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Causalité mentale, fonctionnalisme et métaphysique de la causalité

English title Mental causation, functionalism and the metaphysics of causation
Applicant Esfeld Michael
Number 118603
Funding scheme ProDoc
Research institution Section de Philosophie Faculté des Lettres Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.12.2007 - 30.11.2010
Approved amount 154'451.00
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Keywords (10)

mental; causation; mind; functionalism; metaphysics; dispositionalism; reductionism; philosophy; science; agency

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Our project aims to link the problem of mental causation with the metaphysics of causation in order to provide a coherent functionalist framework to account for the insertion of the mind in a physical world. This framework aims first to avoid the standard dilemma of functionalism arising from the confrontation of causal role functionalism with the causal exclusion problem. On one hand, refusing to identify functional properties and realizers properties leads causal role functionalism into the problem of mental causation with the result that second order properties risk to turn out to be epiphenomenal. On the other hand, endorsing realizer functionalism leads to a view allowing functional descriptions to be true but eliminating genuine functional properties. Our working hypothesis is that this objection against realizer functionalism is well grounded if we presuppose a Humean metaphysic of causation that considers causal relations both as extrinsic and contingent and, hence, cannot admit neither functional properties, nor real agents, as grounds of the existence of their effects. However, if one endorses a dispositional account of causation under the form of a metaphysics of powers, one obtains necessary connexions between property tokens and the initial charge of eliminativism against realizer functionalism disappears. The first part of the project starts with the causal exclusion problem as motivation for ontological reductionism in the field of philosophy of mind. However, ontological reductionism cannot be dissociated from epistemological reductionism. If epistemological reductionism is false, there would be some causal relations between entities that physics cannot grasp with the result that these entities are not identical with physical property tokens and, hence, ontological reductionism would also be false. Ontological reductionism and epistemological reductionism thus and full stand together. That argument leads to the second part of our project, namely applying to the mind the Esfeld-Sachse strategy for theory reduction by means of functional sub-concepts. The key-claim of this strategy is that we can systematically construct functional sub-concepts of a given functional description F that are individuated by taking into account in a functional terminology the variations in the specific ways in which different truthmakers of F bring about the effects that characterize F. This refinement of functional descriptions aims to attain, in spite of multiple realization, co-extensionality between high and low level descriptions in order to provide the possibility of building Nagalian bridge-laws under the form of bi-conditionals. Sachse applied in details this conservative model to reduce classical genetic to molecular genetic. Providing examples using classical data from neuropsychology, we shall apply it in the present project to reduce common sense psychology to neuropsychology and show that this strategy should be, in principle, sufficient to reduce psychology in the last resort to neurobiology. The strategy should be however adapted to the main characteristics of mental functional properties.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


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Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
132389 Causal properties and laws of nature in the philosophy of science 01.10.2010 ProDoc
132455 Philosophy and Phenomenology of Agency 01.10.2010 ProDoc