Is Non‐reductive Physicalism Viable within a Causal Powers Metaphysic?

Timothy O'Connor and John Ross Churchill

in Emergence in Mind

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199583621
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723483 | DOI:

Series: Mind Association Occasional Series

Is Non‐reductive Physicalism Viable within a Causal Powers Metaphysic?

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The chapter presents a version of the causal exclusion challenge to non‐reductive physicalism regarding mental states, one that is explicitly directed at non‐reductive physicalists who adopt an ontology of causal powers. It considers whether a satisfying reply to the argument can be fashioned on the basis of Sydney Shoemaker's novel account of the mental–physical realization relation, most recently in his book Physical Realization. It is argued that Shoemaker's strategy does not provide a plausible reply to the argument. Three broad alternatives to non‐reductive physicalism available to the causal powers metaphysician are then discussed: reduction, elimination, and ontological emergence. It is contended that while all of them are at present viable approaches to special science properties generally, there is special reason to affirm the irreducibility and efficacy of mental properties and so to conclude that mental properties are unrealized, ontologically emergent features of their subjects.

Keywords: physicalism; reduction; emergence; causal powers; causal exclusion; realization; supervenience; constitution

Chapter.  8323 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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