Epiphenomenalism denies some or all putative cases of mental causation. The view is widely taken to be absurd: if a theory can be shown to entail epiphenomenalism, many see that as a reductio of that theory. Opponents take epiphenomenalism to be absurd because they regard the view as undermining the evident agency we have in action and precluding substantial self-knowledge. In this paper, I defend epiphenomenalism against these objections, and thus against the negative dialectical role that the view plays in (...) philosophy of mind. I argue that nearly in all cases where a theory implies one kind of epiphenomenalism, it is an epiphenomenalism of a non-problematic kind, at least as far as issues about agency and self-knowledge are concerned. There is indeed a problematic version of epiphenomenalism, but that version is not relevant to the debates where its apparent absurdity is invoked. (shrink)
“Realization” is a technical term that is used by metaphysicians, philosophers of mind, and philosophers of science to denote some dependence relation that is thought to obtain between higher-level properties and lower-level properties. It is said that mental properties are realized by physical properties; functional and computational properties are realized by first-order properties that occupy certain causal/functional roles; dispositional properties are realized by categorical properties; so on and so forth. Given this wide usage of the term “realization”, it would be (...) right to think that there might be different dependence relations that this term denotes in different cases. Any relation that is aptly picked out by this term can be taken to be a realization relation. The aim of this state-of-the-field article is to introduce the central questions about the concept of realization, and provide formulations of a number of realization relations. In doing so, I identify some theoretical roles realization relations should play, and discuss some theories of realization in relation to these theoretical roles. (shrink)
According to one conception of strong emergence, strongly emergent properties are nomologically necessitated by their base properties and have novel causal powers relative to them. In this paper, I raise a difficulty for this conception of strong emergence, arguing that these two features are incompatible. Instead of presenting this as an objection to the friends of strong emergence, I argue that this indicates that there are distinct varieties of strong emergence: causal emergence and epiphenomenal emergence. I then explore the prospects (...) of emergentism with this distinction in the background. (shrink)
Some claim that the notion of strong emergence as involving ontological or causal novelty makes no sense, on grounds that any purportedly strongly emergent features or associated powers 'collapse', one way or another, into the lower-level base features upon which they depend. Here we argue that there are several independently motivated and defensible means of preventing the collapse of strongly emergent features or powers into their lower-level bases, as directed against a conception of strongly emergent features as having fundamentally novel (...) powers. After introducing the project (Section 1), we motivate and present the powers-based account (Section 2); we then canvass the two main versions of the collapse objection, show how these apply to the powers-based account, and problematize certain strategies of response (Section 3); we then present and defend four better strategies of response (Section 4). (shrink)
“Realization” and “emergence” are two concepts that are sometimes used to describe same or similar phenomena in philosophy of mind and the special sciences, where such phenomena involve the synchronic dependence of some higher-level states of affairs on the lower-level ones. According to a popular line of thought, higher-level properties that are invoked in the special sciences are realized by, and/or emergent from, lower-level, broadly physical, properties. So, these two concepts are taken to refer to relations between properties from different (...) levels where the lower-level ones somehow “bring about” the higher-level ones. However, for those who specialise in inter-level relations, there are important differences between these two concepts – especially if emergence is understood as strong emergence. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight these differences. (shrink)
What marks emergence as a metaphysically interesting idea is that many macro-level entities and their properties are ontologically and causally autonomous in relation to the micro-level entities and properties they depend on---or so argues Jessica Wilson in Metaphysical Emergence (2021). To do so, she adopts a “metaphysically highly neutral” (p. 32) approach to questions about powers, causation, properties, and laws. That is, while explaining what emergence is and arguing that there is indeed emergence in the natural world, she doesn’t restrict (...) her analyses and arguments to any specific metaphysical accounts of these concepts, and she doesn’t commit to any controversial theses about them. In this article, I assess Wilson’s project against this methodological ideal of metaphysical neutrality. (shrink)
What is an epiphenomenal property? This question needs to be settled before we can decide whether higher-level properties are epiphenomenal or not. In this paper, I offer an account of what it is for a property to have some causal power. From this, I derive a characterisation of the notion of an epiphenomenal property. I then argue that physically realized higher-level properties are not epiphenomenal because laws of nature impose causal similarities on the bearers of such properties, and these similarities (...) figure as powers in the causal profiles of these properties. (shrink)
ABSTRACT The exclusion problem is meant to show that non-reductive physicalism leads to epiphenomenalism: if mental properties are not identical with physical properties, then they are not causally efficacious. Defenders of a difference-making account of causation suggest that the exclusion problem can be solved because mental properties can be difference-making causes of physical effects. Here, we focus on what we dub an incompatibilist implementation of this general strategy and argue against it from a non-reductive physicalist perspective. Specifically, we argue that (...) incompatibilism undermines either the non-reductionist or the physicalist aspirations of non-reductive physicalism. (shrink)
This paper revisits some classic thought experiments in which experiences are detached from their characteristic causal roles, and explores what these thought experiments tell us about qualia epiphenomenalism, i.e., the view that qualia are epiphenomenal properties. It argues that qualia epiphenomenalism is true just in case it is possible for experiences of the same type to have entirely different causal powers. This is done with the help of new conceptual tools regarding the concept of an epiphenomenal property. One conclusion is (...) that it is not obvious if qualia epiphenomenalism is false; and it is also not obvious what should make us believe that it is false—or for that matter, true. Connections between qualia epiphenomenalism, physicalism, and non-physicalist property dualism are further explored. (shrink)
In this paper, we make a case for the disjunctive view of phenomenal consciousness: consciousness is essentially disjunctive in being either physical or non-physical in the sense that it has both physical and non-physical possible instances. We motivate this view by showing that it undermines two well-known conceivability arguments in philosophy of mind: the zombie argument for anti-physicalism, and the anti-zombie argument for physicalism. By appealing to the disjunctive view, we argue that two hitherto unquestioned premises of these arguments are (...) false. Furthermore, making use of the resources of this view, we formulate distinct forms of both physicalism and anti-physicalism. On these formulations, it is easy to see how physicalists and anti-physicalists can accommodate the modal intuitions of their opponents regarding zombies and anti-zombies. We conclude that these formulations of physicalism and anti-physicalism are superior to their more traditional counterparts. (shrink)
Abstract: Non-reductive physicalism is commonly understood as the view that mental properties are realized by physical properties. Here, I argue that the realization relation in question is a power inheritance relation: if a property P realizes a property Q, then the causal powers of Q are a subset of the causal powers of P. Whereas others have motivated this claim by appealing to its theoretical benefits, I argue that it is in fact entailed by two theses: (i) realization is a (...) same-subject necessitation relation; (ii) properties have their causal powers derivatively on the causal powers of their bearers. Although the power inheritance claim that is defended here has many opponents, I take it that the two theses that entail it are either plausible or widely assumed. (shrink)
The New Evil Demon Problem is meant to show that reliabilism about epistemic justification is incompatible with the intuitive idea that the external-world beliefs of a subject who is the victim of a Cartesian demon could be epistemically justified. Here, I present a new argument that such beliefs can be justified on reliabilism. Whereas others have argued for this conclusion by making some alterations in the formulation of reliabilism, I argue that, as far as the said problem is concerned, such (...) alterations are redundant. No reliabilist should fear the demon. (shrink)
I present an argument that propositional attitudes are not mental states. In a nutshell, the argument is that if propositional attitudes are mental states, then only minded beings could have them; but there are reasons to think that some non-minded beings could bear propositional attitudes. To illustrate this, I appeal to cases of genuine group intentionality. I argue that these are cases in which some group entities bear propositional attitudes, but they are not subjects of mental states. Although propositional attitudes (...) are not mental states, I propose that they are typically co-instantiated with mental states. In an attempt to explain this co-instantiation, I suggest that propositional attitudes of minded beings are typically realized by mental states. (shrink)
According to contingentism, laws of nature hold contingently. An objection to contingentism is that it implies quidditism, and therefore inherits its implausible consequences. This paper argues that this objection is misguided. Understood one way, quidditism is not an implication of contingentism, hence even if it has implausible consequences, these are not relevant to contingentism. Understood another way, quidditism is implied by contingentism, but it is less clear if this version of quidditism has the same implausible consequences. Whatever the merits of (...) contingentism, the argument from anti-quidditism is not successful in showing that it is false. (shrink)
The nomic view of dispositions holds that properties confer dispositions on their bearers with nomological necessity. The argument against nomic dispositions challenges the nomic view: if the nomic view is true, then objects don't have dispositions, but 'mimic' them. This paper presents an explication of disposition conferral which shows that the nomic view is not vulnerable to this objection.
Mnemonic confabulation is an epistemic failure that involves memory error. In this paper, I examine an account of mnemonic confabulation offered by Sarah Robins in a number of works. In Robins’ framework, mnemonic cognitive states in general (e.g., remembering, misremembering) are individuated by three conditions: existence of the target event, matching of the representation and the target event, and an appropriate causal connection between the target event and its representation. Robins argues that when these three conditions are not met, the (...) cognitive state in question is an instance of mnemonic confabulation. Here, I argue that this is not true. There are mnemonic cognitive states which don’t meet any of these conditions, and they are not cases of mnemonic confabulation. On a more positive note, I argue that mnemonic confabulation requires it to be a failing on behalf of either the subject or her mnemonic system that these conditions are not met. (shrink)
One of the central limitations of sensory substitution devices (SSDs) is their inability to reproduce the non-sensory feelings that are normally associated with visual experiences, especially hedonic and aesthetic responses. This limitation is sometimes reported to cause SSD users frustration. To make matters worse, it is unclear that improvements in acuity, bandwidth, or training will resolve the issue. Yet, if SSDs are to actually reproduce visual experience in its fullness, it seems that the reproduction of non-sensory feelings will be of (...) some importance. We offer a novel solution. Researchers can produce hedonic and aesthetic responses by eliciting these feelings artificially, pairing distal objects that should be pleasurable to pleasurable stimulus outputs from the SSD. We outline two strategies for accomplishing this: first, by means of a prefixed, hardwired, association of pleasant distal objects to pleasant stimulus outputs from the SSD; second, by means of a flexible, feedback-based association which creates associations based on a subject-directed matching of distal objects to patterns of stimuli from the SSD which the subject takes to have the corresponding hedonic properties. We evaluate some problems with both strategies, and we argue that the feedback-based strategy is more promising. Researchers can use this strategy to help the blind, allowing them to take pleasure in the objects they perceive using SSDs. (shrink)
Non-reductive physicalists hold that mental properties are realized by physical properties. The realization relation is typically taken to be a metaphysical necessitation relation. Here, I explore how the metaphysical necessitation feature of realization can be explained by what is known as ‘the subset view’ of realization. The subset view holds that the causal powers that are associated with a realized property are a proper subset of the causal powers that are associated with the realizer property. I argue that the said (...) explanation of the metaphysical necessitation feature requires a careful treatment of the relationship between properties and causal powers. (shrink)
According to one-level physicalism, reality is exhausted by fundamental physical entities and properties. This position is sometimes defended on the basis of the truthmaker view of ontological commitment. Accordingly, physicalists can affirm higher-level truths without ontologically committing to any higher-level properties or states of affairs; fundamental physical states of affairs serve as truthmakers of all truths that have truthmakers, and a physicalist’s ontology should consist of nothing but the fundamental physical states of affairs and their constituents. In this paper, I (...) raise a problem for one-level physicalists who defend their views by appealing to the truthmaker view of ontological commitment. I argue that the truthmaker view faces certain puzzles the solutions of which clash with the main tenets of one-level physicalism. I conclude that either truthmaking is not a good guide to ontological commitment or one-level physicalism cannot be defended on the basis of the truthmaker view. (shrink)
This is an excerpt from a report on the Sensory Substitution and Augmentation Conference at the British Academy in March of 2013. This portion of the report explores the question: Does sensory substitution generate perceptual or cognitive states?
This is an excerpt from a report on the Sensory Substitution and Augmentation Conference at the British Academy in March of 2013. This portion of the report explores the question: Can normal non-sensory feelings be generated through sensory substitution?
This is an excerpt from a report on the Sensory Substitution and Augmentation Conference at the British Academy in March of 2013. This portion of the report explores the question: How does sensory substitution interact with the brain’s architecture?
This is an excerpt from a report on the Sensory Substitution and Augmentation Conference at the British Academy in March of 2013. This portion of the report explores the question: What can sensory substitution tell us about perceptual learning?
This is an excerpt from a report on the Sensory Substitution and Augmentation Conference at the British Academy in March of 2013. This portion of the report explores the question: What are the limitations of sensory substitution.
In this thesis, I argue that physicalism should be understood to be the view that mental properties are realized by physical properties. In doing this, I explore what the realization relation might be. Since realization is the relation that should help us formulate physicalism, I suggest that the theoretical role of realization consists in explaining some of the things that physicalists wish to explain. These are: How are mental properties metaphysically necessitated by physical properties? How are mental properties causally efficacious? (...) A theory of realization should provide resources for answering these questions. Having identified the theoretical role of realization, I discuss several theories of realization, but then focus on the subset view of realization. According to the subset view, a property P realizes a property Q if and only if the causal powers of Q are a proper subset of the causal powers of P. I argue that the realization relation as it is formulated by the subset view is a promising candidate to play the theoretical role that I want realization to play. I then investigate how this theoretical role is occupied. In doing so, I provide a general metaphysical framework that the defenders of the subset view can appeal to. This framework specifies in what ways properties are related to their causal powers. Discussing some problems that the subset view faces, I propose my own version of the subset view. I argue that a property P realizes a property Q if and only if the causal powers of Q are a proper subset of the causal powers of P, and P is more fundamental than Q. Thanks to the requirement that a realized property is less fundamental than its realizers, two things that the original version of the subset view cannot explain are guaranteed: first, fundamental properties are not realized; second, arbitrary conjunctions of properties do not realize their conjuncts. By showing how a theory of realization can help us explain some of the things that physicalists typically wish to explain, I also show that a non-reductive variety of physicalism does not face the problems that it is commonly thought to face. (shrink)