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)
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.
[Under Review] Recently, Barry Loewer (2001, 2002, 2007) has developed a line of response to the exclusion problem embracing the overdetermination implied by the nonreductive physicalist's view. His suggestion is that (p1) if causation is productive, the implied overdetermination is problematic; otherwise, on a non-productive account, the overdetermination is harmless. Jaegwon Kim (2005, 2007) maintains that non-productive accounts of causation will not do if we wish to properly ground human agency and vindicate the efficacy of the mental, (...) that is, (p2) mental causation is productive. From this it follows that the overdetermination implied by nonreductive physicalism is problematic. In this paper, I present considerations that both premises are false. Productive causation coupled with the implied overdetermination is prima facie problematic, but, given a plausible thesis about the relationship between mental and neurophysiological events, the problem can be overcome. Furthermore, inspired by Jonathan Schaffer’s (2000, 2004a) discussions of negative causation, I argue that productive causation is a threat to mental causation rather than required by it. I conclude that, in the absence of further reasons, the nonreductive physicalist should consider overdetermination an innocent consequence of their view. (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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
This paper aims to show that a counterfactual approach to causation is not sufficient to provide a solution to the causal exclusion problem in the form of systematic overdetermination. Taking into account the truthmakers of causal counterfactuals provides a strong argument in favour of the identity of causes in situations of translevel, causation.
In this paper I critically examine Michael Moore's views about responsibility in overdetermination cases. Moore argues for an asymmetrical view concerning actions and omissions: whereas our actions can make us responsible in overdetermination cases, our omissions cannot. Moore argues for this view on the basis of a causal claim: actions can be causes but omissions cannot. I suggest that we should reject Moore's views about responsibility and overdetermination. I argue, in particular, that our omissions (just like our (...) actions) can make us responsible in overdetermination cases. I go on to provide an account of how this may be possible. (shrink)
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)
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 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.
A great deal has been written over the past decade defending ‘higher-level’ causes by arguing that overdetermination is more complex than many philosophers initially thought. Although two shooters overdetermine the death of a firing squad victim, a baseball and its parts do not overdetermine the breaking of a window. But while these analyses of overdetermination have no doubt been fruitful, the focus on overdetermination—while ignoring other varieties of causal relation—has limited the discussion. Many of the cases of (...) interest resemble joint causes or a cause necessitating a simultaneous epiphenomenon as much as they resemble overdeterminers. If we are to fully understand higher-level causation, we need to distinguish it from these causal relations as well. This paper is dedicated to the task, focusing especially on the ‘threat’ that higher-level causes are epiphenomena necessitated by lower-level causes. (shrink)