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«Of Ghostly and Mechanical Events* JONATHAN SCHAFFER University of Massachusetts, Amherst Two of the assumptions that drive most contemporary ...»

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In general, the non-reductive levels-theorist ought to think that persons are natural macro-objects. Just as the non-reductive naturalist is happy to discuss mountains in geological terms, so she should be happy to discuss persons in psychological terms. And this means quantifying over the beliefs, desires, and tryings of persons. What more room could a person need? l6 By accepting Humeanism, both the dualist and the levels-theorist gain a clear conception of causation that supports overdetermination. In h s context Lynne Rudder-Baker (1993) and Tyler Burge (1993) have cited counterfactual accounts of causation, such as that of David Lewis (1973).

While I am skeptical as to the general adequacy of counterfactual accounts of causation, I know of no counterexamples to the following sufficient condition for causation: C causes E if (i) C and E are actual distinct events, and (ii)

-O(C)-O(E).I7 This suffices to establish mental causation.

The Humean view also serves (i) to dispel the worries about overoomph’ing, and (ii) to avoid the problem of theoretically superfluous causes.

There i s n o p roblem o f o ver-‘oomphing’ if causality merely reflects lawful patterns and regularities in the occurrences: overdetermination is merely concurrence of pattern. And there is no problem of theoretical superfluity if causality reduces, since the pattern is already in place.

So I wish to suggest that the overdetennination view is perfectly respectable, but fits best within a naturalistic and Humean perspective.

16 Elsewhere (Schaffer 2003) 1 have argued that the levels-theorist must be a non-reductionist, in order to offer a coherent account of the empirically open possibility that there is no fundamental level.

17 Kim replies that counterfactual dependence is consistent with the epiphenomenalist picture (see first diagram, p. 8), but his argument requires the use of the ‘backtracking’ counterfactual:

-O(M)-O(S). Kim notes that the distinction between standard and backtracking counterfactuals (as presented in Lewis 1979) requires “heavy-duty metaphysical armor” (1998, p. 64) This is true (though so what?) but in any case all that is needed here is (i) an intuitive grasp of the distinction sufficient to establish that (ii) the behavioral-mental dependence is true in the standard way. The metaphysical armor can be forged at leisure later. Moreover, Kim’s argument can be directly blocked by elaborating the counterfactual antecedent into: “had S still occurred and M n ot occurred, then... ” Here (i) the opportunity to backtrack has been explicitly blocked by the semifactual supposition about S, and (ii) the verdict that B would not have occurred remains the correct verdict (or so it seems to me, though Kim might dispute it).

18 Elsewhere (Schaffer 2001b) I have leveled objections to the counterfactual account of causation, and develop a hybrid counterfactual-process account, on which causes raise the probability of effect-processes. This view also supports overdeterminative mental causation. Indeed this view entails the sufficiency of the counterfactual condition in the main text (2001b, $3). 1 would submit that any plausible account of causation should entail the sufficiency of counterfactual dependence for causation, which would entail that any plausible account of causation will support overdeterminative mental causation.

–  –  –

(GS) If wl and w2 differ in any mental respect, then they differ in some physical respect.

Indeed some more 1ocal s upervenience theses s eem true a s well, but n ever mind those. Can the event dualist explain even the truth of GS? Supervenience theses like GS are mere theses of covariation, and are in need of deeper explanation (Kim 1998, ch. 1, $2). As Kim concludes, “mind-body supervenience states the mind-body proble-it is not a solution to it.” (1998, p. 14) Pietroski acknowledges the need to explain mind-body supervenience (2000, ch. 6, $2.2), but maintains that he can provide an explanation in terms of the individuation of possibilities. In other words, Pietroski (i) distinguishes ‘ontological’ from ‘semantical’ explanations of supervenience (Terence Horgan 1993), (ii) maintains that a certain combinatorialist view of modality yields a way to individuate possibilities, in such a way as to yield (iii) a semantical explanation of GS.

What I find problematic about Pietroski’s explanation of GS is (i) GS seems to require an ontological explanation, and ( ii) P ietroski’s s emantical explanation invokes a physicalistic c ombinatorialism that is in tension with his event dualism.

The need for ontological explanation: There are two reasons why GS seems to require an ontological rather than a merely semantical explanation.

The first reason is that, intuitively, there seems to be nothing incoherent in the supposition that GS is false (as Pietroski is well aware: 2000, ch. 5, $1).

Cartesian dualists have often denied GS, and while few accept Cartesian dualism these days, it is because of how poorly it fits into our burgeoning empirical knowledge, not because of any secret contradiction recently adduced. The second reason is that, internally, the explanation for GS is supposed to explain why mental and physical events covary, given that they are distinct particulars. And it just does not seem that any merely semantical story can explain real covariation between distinct particulars. Being told that ‘we don’t count worlds that way’ leaves me, at least, perplexed rather than enlightened.

The reliance on physicalistic combinatorialism: Here is the combinatorialist thesis that Pietroski invokes, as he connects it to the explanation of GS:

[Plossible worlds are possible arrangements of the basic objects that make up our universe;

because these objects have physical natures, the space of possible arrangements of basic objects respects the constraint, ‘no difference without a physical difference’; and this provides a dualistfriendly account of GS. (2000, p. 196)

–  –  –

This leads the combinatorialist to postulate ontological atoms, or building blocks, which are the (alleged) basic and independent components that comprise the house of being. Possibility is then taken to be recombination of atoms.

Now f one is a physicalist one should think of the ontological atoms as i physical. But ifone is an event dualist for whom mental and physical events are distinct particulars, then one has no principled reason to restrict recombination betwixt. Or, to put this point another way, if the event dualist restricts recombination so that it does not apply to certain distinct particulars (viz., her mental and physical events), one wants to know what justifies this restriction.

And so it seems that the bulge has not even been pushed very far under the carpet: the problem of explaining GS has become the problem of explaining why mental and physical events cannot differently recombine.

1 should like to conclude this section, though, by suggesting that the dualist should take supervenience theses like GS to hold merely nornologically (rather than metaphysically). That is to say, the dualist should postulate the existence of contingent ‘bridge laws’ between mental and physicaL2’ By accepting nomological supervenience, the dualist gains three main advantages. First, she gains a genuine ontological explanation for covariation.

Second, she respects the intuitively plausible claim that disembodied Cartesian minds (with their associated non-supervenience) are metaphysically possible. Third, she enhances the non-reductionistic flavor of her view, by allowing the mental and physical to be genuinely metaphysically independent.

Combining my suggestions: I would replace Pietroski’s unnatural dualism of ghostly and mechanical events, with a naturalistic layering of physical, chemical, biological, and psychological tropes in lawful harmony.

19 For a defense of combinatorialism, see Saul Kripke (1980) and especially David Armstrong (1989). For further discussion see David Lewis (1992).

20 And the levels-theorist should postulate contingent bridge laws through the hierarchy.

242 JONATHAN SCHAFFER In conclusion, Pietroski’s Causing Actions represents a thoughtful and intriguing attempt to articulate a novel dualistic framework. I remain sympathetic to Pietroski’s general non-reductionistic attitude, but skeptical as to whether his event dualism is the best way to make sense of this attitude. Still I think that Pietroski has succeeded, both in bringing new options to light, and in pointing to spaces between substance and property dualisms. The rest is mostly a matter of details.


Armstrong, D. M. 1989. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

1999. “The Open Door: Counterfactual versus Singularist Theories of Causation”, in Causation and Laws of Nature, ed. H. Sankey, pp. 175Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Burge, Tyler 1993. “Mind-Body Causation and Explanatory Practice”, in Mental Causation, eds. J. Heil and A. Mele, pp. 97-120. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Campbell, Keith 1981. ‘The Metaphysic of


Particulars’, reprinted in

Properties, eds. D. H. Mellor and Alex Oliver, pp. 125-139. New York:

Oxford University Press, 1997.

1990. Abstract Particulars. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Davidson, Donald 1969. “The Individuation of Events”, reprinted in Essays on Actions and Events, pp. 163-80. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.

1985. “Reply to Quine on Events”, in Actions and Events: Essays on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson, eds. E. LePore and B. McLaughlin, pp. 172-6. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Ehring, Douglas 1997. Causation and Persistence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fair, David 1979. “Causation and the Flow of Energy”, in Ekenntnis 14, pp.


Fodor, Jerry 1974. “Special Sciences, or the Disunity of Science as a Working Hypothesis”, in Synthese 28, pp. 77-1 15.

Hempel, Carl 1965. Aspects of Scientific Explanation. New York: Free Press.

Horgan, Terence 1993. “From Supervenience to Superdupervenience”, in Mind 102, pp. 555-86.

Hornsby, Jennifer 1981. “Which Physical Events are Mental Events”, in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 8 1, pp. 73-92.

1997. Simple Mindedness. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Kim, Jaegwon 1973. “Causation, Nomic Subsumption and the Concept of Event”, in The Journal of Philosophy 70, pp. 217-36.



1989. “Mechanism, Purpose, and Explanatory Exclusion”, in Philosophical Perspectives 3, Philosophy of Mind and Action Theory, ed. J.

Tomberlin, pp. 3 1-47. California: Ridgeview.

1993. “The Nonreductivist’s Troubles with Mental Causation”, in Supervenience and Mind: Selected Philosophical Essays, pp. 336-57.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1998. Mind in a Physical World. Massachusetts: M. I. T. Press.

Kripke, Saul 1980. Naming and Necessity. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Lewis, David 1979. “Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow”, in N O ~ 13, p. 455-76.

S 1973. “Causation”, in The Journal of Philosophy 70, pp. 556-67.

1992. “Armstrong on Combinatorial Possibility”, in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70, pp. 21 1-24.

Noordhof, Paul 200 1. “Getting Personal: Pietroski’s Dualism”, in Symposium on Causing Actions. A Field Guide to Philosophy of Mind (Spring 2001).

http://www.uniroma3.it/kant/field/pietroskisymp-noordhof.htm Pietroski, Paul 2000. Causing Actions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2001a. “Reply to Noordhof’, in Symposium on Causing Actions. A Field Guide to Philosophy of Mind (Spring 2001). http://www.


htm 2001b. “Reply to Stout”, in Symposium on Causing Actions. A Field Guide to Philosophy of Mind (Spring 2001).

http://www.uniroma3.it/kant/field/ pietroskisymp-noordhof. htm Quine, W. V. 0. 1960. Word and Object. Massachusetts: M. I. T. Press.

Rudder-Baker, Lynne 1993. “Metaphysics and Mental Causation”, in Mental Causation, eds. J. Heil and A. Mele, pp. 75-95. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Salmon, Wesley 1997. “Causality and Explanation: A Reply to Two Critiques”, in Philosophy of Science 64, pp. 461-77.

Schaffer, Jonathan 2000. “Causation by Disconnection”, in Philosophy of Science 67, pp. 285-300.

2001a. “Causes as Probability-Raisers of Processes”, in The Journal o Philosophy 98, pp. 75-92.

f 200 lb. “The Individuation of Tropes”, in Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79, pp. 247-57.

2003. “Is There a Fundamental Level?” Notis 37, pp. 498-517 Stout, Roland 2001. “Acting and Causing: On Pietroski’s CA”, in Symposium on Causing Actions. A Field Guide to Philosophy of Mind (Spring 2001).

http://www.uniroma3.itkant/field/pietroskisymp-noordhof.htm Williams, D. C. 1953. “The Elements of Being”, in Review OfMetaphysics 7, pp. 3-18, 171-192.


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