Causal exclusion and overdetermination

In E. Di Nucci & J. McHugh (eds.), Content, Consciousness and Perception. Cambridge Scholars Press (2006)
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This paper is about the causal exclusion argument against non-reductive physicalism. Many philosophers think that this argument poses a serious problem for non-reductive theories of the mind — some think that it is decisive against them. In the first part I will outline non-reductive physicalism and the exclusion argument. Then I will distinguish between three versions of the argument that address three different versions of non-reductive physicalism. According to the first, the relation between mental and physical events is token-identity. According to the second, mental events are distinct from physical events, but the latter metaphysically include and determine the former. And on the third version, mental and physical events are entirely distinct. I will argue that the causal exclusion argument is not decisive against non-reductive physicalism in any of the three versions. According to non-reductive physicalism, mental events are dependent on physical events. Causal exclusion and overdetermination, however, requires distinct and independent causes. I will argue that the burden of proof lies with the opponents of non-reductive physicalism, who have to explain how metaphysically dependent events can possibly overdetermine an effect or exclude each other from being causally efficacious.



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