Physicalism and the causal exclusion argument
Christensen, Jonas Fogedgaard
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Natural science tells us that the world is fundamentally physical - everything is ultimately constituted by physical properties and governed by physical laws. How do we square this picture of the world with the apparent fact that there are genuine causal relations at levels that aren’t described by physics? The problem of mental causation is at the heart of this issue. There are probably two reasons for this. Firstly, if there are any non-physical properties at all, surely mental properties are among them. And secondly, the reality of mental causation is arguably more important to us than the reality of any other kind of causation. Without it, it would be hard for us to make sense of ourselves as agents with free will and moral responsibility. The main purpose of this thesis is to defend a view that accepts a scientific worldview and still allows for mental properties to exist, be non-physical, and be genuine causes of actions and behaviour. Some philosophers are pessimistic that all these goals can be achieved. They think that the only way for mental properties to fit into the causal structure of the world is if these mental properties are really physical properties. I do not find the argument for this view compelling. As I will show, it relies on an implausibly strong constraint on causes that must be amended. Once amended, a new position emerges, the so-called Subset view, which is actually motivated by the very premises that initially pushed us towards a reductive view of mental properties.