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Mental causation and reductionism

Applicant Esfeld Michael
Number 105218
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Section de Philosophie Faculté des Lettres Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.10.2004 - 30.09.2007
Approved amount 261'124.00
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Keywords (6)

Philosophy of mind; Philosophy of science; causation; Mental causation; functionalism; reductionism

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Non-reductive physicalism, notably functionalism, used to be the standardposition in the philosophy of mind for the last thirty years or so. Thisposition is physicalistic, because it maintains that all the mentalproperties that are instantiated in the world are realized in a physicalway. One thus seeks to make mental causation intelligible, that is, thefact that mental states produce physical effects. Nonetheless, thisposition is non-reductive, because it holds that mental properties areproperties in their own right, which are not identical with physicalproperties. The main argument against reduction draws on the multiplerealizability of mental properties.
Recently, this standard positionhas come under attack, notably by Jaegwon Kim who argues that only areductive physicalism can solve the problem of mental causation and thatfunctionalism itself is best construed as a version of reductivephysicalism. The recent work of Kim and others makes clear that a thoroughinvestigation into mental causation and reductionism is needed. Thisresearch project shall provide such an enquiry, dividing up into asub-project on mental causation and a sub-project on reductionism. Weshall point out that the standard position of functionalism faces indeed adilemma as regards mental causation. But we shall also show a way out ofthis dilemma, explaining how the multiple realizability of mentalproperties and thus their non-identity with physical properties can gotogether with mental properties being causally efficacious. We shallextend this proposal in such a way that it applies also to the content ofintentional states that is externally individuated. Furthermore, we shallwork out that functionalism implies indeed a sort of reductionism, namelyfunctional reduction. But we shall argue that this sort of reduction doesnot necessarily amount to reductive physicalism.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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