Contrastive mental causation

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Any theory of mind needs to explain mental causation. Kim’s (upward) exclusion argument concludes that non-reductive physicalism cannot meet this challenge. One classic reply is that mental properties capture the causally relevant level of generality, because they are insensitive to physical realization. However, this reply suggests downward exclusion (if mental properties are causally efficacious, their physical realizers are causally impotent), contrary to physicalism’s assumption of closure. This paper shows how non-reductive physicalists can solve this problem by introducing a contrastive account of causation with non-exhaustive contrasts. That view has independent justification, because it is also needed to solve other puzzles. On this theory, both a mental property and its physical realizer can cause the same physical effect without lapsing into any problematic overdetermination when they cause that effect in contrast with distinct foils. This contrastive solution has advantages over previous accounts of mental causation and is defended against objections.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sinnott-Armstrong, W

Published Date

  • February 1, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 198 /

Start / End Page

  • 861 - 883

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1573-0964

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0039-7857

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s11229-019-02506-0

Citation Source

  • Scopus