Mental Causation: The Mind-Body Problem

Sara Worley, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, May 11, 2009
Commentary by Stephen Downes

A surprising number of people believe that there is a non-physical mind in addition to the brain and body. This in itself would not be a problem except that they hold that the mind causes physical events, such as behaviour. There's no particular issue with 'non-physical' per se; the colour red, hope, the appropriateness of a response, and the recognition of a face are all non-physical. And so too mind, which is at a minimum epiphenomenal, can be thought of as non-physical. But how can epiphenomena - mere appearance, say - cause physical events? In my view, the efficient cause must lie in the physicality of the event itself, not in the appearance. This review takes a nice look at the tangled web we call 'causation' in relation to mental phenomena. The main takeaway? This nice neat picture of "A causes B" is deeply mistaken.
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