Closing in on Causal Closure

Journal of Consciousness Studies 21 (1-2):96-109 (2014)
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I examine the meaning and merits of a premise in the Exclusion Argument, the causal closure principle that all physical effects have physical causes. I do so by addressing two questions. First, if we grant the other premises, exactly what kind of closure principle is required to make the Exclusion Argument valid? Second, what are the merits of the requisite closure principle? Concerning the first, I argue that the Exclusion Argument requires a strong, “stringently pure” version of closure. The latter employs two qualifications concerning the physical sufficiency and relative proximity of the physical cause required for every physical effect. The second question is addressed in two steps. I begin by challenging the adequacy of the empirical support offered by David Papineau for closure. Then I assess the merits of “level” and “domain” versions of stringently pure closure. I argue that a domain version lacks adequate and non-question-begging support within the context of the Exclusion Argument. And I argue that the level version leads to a puzzling metaphysics of the physical domain. Thus, we have grounds for rejecting the version of closure required for the Exclusion Argument. This means we can resist the Exclusion Argument while avoiding the implausible implications that come with rejecting one of its other premises. That is, because there are grounds to reject causal closure, one can reasonably affirm the non-overdeterminative causal efficacy of conscious mental states while denying that the latter are identical with physical states.

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Robert K. Garcia
Baylor University


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