Type Physicalism and Causal Exclusion

Journal of Philosophical Research 38:405-418 (2013)
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Abstract

While concerns of the mental being causally excluded by the physical have persistently plagued non-reductive physicalism, such concerns are standardly taken to pose no problem for reductive type physicalism. Type physicalists have the obvious advantage of being able to countenance the reduction of mental properties to their physical base properties by way of type identity, thereby avoiding any causal competition between instances of mental properties and their physical bases. Here, I challenge this widely accepted advantage of type physicalism over non-reductive physicalism in avoiding the causal exclusion of the mental. In particular, I focus on Jaegwon Kim’s influential version of the causal exclusion argument, namely, his supervenience argument. I argue that type physicalism’s advantage is undermined by the following two things: (1) the generalizability of the supervenience argument, and (2) type physicalism’s incompatibility with mental properties at the fundamental level. This involves evaluating the generalization objection to the supervenience argument, probing the metaphysics of physicalism, and showing how (1) and (2) combine in a way that appears underappreciated given the general confidence in type physicalism’s advantage.

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