...) support the principle, either as a methodological guide or as depending on some other laws and principles of physics. (shrink)
I argue that our knowledge of the world's causal structure does not generate a sound argument for physicalism. This undermines the popular view that physicalism is the only scientifically respectable worldview.
By treating colours as sui generis intrinsic properties of objects we can maintain that (1) colours are causally responsible for colour experiences (and so agree with the physicalist) and (2) colours, along with the similarity and difference relations that colours bear to one another, are presented to us by casual observation (and so agree with the dispositionalist). The major obstacle for such a view is the causal overdetermination of colour experience. Borrowing and expanding on the works of Sydney Shoemaker (...) and Stephen Yablo, the paper offers a solution. (shrink)
My purpose is to account for some oddities in what Kant did and did not say about "moral worth," and for another in what commentators tell us about his intent. The stone with which I hope to dispatch these several birds is-as one would expect a philosopher's stone to be-a distinction. I distinguish between two things Kant might have had in mind under the heading of moral worth. They come readily to mind when one both takes account of what he (...) actually said about it and notices a fact which he did not seem to notice: namely, that dutiful action- action which, whatever its motive, fulfills a duty-can be over- determined, and determined in particular by both respect for duty and some consortium of inclinations and prudenc. (shrink)
This paper identifies an overdetermination problem faced by the non-reductive dispositional property account of disposition ascriptions. Two possible responses to the problem are evaluated and both are shown to have serious drawbacks. Finally it is noted that the traditional conditional analysis of dispositional ascriptions escapes the original difficulty.
In discussions of moral responsibility for collectively produced effects, it is not uncommon to assume that we have to abandon the view that causal involvement is a necessary condition for individual co-responsibility. In general, considerations of cases where there is “a mismatch between the wrong a group commits and the apparent causal contributions for which we can hold individuals responsible” motivate this move. According to Brian Lawson, “solving this problem requires an approach that deemphasizes the importance of causal contributions”. Christopher (...) Kutz’s theory of complicitious accountability in Complicity from 2000 is probably the most well-known approach of that kind. Standard examples are supposed to illustrate mismatches of three different kinds: an agent may be morally co-responsible for an event to a high degree even if her causal contribution to that event is a) very small, b) imperceptible, or c) non-existent (in overdetermination cases). From such examples, Kutz and others conclude that principles of complicitious accountability cannot include a condition of causal involvement. In the present paper, I defend the causal involvement condition for co-responsibility. These are my lines of argument: First, overdetermination cases can be accommodated within a theory of coresponsibility without giving up the causality condition. Kutz and others oversimplify the relation between counterfactual dependence and causation, and they overlook the possibility that causal relations other than marginal contribution could be morally relevant. Second, harmful effects are sometimes overdetermined by non-collective sets of acts. Over-farming, or the greenhouse effect, might be cases of that kind. In such cases, there need not be any formal organization, any unifying intentions, or any other noncausal criterion of membership available. If we give up the causal condition for coresponsibility it will be impossible to delimit the morally relevant set of acts related to those harms. Since we sometimes find it fair to blame people for such harms, we must question the argument from overdetermination. Third, although problems about imperceptible effects or aggregation of very small effects are morally important, e.g. when we consider degrees of blameworthiness or epistemic limitations in reasoning about how to assign responsibility for specific harms, they are irrelevant to the issue of whether causal involvement is necessary for complicity. Fourth, the costs of rejecting the causality condition for complicity are high. Causation is an explicit and essential element in most doctrines of legal liability and it is central in common sense views of moral responsibility. Giving up this condition could have radical and unwanted consequences for legal security and predictability. However, it is not only for pragmatic reasons and because it is a default position that we should require stronger arguments (than conflicting intuitions about “mismatches”) before giving up the causality condition. An essential element in holding someone to account for an event is the assumption that her actions and intentions are part of the explanation of why that event occurred. If we give up that element, it is difficult to see which important function responsibility assignments could have. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that causation is an essentially macroscopic phenomenon, and that mental causes are therefore capable of outcompeting their more specific physical realizers as causes of physical effects. But I also argue that any causes must be type-identical with physical properties, on pain of positing inexplicable physical conspiracies. I therefore allow macroscopic mental causation, but only when it is physically reducible.
The causal argument for physicalism is anayzed and it's key premise--the causal closure of physics--is found wanting. Therefore, a hidden premise must be added to the argument to gain its conclusion, but the hidden premise is indistinguishable from the conclusion of the causal argument. Therefore, it begs the question on physicalism.
This paper introduces a new family of cases where agents are jointly morally responsible for outcomes over which they have no individual control, a family that resists standard ways of understanding outcome responsibility. First, the agents in these cases do not individually facilitate the outcomes and would not seem individually responsible for them if the other agents were replaced by non-agential causes. This undermines attempts to understand joint responsibility as overlapping individual responsibility; the responsibility in question is essentially joint. Second, (...) the agents involved in these cases are not aware of each other's existence and do not form a social group. This undermines attempts to understand joint responsibility in terms of actual or possible joint action or joint intentions, or in terms of other social ties. Instead, it is argued that intuitions about joint responsibility are best understood given the Explanation Hypothesis, according to which a group of agents are seen as jointly responsible for outcomes that are suitably explained by their motivational structures: something bad happened because they didn’t care enough; something good happened because their dedication was extraordinary. One important consequence of the proposed account is that responsibility for outcomes of collective action is a deeply normative matter. (shrink)
Several prominent, contemporary theories of actual causation maintain that in order for something to count as an actual cause (in the circumstances) of some known effect, the potential cause must be a difference-maker with respect to the effect in some restricted range of circumstances. Although the theories disagree about how to restrict the range of circumstances that must be considered in deciding whether something counts as an actual cause of a known effect, the theories agree that at least some counterfactual (...) circumstances must be considered. I argue that the theories are still too permissive in the range of counterfactual circumstances they admit for consideration, and I present simple counter-examples that make use of this overpermissiveness. (shrink)
The principle of causal exclusion is based on two distinct causal notions: causal sufficiency and causation simpliciter. The principle suggests that the former has the power to exclude the latter. But that is problematic since it would amount to claiming that sufficient causes alone can take the roles of causes simpliciter. Moreover, the principle also assumes that events can sometimes have both sufficient causes and causes simpliciter. This assumption is in conflict with the first part of the principle that claims (...) that sufficient causes must exclude causes simpliciter. (shrink)
The basic form of the exclusion problem is by now very, very familiar. 2 Start with the claim that the physical realm is causally complete: every physical thing that happens has a sufficient physical cause. Add in the claim that the mental and the physical are distinct. Toss in some claims about overdetermination, give it a stir, and voilá—suddenly it looks as though the mental never causes anything, at least nothing physical. As it is often put, the physical does (...) all the work, and there is nothing left for the mental to do. (shrink)
When two rocks shatter the window at once, what causes the window to shatter? Is the throwing of each individual rock a cause of the window shattering, or are the throwings only causes collectively? This question bears on the analysis of causation, and the metaphysics of macro-causation. I argue that the throwing of each individual rock is a cause of the window shattering, and generally that individual overdeterminers are causes.
: Descartes provides an original and puzzling argument for the traditional theological doctrine that the world is continuously created by God. His key premise is that the parts of the duration of anything are "completely independent" of one another. I argue that Descartes derives this temporal independence thesis simply from the principle that causes are necessarily simultaneous with their effects. I argue further that it follows from Descartes's version of the continuous creation doctrine that God is the instantaneous and total (...) cause of everything that happens, and that this is just what his physics demands. But although God is the total cause of everything, he is not the only cause, since Descartes considers it obvious that finite minds have the power to move bodies. In the face of this apparent paradox, several recent commentators have suggested that Descartes accepted the late scholastic view that God and finite causes somehow collaborate or concur in the production of numerically identical effects. But close examination reveals that the case for Cartesian concurrentism is weak. Fortunately, there is a simpler and more fruitful solution to the problem of reconciling divine and human action. I argue that that in Descartes's world certain motions, such as voluntary movements of our bodies, are causally overdetermined This account allows Descartes to avoid occasionalism without embracing an elaborate metaphysics of secondary causality. Finally, I argue that the overdeterminist interpretation sheds new light on two longstanding problems of Cartesian metaphysics. First, it resolves a serious difficulty with a standard reading of Descartes's conception of human freedom. Second, it offers a novel approach to the old problem of reconciling genuine human action with the principle of the conservation of total quantity of motion. (shrink)
This paper explores the fundamental ideas that have motivated the idea of emergence and the movement of emergentism. The concept of reduction, which lies at the heart of the emergence idea is explicated, and it is shown how the thesis that emergent properties are irreducible gives a unified account of emergence. The paper goes on to discuss two fundamental unresolved issues for emergentism. The first is that of giving a “positive” characterization of emergence; the second is to give a coherent (...) explanation of how “downward” causation, a central component of emergentism, is able to avoid the problem of overdetermination. (shrink)
Richard Henson attempts to take the sting out of this view of Kant on moral worth by arguing (i) that attending to the phenomenon of the overdetermination of actions leads one to see that Kant might have had two distinct views of moral worth, only one of which requires the absence of cooperating inclinations, and (ii) that when Kant insists that there is moral worth only when an action is done from the motive of duty alone, he need not (...) also hold that such a state of affairs is morally better, all things considered, than one where supporting inclination is present. Henson's proposals seem to me both serious and plausible. I do not think that either of his models, in the end, can take on the role Kant assigns to moral worth in the argument of the Groundwork. But seeing the ways Henson's account diverges from Kant's makes clearer what Kant intended in his discussion of those actions he credits with moral worth. [...] An action has moral worth if it is required by duty and has as its primary motive the motive of duty. The motive of duty need not reflect the only interest the agent has in the action (or its effect); it must, however, be the interest that determines the agent's acting as he did. (shrink)
The mind-body problem arises because all theories about mind-brain connections are too deeply obscure to gain general acceptance. This essay suggests a clear, simple, mind-brain solution that avoids all these perennial obscurities. (1) It does so, first of all, by reworking Strawson and Stoljar’s views. They argue that while minds differ from observable brains, minds can still be what brains are physically like behind the appearances created by our outer senses. This could avoid many obscurities. But to clearly do so, (...) it must first clear up its own deep obscurity about what brains are like behind appearances, and how they create the mind’s privacy, unity and qualia – all of which observable brains lack. (2) This can ultimately be done with a clear, simple assumption: our consciousness is the physical substance that certain brain events consist of beyond appearances. For example, the distinctive electrochemistry in nociceptor ion channels wholly consists of pain. This rejects that pain is a brain property: instead it’s a brain substance that occupies space in brains, and exerts forces by which it’s indirectly detectable via EEGs. (3) This assumption is justified because treating pains as physical substances avoids the perennial obscurities in mind-body theories. For example, this ‘clear physicalism’ avoids the obscure nonphysical pain of dualism and its spinoffs. Pain is instead an electrochemical substance. It isn’t private because it’s hidden in nonphysical minds, but instead because it’s just indirectly detected in the physical world in ways that leave its real nature hidden. (4) Clear physicalism also avoids puzzling reductions of private pains into more fundamental terms of observable brain activity. Instead pain is a hidden, private substance underlying this observable activity. Also, pain is fundamental in itself, for it’s what some brain activity fundamentally consists of. This also avoids reductive idealist claims that the world just exists in the mind. They yield obscure views on why we see a world that isn’t really out there. (5) Clear physicalism also avoids obscure claims that pain is information processing which is realizable in multiple hardwares (not just in electrochemistry). Molecular neuroscience now casts doubt on multiple realization. Also, it’s puzzling how abstract information gets ‘realized’ in brains and affects brains (compare ancient quandries on how universals get embodied in matter). A related idea is that of supervenient properties in nonreductive physicalism. They involve obscure overdetermination and emergent consciousness. Clear physicalism avoids all this. Pain isn’t an abstract property obscurely related to brains – it’s simply a substance in brains. (6) Clear physicalism also avoids problems in neuroscience. Neuroscience explains the mind’s unity in problematic ways using synchrony, attention, etc.. Clear physicalism explains unity in terms of intense neuroelectrical activity reaching continually along brain circuits as a conscious whole. This fits evidence that just highly active, highly connected circuits are fully conscious. Neuroscience also has problems explaining how qualia are actually encoded by brains, and how to get from these abstract codes to actual pain, fear, etc.. Clear physicalism explains qualia electrochemically, using growing evidence that both sensory and emotional qualia correlate with very specific electrical channels in neural receptors. Multiple-realization advocates overlook this important evidence. (7) Clear physicalism thus bridges the mind-brain gulf by showing how brains can possess the mind’s qualia, unity and privacy – and how minds can possess features of brain activity like occupying space and exerting forces. This unorthodox nonreductive physicalism may be where physicalism leads to when stripped of all its reductive and nonreductive obscurities. It offers a clear, simple mind-body solution by just filling in what neuroscience is silent about, namely, what brain matter is like behind perceptions of it. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemakerâ€™s â€˜Subset Accountâ€™ offers a new take on determinable properties and the realization relation as well as a defense of non-reductive physicalism from the problem of mental causation. At the heart of this account are the claims that (1) mental properties are determinable properties and (2) the causal powers that individuate a determinable property are a proper subset of the causal powers that individuate the determinates of that property. The second claim, however, has led to the accusation that the (...) effects caused by the instantiation of a determinable property will also be caused by the instantiation of the determinates of that propertyâ€”so instead of solving the problem of mental causation, the Subset Account ends up guaranteeing that the effects of mental properties (and all other types of determinable property) will be causally overdetermined! In this paper, I explore this objection. I argue that both sides in this debate have failed to engage the question at the heart of the objection: Given that both a determinable property and its determinates have the power to cause some effect (E), does it follow that both will actually cause E when the relevant conditions obtain? To make genuine progress towards answering this question, we need to take a serious look at the metaphysics of causation. With the debate properly reframed and issues about the metaphysics of causation front and center, I explore the question of whether the Subset Account is doomed to result in problematic causal overdetermination. (shrink)
Jaegwon Kim’s causal exclusion argument says that if all physical effects have sufficient physical causes, and no physical effects are caused twice over by distinct physical and mental causes, there cannot be any irreducible mental causes. In addition, Kim has argued that the nonreductive physicalist must give up completeness, and embrace the possibility of downward causation. This paper argues first that this extra argument relies on a principle of property individuation, which the nonreductive physicalist need not accept, and second that (...) once we get clear on overdetermination, there is a way to reject the exclusion principle upon which the causal exclusion argument depends, but third that this should not lead to the belief that mental causation is easily accounted for in terms of counterfactual dependencies. (shrink)
An encyclopedia entry which covers various revisionary conceptions of which macroscopic objects there are, and the puzzles and arguments that motivate these conceptions: sorites arguments, the argument from vagueness, the puzzles of material constitution, arguments against indeterminate identity, arguments from arbitrariness, debunking arguments, the overdetermination argument, and the problem of the many.
How can mental properties bring about physical effects, as they seem to do, given that the physical realizers of the mental goings-on are already sufficient to cause these effects? This question gives rise to the problem of mental causation (MC) and its associated threats of causal overdetermination, mental causal exclusion, and mental causal irrelevance. Some (e.g., Cynthia and Graham Macdonald, and Stephen Yablo) have suggested that understanding mental-physical realization in terms of the determinable/determinate relation (henceforth, 'determination') provides the key (...) to solving the problem of MC: if mental properties are determinables of their physical realizers, then (since determinables and determinates are distinct, yet don't causally compete) all three threats may be avoided. Not everyone agrees that determination can do this good work, however. Some (e.g., Douglas Ehring, Eric Funkhauser, and Sven Walter) object that mental-physical realization can't be determination, since such realization lacks one or other characteristic feature of determination. I argue that on a proper understanding of the features of determination key to solving the problem of MC, these arguments can be resisted. (shrink)
Given their physical realization, what causal work is left for functional properties to do? Humean solutions to the exclusion problem (e.g. overdetermination and difference-making) typically appeal to counterfactual and/or nomic relations between functional property-instances and behavioural effects, tacitly assuming that such relations suffice for causal work. Clarification of the notion of causal work, I argue, shows not only that such solutions don't work, but also reveals a novel solution to the exclusion problem based on the relations between dispositional properties (...) at different levels of mechanism, which involves three central claims: (i) the causal work of properties consists in grounding dispositions, (ii) functional properties are dispositions, and (iii) the dispositions of mechanisms are grounded in the dispositions of their components. Treating functional mental properties as dispositions of components in psychological mechanisms, I argue that such properties do the causal work of grounding agent-level dispositions. These dispositions, while ultimately grounded in the physical realizers of mental properties, are indirectly so grounded, through a hierarchy of grounding relations that extends upwards, of necessity, through the mental domain. (shrink)
Elements of Mind (EM) has two themes, one major and one minor. The major theme is intentionality, the mind’s direction upon its objects; the other is the mind–body problem. I treat these themes separately: chapters 1, and 3–5 are concerned with intentionality, while chapter 2 is about the mind–body problem. In this summary I will first describe my view of the mind–body problem, and then describe the book’s main theme. Like many philosophers, I see the mind–body problem as containing two (...) sub–problems: the problem of mental causation and the problem of consciousness. I see these problems forming the two horns of a dilemma. Just as the problem of mental causation pushes us towards physicalism, so the problem of consciousness pushes us away from it. Each problem reveals the inadequacy of the solution to the other. Essentially the problem of mental causation is the conflict between (i) the apparent fact that mental states and events have effects in the physical world and (ii) a general principle about the causal nature of the physical world, which is sometimes called the ‘causal closure’ or the ‘causal completeness’ of the physical world. This principle says that all physical effects have physical causes which are enough to bring them about. The problem then is simple: how can a mental cause have a physical effect if that effect also has a physical cause which is enough to bring it about? Barring massive overdetermination of our actions by independent causes, it seems that the best answer is to identify the mental and the physical causes. And this is traditionally how physicalists have argued for their identity theory of mind and body. However, many physicalists reject the identity theory, and therefore they have to solve the mental causation problem in some other way. At present, there is no consensus among physicalists on which of the currently proposed solutions is correct. In chapter 2 of EM I propose an alternative, which I call ‘emergentism’. Inspired by the rejection of the identity theory, Emergentism is the idea that mental properties are genu.. (shrink)
The paper argues that mental causation can be explained from the sufficiency of counterfactual dependence for causation together with relatively weak assumptions about the metaphysics of mind. If a physical event counterfactually depends on an earlier physical event, it also counterfactually depends on, and hence is caused by, a mental event that correlates with (or supervenes on) this earlier physical event, provided that this correlation (or supervenience) is sufficiently modally robust. This account of mental causation is consistent with the (...) class='Hi'>overdetermination of physical events by mental events and other physical events, but does not entail it. (shrink)
I argue that an adequate account of non-reductive realization must guarantee satisfaction of a certain condition on the token causal powers associated with (instances of) realized and realizing entities---namely, what I call the 'Subset Condition on Causal Powers' (first introduced in Wilson 1999). In terms of states, the condition requires that the token powers had by a realized state on a given occasion be a proper subset of the token powers had by the state that realizes it on that occasion. (...) Accounts of non-reductive realization conforming to this condition are implementing what I call 'the powers-based subset strategy'. I focus on the crucial case involving mental and brain states; the results may be generalized, as appropriate. I ﬁrst situate and motivate the strategy by attention to the problem of mental causation; I make the case, in schematic terms, that implementation of the strategy makes room (contra Kim 1989, 1993, 1998, and elsewhere) for mental states to be ontologically and causally autonomous from their realizing physical states, without inducing problematic causal overdetermination, and compatible with both Physicalism and Non-reduction; and I show that several contemporary accounts of non-reductive realization (in terms of functional realization, parthood, and the determinable/determinate relation) are plausibly seen as implementing the strategy. As I also show, implementation of the powers-based strategy does not require endorsement of any particular accounts of either properties or causation---indeed, a categoricalist contingentist Humean can implement the strategy. The schematic location of the strategy in the space of available responses to the problem of mental (more generally, higher-level) causation, as well as the fact that the schema may be metaphysically instantiated, strongly suggests that the strategy is, appropriately generalized and instantiated, sufficient and moreover necessary for non-reductive realization. I go on to defend the sufficiency and necessity claims against a variety of objections, considering, along the way, how the powers-based subset strategy fares against competing accounts of purportedly non-reductive realization in terms of supervenience, token identity, and constitution. (shrink)
In “Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow,” David Lewis defends an analysis of counterfactuals intended to yield the asymmetry of counterfactual dependence: that later affairs depend counterfactually on earlier ones, and not the other way around. I argue that careful attention to the dynamical properties of thermodynamically irreversible processes shows that in many ordinary cases, Lewis’s analysis fails to yield this asymmetry. Furthermore, the analysis fails in an instructive way: one that teaches us something about the connection between the asymmetry of (...)overdetermination and the asymmetry of entropy. (shrink)
In my article I evaluate Searle's account of mental causation, in particular his account of the causal efficacy of unconscious intentional states. I argue that top-down causation and overdetermination are unsolved problems in Searle's philosophy of mind, despite his assurances to the contrary. I also argue that there are conflicting claims involved in his account of mental causation and his account of the unconscious. As a result, it becomes impossible to understand how unconscious intentional states can be causally efficacious. (...) My conclusion will be that if Searle's conception of unconscious intentionality is to play a genuine role in the causal explanation of human action, it needs to be rethought. (shrink)
Chapter 1: “Ordinary Objects and the Argument from Strange Concepts.” Chapter 2: “Restricted Composition Without Sharp Cut-Offs.” Chapter 3: “Three Solutions to the Grounding Problem for Coincident Objects.” Chapter 4: “Ordinary Objects Without Overdetermination.” Chapter 5: “Eliminativism and the Challenge from Folk Belief.” Chapter 6: “Unrestricted Composition and Restricted Quantification.”.
For over 20 years, Jaegwon Kim’s Causal Exclusion Argument has stood as the major hurdle for non-reductive physicalism. If successful, Kim’s argument would show that the high-level properties posited by non-reductive physicalists must either be identical with lower-level physical properties, or else must be causally inert. The most prominent objection to the Causal Exclusion Argument—the so-called Overdetermination Objection—points out that there are some notions of causation that are left untouched by the argument. If causation is simply counterfactual dependence, for (...) example, then the Causal Exclusion Argument fails. Thus, much of the existing debate turns on the issue of which account of causation is appropriate. In this paper, however, I take a bolder approach and argue that Kim’s preferred version of the Causal Exclusion Argument fails no matter what account one gives of causation. Any notion of causation that is strong enough to support the premises of the argument is too strong to play the role required in the logic of the argument. I also consider a second version of the Causal Exclusion Argument, and suggest that although it may avoid the problems of the first version, it begs the question against a particular form of non-reductive physicalism, namely emergentism. (shrink)
Here I motivate and defend a new counterexample to logical (or non-causal) versions of the direct argument for responsibility-determinism incompatibilism. Such versions purport to establish incompatibilism via an inference principle to the effect that non-responsibility transfers along relations of logical consequence, including those that hold between earlier and later states of a deterministic world. Unlike previous counterexamples, this case doesn't depend on preemptive overdetermination; nor can it be blocked with a simple modification of the inference principle. In defending this (...) counterexample, I show that van Inwagen's technical notion of being partly responsible for a state of affairs, which figures in his statement of the principle, is problematic. (shrink)
Jaegwon Kim has argued that unless mental events are reducible to subvening physical events, they are at best overdeterminers of their effects. Recently, nonreductive physicalists have endorsed this consequence claiming that the relationship between mental events and their physical bases is tight enough to render any such overdetermination nonredundant, and hence benign. I focus on instances of this strategy that appeal to the notion of constitution. Ultimately, I argue that there is no way to understand the relationship between irreducible (...) mental events and their physical bases such as to both eliminate causal redundancy and preserve the efficacy of mental events. (shrink)
Arguments that ordinary inanimate objects such as tables and chairs, sticks and stones, simply do not exist have become increasingly common and increasingly prominent. Some are based on demands for parsimony or for a non-arbitrary answer to the special composition question; others arise from prohibitions against causal redundancy, ontological vagueness, or co-location; and others still come from worries that a common sense ontology would be a rival to a scientific one. Until now, little has been done to address these arguments (...) in a unified and systematic way. Ordinary Objects is designed to fill this gap, demonstrating that the mistakes behind all of these superficially diverse eliminativist arguments may be traced to a common source. It aims to develop an ontology of ordinary objects subject to no such problems, providing perhaps the first sustained defense of a common sense ontology in two generations. The work done along the way addresses a number of major issues in philosophy of language and metaphysics, contributing to debates about analyticity, identity conditions, co-location and the grounding problem, vagueness, overdetermination, parsimony, and ontological commitment. In the end, the most important result of addressing these eliminativist arguments is not merely avoiding their conclusions; examining their failings also gives us reason to suspect that many apparent disputes in ontology are pseudo-debates. For it brings into question widely-held assumptions about which uses of metaphysical principles are appropriate, which metaphysical demands are answerable, and how we should go about addressing such fundamental questions as "What exists?". As a result, the work of Ordinary Objects promises to provide not only the route to a reflective understanding of our unreflective common-sense view, but also a better understanding of the proper methods and limits of metaphysics. (shrink)
In the first section of this paper, I articulate Jaegwon Kim's argument against emergent down ward causation. In the second section, I canvas four responses to Kim's argument and argue that each fails. In the third section, I show that emergent downward causation does not, contra Kim, entail overdetermination. I argue that supervenience of emergent upon base properties is not sufficient for nomological causal relationsbetween emergent and base properties. What sustains Kim's argument is rather the claim that emergent properties (...) realized by base properties can have no causal powers distinct from those base properties. I argue that this is false. (shrink)
Dual-attribute theories are alleged to face a problem with mental causation which commits them to either epiphenomenalism or overdetermination – neither of which is attractive. The problem, however, is predicated on assumptions about psychophysical relations that dual-attribute theorists are not obliged to accept. I explore one way they can solve the problem by rejecting those assumptions.
There are many ways of attaching two objects together: for example, they can be connected, linked, tied or bound together; and the connection, link, tie or bind can be made of chain, rope, or cement. Every one of these binding methods has been used as a metaphor for causation. What is the real significance of these metaphors? They express a commitment to a certain way of thinking about causation, summarized in the following thesis: ‘In any concrete situation, there is an (...) objective fact of the matter as to whether two events are in fact bound by the causal relation. It is the aim of philosophical inquiry to analyze this objective relation.’ Through a variety of examples, I hope to cast doubt on this seemingly innocuous thesis. The problem lies not with the word ‘objective’, but with the word ‘the’. The goal of a philosophical account of causation should not be to capture the causal relation, but rather to capture the many ways in which the events of the world can be bound together. 1 The metaphors 2 Unpacking the metaphors 3 Theories of causation 4 The two assassins 5 The birth control pills 6 The smoker-protector gene 7 The bicycle thief 8 Further examples 8.1 Indeterminism 8.2 Probability-lowering causes 8.3 Parts vs wholes 8.4 Symmetric overdetermination 8.5 Delayers 8.6 Causation by omission 8.7 Double prevention/disconnection 8.8 Preemptive prevention 8.9 Quantitative variables 9 Conclusion. (shrink)
The paper builds on the basically Humean idea that A is a cause of B iff A and B both occur, A precedes B, and A raises the metaphysical or epistemic status of B given the obtaining circumstances. It argues that in pursuit of a theory of deterministic causation this ‘status raising’ is best explicated not in regularity or counterfactual terms, but in terms of ranking functions. On this basis, it constructs a rigorous theory of deterministic causation that successfully deals (...) with cases of overdetermination and pre-emption. It finally indicates how the account's profound epistemic relativization induced by ranking theory can be undone. Introduction Variables, propositions, time Induction first Causation Redundant causation Objectivization. (shrink)
Causation is a deeply intuitive and familiar relation, gripped powerfully by common sense. Or so it seems. But as is typical in philosophy, deep intuitive familiarity has not led to any philosophical account of causation that is at once clean, precise, and widely agreed upon. Not for lack of trying: the last 30 years or so have seen dozens of attempts to provide such an account, and the pace of development is, if anything, accelerating. (See Collins, Hall and Paul 2003a (...) for a comprehensive sampling of the latest work.) It is safe to say that none has yet succeeded. It is also safe to say that the effort put into their development has yielded a wealth of insights into causation. And it is, arguably, from the study of causal preemption—cases that feature multiple competing candidates for the title of “cause” of some given effect—that the greatest such wealth has flowed. These cases come in a number of varieties: so-called early and late preemption, symmetric overdetermination, and trumping preemption. Collectively, they place extremely severe constraints on any philosophical account of causation that can successfully handle them. One of the lessons they have to teach, then, is a lesson about the form that a successful analysis of causation must have. There is a deeper lesson, a lesson about the nature of causation itself, or if you like, about the workings of our causal concept. It emerges from close study of the struggles that extant accounts face in trying to provide even remotely attractive treatments of causal preemption. It is this: There appears to be a significant and perhaps intractable tension between one strand in our thinking about causation—a strand that emphasizes the need for causes to be connected to their effects via intervening processes with the right intrinsic character—and another—one that emphasizes the claim that effects in some sense depend on their causes. By the end of this essay, this tension will be vividly apparent.. (shrink)
Nonreductive physicalism provides an appealing solution to the nature of mental properties. But its success as a theory of mental properties has been called into doubt by claims that it cannot adequately handle the problems of mental causation, as it leads either to epiphenomenalism or to thoroughgoing overdetermination. I argue that these apparent problems for the nonreductivist are based in fundamental confusion about causation and explanation. I distinguish two different types of explanation and two different relations to which they (...) appeal: causation and determination. I argue that these types of explanation do not compete with one another, nor do these relations jointly result in overdetermination. In closing I develop a nonreductivist solution to mental causation which avoids both the hazards of epiphenomenalism and of overdetermination and so demonstrates a way to save nonreductive physicalism from the problems of mental causation. (shrink)
What does it take to solve the exclusion problem? An ingenious strategy is Stephen Yablo’s idea that causes must be commensurate with their effects. Commensuration is a relation between events. Roughly, events are commensurate with one another when one contains all that is required for the occurrence of the other, and as little as possible that is not required. According to Yablo, one event is a cause of another only if they are commensurate. I raise three reasons to doubt that (...) this account solves the exclusion problem successfully. First, it leaves a mystery about what determines a particular’s causal capacities. Second, because there are two ways of construing coincidence between particulars, a dilemma arises: either the solution to the exclusion problem is threatened, or the account of coincidence loses an attractive feature concerning ontological economy. Third, even if we assume the commensuration constraint, a plausible principle about overdetermination seems to regenerate the exclusion problem. (shrink)
The paper looks at the semantics and ontology of dispositions in the light of recent work on the subject. Objections to the simple conditionals apparently entailed by disposition statements are met by replacing them with so-called 'reduction sentences' and some implications of this are explored. The usual distinction between categorical and dispositional properties is criticised and the relation between dispositions and their bases examined. Applying this discussion to two typical cases leads to the conclusion that fragility is not a real (...) property and that, while both temperature and its bases are, this does not generate any problem of overdetermination. (shrink)
Several prominent attacks on the objects of 'folk ontology' argue that these would be omitted from a scientific ontology, or would be 'rivals' of scientific objects for their claims to be efficacious, occupy space, be composed of parts, or possess a range of other properties. I examine causal redundancy and overdetermination arguments, 'nothing over and above' appeals, and arguments based on problems with collocation and with property additivity. I argue that these share a common problem: applying conjunctive principles to (...) cases in which the claims conjoined are not analytically independent. This unified diagnosis provides a way of defending ordinary objects against these common objections, while also yielding warnings about certain uses of general conjunctive principles. (shrink)
Is the common cause principle merely one of a set of useful heuristics for discovering causal relations, or is it rather a piece of heavy duty metaphysics, capable of grounding the direction of causation itself? Since the principle was introduced in Reichenbach’s groundbreaking work The Direction of Time (1956), there have been a series of attempts to pursue the latter program—to take the probabilistic relationships constitutive of the principle of the common cause and use them to ground the direction of (...) causation. These attempts have not all explicitly appealed to the principle as originally formulated; it has also appeared in the guise of independence conditions, counterfactual overdetermination, and, in the causal modelling literature, as the causal markov condition. In this paper, I identify a set of difficulties for grounding the asymmetry of causation on the principle and its descendents. The first difficulty, concerning what I call the vertical placement of causation, consists of a tension between considerations that drive towards the macroscopic scale, and considerations that drive towards the microscopic scale—the worry is that these considerations cannot both be comfortably accommodated. The second difficulty consists of a novel potential counterexample to the principle based on the familiar Einstein Podolsky Rosen (EPR) correlations in quantum mechanics. (shrink)
Do component forces exist in conjoined circumstances? Cartwright (1980) says no; Creary (1981) says yes. I'm inclined towards Cartwright's side in this matter, but find several problems with her argumentation. My primary aim here is to present a better, distinctly causal, argument against component forces: very roughly, I argue that the joint posit of component and resultant forces in conjoined circumstances gives rise to a threat of causal overdetermination, avoidance of which best proceeds via eliminativism about component forces. A (...) secondary aim is to show that rejecting component forces does not require, pace Cartwright, rejecting certain attractive theses about what laws of nature express and the role such laws play in scientific explanations. (shrink)
James decides that the best price today on pork chops is at Supermarket S, then James makes driving motions for twenty minutes, then James’ car enters the parking lot at Supermarket S. Common sense supposes that the stages in this sequence may be causally connected, and that the pattern is commonplace: James’ belief (together with his desire for pork chops) causes bodily behavior, and the behavior causes a change in James’ whereabouts. Anyone committed to the idea that beliefs and desires (...) are states installed by evolution must, it seems, think something similar. For how can one see beliefs and desires as conferring selective advantage if not by supposing that, by causing bodily behavior in their subjects, they brought about changes in their subjects’ surroundings? Yet many, many philosophers currently think or worry that mental causation is illusory (see, e.g., Heil and Mele 1993, or Macdonald and Macdonald 1995). Any physical changes which a mental state appears to cause can be viewed as a complex event involving microparticles, and for any such complex event, many philosophers suppose, there will have been previous microphysical occurrences sufficient to cause it. Barring routine overdetermination of such complex events, the apparent causation of mental events seems to be excluded. Nor does it help to say that some salient segment of the previous microphysical event just is the mental event, differently described (Davidson 1970). For describing the previous events as microphysical seems to spotlight the very features in virtue of which they did their causal work; the mental features seem epiphenomenal (Yablo 1992b: pp. 425-36; Yablo 1992a). This paper argues that the complex physical events, which mental events seem excluded from causing, are not caused at all. For they are either accidents, in something like Aristotle’s sense (Sorabji 1980: pp. 3-25), or coincidences, in a sense which David Owens has recently sharpened (Owens 1992). (shrink)
Cases of overdetermination or preemption continue to play an important role in the debate about the proper interpretation of causal claims of the form "C was a cause of E". I argue that the best treatment of preemption cases is given by Mackie's venerable INUS account of causal claims. The Mackie account suffers, however, from problems of its own. Inspired by its ability to handle preemption, I propose a dramatic revision to the Mackie account – one that Mackie himself (...) would certainly have rejected – to solve these difficulties. The result is, I contend, a very attractive account of singular causal claims. (shrink)
A well-known ``overdetermination''argument aims to show that the possibility of mental causes of physical events in a causally closed physical world and the possibility of causally relevant mental properties are both problematic. In the first part of this paper, I extend an identity reply that has been given to the first problem to a property-instance account of causal relata. In the second, I argue that mental types are composed of physical types and, as a consequence, both mental and physical (...) types may be causally relevant with respect to the same physical effect, contrary to the overdetermination argument. In further sections, I argue that mental types have causal powers, consider some objections and reject an alternative version of part-whole physicalism. Throughout I assume that causal relata are tropes and property types are classes of tropes. (shrink)
In earlier work ( Cleland  , ), I sketched an account of the structure and justification of ‘prototypical’ historical natural science that distinguishes it from ‘classical’ experimental science. This article expands upon this work, focusing upon the close connection between explanation and justification in the historical natural sciences. I argue that confirmation and disconfirmation in these fields depends primarily upon the explanatory (versus predictive or retrodictive) success or failure of hypotheses vis-à-vis empirical evidence. The account of historical explanation that (...) I develop is a version of common cause explanation. Common cause explanation has long been vindicated by appealing to the principle of the common cause. Many philosophers of science (e.g., Sober and Tucker) find this principle problematic, however, because they believe that it is either purely methodological or strictly metaphysical. I defend a third possibility: the principle of the common cause derives its justification from a physically pervasive time asymmetry of causation (a.k.a. the asymmetry of overdetermination). I argue that explicating the principle of the common cause in terms of the asymmetry of overdetermination illuminates some otherwise puzzling features of the practices of historical natural scientists. (shrink)
My wife and I and our three children may stand in various relations: being a family, being a basketball team, and so on. I show that Frege's doctrine of existence, when coupled with this simple point, easily solves the problem of material constitution and blocks the overdetermination argument for eliminativism. It does all this work while providing a plausible and clear reductionistic account of material objects. These seem to be very good reasons for accepting Frege's doctrine of existence.
In his book Objects and Persons, Trenton Merricks has reoriented and ﬁne-tuned an argument from the philosophy of mind to support a selective eliminativism about macroscopic objects.1 The argument turns on a rejection of systematic causal overdetermination and the conviction that microscopic things do the causal work that is attributed to a great many (though not all) macroscopic things. We will argue that Merricks’ argument fails to establish his selective eliminativism.