The overdetermination problem has long been raised as a challenge to nonreductive physicalism. Nonreductive physicalists have, in various ways, tried to resolve the problem through appeal to counterfactuals. This essay does two things. First, it takes up the question whether counterfactuals can yield an appropriate notion of causal redundancy and argues for a negative answer. Second, it examines how this issue bears on the mental causation debate. In particular, it considers the argument that the overdetermination problem simply does (...) not arise on a dependency conception of causation and shows why this idea, though initially appealing, does not address the real problem. As the essay shows, the idea derives its spurious plausibility from the fact that the dependency conception cannot even make sense of our pretheoretic idea of causal redundancy. The essay concludes by briefly discussing a possible picture of mental causation that suggests itself in light of these results. (shrink)
Widespread causal overdetermination is often levied as an objection to nonreductive theories of minds and objects. In response, nonreductive metaphysicians have argued that the type of overdetermination generated by their theories is different from the sorts of coincidental cases involving multiple rock-throwers, and thus not problematic. This paper pushes back. I argue that attention to differences between types of overdetermination discharges very few explanatory burdens, and that overdetermination is a bigger problem for the nonreductive metaphysician than (...) previously thought. (shrink)
When two rocks shatter the window at once, what causes the window to shatter? Is the throwing of each individual rock a cause of the window shattering, or are the throwings only causes collectively? This question bears on the analysis of causation, and the metaphysics of macro-causation. I argue that the throwing of each individual rock is a cause of the window shattering, and generally that individual overdeterminers are causes.
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)
The Exclusion Problem 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 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)
Jaegwon Kim’s influential exclusion argument attempts to demonstrate the inconsistency of nonreductive materialism in the philosophy of mind. Kim’s argument begins by showing that the three main theses of nonreductive materialism, plus two additional considerations, lead to a specific and familiar picture of mental causation. The exclusion argument can succeed only if, as Kim claims, this picture is not one of genuine causal overdetermination. Accordingly, one can resist Kim’s conclusion by denying this claim, maintaining instead that the effects of (...) the mental are always causally overdetermined. I call this strategy the ‘ overdetermination challenge’. One of the main aims of this paper is to show that the overdetermination challenge is the most appropriate response to Kim’s exclusion argument, at least in its latest form. I argue that Kim fails to adequately respond to the overdetermination challenge, thus failing to prevent his opponents from reasonably maintaining that the effects of the mental are always causally overdetermined. Interestingly, this discussion reveals a curious dialectical feature of Kim’s latest response to the overdetermination challenge: if it succeeds, then a new, simpler and more compact version of the exclusion argument is available. While I argue against the consequent of this conditional, thereby also rejecting the antecedent, this dialectical feature should be of interest to philosophers on either side of this debate. (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)
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 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)
Analyses of factual causation face perennial problems, including preemption, overdetermination, and omissions. Arguably, the thorniest, are cases of omissive overdetermination, involving two independent omissions, each sufficient for the harm, and neither, independently, making a difference. A famous example is Saunders, where pedestrian was hit by a driver of a rental car who never pressed on the (unbeknownst to the driver) defective (and, negligently, never inspected) brakes. Causal intuitions in such cases are messy, reflected in disagreement about which omission (...) mattered. What these analyses mistakenly take for granted, is that at issue is the 'efficacy' of each omission. I argue, on the contrary, the puzzle of omissive overdetermination favors taking the act/omission distinction seriously. Factual causation, properly understood precludes omissions (i.e. omissions are not causal). Of course, the law also attaches liability to omissions, but this works differently from liability for real causes (e.g. omissions have a duty requirement, they also respond differentially to difference-making considerations). The manner in which liability attaches for omissions differs from that of straightforward causal liability, and is entirely dependent on the underlying causal structure. Attention to that structure (e.g. that the driver's hitting the pedestrian with his car is what actually caused the injury) sheds light on which omissions matter (e.g. driver's failure to press on the brakes) and why (because that failure removes a defense the driver would have to liability for the accident he caused). Other cases, where the parties' connection is entirely omissive (e.g. two physicians fail to detect independently lethal conditions), come out differently (tracking moralized elements). The analysis offered makes better sense of both why omissive determination cases are puzzling and how to resolve them. (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.
It is widely recognized by proponents of the notion that grounding can be, indeed is, overdetermined. Moreover, it seems safe to suppose that something of a consensus has emerged: grounding is overdetermined and there is nothing about it that we ought to find concerning. Not only is the overdetermination apparently not problematic, metaphysically speaking, but that grounding is overdetermined is not problematic, conceptually speaking, either. From a small sampling of alleged cases, however, no such conclusions can responsibly be drawn. (...) And without an account of when a fact is technically overdetermined, we are unable to reasonably answer questions about the acceptability of that overdetermination either. In this paper, I attempt to understand when a fact is technically metaphysically overdetermined. I argue that such an exploration reveals that nothing as regards the overdetermination of grounding is straightforward, and that the phenomenon is deserving of much more philosophical attention. (shrink)
I focus on two arguments, due to Jaegwon Kim and Trenton Merricks, that move from claims about the sufficiency of one class of causes to the reduction or elimination of another class of entity, via claims about overdetermination. I argue that in order to validate their move from sufficiency to reduction or elimination, both Kim and Merricks must assume that there can be no ‘weak overdetermination’; i.e., that no single effect can have numerically distinct but dependently sufficient causes (...) occurring at the same time. One problem for both arguments is that weak overdetermination isn't obviously objectionable. That point has been well made before. But I want here to go further than merely shifting the burden of proof onto the advocates of overdetermination arguments. I want to tease out why they are so convinced that we must resist weak overdetermination and explain why their conviction is misguided. Both Merricks and Kim, I shall argue, ultimately rest their case on the same motivating principle, wh.. (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)
Our best philosophical and scientific pictures of the world organize material objects into a hierarchy or levels or layers- microparticles at the bottom, molecules, cells, and persons at higher layers. Are objects at higher layers identical to the sums of objects at lower layers that constitute them? (Note that this question is different from the question of whether composition- as opposed to constitution- is identity.).
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)
Radical empiricism is the view that experience is the only source of knowledge. Hence, radical empiricism denies the existence of a priori knowledge. Its most famous proponents are John Stuart Mill and W. V. Quine. Although both reject a priori knowledge, they offer different empiricist accounts of the knowledge alleged by their opponents to be a priori. My primary concern in this paper is not with the cogency of their positive accounts. My focus is their arguments against a priori knowledge. (...) My goal is to establish that although they offer very different arguments against the existence of a priori knowledge, each of their arguments suffers from a common defect. They both fail to appreciate the phenomenon of epistemic overdetermination and its role in the theory of knowledge. (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)
This work explains how different theories of causation confront causal overdetermination. Chapters clarify the problem of overdetermination and explore its fundamental aspects. It is argued that a theory of causation can account for our intuitions in overdetermination cases only by accepting that the adequacy of our claims about causation depends on the context in which they are evaluated.The author proposes arguments for causal contextualism and provides insight which is valuable for resolution of the problem. -/- These chapters (...) enable readers to quickly absorb different perspectives on overdetermination and important theories of causation, therefore it is a work that will have a broad appeal. (shrink)
Non-Reductive Physicalism is similar in many ways with, what I will call, Orthodox Theism. This strongly suggests that Non-Reductive Physicalist solutions to the Supervenience Argument can be adapted to offer Orthodox Theistic solutions to the Conservation is Continuous Creation Argument. One particular Non-Reductive Physicalist solution will be examined in detail and then applied in the debate over Occasionalism.
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)
Supervaluationism, traditionally conceived, is the conjunction of three theses: Vagueness in a language gives rise to there being a multitude of acceptable assignments of semantic values to some expressions of the language, These assignments correspond to possible completions of the meanings of vague expressions, Truth is truth under all acceptable assignments, and falsity is falsity under all acceptable assignments. Supervaluationism has three chief virtues. It preserves classical logic. It provides an account of what vagueness is . And it extends nicely (...) to the vagueness of singular terms. I argue, however, that the existence of vagueifiers ‐ expressions like‘roughly’– pose problems for thesis of Supervaluationism, and that the supervaluationist can get around these problems only at a serious cost. Toward the end of the paper, I present an alternative analysis of vagueness, which preserves the main virtues of Supervaluationism, but which identifies vagueness as semantic Overdetermination, rather than as semantic underdetermination. (shrink)
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.
The use of multiple means of determination to “triangulate” on the existence and character of a common phenomenon, object, or result has had a long tradition in science but has seldom been a matter of primary focus. As with many traditions, it is traceable to Aristotle, who valued having multiple explanations of a phenomenon, and it may also be involved in his distinction between special objects of sense and common sensibles. It is implicit though not emphasized in the distinction between (...) primary and secondary qualities from Galileo onward. It is arguably one of several conceptions involved in Whewell’s method of the “consilience of inductions” (Laudan 1971) and is to be found in several places in Peirce. (From M. Brewer and B. Collins, eds., (1981); Scientific Inquiry in the Social Sciences (a festschrift for Donald T. Campbell), San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 123–162.). (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)
Compatibilists respond to the problem of causal exclusion for nonreductive physicalism by rejecting the exclusionist’s ban on overdetermination. By the compatibilist’s lights there are two forms of overdetermination, one that’s problematic and another that is entirely benign. Furthermore, multiple causation by “tightly related” causes requires only the benign form of overdetermination. Call this the tight relation strategy for avoiding problematic forms of overdetermination. To justify the tight relation strategy, modal compatibilists appeal to a widely accepted counterfactual (...) test. The argument of this paper is that the counterfactual test fails to legitimize the tight relation strategy as it fails to adequately distinguish between problematic and benign overdetermination. Contrary to modal compatibilists, modal dependence does not suffice for benignity. I conclude by arguing that adequately addressing overdetermination worries requires a much heavier metaphysical burden than modal compatibilists have typically recognized. (shrink)
Causal overdetermination occupies an uncomfortable place within all the major theories of causation. A natural solution to the problems it gives rise to would be to resolve overdetermination into preemption or joint causation. However, such a solution would seem to lead to individuate events in a fragile manner. The issue of such modal fragility is addressed and it is argued that events designated as effects are always fragile in a natural way and the putative problems of adopting modal (...) fragility can be resolved. It is also studied whether causal overdetermination could work in a setting where the overdetermining causes occur in different levels of reality. Typically postulated higher-level causes are shown to contradict the definitional features of overdetermination. There is thus no reasonable role for causal overdetermination and the notion should be abandoned. (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)
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)
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.
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 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 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)
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.
Recently, Kroedel and Schulz have argued that the exclusion problem—which states that certain forms of non-reductive physicalism about the mental are committed to systematic and objectionable causal overdetermination—can be solved by appealing to grounding. Specifically, they defend a principle that links the causal relations of grounded mental events to those of grounding physical events, arguing that this renders mental–physical causal overdetermination unproblematic. Here, we contest Kroedel and Schulz’s result. We argue that their causal-grounding principle is undermotivated, if not (...) outright false. In particular, we contend that the principle has plausible counterexamples, resulting from the fact that some mental states are not fully grounded by goings on ‘in our heads’ but also require external factors to be included in their full grounds. We draw the sceptical conclusion that it remains unclear whether non-reductive physicalists can plausibly respond to the exclusion argument by appealing to considerations of grounding. (shrink)
This article explores the notion of gender overdetermination in relation to a community of criminalised women in Massachusetts. Re-examining classic writings on overdetermination by Louis Althusser, Sigmund Freud, Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre, we query the notion of gender overdetermination and posit it as an effective lens for thinking about the persistence of gender as a social construct. The combination of the structural processes of overdetermination with the discursive and ideological power of overdetermination complicates and (...) reduces possibilities and effectiveness of sustained acts of resistance. The criminalised women of our study permanently inhabit a space in which aetiology, practice, discipline and interpretation are all hyper-gendered, meaning that acts of resistance are construed as more evidence of inescapable and essential gender identity. (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)
: Descartes provides an original and puzzling argument for the traditional theological doctrine that the world is continuously created by God. His key premise is that the parts of the duration of anything are "completely independent" of one another. I argue that Descartes derives this temporal independence thesis simply from the principle that causes are necessarily simultaneous with their effects. I argue further that it follows from Descartes's version of the continuous creation doctrine that God is the instantaneous and total (...) cause of everything that happens, and that this is just what his physics demands. But although God is the total cause of everything, he is not the only cause, since Descartes considers it obvious that finite minds have the power to move bodies. In the face of this apparent paradox, several recent commentators have suggested that Descartes accepted the late scholastic view that God and finite causes somehow collaborate or concur in the production of numerically identical effects. But close examination reveals that the case for Cartesian concurrentism is weak. Fortunately, there is a simpler and more fruitful solution to the problem of reconciling divine and human action. I argue that that in Descartes's world certain motions, such as voluntary movements of our bodies, are causally overdetermined This account allows Descartes to avoid occasionalism without embracing an elaborate metaphysics of secondary causality. Finally, I argue that the overdeterminist interpretation sheds new light on two longstanding problems of Cartesian metaphysics. First, it resolves a serious difficulty with a standard reading of Descartes's conception of human freedom. Second, it offers a novel approach to the old problem of reconciling genuine human action with the principle of the conservation of total quantity of motion. (shrink)
One way of responding to Jaegwon Kim's Causal Exclusion Argument is to argue that the relevant mental and physical properties overdetermine their effects. Insofar as this is a reasonable way of securing mental causation this presents a viable framework for understanding how divine and non-divine causes can conspire to bring about events in the world.
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)