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Thinking Causes

Thinking Causes

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Thinking Causes 2003
Thinking Causes 2003

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Published by: diversions on May 09, 2011
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1ThinkingCauses
DONALDDAVIDSON
IN1970IproposedatheoryabouttherelationbetweenthementalandthephysicalthatIcalledAnomalousMonism
(AM).lAM
holdsthatmentalentities(particulartime-andspace-boundobjectsandevents)arephysicalentities,butthatmentalconceptsarenotreduciblebydefinitionornaturallawtophysicalconcepts.Thepositionis,inageneralway,familiar:itendorsesontologicalreduction,buteschewsconceptualreduction.Whatwasnewwastheargument,whichpurportedtoderive
AM
fromthreepremisses,namely,(1)thatmentaleventsarecausallyrelatedtophysicalevents,(2)thatsingularcausalrelationsarebackedbystrictlaws,and(3)thattherearenostrictpsycho-physicalla~s.2Thefirstpremissseemedtomeobvious,thesecondtruethoughcontested(Ididnotpresentargumentsforit),andthethirdtrueandwortharguingfor.Manyreadershavefoundmyargumentsagainsttheexistenceofstrictpsycho-physicallawsobscure;othershavedecidedthethreepremissesaremutuallyinconsistent.Butthecomplaintshavemostoftenbeensummedupbysayingthat
AM
makesthementalcausallyinert.Thecriticismsareconnected:if
AM
makesthementalcausallyinert,then
AM
apparentlyimpliesthefalsityofthefirstpremissandhencetheinconsistencyofthethreepremisses.Thethirdpremissseemstomanycriticstherelevantoffender,sotheyurgethatitshouldbedropped.InthispaperIattemptthreethings:first,todefend
AM
againstmisunderstandingsandmisrepresentations.Thiswillinvolvesomeclarification,andperhapsmodification,oftheoriginalthesis.Second,IwanttomaintainthatthethreepremissesfromwhichIargueto
AM
areconsistentwhentakentogether,andso
AM
isa
I
Davidson1970.
2
Thissummarysimplifiestheoriginalthesisandargument.Thosenotfamiliarwith'MentalEvents'shouldconsultitforcaveatsandadditionalassumptions.
 
4
DonaldDavidson
tenablethesis(itisweakerthanthepremisses).Third,IshallsaywhyIdonotthink
AM
makesthementalcausallypowerless.Idonotplanheretoargueforthetruthof
AM
orthepremissesonwhichitrests.In'MentalEvents'(Davidson1970)Iendorsedtheideathatmentalconcepts'aresupervenient,inasenseIexplained,onphysicalconcepts.Ithoughtthiswouldmakeitclearthat,contrarytofirstimpressions,
AM
anditsentailingpremisseswereafterallconsistent.SowhatIamdefendinginthispaperisineffectnotonly
AM
itself,but
AM
inconjunctionwiththethreepremissesandthedoctrineofsupervenience.(Inwhatfollows,Ishallabbreviatetheexpression'anomalousmonismconjoinedwithpremisses(1)-(2)'by
'AM+P';'AM+P+S'
willmeansupervenienceinadditionto
AM+P.)
WhenIwrote'MentalEvents'IthoughtIknewthatG.E.Moorehadusedtheword'supervenience'todescribetherelationbetweenevaluativetermslike'good'anddescriptivetermslike'·sharp'or'inexpensive'or'pleasure-producing'.Moore'sideaseemedclearenough:somethingisgoodonlybecauseithaspropertiesthatcanbespecifiedindescriptiveterms,butgoodnesscan'tbereducedtoadescriptiveproperty.Infact,Mooreapparentlyneverusedtheword'supervenient'.IhadprobablyfoundthewordinR.M.Hare's
TheLanguageofMorals
(1952),andappliedit,ashehad,toMoore.(HarehassincecomplainedthatIgottheconceptwrong:forhimsupervenienceimpliesaformofwhatIcallnomologicalreduc-tion.")Inanycase,theideaIhadinmindis,Ithink,mosteconomicallyexpressedasfollows:apredicate
p
issupervenientonasetofpredicatesSifandonlyif
p
doesnotdistinguishanyentitiesthatcannotbedistinguishedby
S.5
Superveniencesounderstood
3
InthepresentpaperIdonotdistinguishconceptsfrompropertiesorpredicates,excepttotheextentthatIallowthatphysicsmaywellcometorequirepredicatesnotnowavailable.
4
Hare(1984,p.3)says,'...superveniencebringswithittheclaimthatthereissome"law"whichbindswhatsupervenestowhatitsupervenesupon...whatsuperveniencerequiresisthatwhatsupervenesisseenasaninstanceofsomeuniversalpropositionlinkingitwithwhatitsupervenesupon.'ButsofarasIcansee,Hare'scharacterizationofsupervenience,onthepagebeforetheonefromwhichtheabovequotationistaken,doesnotimplytheexistenceoflawsorlaw-likegeneralizationslinkingwhatsupervenestowhatitsuperveneson.HarecompareshisversionofsuperveniencewithKim's'weak'supervenience,butKimhimself(correctly,Ithink)findsmyversionofsupervenienceveryclosetohis'weak'sugervenience,andasnotentailingconnectinglaws.In'MentalEvents'Isaidthesupervenienceofthementalonthephysical'might
 
ThinkingCauses
5obviouslyappliesinanuninterestingsensetocaseswhere
p
belongstoS,tocaseswhere
p
isexplicitlydefinablebymeansofthepredicatesinS,andtocaseswherethereisalawtotheeffectthattheextensionof
p
isidenticalwiththeextensionofapredicatedefinableintermsofthepredicatesinS.Theinterestingcasesarethosewhere
p
resistsanyoftheseformsofreduction.
I
gaveasanon-controversialexampleofaninterestingcasethesupervenienceofsemanticpredicatesonsyntacticalpredicates:atruthpredicateforalanguagecannotdistinguishanysentencesnotdistinguishableinpurelysyntacticalterms,butformostlanguagestruthisnotdefinableinsuchterms.Theexamplegivesonepossiblemeaningtotheideathattruthsexpressiblebythesubvenientpredicates'determine'theextensionofthesupervenientpredicate,orthattheextensionofthesupervenientpredicate'depends'ontheextensionsofthesubvenientpredicates.Howcanthepossibilityofasupervenientrelationbetweenthementalandthephysicalhelptoshowthat
AM
(or
AM
+
P)
isconsistent,sincesuperveniencesaysnothingaboutcausality?Theanswerissimple:supervenienceinanyformimpliesmonism;butitdoesnotimplyeitherdefinitionalornomologicalreduction.Soif(non-reductive)supervenienceisconsistent(asthesyntax-sem-anticsexampleprovesitis),sois
AM.
Butsupervenienceisalsoconsistentwithpremisses(1)and(2),whicharenotimpliedby
AM,
since
(1)
and
(2)
concerncausality,andsuperveniencesaysnothingaboutcausality.
It
isdifficult,then,toseehow
AM
+
P
togetherwithsuper-veniencecanimplyacontradiction.Soitsurprisedmetoreadina.recentarticlebyJaegwonKimthatnotonlyarethepremissesof
AM
inconsistentwithoneanother,but'thenotionofsupervenienceDavidsonfavours'isalsoinconsistentwiththefirstpremissof
AM
(Kim
1989b,
p.
6).
Letuslookatthesesupposedinconsistencies.AccordingtoKim,
ThefactisthatunderDavidson'sanomalousmonism,mentalitydoesnocausalwork.Remember:onanomalousmonism,eventsarecausesonlyas
betakentomeanthattherecannotbetwoeventsalikeinallphysicalrespectsbutdifferinginsomementalrespect'.Iintendedthistobeequivalenttothepresentformulation,butapparentlyitiseasilymisunderstood.Inanswertoaquestionabout'MentalEvents',Igaveanunambiguousdefinitionofsuperveniencewhichisclearlyequivalenttothepresentone:apredicate
p
issupervenientonasetofpredicatesSifforeverypairofobjectssuchthat
p
istrueofoneandnotoftheotherthereisapredicateinSthatistrueofoneandnotoftheother.Isuggestedthatitisacommonfallacyinphilosophy(ofwhichthenaturalisticfallacyisanexample)toswitchtheorderofthequantifiersinthisformula.SeeDavidson
t
985,p.242.

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