Conservation Laws and Interactionist Dualism

Philosophical Quarterly 67 (267):387–405 (2017)
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The Exclusion Argument for physicalism maintains that since (1) every physical effect has a sufficient physical cause, and (2) cases of causal overdetermination are rare, it follows that if (3) mental events cause physical events as frequently as they seem to, then (4) mental events must be physical in nature. In defence of (1), it is sometimes said that (1) is supported if not entailed by conservation laws. Against this, I argue that conservation laws do not lend sufficient support to (1) to render its denial ‘unscientific’, and that those who accept (3) and deny (4) may consequently respond to the Exclusion Argument by denying (1) without thereby setting themselves at odds with current science. I also argue that conservation laws are compatible with (3) and the negation of (4), and that one can therefore accept conservation laws and (3) while denying both (1) and (4).

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Ben White
Oakland University


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