Nonreductive Physicalism and the Supervenience/Exclusion Argument

By Neil Campbell.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

According to Jaegwon Kim all versions of nonreductive physicalism are committed to the following claims: (1) the supervenience of mental properties on physical properties; (2) the irreducibility of mental properties to physical properties; (3) the causal efficacy of mental properties. In his supervenience/exclusion argument Kim purports to show that all versions of nonreductive physicalism entail type epiphenomenalism. I argue that Davidson’s version of the token identity theory does not accept (1) and that Kim’s assumptions to the contrary reveal a fundamental disagreement between Davidson and Kim about the metaphysics of events and of causation.

Keywords: Supervenience, Exclusion, Anomalous Monism, Nonreductive Physicalism, Events, Properties

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.39-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.155MB).

Dr. Neil Campbell

Associate Professor, Philosophy, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

My work deals with two central issues in the philosophy of mind. The first explores the problem of consciousness. We are conscious beings, yet we lack an adequate account of how the brain generates consciousness and it seems impossible to explain the subjective character of experience in physical terms. I am particularly interested in what these obstacles to understanding consciousness physically entail about the limits of physicalism—the view that human beings are entirely physical creatures. The second issue is the problem of mental causation. This concerns questions about how thoughts and desires in the mind can result in physical actions involving the body. I recently completed a book in which I argue that nonreductive versions of physicalism offer a viable account of mental causation without lapsing into a pernicious form of epiphenomenalism. A central part of this project involves distinguishing reason-giving as a distinct species of explanation from causal explanation.

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