Mental Causation

Cei Maslen, Terry Horgan and Helen Daly

in The Oxford Handbook of Causation

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199279739
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191577246 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Mental Causation

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  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of Science


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Mental causation is held so dear because it seems essential in order for people to do anything (at least voluntarily). If one accepts Davidson's view that motivating reasons are causes, then (as Kim puts it) ‘agency is possible only if mental causation is possible’. Many kinds of mental items are supposed to be causes: beliefs, desires, sensations, emotions, the contents of beliefs and desires, and the phenomenal mental properties of sensations and beliefs (i.e. those properties such that there is ‘something it is like’ to experience them, if sensations and beliefs have such properties). Not only are mental states supposed to be causes (and effects), but so also are mental properties.

Keywords: mental causation; sensations; emotions; contents of beliefs; mental properties; mental states

Article.  14880 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Science

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