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Self, agency and mental causation

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A self or person does not appear to be identifiable with his or her organic body, nor with any part of it, such as the brain; and yet selves seem to be agents, capable of bringing about physical events (such as bodily movements) as causal consequences of certain of their conscious mental states. How is this possible in a universe in which, it appears, every physical event has a sufficient cause which is wholly physical? The answer is that this is possible if a certain kind of naturalistic dualism is true, according to which the conscious mental states of selves, although not identifiable with physical states of their brains, are emergent effects of prior physical causes. Moreover, mental causation on this model promises to explain certain aspects of physical behaviour which may appear arbitrary and coincidental from a purely physical point of view.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Durham, 50 Old Elvet, Durham, DH1 3HN, UK.

Publication date: August 1, 1999


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