Shoemaker's Analysis of Realization: A Review

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Sydney Shoemaker has been arguing for more than a decade for an account of the mind–body problem in which the notion of realization takes centre stage. His aim is to provide a notion of realization that is consistent with the multiple realizability of mental properties or events, and which explains: how the physical grounds the mental; and why the causal work of mental events is not screened off by that of physical events. Shoemaker's proposal consists of individuating properties in terms of causal powers, and defining realization as a relation of inclusion between sets of causal powers. Thus, as the causal powers that define a mental property are a subset of the causal powers that characterize a physical property, it can be said that physical properties realize mental properties. In this paper we examine the physicalist credentials of Shoemaker's mind–body theory in relation to three important issues: the direction of the relation of dependence that the theory is committed to; the possibility of mental properties existing without being anchored by physical properties; and the compatibility of the theory with the causal closure of the physical world. We argue that Shoemaker's theory is problematic in all three respects. After that we consider whether the theory should count as a mind–body theory at all, given that it seems to be committed to a distorted view of mental properties.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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