Causal contextualism holds that sentences of the form ‘c causes e’ have context-sensitive truth-conditions. We consider four arguments invoked by Jonathan Schaffer in favor of this view. First, he argues that his brand of contextualism helps solve puzzles about transitivity. Second, he contends that how one describes the relata of the causal relation sometimes affects the truth of one’s claim. Third, Schaffer invokes the phenomenon of contrastive focus to conclude that causal statements implicitly designate salient alternatives to the cause and (...) effect. Fourth, he claims that the appropriateness of a causal statement depends on what is contextually taken for granted or made salient. We show that causal invariantism can explain these linguistic data at least as well as contextualism. We then argue that pace Schaffer, some causal sentences are always correct and can never be plausibly denied, regardless of the context. (shrink)
Loewer (in: Physicalism and its discontents, 2001; Philos Phenomenol Res 65:655–663, 2002; in: Contemporary debates in philosophy of mind, 2007) has argued that the nonreductive physicalist should respond to the exclusion problem by endorsing the overdetermination entailed by their view. Kim’s (Physicalism, or something near enough, 2005; in: Contemporary debates in the philosophy of mind, 2007) argument against this reply is based on the premise that mental causation must be a productive relation in order to sustain human agency. In this (...) paper, I challenge the premise that mental causation is a productive relation by appealing to the underlying double prevention structure of the physiological mechanisms of human action. Since the causal pathways from an agent’s mental events to bodily movement involves an absence, mental causation is not productive. This places Kim in a troublesome dilemma in his debate with Loewer: either surrender mental causation or deny that causation is a productive relation. With the support offered for productive mental causation undermined, responses to the exclusion problem based on accepting overdetermination remain viable options for the nonreductive physicalist. (shrink)
Harry Frankfurt has argued that Descartes’s madness doubt in the First Meditation is importantly different from his dreaming doubt. The madness doubt does not provide a reason for doubting the senses since were the meditator to suppose he was mad his ability to successfully complete the philosophical investigation he sets for himself in the first few pages of the Meditations would be undermined. I argue that Frankfurt’s interpretation of Descartes’s madness doubt is mistaken and that it should be understood as (...) playing the same role as his more famous dreaming doubt. I focus my discussion around four questions: (Q1) What does the meditator have in mind when speaking of madness?, (Q2) Why does the meditator so quickly dismiss the madness doubt but take seriously the dreaming doubt?, (Q3) Does the madness doubt have the same scope as the dreaming doubt?, and (Q4) Why does the meditator bring up the madness doubt at all? (shrink)
According to the worm theory, persons are (maximal) aggregates of person-stages existing at different times. Personites, on the other hand, are non-maximal aggregates of stages that are nonetheless very much like persons. Their existence appears to make instances of prudential self-sacrifice morally problematic: the personites that exist at the time of the sacrifice but not at the time of the reward seem to be unfairly exploited. Instances of punishment appear to give rise to a similar problem. We argue that these (...) impressions arise from a mistaken assumption about which beings are the primary bearers of properties such as suffering, receiving compensation (in the future) and having (previously) committed a crime. According to the worm theory, stages, rather than persons or personites, possess these properties. Persons and personites have these properties only in a derivative sense. As we show, once this clarification and related ones are made, the apparent moral problems raised by the existence of personites dissolve. (shrink)
Mark Johnston (2016, 2017) has raised concerns that a worm-theoretic account of persistence through time is incompatible with ethical singularity: that within the life of any actual person, there is only one morally considerable being, namely that person. To deny ethical singularity is to deny a core feature of our ordinary ethical and prudential thinking. The worm theory, Johnston concludes, proves to be “disastrous … for our ordinary moral outlook”. This paper defends the worm theory from Johnston’s argument. Though I (...) agree that the worm theory must deny ethical singularity, it can nevertheless be squared with our ordinary ethical thinking by adopting a temporal counterpart analysis of temporal predication (‘x will be F’, ‘x was previously F’, etc.) for those morally considerable beings involved in a person’s life that are not the person. (shrink)
This short paper is a "quick and dirty" introduction for non-philosophers (with some background in propositional logic) to Jaegwon Kim's famous supervenience argument against non-reductive physicalism (also known as the exclusion problem). It motivates the problem of mental causation, introduces Kim's formulation of the issue centered around mind-body supervenience, presents the argument in deductive form, and makes explicit why Kim concludes that vindicating mental causation demands a reduction of mind.
Mental causation is a problem and not just a problem for the nonphysicalist. One of the many lessons learned from Jaegwon Kim’s writings in the philosophy of mind is that mental causation is a problem for the nonreductive physicalist as well. A central component of the common sense picture we have of ourselves as persons is that our beliefs and desires causally explain our actions. But the completeness of the “brain sciences” threatens this picture. If all of our actions are (...) causally explained by neurophysiological events occurring in our brains, what causal role is left for our reasons and motives? It would seem that these brain events do all the causal work there is to do, thus robbing the mental of its efficacy altogether or else making it a merely superfluous or redundant causal factor. This essay presents a systematic treatment of this exclusion dilemma from the perspective of a nonreductive physicalist. I argue that both horns of this dilemma can be avoided if we ground mental causation in counterfactual dependence between distinct events and understand the mind-body relation as event realization. Although in the final analysis our actions are overdetermined by their mental and neurophysiological antecedents, this overdetermination is entirely unproblematic. (shrink)
The burden of proof (BOP) fallacy is an informal fallacy involving the failure to recognize or properly assign the BOP in a persuasive reasoned dialogue, that is, an interchange between two or more parties whose aim is to prove or defend a position and, in doing so, persuade the other side of its truth or plausibility. In some such dialogues, the amount or strength of evidence required in order to accomplish this goal reasonably may differ for one of the parties (...) involved. The BOP fallacy can occur in two ways. The first is when one side of the dialogue fails to recognize that its opponent incurs the BOP. The second way the BOP fallacy can occur is when one side of the dialogue assigns the BOP incorrectly. There are still some factors that play a role in determining which side of a dialogue incurs the BOP and this chapter discusses these factors. (shrink)