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Mind and Metaphysics
John Heil, Washington University

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‘Mental Causation and Epiphenomenalism’ (Book Section)
Title: ‘Mental Causation and Epiphenomenalism’
Author: John Heil
Editor: C. Sandis
Editor: T. O'Connor
Abstract: Davidson’s account of mental causation initiated in ‘Mental Events’ forms a backdrop to much subsequent discussion of the topic. Davidson is commonly taken to defend token identity—token mental events are identical with token physical events—but type diversity—mental types ‘supervene on’, but are not reducible to or identical with physical types, where types are understood as properties. Mental events are physical events, but one and the same event can have a physical property and, by virtue of having this property, have a mental property as well. There are two salient difficulties with this account. (1) It gives rise to the problem of ‘causal relevance’: granted that a mental event can cause a physical event, could it do so by virtue of being mental, by virtue of its possession of a mental property? (2) The view thus described is not Davidson’s. This paper discusses Davidson actual account and shows that, whatever its flaws, they are not what they are commonly thought to be.
Year: 2009
Publisher: Wiley Blackwell
Book Title: Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Action