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Summary One of the problems of mental causation involves showing how the popular externalist view of how mental content is individuated can be compatible with the claim that mental states are causally efficacious in virtue of their content. For example, if your belief that the water in the bucket is frozen is part of what causes you to put the bucket over a fire, it does so in virtue of the fact that it has that content (and not, say, the content that the water in the bucket is steaming hot). Semantic externalism is the idea that mental contents are individuated partly in terms of thinkers' relations to the environment: for example, you think about water because you're in a world that has water, but a physically identical twin on a planet with a similar-seeming substance (but not H2O) would think about that substance. Hilary Putnam expressed this as the idea that contents "ain't in the head". The problem is to reconcile this fact about content individuation with the idea that causal relationships are in some sense "local" or "in the head". 
Key works Putnam 1975 and Burge 1979 are seminal defenses of the ideas that the individuation of mental content depends at least in part on relations between thinkers and (respectively) their physical and social environments. Arguments for a notion of narrow (or non-relational) content, such as Fodor 1991, are often motivated by the idea that wide content is incompatible with causal efficacy, while others, such as Jacob 1992, defend a view in which wide content is compatible with causal relevance if not efficacy. Burge 1989 and Dretske 1988 (summarized in Dretske 1990) defend influential compatibilist views, while Yablo 1997 suggests a more generalized compatibilism framed in response to Jaegwon Kim's problem of causal exclusion (the general claim that physical properties 'screen off' mental properties). 
Introductions Putnam 1975; Burge 1979; Jacob 1993; Peacocke 1993;Wilson 1992. An accessible (though longer) discussion is included in Fodor 1994, while Heil & Mele 1993 is an excellent collection of articles on various problems of mental causation. 
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  1. Mental Causation and Neuroscience: The Semantic Pruning Model.José Manuel Muñoz - 2018 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 33 (3):379-399.
    In this paper I propose a hypothetical model of mental causation that I call semantic pruning and which could be defined as the causal influence of contents and meanings on the spatial configuration of the network of synapses of an individual. I will be guided by two central principles: 1) the causal influence of the mental occurs by virtue of external semantic constraints and consists in the selective activation of certain physical powers, 2) when the selective activation is continual, it (...)
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  2. Why Broad Content Can’T Influence Behaviour.Cressida Gaukroger - 2017 - Synthese 194 (8):3005–3020.
    This article examines one argument in favour of the position that the relational properties of mental states do not have causal powers over behaviour. This argument states that we establish that the relational properties of mental states do not have causal powers by considering cases where intrinsic properties remain the same but relational properties vary to see whether, under such circumstances, behaviour would ever vary. The individualist argues that behaviour will not vary with relational properties alone, which means that they (...)
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  3. Does Resemblance Really Matter?Anne-Kathrin Koch - 2015 - Open MIND.
    In this commentary on Gerard O’Brien’s “How does mind matter? —Solving the content causation problem”, I will investigate the notion of representational content presented in the latter. With this notion, O’Brien aims at giving an explanation of how mind matters in physicalist terms. His argumentation is motivated by, and supposedly directed towards, a problem he calls the content causation problem. Regarding this, I am most interested in reconstructing how his account relates to the presuppositions that make this problem so pressing (...)
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  4. Varieties of Causation in Consciousness Studies.Harald Atmanspacher, Robert C. Bishop & J. Scott Jordan - 2012 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (5-6):5-6.
    In cognitive neuroscience and in philosophy of mind, causation is a notion that is immensely important but usually not defined precisely enough to afford careful application. A widespread basic flaw is the confusion of causation with correlation. All empirical knowledge in the sciences is based on observing correlations; assigning causal relations to them or interpreting them causally always requires a theoretical background that is implicitly or (better) explicitly stated. This entails that differing theoretical approaches might lead to different interpretations of (...)
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  5. Semantic Externalism.Jesper Kallestrup - 2011 - Routledge.
    Semantic externalism is the view that the meanings of referring terms, and the contents of beliefs that are expressed by those terms, are not fully determined by factors internal to the speaker but are instead bound up with the environment. The debate about semantic externalism is one of the most important but difficult topics in philosophy of mind and language, and has consequences for our understanding of the role of social institutions and the physical environment in constituting language and the (...)
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  6. Semantic Externalism and the Mechanics of Thought.Carrie Figdor - 2009 - Minds and Machines 19 (1):1-24.
    I review a widely accepted argument to the conclusion that the contents of our beliefs, desires and other mental states cannot be causally efficacious in a classical computational model of the mind. I reply that this argument rests essentially on an assumption about the nature of neural structure that we have no good scientific reason to accept. I conclude that computationalism is compatible with wide semantic causal efficacy, and suggest how the computational model might be modified to accommodate this possibility.
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  7. Embedded Cognition and Mental Causation: Setting Empirical Bounds on Metaphysics. [REVIEW]Fred Keijzer & Maurice Schouten - 2007 - Synthese 158 (1):109 - 125.
    We argue that embedded cognition provides an argument against Jaegwon Kim’s neural reduction of mental causation. Because some mental, or at least psychological processes have to be cast in an externalist way, Kim’s argument can be said to lead to the conclusion that mental causation is as safe as any other form of higher-level of causation.
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  8. The Burning Barn Fallacy in Defenses of Externalism About Mental Content.Anthony Newman - 2006 - Journal of Philosophical Research 31:37-57.
    Externalism says that many ordinary mental contents are constituted by relations to things outside the mental subject’s head. An infl uential objection says that externalism is incompatible with our commonsense belief in mental causation, because such extrinsic relations cannot play the important causal role in producing behavior that we ordinarily think mental content plays.An extremely common response is that it is simply obvious, from examples of ordinary causal processes, that extrinsic relations can play the desired causal role. In this paper (...)
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  9. The Burning Barn Fallacy in Defenses of Externalism About Mental Content.Anthony Newman - 2006 - Journal of Philosophical Research 31:37-57.
    Externalism says that many ordinary mental contents are constituted by relations to things outside the mental subject’s head. An infl uential objection says that externalism is incompatible with our commonsense belief in mental causation, because such extrinsic relations cannot play the important causal role in producing behavior that we ordinarily think mental content plays.An extremely common response is that it is simply obvious, from examples of ordinary causal processes, that extrinsic relations can play the desired causal role. In this paper (...)
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  10. Brain and Consciousness: Exits From the Labyrinth.Vadim V. Vasilyev - 2006 - Social Sciences 37 (2):51-66.
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  11. The Internal and External Components of Cognition.Ralph Wedgwood - 2006 - In Robert J. Stainton (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science. Malden MA: Blackwell. pp. 307-325.
    Timothy Williamson has presented several arguments that seek to cast doubt on the idea that cognition can be factorized into internal and external components. In the first section of this paper, I attempt to evaluate these arguments. My conclusion will be that these arguments establish several highly important points, but in the end these arguments fail to cast any doubt either on the idea that cognitive science should be largely concerned with internal mental processes, or on the idea that cognition (...)
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  12. Two Types of Mental Causation.Wim de Muijnck - 2004 - Philosophical Explorations 7 (1):21-35.
    In this paper I distinguish two types of mental causation, 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 (...)
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  13. Does Externalism Entail the Anomalism of the Mental?Nicholas Shea - 2003 - Philosophical Quarterly 53 (211):201-213.
    In ‘Mental Events’ Donald Davidson argued for the anomalism of the mental on the basis of the operation of incompatible constitutive principles in the mental and physical domains. Many years later, he has suggested that externalism provides further support for the anomalism of the mental. I examine the basis for that claim. The answer to the question in the title will be a qualified ‘Yes’. That is an important result in the metaphysics of mind and an interesting consequence of externalism.
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  14. Causal Relevance.Stephen Yablo - 2003 - Philosophical Issues 13 (1):316-28.
  15. Individualism and the New Logical Connections Argument.Anthony Dardis - 2002 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 2 (4):83-102.
    Jerry Fodor argues for individualism and for narrow content by way of rejecting an argument based on the conceptual connections between reason-properties and action-properties. In this paper I show that Fodor’s argument fails. He is right that there is a New Logical Connections Argument to be made, and that it does show that water thoughts and XYZ thoughts are not different causal powers with respect to intentional properties of behaviors. However, the New Logical Connections Argument also shows that they are (...)
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  16. Causation by Relational Properties.Wim De Muijnck - 2002 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 65 (1):123-137.
    In discussions on mental causation and externalism, it is often assumed that extrinsic, or relational, properties cannot have causal efficacy. In this paper I argue that this assumption is based on a category mistake, in that causal efficacy (dependence among events or states of affairs) is confused with causal influence (persistence of and interaction among objects). I then argue that relational properties are indeed causally efficacious, which I explain with the help of Dretske's notion of a 'structuring cause'.
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  17. Causal Efficacy and Externalist Mental Content.Anthony E. Newman - 2002 - Dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Internalism about mental content is the view that microphysical duplicates must be mental duplicates as well. This dissertation develops and defends the idea that only a strong version of internalism is compatible with our commonsense commitment to mental causation. ;Chapter one defends a novel necessary condition on a property's being causally efficacious---viz., that any property F that is efficacious with respect to event E cannot be instantiated in virtue of any property G that is itself ceteris paribus sufficient for E---and (...)
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  18. Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Mind.Stephen P. Stich & Ted A. Warfield (eds.) - 2002 - Blackwell.
  19. Superproportionality and Mind-Body Relations.Stephen Yablo - 2001 - Theoria 16 (40):65-75.
    Mental causes are threatened from two directions: from below, since they would appear to be screened off by lower-order, e.g., neural states; and from within, since they would also appear to be screened off by intrinsic, e.g., syntactical states. A principle needed to parry the first threat -causes should be proportional to their effects- appears to leave us open to the second; for why should unneeded extrinsic detail be any less offensive to proportionality than excess microstructure? I say that the (...)
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  20. Mental Contents, Tracking Counterfactuals, and Implementing Mechanisms.Josep E. Corbí & Josep L. Prades - 2000 - The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 9:1-11.
    In the ongoing debate, there are a set of mind-body theories sharing a certain physicalist assumption: whenever a genuine cause produces an effect, the causal efficacy of each of the nonphysical properties that participate in that process is determined by the instantiation of a well-defined set of physical properties. These theories would then insist that a nonphysical property could only be causally efficacious insofar as it is physically implemented. However, in what follows we will argue against the idea that fine-grained (...)
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  21. Seven Habits of Highly Effective Thinkers.Stephen Yablo - 2000 - In Bernard Elevitch (ed.), The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy. Philosophy Documentation Center. pp. 35-45.
    By effective thinkers I mean not people who think effectively, but people who understand “how it’s done,” i.e., people not paralyzed by the philosophical problem of epiphenomenalism. I argue that mental causes are not preempted by either neural or narrow content states, and that extrinsically individuated mental states are not out of proportion with their putative effects. I give three examples/models of how an extrinsic cause might be more proportional to an effect than the competition.
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  22. Causation by Content?Paul Noordhof - 1999 - Mind and Language 14 (3):291-320.
    Non-reductive Physicalism together with environment-dependence of content has been thought to be incompatible with the claim that beliefs are efficacious partly in virtue of their possession of content, that is, in virtue of their intentional properties. I argue that this is not so. First, I provide a general account of property causation. Then, I explain how, even given the truth of Non-reductive Physicalism and the environment-dependence of content, intentional properties will be efficacious according to this account. I go on to (...)
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  23. Alternative Individualism.Denis M. Walsh - 1999 - Philosophy of Science 66 (4):628-648.
    Psychological individualism is motivated by two taxonomic principles: (i) that psychological states are individuated by their causal powers, and (ii) that causal powers supervene upon intrinsic physiological state. I distinguish two interpretations of individualism--the 'orthodox' and the 'alternative'--each of which is consistent with these motivating principles. I argue that the alternative interpretation is legitimately individualistic on the grounds that it accurately reflects the actual taxonomic practices of bona fide individualistic sciences. The classification of homeobox genes in developmental genetics provides an (...)
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  24. Externalism and Causality: Simulation and the Prospects for a Reconciliation.DOna D. Warren - 1999 - Mind and Language 14 (1):154-176.
  25. Individualism and the Cross Contexts Test.Jonathan Barrett - 1997 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 78 (3):242-60.
    Jerry Fodor has defended the claim that psychological theories should appeal to narrow rather than wide intentional properties. One of his arguments relies upon the cross contexts test, a test that purports to determine whether two events have the same causally relevant properties. Critics have charged that this test is too weak, since it counts certain genuinely explanatory relational properties in science as being causally irrelevant. Further, it has been claimed, the test is insensitive to the fact that special scientific (...)
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  26. Itiswhat You Think: Intentional Potency and Anti‐Individualism.Brendan J. Lalor - 1997 - Philosophical Psychology 10 (2):165-78.
    In this paper I argue against the worried view that intentional properties might be epiphenomenal. In naturalizing intentionality we ought to reject both the idea that causal powers of intentional states must supervene on local microstructures, and the idea that local supervenience justifies worries about intentional epiphenomenality since our states could counterfactually lack their intentional properties and yet have the same effects. I contend that what's wrong with even the good guys (e.g. Dennett, Dretske, Allen) is that they implicitly grant (...)
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  27. Wide Causation.S. Yablo - 1997 - Philosophical Perspectives 11:251-281.
  28. Content, Causal Powers, and Context.Keith Butler - 1996 - Philosophy of Science 63 (1):105-14.
    Owens (1993) argues that one cannot accept the anti-individualistic conclusions of arguments inspired by Twin Earth thought experiments and still maintain that folk psychological states causally explain behavior. Saidel (1994) has argued that Owens' argument illegitimately individuates the contents of folk psychological states widely and causal powers narrowly. He suggests that causal powers may well be wide, and that the conditions that militate in favor of wide content also militate in favor of wide causal powers; mutatis mutandis for narrow content (...)
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  29. Externalism, Content, and Causation.M. Klein - 1996 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 96:159-76.
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  30. Reply: Intentional Properties and Causation.Tyler Burge - 1995 - In C. Macdonald (ed.), Philosophy of Psychology: Debates on Psychological Explanation. Cambridge: Blackwell.
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  31. Intentional Properties and Causation.Tyler Burge - 1995 - In C. Macdonald & Graham F. Macdonald (eds.), Philosophy of Psychology: Debates About Psychological Explanation. Blackwell.
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  32. Cognitive Patterns in Science and Common Sense.Lex Guichard - 1995 - Amsterdam: Rodopi.
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  33. The Causal Efficacy of Propositional Attitudes.Lex Guichard - 1995 - In Cognitive Patterns in Science and Common Sense. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
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  34. Anti-Individualism and the Problem of Mental Causation.Robert G. Lantin - 1995 - Dissertation, Temple University
    The general thrust of the dissertation may be captured by the following two claims: some mental properties play a causal role in the production of purposive behaviour; and both the intrinsic and extrinsic features of those properties may be causally efficacious in the production of such behaviour, is a claim in favour of mental causation; I take to be a claim in favour of what I refer to as an 'anti-individualistic' version of the doctrine. In the first two chapters, I (...)
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  35. Non-Cartesian Explanations Meet the Problem of Mental Causation.Richard Montgomery - 1995 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 33 (2):221-41.
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  36. Explaining Ourselves: Simulation Theory, Externalism and Causality.Dona Debra Warren - 1995 - Dissertation, University of Minnesota
    The traditional picture of psychological explanation is that mental states cause behavior and that explanations which cite these states are causal in character. This venerable position is now being challenged by the recognition that content-bearing mental states are sensitive to external factors in such a way that they might vary across physically identical individuals. A number of philosophers have argued that if an explanatory schema is causal then it must classify explanatory states as the same just in case they share (...)
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  37. Content and Context.Lynne Rudder Baker - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8:17-32.
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  38. Causal Relevance and Thought Content, KIRK A. LUDWIG.Moral Certainty - 1994 - Philosophy 69 (268).
  39. The Supervenience of Mental Content.Manuel Garcia-Carpintero - 1994 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 94:117-135.
    Defends the supervenience of mental content under an externalist view of both contents and the supervenience base.
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  40. Causal Relevance and Thought Content.Kirk A. Ludwig - 1994 - Philosophical Quarterly 44 (176):334-353.
    It is natural to think that our ordinary practices in giving explanations for our actions, for what we do, commit us to claiming that content properties are causally relevant to physical events such as the movements of our limbs and bodies, and events which these in turn cause. If you want to know why my body arnbulates across the street, or why my arm went up before I set out, we suppose I have given you an answer when I say (...)
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  41. Content, Computation, and Externalism.Christopher Peacocke - 1994 - Mind and Language 9 (3):227-264.
  42. Content and Causal Powers.Eric Saidel - 1994 - Philosophy of Science 61 (4):658-65.
    Owens (1993) argues that a tension exists between our commonsense view of mental states and the scientific view that psychological explanations not contradict supervenience. He suggests that one cannot accept the anti-individualistic conclusions of Twin-Earth thought experiments and continue to use folk psychological states to explain behavior. I argue that his conclusions are based on individuating content widely and causal powers narrowly, and that such individuation violates consistency assumptions about the terms of his discussion. Thus, I argue, the tension he (...)
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  43. Some of the Difference in the World: Crane on Intentional Causation.Daniel Seymour - 1994 - Philosophical Quarterly 44 (170):83-89.
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  44. Good Reasoning and Cognitive Architecture.Scott Sturgeon - 1994 - Mind and Language 9 (1):88-101.
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  45. The Supervenience of Mental Content.Manuel García-Carpintero - 19934 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 94:117.
    The paper discusses the criticism of externalist theories of content which, on the basis of "Twin Earth" considerations, claims that such theories cannot make intentional properties supervenient on basic, intrinsic properties of the organism -- while supervenience is a necessary condition for the causal efficacy of any macro-property. The paper accepts the supervenience requirement, understood as arising from a requirement that macro- properties should be explained by micro- properties. It points out, however, that as a consequence of this, the modality (...)
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  46. Fodor's Modal Argument.Frederick Adams - 1993 - Philosophical Psychology 6 (1):41-56.
    What we do, intentionally, depends upon the intentional contents of our thoughts. For about ten years Fodor has argued that intentional behavior causally depends upon the narrow intentional content of thoughts (not broad). His main reason is a causal powers argument—brains of individuals A and B may differ in broad content, but, if A and B are neurophysically identical, their thoughts cannot differ in causal power, despite differences in broad content. Recently Fodor (Fodor, 1991) presents a new 'modal' version of (...)
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  47. Reply to Russow.Frederick Adams - 1993 - Philosophical Psychology 6 (1):63 – 65.
    In 'Fodor's Modal Argument' I claim that Fodor's latest defence of narrow content does not work. I claim that Fodor's modal argument is an unsuccessful resurrection of the Logical Connection Argument. Russow claims that my arguments fail because I confuse cause properties with causal powers, focus on events rather than properties, and overlook the fact that Fodor is trying only to explain narrow behavior. In this paper, I plead 'not guilty' to all of Fodor's charges. Narrow content still does not (...)
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  48. Mind-Body Causation and Explanatory Practice.Tyler Burge - 1993 - In John Heil & Alfred R. Mele (eds.), Mental Causation. Oxford University Press.
    Argument for Epiphenomenalism [I]: (A) Mental event-tokens are identical with physical event-tokens. (B) The causal powers of a physical event are determined only by its physical properties; and (C) mental properties are not reducible to physical properties.
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  49. The Union Theory and Anti-Individualism.Ted Honderich - 1993 - In John Heil & Alfred R. Mele (eds.), Mental Causation. Oxford University Press.
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  50. Externalism and the Explanatory Relevance of Broad Content.Pierre Jacob - 1993 - Mind and Language 8 (1):131-156.
1 — 50 / 66