Mental Causation

In N. Levy J. Clausen (ed.), Springer Handbook of Neuroethics. Springer (2015)


The problem of mental causation in contemporary philosophy of mind concerns the possibility of holding two different views that are in apparent tension. The first is physicalism, the view that there is nothing more to the world than the physical. The second is that the mental has genuine causal efficacy in a way that does not reduce to pure physical particle-bumping. This article provides a historical background to this question, with focus on Davidson’s anomalous monism and Kim’s causal exclusion problem. Responses to causal exclusion are categorized in terms of six different argumentative strategies. In conclusion, caution is advised regarding the inclination to reduce the mental to the physical and sketch a positive direction for substantively characterizing mental causation by recourse to well-confirmed accounts of causation coupled with empirical research.

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Holly Andersen
Simon Fraser University

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