Summary of "Elements of Mind" and Replies to Critics

Croatian Journal of Philosophy 4 (11):223-240 (2004)
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Elements of Mind (EM) has two themes, one major and one minor. The major theme is intentionality, the mind’s direction upon its objects; the other is the mind–body problem. I treat these themes separately: chapters 1, and 3–5 are concerned with intentionality, while chapter 2 is about the mind–body problem. In this summary I will first describe my view of the mind–body problem, and then describe the book’s main theme. Like many philosophers, I see the mind–body problem as containing two sub–problems: the problem of mental causation and the problem of consciousness. I see these problems forming the two horns of a dilemma. Just as the problem of mental causation pushes us towards physicalism, so the problem of consciousness pushes us away from it. Each problem reveals the inadequacy of the solution to the other. Essentially the problem of mental causation is the conflict between (i) the apparent fact that mental states and events have effects in the physical world and (ii) a general principle about the causal nature of the physical world, which is sometimes called the ‘causal closure’ or the ‘causal completeness’ of the physical world. This principle says that all physical effects have physical causes which are enough to bring them about. The problem then is simple: how can a mental cause have a physical effect if that effect also has a physical cause which is enough to bring it about? Barring massive overdetermination of our actions by independent causes, it seems that the best answer is to identify the mental and the physical causes. And this is traditionally how physicalists have argued for their identity theory of mind and body. However, many physicalists reject the identity theory, and therefore they have to solve the mental causation problem in some other way. At present, there is no consensus among physicalists on which of the currently proposed solutions is correct. In chapter 2 of EM I propose an alternative, which I call ‘emergentism’. Inspired by the rejection of the identity theory, Emergentism is the idea that mental properties are genu..

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Tim Crane
Central European University


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