If one accepts the exclusion argument (no physical event has a non-physical cause), the supervenience argument (no mental event causes any other mental event), and the pairing problem (no physical event can cause a mental event due to the lack of any pairing spatial relation), would one be obligated to accept reductionist physicalism Well, of course we have to at least accept that there is physical-mental causation in order for the argument to work.

  • The third premise is very odd, I am not sure how physical events not causing mental events would still be physicalism, maybe you meant the converse? With just the first two premises physicalism does not follow, anomalous monism is an alternative. But it does presuppose that mental events cause physical events. So perhaps one does get physicalism if that is ruled out.
    – Conifold
    Dec 18, 2016 at 0:38
  • @Conifold the supervenience argument establishes that mental events do not cause physical events. So by your own admission, this would lead to physicalism.
    – user8083
    Dec 18, 2016 at 1:02
  • No, supervenience is not enough. Anomalous monism accepts both supervenience and mental-to-physical causality. But the supervenience is weak, and it is only token causality, Davidson denies the possibility of psycho-physical laws.
    – Conifold
    Dec 18, 2016 at 1:10
  • @Conifold the supervenience argument established that if one accepts mental-physical supervenience, mental-mental causation becomes overdetermined. Therefore mental events can only be causally efficacious if they cause the physical supervenience base of mental events. But this is ruled out by the exclusion argument.
    – user8083
    Dec 22, 2016 at 19:55
  • This argument doesn't work for Davidson's linguistic supervenience. To get causation twice over you need a "metaphysical" bridge between mental events and their supervenience base. Davidson denies any such bridge, supervenience applies only to predicates. Mental events are physical events as tokens, hence causally efficacious, but there are no laws connecting mental (as mental) to physical (as physical), hence no translation into "duplication". Kim's supervenience you are thinking of was designed to make the twice over argument work, but accepting it is to assume reductionism to begin with.
    – Conifold
    Dec 24, 2016 at 2:01

1 Answer 1


(I deleted this answer because its basic interpretation of the quesion was wrong. But most of its content is still germane. So it is back.)

You still have the problem with positions like transcendental pantheism or Deism, who create a third (or even a fifth) substance. For them, the mental may currently supervene upon the material, but only because the material supervenes upon the 'spiritual' or some other determinant with an internal will.

Many of them suppose that while the latter state is permanent, the former may not be. That gives them a secularist eschatology and a notion of heaven, either as some adaptation of Nirvana or as union with an ultimate God. Or it provides them with a theoretical understanding of will that is non-determinist in a universe that is statistically determined. This is not too silly or arcane because folks just asked a question about it https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/36062/9166.

They derive support from the basic nondeterminism of matter, which suggests there is a lower-lying determining source. (At least in spirit, for their logic is often kind of nutty, even when they are brilliant, q.v. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor%27s_New_Mind where the third substance is 'information'.)

So I still think you need to add the requirement of dualism to get your argument started.

And you still have the problem with alternative notions of causality.

One, coming from positions as wide apart as Hume and the religious notions of 'maya and lila', is that the regularity of physical causation is an epiphenomenon of perception -- not really present, but agreed upon by all those trapped in a shared illusion for their own peace of mind. (Like Folie-a-deux, but Folie à tous). Thus, you may reduce the mental to the physical, only to have the physical reduced back to the mental on a different scale.

Another is the return to the Medieval Christian notion that cause is really primarily teleological, flowing backward from the intended outcome, and only holding together in the forward direction as a side effect of its ultimate convergence.

So you would still need a stronger version of your last admitted thesis that not only establishes physical causation of the mental, but physical causation of the physical.

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