Emergence and Downward Causation

Cynthia Macdonald and Graham Macdonald

in Emergence in Mind

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

Series: Mind Association Occasional Series

Emergence and Downward Causation

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The principal charge against any emergentist account of the nature of mind is that it leads to incoherence because it is committed to ‘downward’ causation, and it is this charge that this chapter aims to defeat by appeal to a specific metaphysics of mental causation. Section 1 characterizes some important versions of the doctrine of emergentism. Section 2 develops the challenge anti‐emergentists set for advocates of strong emergence, that of demonstrating how emergent properties can be causally effective. Section 3 sets the authors proposal for dealing with the challenge. Section 4 outlines and develops a principled argument against the objection from ‘downward causation’, dismantling the objection by appealing to the already developed metaphysics. Section 5 defends the authors' position against objections from opponents and argues against the opposing strategy.

Keywords: non‐reductive physicalism; property exemplification account; downward causation; higher‐level causation; causal relevance; psychological explanation; supervenience; realization

Chapter.  15185 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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