Philosophy Metaphysics of Mind
by
Darragh Byrne
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0076

Introduction

Philosophy of mind addresses fundamental questions about mental or psychological phenomena. The question held by many to be most fundamental of all is a metaphysical one, often labeled the “mind-body problem,” which concerns the relation between minds and material or physical phenomena. Physicalists (and/or materialists) contend that mental phenomena are physical, or at least that they may be accounted for in terms of physical phenomena (brains, for example). Dualists deny this, maintaining that mental phenomena have fundamentally nonphysical natures, so that to account for minds we must assume the existence of nonphysical substances or properties. Nowadays physicalism is more widely espoused than dualism, but physicalists differ over which physical states/properties should be considered relevant, and over the precise nature of the relation between physical and mental phenomena. This is one of four bibliography entries on the philosophy of mind, and this particular entry concentrates on this metaphysical issue of the relation between mental and physical/material phenomena. Inevitably, there is a good deal of overlap between this and topics covered in the other three entries. For example, this entry includes authors who attack physicalism by arguing that it cannot account for the distinctive phenomenal qualities of conscious experiences; but that line of antiphysicalist argument features even more prominently in the entry on consciousness. Moreover, the other entries feature various issues that might perfectly properly be categorized as concerning the metaphysics of mind: for example, the debate between internalists—philosophers who hold that propositional attitudes (mental states such as beliefs and desires, which have representational contents) are intrinsic properties of minds/brains—and externalists, who think of certain attitudes as extrinsic or relational, is surely a question about the metaphysics of mind: but this is discussed in the entry on intentionality instead of here.

General Overviews

As the philosophy of mind has long been a central area of philosophical inquiry, a great many resources exist to guide and assist researchers. Few of these are exclusively dedicated to the area of philosophy of mind covered by this entry, but as that area has traditionally been so central, it features prominently in many of these entries, including the eight listed in this section. Burge 1992 and Davies 1995 are article-length introductions to philosophy of mind that emphasize metaphysical issues: the former is more historical in focus than the latter. Guttenplan 1994, McLaughlin, et al. 2009, and Stich and Warfield 2002 are useful reference books; the first is effectively an encyclopedia of key terms in philosophy of mind, while the latter two are collections of specially commissioned survey papers. For further detailed survey articles on key issues here and elsewhere in philosophy, Zalta (The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) is unbeatable. Chalmers and Bourget (PhilPapers) and Stone (EpistemeLinks) are online resources of interest to researchers interested in the philosophy of mind: the former is a huge register of academic papers available online, while the latter is a heterogeneous directory of further relevant online resources.

Textbooks

Most university undergraduate philosophy programs include courses on the philosophy of mind, and a great many of these take the metaphysical issues of this entry as their principle foci, so it is no surprise that a great number of textbooks on these topics exist. Many of them are rather similar to one another. Heil 2004, Kim 2006, and Maslin 2007 are probably the most conventional in this regard, each covering the basic traditional topics that dominate mainstream undergraduate courses. Lowe 2000 covers similar ground, but emphasizes a few more connections with traditional concerns of metaphysics. The coverage of Braddon-Mitchell and Jackson 1996 is slightly more restricted, as it hardly touches, for example, on dualism or on consciousness; however, its treatment of the identity theory and functionalism is more detailed and better than those of the other textbooks listed here. Jacquette 2009 covers the topics not covered by Braddon-Mitchell and Jackson 1996, and is the most recent and up-to-date textbook covered here. Bermudez 2005 and Clark 2001 are textbooks on, respectively, the philosophy of psychology and the philosophy of cognitive science, so their foci and emphases are quite different. However, they cover many of the same theories and philosophers as the other textbooks, and scholars may find a comparison of their approaches with those of the traditional ones useful.

Anthologies

In recent years, philosophy of mind anthologies have proliferated, and as with the textbooks listed in Textbooks, the metaphysical issues covered in this section feature very prominently. As with newspapers and babies, the members of each year’s crop seem heftier than those of the last. This is great news for scholars seeking a comprehensive collection of readings all in one place, and most of those included here are of the “doorstopper” variety. Four of these—Chalmers 2002, Heil 2003, Lycan and Prinz 2008, and O’Connor and Robb 2003—cover a wide and representative range of topics in the philosophy of mind; the others cited in this section have more selective foci. Excellent smaller anthologies also exist, such as Warner and Szubka 1994 and McLaughlin and Cohen 2007. The papers in Crane and Patterson 2000 and McLaughlin and Cohen 2007 were published as cited for the first time; most of those in the other anthologies listed here are reprints of previously published papers.

  • Chalmers, David, ed. Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    This is one of the four consummate doorstopper anthologies included here. The readings collected in the first two hundred pages focus squarely on the metaphysical issues of this entry. An especially welcome feature of this anthology is that in several cases, classic papers are presented together with short extracts from later works by the same authors, in which their positions are further clarified and refined.

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  • Crane, Tim, and Sarah Patterson, eds. History of the Mind-Body Problem. London: Routledge, 2000.

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    A useful recent collection of historically informed papers on the issue of the relation between mental and physical/material phenomena. The papers were published here for the first time and are not generally available elsewhere.

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  • Heil, John, ed. Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Another of the four large general anthologies included here. Of these four, this is probably the one that includes the most material on the traditional metaphysical issues covered by this entry.

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  • Lycan, William, and Jesse Prinz, eds. Mind and Cognition: An Anthology. 3d ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008.

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    The third of the four doorstopper anthologies included here. Parts 1, 4, 5, and 6 are especially relevant to the issues of this entry. The selections included are perhaps less canonical than those in the relevant sections of the other three. Includes a particularly rich selection of suggestions for further reading.

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  • McLaughlin, Brian, and Jonathan Cohen, eds. Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

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    This anthology is divided into sections, each of which presents papers taking opposing views on a given topic. The sections in Part 2 are especially relevant to the issues of this entry. The papers were specially written for the book and are not generally available elsewhere. The book is also more advanced, making it especially suitable for professionals and postgraduate students.

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  • O’Connor, Timothy, and David Robb, eds. Philosophy of Mind: Contemporary Readings. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    Another of the very large anthologies included here. The readings collected in Part 1 and Part 2 are especially relevant to the issues of this entry.

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  • Warner, Richard, and Tadeusz Szubka, eds. The Mind-Body Problem: A Guide to the Current Debate. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1994.

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    As the title suggests, this anthology focuses mainly on the traditional metaphysical issues covered by this entry. In contrast to many of the others cited here, however, it is of a manageable size.

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Dualism and Materialism

Substance dualism—the thesis that body and mind are distinct substances and that minds are immaterial—is most closely associated with the 17th-century rationalist Rene Descartes. Plenty of high-quality secondary literature exists: Wilson 1978 does not focus exclusively on Descartes’ philosophy of mind or even on the Meditations, but it is perhaps the best place to start. Almog 2002 is a worthwhile recent study, much more specifically directed at Descartes’ argument for substance dualism, and it is distinctive in being heavily informed by fairly recent developments in metaphysics and the philosophy of language. Recent dualists have tended to favor property dualism—the view that while there may be just one kind of substance or stuff, it exhibits nonphysical properties as well as physical ones. Bucking the trend is Foster 1991, an idiosyncratic recent defense of substance dualism. Further useful contemporary defenses of various kinds of dualism are reprinted in Part 1 of O’Connor and Robb 2003. Even in Descartes’ own time, the most serious difficulty with dualism was recognized to concern its reconciliation with the way in which mental states or events appear often to be the causes of physical states or events (see also Mental Causation and The Identity Theory and Functionalism). For now, a good overview replete with references to further germane work is Robinson 2009. Further important anti-dualist arguments feature in the work of Ryle and others sympathetic to the theories discussed in Behaviorism. Materialists and/or physicalists reject dualism and contend that truths about psychological properties are determined by material or physical properties. However, the precise nature of this relation of determination or truth-making is a matter of much debate among materialists. Reductive materialists, such as David Armstrong (see Armstrong 1993), contend that psychological truths may, in principle, be derived from truths about physical properties and “bridging principles” that codify relations between those properties and psychological ones. For details, see The Identity Theory and Functionalism. Nonreductive materialist views, such as those presented in Davidson 2001, disclaim the existence of lawlike generalizations juxtaposing psychological and physical predicates and articulate more nuanced relations of determination, often under the heading “supervenience.” For good nontechnical introductory discussions of physicalist reductionism, see the papers collected in Part 1 of Warner and Szubka 1994. For more detailed discussion, see Nonreductive Physicalism. The most common objection to physicalism/materialism argues that it cannot accommodate the distinctive phenomenal qualities of conscious experiences. For more on these arguments, see the separate bibliography entry on consciousness.

  • Almog, Joseph. What Am I? Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    A detailed and dense critical discussion of Descartes’ conception of mind and argument for dualism, heavily informed by recent developments in metaphysics and the philosophy of language.

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  • Armstrong, David M. A Materialist Theory of the Mind. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 1993.

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    A classic defense of physicalist reductionism, first published in 1968.

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  • Davidson, Donald. “Mental Events.” In Essays on Actions and Events. By Donald Davidson, 207–224. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    In this classic and widely anthologized paper first published in 1970, Davidson argues that there are no true lawlike generalizations relating mental events, described as such, to physical events. In light of this and a consideration about the involvement of mental events in causal relations, he argues that each individual token mental event is a physical event, but that types of mental events do not correspond to types of physical events.

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  • Descartes, Rene. Meditations on First Philosophy. Rev. ed. Edited by John Cottingham. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    The classic defense of substance dualism in the philosophy of mind. This version is taken from the three-volume Cambridge University Press edition of Descartes’ translated works that is standard in English. Along with the Meditations, it contains a useful selection from Descartes’ Objections and Replies and an introductory essay by Bernard Williams.

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  • Foster, John. The Immaterial Self: Defence of the Cartesian Dualist Conception of the Mind. London: Routledge, 1991.

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    A detailed modern defense of substance dualism.

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  • O’Connor, Timothy, and David Robb, eds. Philosophy of Mind: Contemporary Readings. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    A large anthology of papers on the philosophy of mind. Deserves mention here because it includes more articles on dualism than most collections of this kind.

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  • Robinson, Howard. “Dualism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2009.

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    An excellent critical survey of classic and contemporary work on dualism that includes a discussion of the objection from causal interaction. Robinson cites authors who advocate the two main responses: interactionist dualism, which rejects the claim that all physical events have physical causes, and epiphenomenalism, which rejects the assumption that mental states are causes.

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  • Warner, Richard, and Tadeusz Szubka. The Mind-Body Problem: A Guide to the Current Debate. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1994.

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    There are many anthologies on the philosophy of mind, but this one would be particularly useful for readers new to the dualism vs. physicalism issue, as Part 1 contains four short and accessible general discussions of physicalist reductionism by preeminent physicalists (Smart, Fodor, Shoemaker, and the Churchlands).

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  • Wilson, Margaret Dauler. Descartes. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.

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    An excellent introduction to and analysis of Descartes’ philosophy.

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Behaviorism

Philosophical behaviorism (also known as analytic behaviorism and logical behaviorism) is the view that mental states are behavioral patterns or dispositions. In the early 20th century, philosophers became increasingly critical of the dualist conception of an immaterial self that somehow controlled the human body from the inside—in Ryle’s words, the “ghost in the machine.” Logical empiricists/positivists such as Rudolph Carnap (see Carnap 1978, first published in 1932–1933) held that all meaningful statements can be translated into statements about observable phenomena, and in the case of psychological statements, the proposal was that they can be translated into statements about behavior. Ryle 2000 (first published in 1949) defends a more nuanced view, also associated with Wittgenstein, that there are conceptual, a priori relations between statements about psychology and statements about behavioral dispositions. Even if one accepts, as many do, that there are conceptual links between mental states and behavior, the behaviorists’ apparent denial that there is also an important “inner” aspect to mental life seems implausible. In contrast to dualists, most recent advocates of this cognitivist/mentalist contention construe the inner aspect in physical terms. Putnam 1979 and Block 1981 articulate this reaction well. Chomsky 1964 drives the cognitivist message home especially effectively in relation to the psychology of linguistic competence. Meanwhile, behaviorism has not gone too far away. Daniel Dennett is not a behaviorist, but his version of physicalism concedes more to behaviorism than most of its competitors. The papers collected in Dennett 1987 are representative and fertile. The material on the doctrine of interpretationism cited in Instrumentalism and Eliminativism is also germane. Stout 2006 is a bold recent attempt to rehabilitate Rylean behaviorism.

  • Block, Ned. “Psychologism and Behaviorism.” Philosophical Review 90 (1981): 5–43.

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    Block defends a strongly antibehaviorist view, which he labels “psychologism”: that to count as manifesting intelligence, behavior must be suitably caused by internal information processing.

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  • Carnap, Rudolf. “Psychology in Physical Language.” Translated by George Schick. In Logical Positivism. Edited by Alfred Jules Ayer, 165–198. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1978.

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    A classic defense of philosophical behaviorism—albeit construed as a thesis about the meanings of sentences about mental states, rather than as one directly about mental states per se. First published in 1932–1933 as “Psychologie in Physikalischer Sprache” (in Erkenntnis Vol. 3, pp. 107–142).

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  • Chomsky, Noam. “Review of Verbal Behavior by B. F. Skinner.” In The Structure of Language: Readings in the Philosophy of Language. Edited by Jerry A. Fodor and Jerrold J. Katz, p. 547. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964.

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    Burrhus F. Skinner’s behaviorism is a thesis about methodology in psychology rather than the metaphysics of mind, and the debate touched on here concerns a rather specific aspect of psychology (linguistic competence). Even so, this coruscating critique, which was first published in 1959 (in Language 35, pp. 26–58) is a classic contribution to the antibehaviorist literature and a good introduction to the cognitivist/mentalist approach to mind.

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  • Dennett, Daniel. The Intentional Stance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford, 1987.

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    A representative and provocative collection of Dennett’s work. Although not behaviorist per se, his work is deeply informed by the Rylean/Wittgensteinian view that there are important conceptual connections between mental states and behavior.

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  • Putnam, Hilary. “Brains and Behavior.” In Mind, Language, and Reality. Edited by Hilary Putnam, 325–341. Philosophical Papers 2. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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    A good statement of the most straightforward objections to philosophical behaviorism, originally published in 1963. In other papers in this collection, Putnam reinforces the case against behaviorism and develops his own machine functionalist alternative. (See The Identity Theory and Functionalism.)

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  • Ryle, Gilbert. The Concept of Mind. London: Penguin, 2000.

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    First published in 1949, this highly influential book attacks Cartesian dualists by arguing (inter alia) that their conception of minds as immaterial objects involves a “category mistake.” Unlike Carnap 1978, Ryle does not think that psychological statements can be translated into statements about behavior, but he is sympathetic to the essentials of the behaviorist approach.

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  • Stout, Rowland. The Inner Life of a Rational Agent: In Defence of Philosophical Behaviourism. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.

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    In this book, Stout attempts to rehabilitate a Rylean, nonreductive version of behaviorism.

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The Identity Theory and Functionalism

Many philosophers of mind accept that (types of) mental states are probably correlated with (types of) brain states; they accept, for example, that whenever a subject experiences a toothache, a distinctive kind of neurological state arises in that person’s brain. The mind-brain identity theory goes further, maintaining that mental states are states of the brain: they are identical, just as lightning, for example, is identical to atmospheric electrical discharge. In contrast to behaviorists, identity theorists do not aspire to defend their theory through conceptual analysis—the identities they advance are intended as empirical, scientific hypotheses, as with the lightning example—and they argue that this is part of the reason why their view is consistent with the fact that conscious mental states do not seem to their subjects to be brain states. Versions of the theory were influentially articulated in the 1950s by Ullin Thomas Place, John Jamieson Carswell Smart, and Herbert Feigl. Borst 1970 is a useful collection that includes important contributions by these theorists and their contemporaneous critics. The most important objection to the identity theory emerges from the claim that mental states are multiply realizable: an alien or machine whose “brain” was made of silicone rather than carbon might have mental states of the same types as humans, such as toothaches or intentions to exercise more often. This consideration suggests functionalism, or, roughly, the view that subjects enjoy mental states in virtue not of the material their brains are composed of, but of the causal processes or roles “realized” by those brains. In most versions of functionalism the roles distinctive of particular types of mental states involve perceptual inputs, behavioral outputs, and, crucially, relations to other types of mental states. According to some versions of functionalism, such as the machine functionalism articulated in Putnam 1979, the identification of these roles is an a posteriori, empirical matter. In contrast, the analytical functionalism developed in Armstrong 1993, Lewis 1983, and Shoemaker 2003 contends that it is a priori—a matter of conceptual analysis (so in this regard this version resembles philosophical behaviorism). Another distinctive feature of the latter brand of functionalism is that it identifies mental states not with causal roles per se but with the physical states (e.g., brain states) that realize them. (In this regard, the theory can be used as Armstrong and Lewis use it: as a premise in an argument for a version of the identity theory.) Machine functionalists’ conception of mental states as functional roles in the abstract has led some to doubt their materialist credentials. Meanwhile, analytical functionalists are accused of failing to appreciate the extent to which mental states are multiply realizable. (For a discussion, see Jackson, et al. 1982 and items cited under Mental Causation.) Insofar as functionalism is a physicalist theory, it is threatened by the objections to physicalism covered in the separate bibliography entry on consciousness. Many of these are based on the claim that physicalist accounts cannot accommodate the distinctive qualitative aspect of conscious experience. On this issue, a good paper to begin with, and one directed explicitly at functionalist physicalism, is Block 1978.

  • Armstrong, David M. A Materialist Theory of the Mind. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 1993.

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    First published in 1968, this is a classic articulation of analytic functionalism, which Armstrong regards as a version of identity theory rather than a competitor to it. It includes powerful criticisms of dualism and behaviorism.

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  • Block, Ned. “Troubles with Functionalism.” In Perception and Cognition. Edited by C. Wade Savage, 261–325. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1978.

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    This widely anthologized paper develops several objections to functionalism—in particular, Block defends the possibility of complex physical systems that realize the causal roles in terms of which functionalists characterize mental states yet do not have qualitative experiences.

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  • Borst, Clive Vernon. The Mind-Brain Identity Theory: A Collection of Papers. New York: MacMillan, 1970.

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    An invaluable resource for scholars of the 1950s and 1960s debate over the identity theory, this collection contains classic papers by Place, Smart, Feigl, and Armstrong. Also included are important critical papers and rejoinders to them by the identity theorists.

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  • Hill, Christopher. Sensations: A Defense of Type Materialism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    A challenging defense of a nonfunctionalist identity theory of qualitative mental states, which, inter alia, tackles the objection from multiple realizability head on.

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  • Jackson, Frank, Robert Pargetter, and Elizabeth W. Prior. “Functionalism and Type-Type Identity Theories.” Philosophical Studies 42 (1982): 209–225.

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    An exploration of the relation between identity theories and functionalism. The authors promote a functionalist version of identity theory and argue against those who think that the identities afforded by this kind of picture are merely at the level of tokens and not of types.

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  • Lewis, David. Philosophical Papers: Volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.

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    This collection of Lewis’s papers includes several elaborating on and defending analytical functionalism and the attendant version of identity theory. See especially “An Argument for the Identity Theory,” “How to Define Theoretical Terms,” and “Mad Pain and Martian Pain.”

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  • Putnam, Hilary. “The Nature of Mental States.” In Mind, Language, and Reality. Edited by Hilary Putnam, 429–440. Philosophical Papers 2. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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    Originally published in 1963 as “Psychological Predicates,” this paper includes the argument from multiple realizablility against the identity theory, as well as a defense of Putnam’s machine functionalism. The volume also includes many of Putnam’s other important early papers on functionalism and related issues. (In the 1980s Putnam came to reject functionalism.)

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  • Shoemaker, Sydney. Identity, Cause, and Mind: Philosophical Essays. Expanded 2d ed. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Contains many papers elaborating and defending Shoemaker’s version of analytical functionalism. A good one to begin with is “Some Varieties of Functionalism.” For sophisticated responses to the charge that functionalism cannot accommodate qualitative experiences (as made, for example, in Block 1978) see “Functionalism and Qualia” and “The Inverted Spectrum.”

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Nonreductive Physicalism

Reductive physicalists (such as identity theorists and functionalists) hold that the facts about a subject’s psychology might, in principle, be derived from the facts about her physical or functional states, with the help of “bridging principles” that specify correspondences between physical and psychological properties. Nonreductive physicalists deny the existence of such principles. They agree that mental states and properties are physical—indeed, they hold that the former depend on the latter—but they argue that psychological and physical properties do not correspond in a regular, codifiable way. The notion of dependence invoked here is often characterized as supervenience: roughly, the claim is that any two circumstances that are physically alike must also be alike psychologically. See Kim 1993 for a detailed critical discussion. For an important debate over whether truths at the fundamental physical level entail psychological truths a priori, see Jackson 1998, which argues that they do, and Block and Stalnaker 1999, which argues that they do not. Jackson and Chalmers 2001 replies to Block and Stalnaker 1999. Another kind of argument for nonreductionist physicalism is found in Fodor 1981. Fodor attacks a rather general reductive thesis by arguing that we have good reason to doubt that the kinds discussed in “special sciences” in general, and in particular those in psychology, correspond to natural kinds of physics. Kim 1993 responds to Fodor’s argument. Perhaps the most influential antireductionist physicalist of all is Davidson, who in his defends anomalous monism: the view that individual token mental events are physical events but that types of mental events do not correspond to types of physical event (Davidson 2001). For important critical discussion of Davidson’s position, see Kim 1993, which argues that it cannot be reconciled with the causal properties of mental events. For more on this issue, including plenty on this objection to Davidson, see Mental Causation. For further influential discussion of Davidson’s position, see the papers in Lepore and McLaughlin 1985. For a sympathetic and nontechnical introductory treatment of nonreductive materialism, see MacDonald 1989.

  • Block, Ned, and Robert Stalnaker. “Conceptual Analysis, Dualism, and the Explanatory Gap.” Philosophical Review 108.1 (1999): 1–46.

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    A critique of “a priori physicalism,” the view (endorsed, for example, by Jackson 1998) that a suitably complete description of the physical facts relevant to a given case would stand in a relation of a priori entailment to a description of the psychological facts.

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  • Davidson, Donald. “Mental Events.” In Essays on Actions and Events. By Donald Davidson, 207–224. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    In this widely anthologized paper, first published in 1970, Davidson defends anomalous monism by arguing that the mental is anomalous: there are no true lawlike generalizations codifying relations between mental and physical events (or indeed, between mental events). Other highly relevant papers in this volume include “Actions, Reasons, and Causes” and “Psychology as Philosophy.”

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  • Fodor, Jerry. “Special Sciences (or: The Disunity of Science as a Working Hypothesis).” In RePresentations: Philosophical Essays on the Foundations of Cognitive Science. Edited by Jerry Fodor. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981.

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    In this widely anthologized paper, first published in 1974, Fodor criticizes reductionism by arguing that the high-level kinds/types discussed by “special sciences” such as psychology can be realized by instances of different lower-level physical kinds.

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  • Jackson, Frank. From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    Jackson articulates a relation between physical and psychological truths stronger than supervenience and closely related to the analytical functionalism of Armstrong and Lewis (see The Identity Theory and Functionalism). An important consequence of his view is that psychological truths are in a sense entailed a priori by physical truths.

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  • Jackson, Frank, and David Chalmers. “Conceptual Analysis and Reductive Explanation.” The Philosophical Review 110 (2001): 315–361.

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    This is a further defense of the “a priori physicalist” view articulated, for example, in Jackson 1998. It includes rejoinders to various critics of that view, including Block and Stalnaker 1999.

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  • Kim, Jaegwon. Supervenience and Mind: Selected Philosophical Essays. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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    These essays refine and explore the notion of supervenience, in terms of which nonreductive physicalists have striven to characterize the relation between physical and mental properties. Several essays in Part 2 criticize Davidson’s anomalous monism by arguing that it cannot accommodate genuine mental causation. In “Multiple Realization and the Metaphysics of Reduction,” Kim responds to Fodor 1980.

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  • Lepore, Ernest, and Brian McLaughlin. Actions and Events: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1985.

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    An important early collection of critical papers on Davidson’s metaphysics and philosophy of mind and action. The papers in Part 3 (including the detailed introduction by Brian McLaughlin) are particularly relevant here.

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  • MacDonald, Cynthia. Mind-Body Identity Theories. London: Routledge, 1989.

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    In this accessible, nontechnical book, MacDonald discusses the identity theory, functionalism, and nonreductive physicalism, and develops a defense of the latter.

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Instrumentalism and Eliminativism

A useful way to understand various forms of nonreductive physicalism, behaviorism, and functionalism is in terms of the idea—first clearly articulated and defended in Sellars 1997 (a paper first published in 1956)—that our psychological concepts are essentially theoretical. Beliefs, intentions, and perhaps even sensations are here construed as posits of a common-sense theory—folk psychology—about minds and their causal relations to behavior and the world. This idea is usually implicit—and sometimes explicit—in the interpretationist approach of Davidson 2001b and others, but it features most prominently of all in the work of Dennett. Instrumentalism is the view that folk psychology is a useful and perhaps invaluable device for explaining, interpreting, and predicting the behavior of persons, but that even so, it may not and need not be true, because there may not and need not be basic physical types corresponding to the psychological concepts and predicates it invokes. In the 1970s and 1980s, Dennett defended a version of this view (see Behaviorism). The thesis of Dennett 1991 is related but more nuanced. Churchland 1981 agrees with instrumentalism that folk psychology may very well be false, but Churchland advocates a realist conception of theories. His eliminative materialism is the view that its role in our lives may one day be superseded by a fundamentally dissimilar, neurophysiological theory. Critics respond to eliminative materialism in various ways, but here are two of the more important reactions: First, there are those who agree with Churchland 1981 and others that folk psychology is a predictive, explanatory theory but argue that it is more successful as such than eliminativists give it credit for. Several of the papers in Greenwood 1991 take this line. Second, there are those who reject the very idea that our psychological concepts are theoretical—at least in the sense required for Churchland’s argument. Prominent among this latter group are simulation theorists, who hold that subjects explain and predict others’ behavior not by theorizing about them but rather by running off-line simulations of how they would themselves behave in similar situations. For more on the simulation theory, see the various contributors to Davies and Stone 1995. Ramsey 2008 is a useful survey of debates over eliminative materialism.

  • Child, William. Causality, Interpretation, and the Mind. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1994.

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    A useful detailed and sympathetic discussion of interpretationism—the view associated particularly with Davidson 2001, according to which (roughly) there is a constitutive connection between the mental states a subject occupies and those that she would be interpreted to enjoy by a suitably placed and equipped interpreter.

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  • Churchland, Paul M. “Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes.” Journal of Philosophy 78 (1981): 67–90.

    DOI: 10.2307/2025900Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Churchland does not quite endorse eliminative materialism in this widely anthologized paper, but he develops and defends it boldly. Churchland is explicit about the respects in which he regards mental states as theoretical.

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  • Davidson, Donald. “Radical Interpretation.” In Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. By Donald Davidson, 125–141. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Davidson develops his distinctive truth-conditional conception of language. Of more interest here is the interpretationist feature of his approach, which is particularly manifest in this paper. This is the view (roughly) that there is a constitutive connection between what a person means by a sentence and how it would be interpreted by a suitably placed and equipped interpreter.

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  • Davies, Martin, and Tony Stone, eds. Folk Psychology: Theory of Mind Debate. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1995.

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    A collection of essays on the status of folk psychology, many of which defend the simulation theory, which opposes the idea that subjects use a theory to predict and explain the behavior of others.

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  • Dennett, Daniel. “Real Patterns.” Journal of Philosophy 87 (1991): 27–51.

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    In this paper Dennett defends a weak version of instrumentalism. He aims to allow that psychological states are real—even that they are causes—but only in a weak, deflationary sense.

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  • Greenwood, John D. The Future of Folk Psychology: Intentionality and Cognitive Science. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    A useful collection of papers on the notion of folk psychology, including several that object to Churchland’s eliminative materialism by defending the virtues—qua theory—of folk psychology.

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  • Ramsey, William. “Eliminative Materialism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2008.

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    A detailed, up-to-date survey and a good source of advice for further reading.

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  • Sellars, Wilfrid. Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. Introduction by Richard Rorty, study guide by Robert Brandom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

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    Sellars’s classic paper was first published in 1956 (in Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1), but this is probably the easiest version to obtain, and Brandom’s commentary is a worthwhile addition. As well as articulating the influential idea that mental states are in effect theoretical posits, the multilayered paper is famous for its coruscating attack on “sense data” theories of perception and knowledge.

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Mental Causation

The most serious problem facing dualist accounts of the mind is that they seem difficult to reconcile with the apparent fact that mental states or events can be causes of physical states or events (as well, indeed, as causes of other mental ones). The worry is commonly put in terms of overdetermination (or exclusion) and a thesis characterizing what is known as the causal completeness or closure of the physical. Roughly, this thesis is that every physical event has a sufficient physical cause—that is, it is always possible, at least in principle, to account for the genesis of a physical event in causal terms without alluding to anything nonphysical. If this is correct, then the causal relations between immaterial mental states and physical events posited by interactionist dualists seem redundant: dualists seem committed to the implausible claim that such events are causally overdetermined. (In other words, causal explanations invoking mental states are excluded by physical explanations.) Many of the authors in this section discuss the completeness/closure principle. Mills 1996 argues for its rejection and defends the view that the effects of mental events are causally overdetermined. Others argue that dualists should accept that the physical realm is causally closed and adopt the epiphenomenalist version of dualism. Epiphenomenalism here is the view that mental states do not cause anything. Jackson 1982 includes an elegant basic defense of epiphenomenalism in respect of the qualitative aspects of conscious experience. Advocates of physicalist views might have hoped to avoid these problems, but alas, a version of the overdetermination/exclusion problem also confronts many versions of functionalism and nonreductive physicalism. The higher-order, functional roles with which many functionalists identify mental states (see The Identity Theory and Functionalism) do not seem to have any causal work to do, since, critics assume, that work is discharged by the lower-level properties that realize the functional roles in a given system. Kim 1998 develops and defends various forms of these arguments against these physicalist theories. Yablo 1992 offers a novel response to the overdetermination/exclusion problem. Heil and Mele 1993, Campbell 2003, and Pauen, et al. 2006 are useful collections of papers on mental causation and the problems it raises for functionalism and nonreductive physicalism. Robb and Heil 2009 is an excellent, up-to-date overview.

  • Campbell, Neil. Mental Causation and the Metaphysics of Mind. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2003.

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    A useful anthology that includes most of the most important papers published on this topic in the 1980s and 1990s.

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  • Heckmann, Heinz-Dieter, and Sven Walter, eds. Physicalism and Mental Causation. Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic, 2003.

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    A fertile collection of specially written papers, this is an excellent resource for scholars already familiar with the basic issues.

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  • Heil, John, and Alfred Mele, eds. Mental Causation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    The essays in this useful collection were written specially for it, and even now, many are difficult to obtain elsewhere. It includes Davidson’s provocative paper, “Thinking Causes,” together with formidable critiques of it by Kim, McLaughlin, and Sosa, making the volume an excellent starting point for serious evaluation of anomalous monism and other aspects of Davidson’s important views.

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  • Jackson, Frank. “Epiphenomenal Qualia.” Philosophical Quarterly (1982): 127–136.

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    In this widely anthologized paper, Jackson presents his celebrated “knowledge argument” against materialism, and (of more relevance here) he considers and rebuts various intuitions and arguments against epiphenomenalism.

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  • Kim, Jaegwon. Mind in a Physical World: An Essay on the Mind-Body Problem and Mental Causation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998.

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    Kim develops various different versions of the argument against functionalism and nonreductive physicalism, paying most attention to the overdetermination/exclusion problem. Chapter 2 serves as a good introduction to the issue.

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  • Mills, Eugene. “Interactionism and Overdetermination.” American Philosophical Quarterly 33 (1996): 105–117.

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    This paper is a critique—on dualism’s behalf—of the thesis that the physical realm is causally complete/closed. The key move is to argue that, in general, physical events can have features that are not explained by their (sufficient) physical causes.

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  • Pauen, Michael, Alexander Staudacher, and Sven Walter, eds. “Special Issue: Epiphenomenalism.” Journal of Consciousness Studies 13.1–2 (2006).

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    A useful collection of recent papers on mental causation and epiphenomenalism.

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  • Robb, David, and John Heil. “Mental Causation.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2009.

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    A nice feature of this up-to-date survey is that it covers the problem of mental causation as it arises for dualists as well as the version that confronts functionalists and nonreductive physicalists. A useful bibliography is also included.

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  • Yablo, Stephen. “Mental Causation.” Philosophical Review 101 (1992): 245–280.

    DOI: 10.2307/2185535Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The key move in Yablo’s treatment of the overdetermination/exclusion problem is his proposal that the relation between mental and physical properties is one of determinables to determinates. Thus, much as individual color properties such as “red” are determinates of the determinable property of “being colored,” so particular physical states may be determinates of determinable mental properties.

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