My aim is twofold: first, to root out the metaphysical assumptions that generate the problem of mentalcausation and to show that they preclude its solution; second, to dissolve the problem of mentalcausation by motivating rejection of one of the metaphysical assumptions that give rise to it. There are three features of this metaphysical background picture that are important for our purposes. The first concerns the nature of reality: all reality depends on physical reality, where (...) physical reality consists of a network of events.1 The second concerns the nature of causation, and the third concerns the conception of behavior. I try to vindicate a robust idea of mentalcausation. (shrink)
Non-Cartesian substance dualism (NCSD) maintains that persons or selves are distinct from their organic physical bodies and any parts of those bodies. It regards persons as ‘substances’ in their own right, but does not maintain that persons are necessarily separable from their bodies, in the sense of being capable of disembodied existence. In this paper, it is urged that NCSD is better equipped than either Cartesian dualism or standard forms of physicalism to explain the possibility of mental (...)causation. A model of mentalcausation adopting the NCSD perspective is proposed which, it is argued, is consistent with all that is currently known about the operations of the human central nervous system, including the brain. Physicalism, by contrast, seems ill-equipped to explain the distinctively intentional or teleological character of mentalcausation, because it effectively reduces all such causation to ‘blind’ physical causation at a neurological level. (shrink)
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 mentalcausation (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)
The Exclusion Problem (EP) for mentalcausation 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)
Despite the fact that the nature of the properties of causation is rarely discussed within the mentalcausation debate, the implicit assumption is that they are universals as opposed to tropes. However, in recent literature on the problem of mentalcausation, a new solution has emerged which aims to address the problem by appealing to tropes. It is argued that if the properties of causation are tropes rather than universals, then a psychophysical reductionism can (...) be advanced which does not face the problem of multiple realizability. However, the 'trope solution' rests upon the assumption that one can combine a trope monism with a type dualism. I argue that such a combination cannot be allowed. Given a plausible interpretation of types within a trope ontology, trope monism in fact entails type monism. Consequently, if one identifies mental tropes with physical tropes, one must also identify mental and physical types and in doing so face a modified version of the multiple realizability argument. (shrink)
Abstract: It is generally accepted that the most serious threat to the possibility of mentalcausation is posed by the causal self-sufficiency of physical causal processes. I argue, however, that this feature of the world, which I articulate in principle I call Completeness, in fact poses no genuine threat to mentalcausation. Some find Completeness threatening to mentalcausation because they confuse it with a stronger principle, which I call Closure. Others do not (...) simply conflate Completeness and Closure, but hold that Completeness, together with certain plausible assumptions, _entails_ Closure. I refute the most fully worked-out version of such an argument. Finally, some find Completeness all by itself threatening to mentalcausation. I argue that one will only find Completeness threatening if one operates with a philosophically distorted conception of mentalcausation. I thereby defend what I call naïve realism about mentalcausation. (shrink)
In this paper I distinguish two types of mentalcausation, called 'higher-level causation' and 'exploitation'. These notions superficially resemble the traditional problematic notions of supervenient causation and downward causation, but they are different in crucial respects. My new distinction is supported by a radically externalist competitor of the so-called Standard View of mental states, i.e. the view that mental states are brain states. I argue that on the Alternative View, the notions of 'higher-level (...)causation' and 'exploitation' can in combination dissolve the problem of mentalcausation as standardly discussed. (shrink)
This paper identifies and critiques a theory of mentalcausation defended by some proponents of nonredutive physicalism that I call “intralevelism.” Intralevelist theories differ in their details. On all versions, the causal outcome of the manifestation of physical properties is physical and the causal outcome of the manifestation of mental properties is mental. Thus, mentalcausation on this view is intralevel mental to mentalcausation. This characterization of mentalcausation (...) as intralevel is taken to insulate nonreductive physicalism from some objections to nonreductive physicalism, including versions of the exclusion argument. This paper examines some features of three recent versions of intralevelism defended by John Gibbons, Markus Schlosser, and Amie Thomasson. This paper shows that the distinctive problems faced by these three representative versions of intralevelism suggest that the intralevelist strategy does not provide a viable solution to the exclusion problem. (shrink)
The by now famous exclusion problem for mentalcausation admits only one possible solution, as far as I can see, namely: that mental and physical properties are linked by a vertical relation. In this paper, starting from what I take to be sensible premises about properties, I will be visiting some general relations between them, in order to see whether, first, it is true that some vertical relation, other than identity, makes different sorts of causation compatible (...) and second, whether physical and mental properties can be pairs of such relation. (shrink)
The paper argues that dualism can explain mentalcausation and solve the exclusion problem. If dualism is combined with the assumption that the psychophysical laws have a special status, it follows that some physical events counterfactually depend on, and are therefore caused by, mental events. Proponents of this account of mentalcausation can solve the exclusion problem in either of two ways: they can deny that it follows that the physical effect of a mental (...) event is overdetermined by its mental and physical causes, or they can accept that the physical effect is overdetermined but claim that this is unproblematic because the case is sufficiently dissimilar to prototypical cases of overdetermination. (shrink)
The by now famous exclusion problem for mentalcausation admits only one possible solution, as far as I can see, namely: that mental and physical properties are linked by a vertical relation. In this paper, starting from what I take to be sensible premises about properties, I will be visiting some general relations between them, in order to see whether, first, it is true that some vertical relationship, other than identity, makes different sorts of causation compatible (...) and second, whether physical and mental properties can be pairs of such relationship. (shrink)
The paper takes issue with a widely accepted view of mentalcausation. This is the view that mentalcausation is either reducible to physical causation or ultimately untenable, because incompatible with the causal completeness of physics. The paper examines, first, why recent attempts to save the phenomena of mentalcausation by way of the notion of supervenient causation fail. The result of this examination is the claim that any attempted specification of the (...) most basic causal factors which supposedly underlie a causal transaction cannot account for the counterfactually necessary connections with the effect in question. By contrast, the specification of these factors at a higher-level would allow establishing such connections. The paper closes with a discussion of how this view of autonomous ligher-level causation grounded on counterfactual relations can be made compatible with the physicalistic commitment to a complete specification of the particular causes of any physical effect exclusively in physical terms. (shrink)
to counterintuitive results. Suppose a mental event, m1, causes another mental event, m2. Unless the mental and the physical are completely independent, there will be a physical event in your brain or your body or the physical world as a whole that underlies this event. The mental event occurs at least partly in virtue of the physical event’s occurring. And the same goes for m2  and p2. Let’s not worry about what exactly “underlying” or “in (...) virtue of” means here. Here’s the picture. m1 -----> m2 | | p1 -----> p2 The horizontal arrows represent causation, and the vertical lines represent underlying, whatever that may be. There’s some reason to think that the only way m1 can bring about m2 is by bringing about p2. You can’t convince someone of something through mental telepathy. You need to interact with the physical world, perhaps by saying something and so making some noise, or by pointing and getting them to turn their head and see. What goes for the case of two people goes for the case of one person as well. Superstition aside, there is no purely mental energy that floats free of the merely physical workings of the brain. If m1 brings about m2 by bringing about p2, then m1 brings about p2. This is downward causation. But wait. Doesn’t p1 bring about p2? Isn’t that what the bottom arrow represents? Maybe m1 and p1 work together to bring about p2. There are little holes in the physical causal structure that need to be filled by mental events. You don’t need a sweeping metaphysical thesis about the causal closure of the physical to find this implausible. Maybe p2 is overdetermined. (shrink)
I. the view that reasons cannot be causes. II. the view that the explanatory relevance of psychological states such as beliefs and intentions derives from their content, their explanatory role is not causal and we thus have no good reason to ascribe causal power to them. III. the idea that if the mental supervenes on the physical, then what really explains our actions is the physical properties determining our propositional attitudes, and not those attitudes themselves. IV. the thesis that (...) since there are no laws linking (intentional) mental states to actions, those states cannot be genuine causes of action. (shrink)
Recent discussions of mentalcausation have focused on three principles: (1) Mental properties are (sometimes) causally relevant to physical effects; (2) mental properties are not physical properties; (3) every physical event has in its causal history only physical events and physical properties. Since these principles seem to be inconsistent, solutions have focused on rejecting one or more of them. But I argue that, in spite of appearances, (1)–(3) are not inconsistent. The reason is that 'properties' is (...) used in different senses in the principles. In (1) and (3), 'properties' should be read as 'tropes' (properties here are particulars), while in (2) 'properties' should read as 'types' (properties here are universals or classes). Although mental types are distinct from physical types, every mental trope is a physical trope. This allows mental properties to be causally relevant to physical effects without violating the closed character of the physical world. (shrink)
I survey recent work on mentalcausation. The discussion is conducted under the twin presumptions that mental states, including especially what subjects believe and desire, causally explain what subjects do, and that the physical sciences can in principle give a complete explanation for each and every bodily movement. I start with sceptical discussions of various views that hold that, in some strong sense, the causal explanations offered by psychology are autonomous with respect to those offered by the (...) physical sciences. I then proceed to views that see the problem of mentalcausation as that of identifying where in the physical story about us and our world lie the parts that in effect tell us abut mentalcausation - the kind of position that is pretty much standard in the cognitive science community - and consider issues raised by various forms of functionalism and externalism. The general thrust of my discussion is sympathetic to the story about mentalcausation suggested by those type-type versions of the mind-brain identity theory that allow for the possiblity of multiple realisability. I include a brief discussion of how a map-system account of belief, by contrast with a language of thought one, should understand explanations of behaviour in terms of what a subject believes. (shrink)
In my article I evaluate Searle's account of mentalcausation, 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 mentalcausation 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)
The standard paradigm for mentalcausation is a person’s acting for a reason. Something happens - she intentionally φ’s - the occurrence of which we explain by citing a relevant belief or desire. In the present context, I simply take for granted the following two conditions on the appropriateness of this explanation. First, the agent φ’s _because_ she believes/desires what we say she does, where this is expressive of a _causal_ dependence.1 Second, her believing/desiring this gives her a (...) _reason_ for φ-ing: recognizing that she has this belief/desire makes her φ-ing intelligible as rational in the light of her other attitudes and circumstances. A further condition must be met, though, if this is to be a genuine psychological explanation, a case of her acting _for_ the reason in question. Consider the following example of Davidson’s (1973, p. 79). An exhausted climber is desperate to rid herself of the weight and danger of holding her partner on a rope; and her sudden realization that simply letting go would achieve this so unnerves her that her grip loosens slightly and he falls. Her releasing him causally depends upon her having this belief and desire, which provide _a_ reason for doing what she does. But this is not _why_ she does it: it would be at best misleading to say that she dropped him, intentionally, because she was fed up with holding his weight, or because she thought that she might otherwise fall. Her letting go does not depend upon her having these reasons in the right way. The reason-giving relation is causally irrelevant. If we are to explain a person’s acting _for_ a reason, then her doing. (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 mentalcausation, 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 mentalcausation which avoids both the hazards of epiphenomenalism and of overdetermination and so demonstrates a way to save nonreductive physicalism from the problems of mentalcausation. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to defend the causal homogeneity of functional, mental properties against Kim’s attack. It is argued that (a) token identity is sufficient for mentalcausation, that (b) token identity implies a sort of functional reduction, but that (c) nonetheless functional, mental properties can be causally homogeneous despite being multiply realizable: multiple composition is sufficient for multiple realizability, but multiple composition does not prevent the realizers from having their pertinent effects in common. (...) Thus, the causal exclusion problem provides no argument for abandoning the position that there are functional, mental properties that are natural kind properties. (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 mentalcausation 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)
Keywords: action, dualism, functionalism, materialism, physicalism Contents l. What is mentalcausation? 2. History 3. Mentalcausation as a problem for dualism 4. Mentalcausation as a problem for physicalism 5. Mentalcausation and cognitive science..
Yablo suggests that we can understand the possibility of mentalcausation by supposing that mental properties determine physical properties, in the classic sense of determination according to which red determines scarlet. Determinates and their determinables do not compete for causal relevance, so if mental and physical properties are related as determinable and determinates, they should not compete for causal relevance either. I argue that this solution won''t work. I first construct a more adequate account of determination (...) than that provided by Yablo. I then consider two common accounts of the mental, token identity theories and dispositional theories, and argue that on neither do mental and physical properties satisfy the requirements for determination. (shrink)
The philosophical problem of mentalcausation concerns a clash between commonsense and scientific views about the causation of human behaviour. On the one hand, commonsense suggests that our actions are caused by our mental states—our thoughts, intentions, beliefs and so on. On the other hand, neuroscience assumes that all bodily movements are caused by neurochemical events. It is implausible to suppose that our actions are causally overdetermined in the same way that the ringing of a bell (...) may be overdetermined by two hammers striking it at the same time. So how are we to reconcile these two views about the causal origins of human behaviour? One philosophical doctrine effects a nice reconciliation. Neuralism, or the token-identity theory, states that every particular mental event is a neurophysiological event and that every action is a physically specifiable bodily movement. If these identities hold, there is no problem of causal overdetermination: the apparently different causal pathways to the behaviour are actually one and the same pathway viewed from different perspectives. This attractively simple view is enjoying a recent revival in fortunes. (shrink)
In this paper I will discuss Kims powerful explanatory exclusion argument against the causal efficacy of mental properties. Baker and Burge misconstrue Kims challenge if they understand it as being based on a purely metaphysical understanding of causation that has no grounding in an epistemological analysis of our successful scientific practices. As I will show, the emphasis on explanatory practices can only be effective in answering Kim if it is understood as being part of the dual-explanandum strategy. Furthermore, (...) a fundamental problem of the contemporary debate about mentalcausation consists in the fact that all sides take very different examples to be paradigmatic for the relation between psychological and neurobiological explanations. Even if we should expect some alignment in the explanatory scope of neurobiology and psychology/folk-psychology, there is no reason to expect that all mental explanations are exempted by physical explanations, since they do not in general explain the same phenomena. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the problem of mentalcausation can be solved by distinguishing between classificatory mental properties, like being a pain, and instances of those properties.Antireductive physicalism allows only that the former be irreducibly mental. Consequently, properties like being a pain cannot have causal commerce with the physical without violating causal closure. But instances of painfulness, according to the token identity thesis, are identical with various physical tokens and can therefore have causal efficacy (...) in the physical world. Since we expect particular mental phenomena, not types or classes of mental phenomena to be involved in causal interactions, it is argued that antireductive physicalism can explain satisfactorily mentalcausation, despite the protests of Kim, Sosa, Honderich, and others. Being a mental state of a certain sort may have no causal efficacy, but the intentional and phenomenal properties of such states should, if my argument is correct. (shrink)
Kim argues that we can never have more than one complete and independent explanation for a single event. The existence of both mental and physical explanations for behavior would seem to violate this principle. We can avoid violating it only if we suppose that mental causal relationships supervene on physical causal relationships. I argue that although his solution is attractive in many respects, it will not do as it stands. I propose an alternate understanding of supervenient causation (...) which preserves the advantages of Kim's account while avoiding the problems. My analysis involves appeal to counterfactuals. Any counterfactual analysis must confront the problem that mental states appear to be screened off from causal relevance by physical states. I argue that screening off is not a problem, because cases in which mental states appear to be screened off are cases in which background conditions are not held constant. (shrink)
subjects mean when they report their mental states it is useful to be guided by a sound grasp of their concepts for mental events. 3 Though this is often ignored in favor of libertarian notions of free will, in which free action is seen as completely undetermined by the subject.
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 (...) class='Hi'>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)
There is a difference between someone breaking a glass by accidentally brushing up against it and smashing a glass in a fit of anger. In the first case, the person's cognitive state has little to do with the event, but in the second, the mental state qua anger is quite relevant. How are we to understand this difference? What is the proper way to understand the relation between the mind, the brain, and the resultant behavior? This paper explores the (...) popular "middle ground" reply in which mental phenomena are claimed to be "as real as" other higher level properties. It argues that this solution fails to answer epistemological difficulties surrounding how to chose the appropriate factors in an explanation. A more sophisticated understanding of scientific theorizing and of the relation between ontology and explanation give us a framework in which we can determine when we should refer to mental states as being the causally efficacious agents for some behavior. (shrink)
A common conception of what it is for one property to “realize” another suggests that it is the realizer property that does the causal work, and that the realized property is epiphenomenal. The same conception underlies George Bealer’s argument that functionalism leads to the absurd conclusion that what we take to be self-ascriptions of a mental state are really self-ascriptions of “first-order” properties that realize that state. This paper argues for a different concept of realization. A property realizes another (...) if its “forward looking” causal features are a subset of those of the property realized. The instantiation of the realizer property will include the instantiation of the property realized; and when the effects produced are due to the causal features of the latter, it is the instantiation of it that is appropriately regarded as their cause. Epiphenomenalism is avoided, and so is Bealer’s absurd conclusion. (shrink)
Materialist explanations of cause and effect tend to embrace epiphenomenalism. Those who try to avoid epiphenomenalism tend to deny either the extrinsicness of meaning or the intrinsicness of causality. I argue that to deny one or the other is equally implausible. Rather, I prefer a different strategy: accept both premises, but deny that epiphenomenalism is necessarily the conclusion. This strategy is available because the premises do not imply the conclusion without the help of an additional premise—namely, that behavior explained by (...) reasons is caused by the reasons that explain it—and this premise is false. (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 mentalcausation, but only when it is physically reducible.
This volume presents a collection of new, specially written essays by a diverse group of philosophers, including Donald Davidson, Ted Honderich, and Philip Pettit, each of whom is widely known for defending a particular conception of minds and their place in nature.
If a woman in the audience at a presentation raises her hand, we would take this as evidence that she intends to ask a question. In normal circumstances, we would be right to say that she raises her hand because she intends to ask a question. We also expect that there could, in principle, be a causal explanation of her hand’s rising in purely physiological terms. Ordinarily, we take the existence and compatibility of both kinds of causes for granted. But (...) this can come to seem strange. When we imagine tracking the physiological process that culminates in her hand’s rising, it is hard to find a purchase for her intention. The physiological process seems not to need assistance from her intention in order to get where it’s going, chugging along as it does according to principles that appear to have very little in common with ordinary psychological ones. The presumed self-sufficiency of physiological processes can, in a similar fashion, appear to muscle psychological states quite generally out of the causal picture. (shrink)
The so-called problem of mentalcausation 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 mentalcausation 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)
Stephen Yablo has recently argued for a novel solution to the mentalcausation problem: the mental is related to the physical as determinables are related to determinates; determinables are not causal rivals with their determinates; so the mental and the physical are not causal rivals. Despite its attractions the suggestion seems hard to accept. In this paper I develop the idea that mental properties and physical properties are not causal rivals. Start with property dualism, supervenience, (...) multiple realizability, and the claim that no more than one supervenience base for a mental property can be had by a single instance of the mental property. Then a probabilistic account of causation will be unable to certify either mental properties or physical properties as causal factors for effect types. I suggest that this shows that we should not count mental properties as causal rivals with physical properties. (shrink)
This paper argues that contemporary philosophy of mind and action could learn much from the structure of action explanation manifested in ancient Greek tragedy, which is less deterministic than typically supposed and which does not conflate the motivation of action with its causal production.
The paper articulates a puzzle that consists in the prima facie incompatibility between three widely accepted theses. The first thesis is, roughly, that there are intrinsically self-representational thoughts. The second thesis is, roughly, that there is a particular causal constraint on mental representation. The third thesis is, roughly, that nothing causes itself. In this paper, the theses are articulated in a less rough manner with the occurrence of the puzzle as a result. Finally, a number of solution strategies are (...) considered, and a preliminary diagnosis is provided. (shrink)
This paper discusses some issues concerning the relationship between the mental and the physical, including the so-called causal exclusion argument, within the framework of a broadly interventionist approach to causation.
Keywords: action, dualism, functionalism, materialism, physicalism Contents 1. What is mentalcausation? 2. History 3. Mentalcausation as a problem for dualism 4. Mentalcausation as a problem for physicalism 5. Mentalcausation and cognitive science..
This paper is about a puzzle which lies at the heart of contemporary physicalist theories of mind. On the one hand, the original motivation for physicalism was the need to explain the place of mentalcausation in the physical world. On the other hand, physicalists have recently come to see the explanation of mentalcausation as one of their major problems. But how can this be? How can it be that physicalist theories still have a problem (...) explaining something which their physicalism was intended to explain in the first place? If physicalism is meant to be an explanation of mentalcausation, then why should it still face the problem of mentalcausation? (shrink)
Empirical evidence, it has often been argued, undermines our commonsense assumptions concerning the efficacy of conscious intentions. One of the most influential advocates of this challenge has been Daniel Wegner, who has presented an impressive amount of evidence in support of a model of "apparent mentalcausation". According to Wegner, this model provides the best explanation of numerous curious and pathological cases of behavior. Further, it seems that Benjamin Libet's classic experiment on the initiation of action and the (...) empirical evidence concerning the confabulation of reason explanations provide further support for this view. In response, I will propose an alternative model of "real mentalcausation" that can accommodate the empirical evidence just as well as Wegner's. Further, we will see that there is plenty of evidence in support of the assumption that intentions are causally efficacious. This will provide us with ample reason to endorse the model of real mentalcausation. (shrink)
Worries about mentalcausation are prominent in contemporary discussions of the mind and human agency. Originally, the problem of mentalcausation was that of understanding how a mental substance (thought to be immaterial) could interact with a material substance, a body. Most philosophers nowadays repudiate immaterial minds, but the problem of mentalcausation has not gone away. Instead, focus has shifted to mental properties. How could mental properties be causally relevant to (...) bodily behavior? How could something mental qua mental cause what it does? After looking at the traditional Problem of Interaction, we survey various versions of the property-based problem and look at proposed solutions to them. (shrink)
Given some reasonable assumptions concerning the nature of mentalcausation, non-reductive physicalism faces the following dilemma. If mental events cause physical events, they merely overdetermine their effects (given the causal closure of the physical). If mental events cause only other mental events, they do not make the kind of difference we want them to. This dilemma can be avoided if we drop the dichotomy between physical and mental events. Mental events make a real (...) difference if they cause actions. But actions are neither mental nor physical events. They are realized by physical events, but they are not type-identical with them. This gives us non-reductive physicalism without downward causation. The tenability of this view has been questioned. Jaegwon Kim, in particular, has argued that non-reductive physicalism is committed to downward causation. Appealing to the nature of actions, I will argue that this commitment can be avoided. (shrink)
Concerns about ‘mentalcausation’ are concerns about how it is possible for mental states to cause anything to happen. How does what we believe, want, see, feel, hope, or dread manage to cause us to act? Certain positions on the mind-body problem—including some forms of physicalism—make such causation look highly problematic. This entry sketches several of the main reasons to worry, and raises some questions for further investigation.
The paper argues that mentalcausation 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 (...) class='Hi'>causation is consistent with the overdetermination of physical events by mental events and other physical events, but does not entail it. (shrink)
The paper argues for four claims: (1) The problem of mentalcausation and the argument for its solution in terms of the identity of mental with physical causes are independent of the theory of causation one favours. (2) If one considers our experience of agency as described by folk psychology to be veridical, one is committed to an anti-Humean metaphysics of causation in terms of powers that establish necessary connections. The same goes for functional properties (...) in general. (3) A metaphysics of causation in terms of powers is compatible with physics. (4) If combined with the argument for mental causes being identical with physical causes, that metaphysics leads to a conservative reductionism. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemaker has proposed a new definition of `realization’ and used it to try to explain how mental events can be causes within the framework of a non-reductive physicalism. I argue that it is not actually his notion of realization that is doing the work in his account of mentalcausation, but rather the assumption that certain physical properties entail mental properties that do not entail them. I also point out how his account relies on certain (...) other controversial assumptions, including analytical filler-functionalism for mental properties, and the assumption that causes must be proportional to their effects. I conclude by pointing out that Shoemaker has provided no explanation of why, on his view, certain physical properties entail mental properties. (shrink)
The paper provides new perspectives for a dualistic conception of mentalcausation by putting causation that originates in a nonphysical self into an evolutionary perspective. Nonphysical causation of this type - free agency -, together with nonphysical consciousness, is regarded as being not only compatible with physics, but also as having a natural place in nature. It is described how free agency can work, on the basis of the brain, and how it can be compatible with (...) the result of the Libet-experiment. The necessary condition for the existence of free agency is that the physical macro-world is indeterministic to a degree that is relevant for living beings, that is, for their survival and well-being. From an evolutionary point of view, and on the basis of the facts of consciousness, it is more likely than not that this condition is in fact fulfilled. (shrink)
The recent literature on mentalcausation has not been kind to nonreductive, materialist functionalism (‘functionalism’, hereafter, except where that term is otherwise qualified). The exclusion problem2 has done much of the damage, but the epiphenomenalist threat has taken other forms. Functionalism also faces what I will call the ‘problem of metaphysically necessary effects’ (Block, 1990, pp. 157-60, Antony and Levine, 1997, pp. 91-92, Pereboom, 2002, p. 515, Millikan, 1999, p. 47, Jackson, 1998, pp. 660-61). Functionalist mental properties (...) are individuated partly by their relation to the very effects those properties’ instantiations are thought to cause. Consequently, functionalist causal generalizations would seem to have the following problematical structure: The state of being, among other things, a cause of e (under such-andsuch conditions) causes e (under those conditions).3 The connection asserted lacks the contingency one would expect of a causal generalization. Mental states of the kind in question are, by metaphysical necessity, causes of e; any state that does not cause e is thereby a different kind of state. Yet, a mental state’s being the sort of state it is must play some causal role if functionalism is to account for mentalcausation.4 In what follows, I first articulate more fully the problem of metaphysically necessary effects. I then criticize three functionalist attempts to solve the problem directly. Given the failure of functionalist efforts to meet the problem head-on, I consider less direct strategies: these involve formulating functionalism or its causal claims in such a way that they appear not to generate the problem of metaphysically necessary effects. I argue against these indirect solutions, in each case concluding either that the problem still arises or that avoiding it requires the adoption of an unorthodox form of functionalism (itself a surprising result). In the final.. (shrink)
Throughout the 1990s, Jaegwon Kim developed a line of argument that what purport to be nonreductive forms of physicalism are ultimately untenable, since they cannot accommodate the causal efficacy of mental states. His argument has received a great deal of discussion, much of it critical. We believe that, while the argument needs some tweaking, its basic thrust is sound. In what follows, we will lay out our preferred version of the argument and highlight its essential dependence on a causal-powers (...) metaphysic, a dependence that Kim does not acknowledge in his official presentations of the argument.i We then discuss two recent physicalist strategies for preserving the causal efficacy of the mental in the face of this sort of challenge, strategies that (ostensibly) endorse a causal powers metaphysics of properties while offering distinctive accounts of the physical realization of mental properties. We argue that neither picture can be satisfactorily worked out, and that seeing why they fail strongly suggests that nonreductive physicalism and a causal powers metaphysic are not compatible, as our original argument contends. Since we also believe that robust realism concerning mentalcausation should not be abandoned, we take the argument of this paper to strongly motivate an account on which the mental is unrealized by and ontologically emergent from the physical. In a final section, we sketch what an ontologically emergentist account of the mental might look like. (shrink)
E.J. Lowe has recently proposed a model of mentalcausation on which mental events are emergent, thus exerting a novel, downward causal influence on physical events. Yet on Lowe's model, mentalcausation is at the same time empirically undetectable, and in this sense is "invisible". Lowe's model is ingenious, but I don't think emergentists should welcome it, for it seems to me that a primary virtue of emergentism is its bold empirical prediction about the long-term (...) results of human physiology. Here I'll try to restore emergentism's empirical status, but my broader aim is to use Lowe's model to explore some central topics in the mentalcausation debate, including the "causal closure" of the physical world and the nature of causal powers. (shrink)
The problem of mentalcausation is discussed by taking into account some recent developments in the philosophy of science. The problem is viewed from the perspective of the new interventionist theory of causation developed by Woodward. The import of the idea that causal claims involve contrastive classes in mentalcausation is also discussed. It is argued that mentalcausation is much less a problem than it has appeared to be.
In this paper I do three things. First, I argue that Stephen Yabloâ€™s influential account of mentalcausation is susceptible to counterexamples involving what I call disproportional mentalcausation. Second, I argue that similar counterexamples can be generated for any alternative account of mentalcausation that is like Yabloâ€™s in that it takes mental states and their physical realizers to causally compete. Third, I show that there are alternative nonreductive approaches to mental (...)causation which reject the idea of causal competition, and which thus are able to allow for disproportional mentalcausation. This, I argue, is a significant advantage for such noncompetitive accounts. (shrink)
Dual-attribute theories are alleged to face a problem with mentalcausation 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.
I introduce the notion of a ‘control variable’ which gives us a way of seeing how mentalcausation could be an unproblematic case of causation in general, rather than being some sui generis form of causation. Psychological variables may be the control variables for a system for which there are no physical control variables, even in a deterministic physical world. That explains how there can be psychological causation without physical causation, even in a deterministic (...) physical world. (shrink)
In this paper I first try to clarify the essential features of tropes and then I use the resulting analysis to cope with the problem of mentalcausation. As to the first step, I argue that tropes, beside being essentially particular and abstract, are simple, where such a simplicity can be considered either from a phenomenal point of view or from a structural point of view. Once this feature is spelled out, the role tropes may play in solving (...) the problem of mentalcausation is evaluated. It is argued that no solution based on the determinable/determinate relation is viable without begging the question as regards the individuating conditions of the related properties. Next, it is shown that Robb’s solution, much in the spirit of Davidson’s anomalous monism, entails abandoning the assumption that tropes are essentially simple, a consequence that I find not acceptable. My conclusion is that these entities are of no help in solving the problem of mentalcausation, and that a universalist approach should be preferred. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemaker has attempted to save mentalcausation by a new account of realization. As Brian McLaughlin argues convincingly, the account has to face two major problems. First, realization does not guarantee entailment. So even if mental properties are realized by physical properties, they need not be entailed by them. This is the first, rather general metaphysical problem. A second problem, which relates more directly to mentalcausation is that Shoemaker must appeal to some kind (...) of proportionality as a constraint on causation in order to avoid redundant mentalcausation. I argue that, in addition, a “piling problem” arises, since causal powers seem to be bestowed twice. Then, I try to sketch an alternative view of the relation between causal powers and properties—a reductionist view—which fares better on some accounts. But it may have to face another and, perhaps, serious problem, the “problem of the natural unity of properties”. Finally, I will pose a question about the relation between causal powers and causation. (shrink)
Most of us have a very firm belief in mentalcausation; that is, we firmly believe that our own distinctly mental properties are causally efficacious in the production of our behavior. This belief is dominating in contemporary philosophy of mind as a part of the causal explanatory exclusion problem for non-reductive materialists. I do not discuss the exclusion problem; rather, I assess the conception of mentalcausation that is presupposed in the current debate. I propose (...) that in order to make sense of our firm belief in mentalcausation we need to operate with a broader conception of it than is normally seen, focusing on common-sense aspects concerning the timing, awareness, control, and tracking of mentalcausation. However, prominent studies in social psychology and cognitive neuroscience show that mentalcausation is not as self-evident, robust, and pervasive as our firm belief in it would suggest. There is therefore a tension between the common-sense, broad conception of mentalcausation and our empirical evidence for mentalcausation. A full defense of mentalcausation is not just a matter of securing causal efficacy but also of situating our notion of mental properties in relation to difficult issues concerning awareness, control, and judgment. Key words: mentalcausation, conscious will, agency, social psychology, cognitive neuroscience.. (shrink)
Over the past few decades, Jaegwon Kim has argued that non-reductive physicalism is an inherently unstable position. In his view, the most serious problem is that non-reductive physicalism leads to type epiphenomenalism—the causal inefficacy of mental properties. Kim suggests that we can salvage mentalcausation by endorsing functional reduction. Given the fact that Kim’s goal in formulating functional reduction is to provide a robust account of mentalcausation it would be surprising if his position implies (...) eliminativism about mental properties or leads to a view that is similar to one of the versions of non-reductive physicalism that he criticizes. We will show that depending on how certain key claims are interpreted, there are reasons for thinking functional reduction has these implications, in which case either Kim fails to provide a robust account of mentalcausation or there is reason to suspect that some of his criticisms of non-reductive physicalism are misguided. (shrink)
This paper is about a puzzle which lies at the heart of contemporary physicalist theories of mind. On the one hand, the original motivation for physicalism was the need to explain the place of mentalcausation in the physical world. On the other hand, physicalists have recently come to see the explanation of mentalcausation as one of their major problems. But how can this be? I-low can it be that physicalist theories still have a problem (...) explaining something which their physicalism was intended to explain in the first place? lf physicalism is meant to be an explanation of mentalcausation, then why should it still face the problem of mentalcausation? Disentagling this puzzle will cast light both on the recent mentalcausation debate and on physicalism itself. We can make a broad distinction between those forms of physicalism which identify mental and physical items and those which claim that there is some weaker relation of ’constitution’ between the mental and the physical. This latter view is now the orthodox version of physicalism. I shall argue that the problem of mentalcausation is only a problem for this orthodox physicalism, and not for identity theories. ln itself, this is not a particularly unusual claim. But I shall also argue that the real lesson of the mentalcausation debate is that orthodox physicalism is either unstable or unmotivated. It is unstable because (unlike the identity theories) it cannot reconcile mentalcausation with its other physicalist assumptions. It is unmotivated because in attempting to solve this mentalcausation problem, orthodox physicalism typically abandons one (or more) of the assumptions which form part of the original motivation for physicalism. To establish this, I need to explain (a) the nature of the arguments for physicalism, (b) the problem of mentalcausation, and (c) the standard solutions to the problem. These three tasks will form the main substance of this paper. But first I need to make some preliminary remarks about physicalism.. (shrink)