The Network Model of Causation in Philosophy of Mind

Helen Steward

in The Ontology of Mind

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780198250647
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191681318 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Philosophical Monographs

The Network Model of Causation in Philosophy of Mind

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This chapter describes and attempts to undermine a model or picture of causation which is believed dominates contemporary philosophy of mind (as well as many accounts of the nature of causation in general) and shapes prevailing ideas about the form of some of its most important questions — the network model of causation. The network model informs much contemporary discussion of such matters as the status of folk psychology, the commitments of physicalism, and the efficacy of mental content. It is found lurking amongst the assumptions of philosophers whose positive theories have otherwise little in common; evidence of some commitment to it can be found in the writings of philosophers as diverse in their views on the nature of mind as Fodor and Stich, Davidson and Lewis. But the network model of causation is badly mistaken. It ignores the important differences: that between singular and sentential causal claims, for instance, and relatedly, the differences between particulars and facts, and between causing and causal relevance. It is argued that once these distinctions are properly appreciated, the network model of causation cannot any longer be sustained. But without its help, some of the problems dogging contemporary philosophy of mind cannot so much as be raised, at any rate in their present form.

Keywords: causation; network model; philosophy of mind; isomorphism

Chapter.  11664 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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