Interactions and Exclusions: Studies on Causal Explanation in Naturalistic Philosophy of Mind

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    Abstract

    The notion of causal explanation is an essential element of the naturalistic world view. This view is typically interpreted to claim that we are only licensed to postulate entities that make a causal difference , or have causal power . The rest are epiphenomena and hence eliminable from the correct view of reality. The worry that some entities and phenomena that we take for granted mental properties in particular turn out to be epiphenomenal, can be seen as stemming from this sort of naturalistic attitude. This thesis reviews the issue of causal explanation within the context of the naturalistic philosophy of mind. It is argued that there is no single monolithic, unanimously accepted notion of causation that the naturalist should be committed to. Views vary on what this notion amounts to exactly, and fields of science vary with respect to their causal commitments. However, the naturalist can still presume that a scientifically informed philosophical account of causation exists, an account that is fundamentally philosophical, but also sensitive to actual scientific practice and its view of reality. The central issue of the current naturalistic philosophy of mind is the so-called problem of causal exclusion. According to this, the assumption that mental states could have genuine and autonomous effects on the physical world is inconsistent with physical commitments, namely the idea that mental states are necessarily neurally based and the idea that the physical world is causally complete. The causal exclusion argument claims that mental causes must be reduced to physical causes, as there remains no role for independent mental causes. The thesis reviews some central responses to the causal exclusion argument. It is shown that within the context of the interventionist notion of causation, inter-level causation can be ruled out. The causal exclusion argument would thus find support, contrary to what the proponents of the interventionist view typically claim. However, the result is also shown to have the corollary that purely higher-level, mental-to-mental causation is possible. The thesis suggests that this offers a consistent view of mental causation for a naturalist to hold.
    Original languageEnglish
    Print ISBNs978-952-10-9439-2
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-10-9440-8
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

    Fields of Science

    • 611 Philosophy

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