Nonreductive physicalism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Non-reductionist philosophers hold firmly to two essential convictions with regard to mind–body relations: 1) Physicalism is true and mental states must be physical states, but 2) All reductionist proposals are unsatisfactory: mental states cannot be reduced to behavior, brain states or functional states. Hence, the question arises whether there can still be a non-reductive physicalism. Donald Davidson's anomalous monism is an attempt to formulate such a physicalism.

Davidson uses the thesis of supervenience: mental states supervene on physical states, but are not reducible to them. "Supervenience" therefore describes a functional dependence: there can be no change in the mental without some change in the physical–causal reducibility between the mental and physical without ontological reducibility.

Because non-reductive physicalist theories attempt to both retain the ontological distinction between mind and body and to try to solve the "surfeit of explanations puzzle" in some way; critics often see this as a paradox and point out the similarities to epiphenomenalism, in that it is the brain that is seen as the root "cause" not the mind, and the mind seems to be rendered inert.

Epiphenomenalism regards one or more mental states as the byproduct of physical brain states, having no influence on physical states. The interaction is one-way (solving the "surfeit of explanations puzzle") but leaving us with non-reducible mental states (as a byproduct of brain states) – causally reducible, but ontologically irreducible to physical states. Pain would be seen by epiphenomenaliasts as being caused by the brain state but as not having effects on other brain states, though it might have effects on other mental states (i.e. cause distress).





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Nonreductive physicalism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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