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  1. [deleted]The Inconsistency of Productive Mental Causation.Andrew Russo - manuscript
    [In Progress, version 2] Recently, Barry Loewer (2001, 2002, 2007) has developed a line of response to the exclusion problem which embraces 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. (...)
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2013-06-14
Early Draft of paper: All comments are most welcome
Here's the place to be critical!  Anything that can help me develop this argument is much appreciated.  This is something I develop a bit in my dissertation and the hope is to develop it more here and eventually have something worthy of publication.

2013-06-23
Early Draft of paper: All comments are most welcome
Reply to Andrew Russo
Here are some comments. Thanks for the interesting paper.

1. It will help your reader to say early on what nonreductive physicalism is, and why it is a species of physicalism. I’m honestly not clear on this myself. I do take it to be consistent with token-token identity. You might give an example of a nonreductive physicalist theory, (e.g. functionalism?)  I find these discussions confusing sometimes because I don’t really have a grasp on nonreductive physicalism.

2. The explication of Lewis on 3 and 4 in terms of the metric and backtracking counterfactuals seems to be a good deal more than you need to make the point that Suzy doesn’t bomb the target in the closest possible worlds where Billy doesn’t pull the trigger. Might consider simplifying this drastically and getting on with the paper.

3. Intuitively there is in the neighborhood of Production a weaker principle (or several weaker principles), e.g. that productive causal processes are sufficient for causation and, in cases where there is causation between cause c and effect e, without a productive relation tween c and e, it is at least partly in virtue of c’s productively causing f (an event distinct from e). (Here we stipulate that this principle applies to positive events, not to absences or omissions.)

So Billy’s pulling the trigger doesn’t stand in a productive relation to the target’s being bombed, but it does stand in a productive relation to Enemy’s being destroyed, and it is partly in virtue of this productive relation that pulling the trigger stands in a causal relation to the target’s being bombed. So productive causal relations are always involved in causal relations; double prevention cases depend on productive causal relations.  

This is a more subtle and slippery form of Production. It seems intuitive that a response to Hall’s example is to try to reposition Production so that Production and Dependence are consistent, with Production being the more basic causal relationship. At first glance, anyhow, such principles are consistent with Hall’s objection while preserving the primacy of production in causation.
One might, in turn, adopt a modified Dependence, which requires, along with the true counterfactual, that productive causal relations are strategically located in the causal account,
even if they don’t hold between c and e.  As Hall’s example has lots of force, but something seems importantly right about Production, hybrid accounts of causation seem worth considering.

I take it that the firing of neurons in your example, like Billy’s pulling the trigger, produces a positive physical effect, the release of calcium ions, and this is a part of the causal account of muscle contraction.

4. You might substitute ‘neurological events’ for ‘mental events.’ The causal question is really being raised in terms of neurological events, it seems to me.

5. P. 15 (2) in Kim’s argument: Mental events are distinct from physical events.  Here’s where my confusion about nonreductive physicalism comes into play. I take NRP to be consistent with token-token identity of mental and physical events. But then 2 doesn’t seem to be a feature of NRP. To the contrary, every mental event is identical to some physical event or other.  

For example,,  I reckon that functionalism is a form of nonreductive physicalism if anything is. So pains, say, are typed by their causal inputs and behavioural outputs, and every particular pain is identified with some token physical event or other–but these are of different types in different sorts of creatures (or sometimes in the same creature). So the functionalist isn’t saddled with 2–only with the rejection of type-type identity for pains. It looks as though Kim is attacking a straw man–unless we restate 2. But how? (Sincere question). No need to saddle the nonreductive physicalist with 2, I suggest.

Or suppose we say of each particular pain that it has it’s input-output relation in every world in which it exists. Not so the neurological event–it may have different functions in different worlds. So the pain is to the neurological event as the statue is to the lump of bronze (which suppose comes into existence just when the statue does). They are distinct in virtue of having different modal properties. Now we lose token-token identity. Nonetheless there is only one set of causal powers in the story, those the neurological event actually has. The pain is a pain in virtue of having those very causal powers. It doesn’t have additional causal powers of its own. Modal differences do not create additional causal powers. But now the truth of 1, 2 and 3 do not entail the falsity of 4.

I think NRP engenders Kim’s problems only if it becomes an ontological dualism (like property dualism) on its face incompatible with physicalism. Again, I don’t know what NRP is.

6. Whatever our ultimate account of causation, there are some productive causal relations: c produces e in the way that Suzy’s bombing the target destroys it and Billy’s pulling the trigger blows up Enemy. Also in Schaffer’s example, even if there isn’t a productive causal relation between neurological events and muscle contractions there is a productive causal relation between neurological events and the release of Calcium ions.

Then doesn’t the overdetermination problem arise anyway, if not between neurological events and behaviour then between neurological  events and the release of Calcium ions? Might Kim say,
whatever our ultimate account of causation, if there is systematically a productive causal relation between neurological events and the release of Calcium ions, we get an objectionable overdetermination if we suppose there is, in addition, a causal relation between additional mental events and the release of Calcium ions? Certainly it can’t be productive....  Is it going to be causal in virtue of a counterfactual dependence between mental events and the release of Calcium ions? But first, this might seem causally otiose (the productive relation is on its face causally superior), and, second, wouldn’t those counterfactuals hold anyway if the additional mental events were epiphenomena supervenient on the neurological events?

In other words, as there are productive causal relations between neurological events and some physical events short of behaviour, even if there aren’t productive causal relations between the neurological events and the behaviour, can the overdetermination problem be raised in terms of
the productive causal relations that do exist? The relata are part of the complete explanation of the behaviour, they arise routinely, so why don’t they serve Kim’s purposes just as well?

Hope this helps. Take what’s useful; ignore the rest. Thanks again for posting your draft, Jim

2013-06-24
Early Draft of paper: All comments are most welcome
Reply to Andrew Russo
    I just wanted to say first and foremost before I go any further that I am not a Professor of Philosophy nor have I ever had a formal course on the subject. That said I felt compelled to write to you upon reading your paper so I hope my comments are substantive and not a waste of your time. To begin, I must say that I absolutely loved the clarity that you provide in this paper. It has been my personal experience, that too many scholarly works on philosophical subjects are clogged with jargon relative to the subject without actually dissecting its meaning. For instance, reading Sartre's Being&Nothingness I found that when he was discussing Being for itself and Being in itself, he did very poorly in the way of actually clarifying the distinction between these two entities in a manner that could be accessible to everyone. That is why I loved your bomber pilot example early on because it gives a strong model of causation and sets up a great platform for the ensuing discussion. This is something I wish more Professors/students would do when writing Philosophy so I commend you.
    While I am still very new to the subject of reductionism/physicalism and am completely foreign to concepts such as the Productive thesis and double prevention, the information you provided in your paper does make me at least for the moment, embrace double prevention and reject the notion of production. A person with severe ALS may think about lifting their arm, but its lack of response completely negates the contiguity principle of production. However I do have a question that I hope you do not find ill informed or foolish. Does the content of thought have any bearing on the concepts discussed? Or is it solely the matter of the process. To explain let me cite the chunk of your paper that discusses Production.

   
"(Production) Causes and their effects must be connected by way of productive causal processes. A productive causal process is a spatiotemporally local and contiguous sequence of events involving the transfer of some sort of persisting entity (e.g., energy-momentum). Causal processes are local when each event in the sequence is spatiotemporally near the adjacent members of the process. This locality condition rules out so-called “action” at a spatial and temporal distance (Hall 2004, 242 –243). Additionally, the process must be contiguous such that it involves no breaks or disconnections. In other words, each event in a causal process must be a “genuinely positive event” (Dowe 2001, 216 –217); an event capable of both “giving” and “receiving” some persisting entity. The non-occurrence of an event –an absence or omission –is not able to receive nor is it capable of transferring anything to another event."


    You cited with your ALS research that people afflicted with ALS still have strong cognitive abilities. Also at least from my personal understanding, ALS victims still retain the ability to speak. What I am getting at is, how significant is the application of this cognition? Perhaps instead of someone thinking about raising their arms themselves they think about asking someone to lift it for them. So we establish contiguity albeit thanks to the presence of the other. The ALS patient thinks to ask someone to raise their arm, they ask said someone to raise it, and that person raises it. There exists no absence in that sequence and everything put forth seemed to fulfill the criteria of spatio-temporal distance. I am wondering though if the person rejects to help the ALS patient if that constitutes as an absence or omission due to the fact that it clashes with the patient's desire however he does receive this rejection which would seem to fit as a contribution of events just not desired ones. Overall, solid paper. I needed this tonight and I sincerely hope my two cents prove worthwhile to your endeavor.


   

 



2013-06-24
Early Draft of paper: All comments are most welcome
Reply to Jim Stone
Hi Jim,

First of all, thanks for taking the time to read my paper and provide me with comments.  This is what I hoped would happen by posting my paper and I am delighted it has!  I plan on taking each one of your points into consideration as I revise and work on this paper.  But I wanted to provide a brief reply to some of your comments here in case you were curious as to my response.

(1) What exactly is nonreductive physicalism?  This is a good question, but the standard starting point consists of the following two theses:

(Supervenience) Any minimal physical duplicate of the actual world is a duplicate simiplicter of the actual world.

(Nonreductionism) For every mental phenomenon M, M is not identical to a physical phenomenon P.

Some comments.  First, a roughly equivalent way to put Supervenience is to say that if physicalism is true, then the physical facts entail all the facts.  This entailment is at the very least metaphysical; there is no presumption it is a priori, conceptual, etc. 

Second, when you say that nonreductive physicalism is consistent with a token-identity theory you are correct.  For those token-identity theorists (e.g. Davidson), mental particulars (i.e., events) are identical with physical particulars, but mental properties are not.  In this case, read 'phenomenon' above as 'property'.  But some nonreductive physicalists (e.g., Yablo) also think that mental particulars are not identical to any physical particulars.  In this case, read 'phenomenon' above as 'events'.  The debate about the exclusion problem is made much simpler if we stick to talking about events, since these are the entities typically taken to be the causal relata.  However, a roughly equivalent formulation can be given in terms of properties.

There are several notable nonreductive relations consistent with Supervenience the nonreductive physicalist could appeal to here.  You suggest constitution in your comments which is defended by Pereboom, there is also determination (e.g., scarlet determines red) which is defended by Yablo, and realization (which is very similar to determination) as defended by Shoemaker.  In short, what the nonreductive physicalist wants to say is that mental phenomena are related to physical phenomena by some non-identity but identity-like relation (e.g., constitution, determination, realization, etc.) which is consistent with Supervenience.  The devil is in the details, of course, and the challenge is to spell out what this non-identity but identity-like relation is and show how it is consistent with the physical facts entailing all the facts.

(2) Good point!

(3)  First, in regards to your suggestion that productive causal processes between c and e are sufficient for c to be a cause of e.  This strikes me as problematic, since it seems to count as a cause of an event many events we would not intuitively consider a cause of that event.  Suzy throws a rock at a window and the window shatters.  Billy stands by and watches as Suzy does this.  There is a productive causal process consisting of photons bouncing off of Billy and striking the window running from Billy's watching of Suzy and the window shattering.  But intuitively this event is not a cause of the shattering.  Second, your suggestion that productive causal processes be involved in causation but not necessarily as connecting the cause and the effect is very similar to the view defended in Schaffer (2001) "Causes as Probability Raisers of Processes".  This hybrid view is quite plausible and certainly worth mentioning.  However, I am mainly concerned with those theories which demand that causes and effects be connected by such processes.  In other words, it is the stronger thesis of Production I aim to show is not true.

(5) See (1) above.  To reiterate: not every nonreductive physicalist is a token identity theorist and a nonreductionism about events is consistent with Supervenience.  The ontological dualist differs from the nonreductive physicalist in denying Supervenience.  So although both hold Nonreductionism, their disagreement concerns whether the physical facts entail all the facts.  Your suggestion about the sharing of causal powers is similar to Kim's Causal Inheritance Principle (which he thinks forces one away from nonreductionism and back toward a reductionism), Yablo's exposition of determination, and Shoemaker's most recent account of mental-physical realization.

(6) Is the causal relation between mental events and the release of calcium ions a productive relation?  I don't know.  It depends on the empirical facts about this physiological mechanism.  However, suppose that it is.  In this case, you suggest that we still fact the problem of overdetermination, since presumably there is a productive causal process connecting this release of calcium ions to both a mental event and its neurophysiological realizer. 

(1) Loewer's Reply: well, only if we take causation to be a productive relation!  If it is just a counterfactual dependence, there is no issue.  Or if it is a hybrid view like you suggest above, there is no issue, since a productive causal process need not connect the cause with the effect.  In short, I think mental causation forces one to abandon production and admit that causation has an essential counterfactual aspect.   

(2) Might there be only one productive causal process, since the mental event shares its causal powers with its neural realizer?  Sure, this is an option here which I think dissolves the worry about overdetermination.  Kim thinks this forces one back to reductionism, but this inference is questionable.  However, we are still faced with the issue that mental events are not connected to their bodily effects via such processes (even if they share their causal powers with the neural).  So if such processes are required for causation, then there is no mental causation of bodily movements!  It seems to me we had better go with Reply (1) instead and abandon the strong form of Production.

Thank you again for the very helpful comments!

2013-06-24
Early Draft of paper: All comments are most welcome
Reply to John LeGore
Hi John,

Thank you for reading my paper and commenting on it.  Whatever comments you give, whether or not they are from someone who has formally studied philosophy, will be helpful!

I share your opinion on cases of double prevention as well.  They seem to be the focal point of disagreement between productive and counterfactual theories and I think provide reasons to favor the latter.  Although not all cases of double prevention are clearly cases of causation, I think mental causation is and so we must present a similar verdict for all of them.  This is the benefit of counterfactual theories over productive theories.

In regards to your question, I think the content of our thoughts has much bearing on these issues.  Although I am dealing with one specific problem of mental causation, there are others.  In particular, there is the question of how the content of our thoughts could be causally efficacious.  Formulated in a strange and awkward way (as philosophers are want to do sometimes):  Are the content properties of our mental states causally relevant to their effects?  This is a difficult question and one I think can be temporarily set aside for the purposes of my paper.  However, a solution to the problem of mental causation will certainly have to deal with it eventually. 

In regards to your suggestion, suppose someone with ALS asks another person (the helper) to raise their arm.  The causal mechanism by which this motion is brought about involves the request which causes the helper to intend fulfill the request which then triggers the normal physiological processes in the helper's body involved in the contraction of muscles.  These processes involve causation by double prevention and so an absence is involved after all!  So, all in all, even if the person suffering from ALS asks another to move their body, that will involve causation by double prevention, since another person must move their body to fulfill the request.

If, however, the person suffering from ALS is connected to some mechanism that (by stipulation) doesn't involve a double prevention structure, then they could raise their arm without an absence playing the role of causal intermediary.  However, this contrived scenario is not the norm, and we are still faced with the normal physiological mechanism involving an absence as causal intermediary.

I hope this answered some of your questions.  Thank you again for your comments!     

2013-06-24
Early Draft of paper: All comments are most welcome
Reply to Andrew Russo
Thanks for answering. The dialectic between us is for me now a little complicated. I follow
this protocol in commenting on paper drafts from colleagues (like yourself):
I make suggestions that may improve the paper and I try to raise difficulties that might arise
for an intelligent reader. I then ask my colleague to decide for him/herself if any of it
is useful and to ignore the rest. I do not ask for or expect a response. The philosophical
issues are in the background--the paper (and getting it published) are in the foreground.
It's a bit complicated because we're on a message board, with it's own dialectic, but
I'll keep to my old habits. I do appreciate your clarifications.

I remain deeply concerned as to what NRP means, and to whether it can be sorted out in a way where Kim's difficulties survive, but for now that's my problem, not yours, since (as you
mention) lots of smart people are publishing about it and that's all you need. I do think
some explication, perhaps in a footnote, will improve your paper and make it more accessible
to the general reader. Journal editors care about that, in my experience. If I was refereeing
the paper I would want to know whether functionalism is a species of NRP; anyhow I think
an example of such a theory might help, FWIW, something other than Davidson.
I expect this has already occurred to you. (For me, personally, if functionalism isn't a version of NRP, I'm not much interested in NRP; and if it is a version of NRP, then I have trouble
grasping Kim's difficulty--but again this is my problem, not yours and not what your paper is about.)

You point out that some forms of NRP entail token-token identity but others deny token
identity. The question still arises for the reader, what happens to Kim's premiss 2
Is he after NRP per se or just the proper subset of such theories that denies token-token
identity? Or is 2 really more fully explicated in another way. Or does it need a footnote
to clarify? etc. Or is the whole issue best recast in terms of properties? And so on.

You observe that you will take my comments into account as you revise.
Most kind. You don't have to take much of this to the mats; and it may be that some
of these points will occur to a referee.  Footnotes, textual changes, whatever?
Thanks for the info about Yablo et al. Jim