Realism in Mind

University of Canterbury, New Zealand (2010)
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The thesis develops solutions to two main problems for mental realism. Mental realism is the theory that mental properties, events, and objects exist, with their own set of characters and causal powers. The first problem comes from the philosophy of science, where Psillos proposes a notion of scientific realism that contradicts mental realism, and consequently, if one is to be a scientific realist in the way Psillos recommends, one must reject mental realism. I propose adaptations to the conception of scientific realism to make it compatible with mental realism. In the process, the thesis defends computational cognitive science from a compelling argument Searle can be seen to endorse but has not put forth in an organized logical manner. A new conception of scientific realism emerges out of this inquiry, integrating the mental into the rest of nature. The second problem for mental realism arises out of non-reductive physicalism- the view that higher-level properties, and in particular mental properties, are irreducible, physically realized, and that physical properties are sufficient non-overdetermining causes of any effect. Kim’s Problem of Causal Exclusion aims to show that the mental, if unreduced, does no causal work. Consequently, given that we should not believe in the existence of properties that do not participate in causation, we would be forced to drop mental realism. A solution is needed. The thesis examines various positions relevant to the debate. Several doctrines of physicalism are explored, rejected, and one is proposed; the thesis shows the way in which Kim’s reductionist position has been constantly inconsistent throughout the years of debate; the thesis argues that trope theory does not compete with a universalist conception of properties to provide a solution; and shows weakness in the Macdonald’s non-reductive monist position and Pereboom’s constitutional coincidence account of mental causation. The thesis suggests that either the premises of Kim’s argument are consistent, and consequently his reductio is logically invalid, or at least one of the premises is false, and therefore the argument is not sound. Consequently, the Problem of Causal Exclusion that Kim claims emerges out of non-reductive physicalism does not force us to reject mental realism. Mental realism lives on.
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