Nonreductive physicalism and the limits of the exclusion principle

Journal of Philosophy 106 (9):475-502 (2009)
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Abstract

It is often argued that higher-level special-science properties cannot be causally efficacious since the lower-level physical properties on which they supervene are doing all the causal work. This claim is usually derived from an exclusion principle stating that if a higher-level property F supervenes on a physical property F* that is causally sufficient for a property G, then F cannot cause G. We employ an account of causation as difference-making to show that the truth or falsity of this principle is a contingent matter and derive necessary and sufficient conditions under which a version of it holds. We argue that one important instance of the principle, far from undermining non-reductive physicalism, actually supports the causal autonomy of certain higher-level properties.

Author Profiles

Christian List
Ludwig Maximilians Universit√§t, M√ľnchen

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