The Experience of Mental Causation

Behavior and Philosophy 32 (2):377 - 400 (2004)
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Abstract

Most of us have a very firm belief in mental causation; that is, we firmly believe that our own distinctly mental properties are causally efficacious in the production of our behavior. This belief is dominating in contemporary philosophy of mind as a part of the causal explanatory exclusion problem for non-reductive materialists. I do not discuss the exclusion problem; rather, I assess the conception of mental causation that is presupposed in the current debate. I propose that in order to make sense of our firm belief in mental causation we need to operate with a broader conception of it than is normally seen, focusing on common-sense aspects concerning the timing, awareness, control, and tracking of mental causation. However, prominent studies in social psychology and cognitive neuroscience show that mental causation is not as self-evident, robust, and pervasive as our firm belief in it would suggest. There is therefore a tension between the common-sense, broad conception of mental causation and our empirical evidence for mental causation. A full defense of mental causation is not just a matter of securing causal efficacy but also of situating our notion of mental properties in relation to difficult issues concerning awareness, control, and judgment

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