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Why Davidson is not a Property Epiphenomenalist

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Abstract:

Despite the fact that Davidson's theory of the causal relata is crucial to his response to the problem of mental causation – that of anomalous monism – it is commonly overlooked within discussions of his position. Anomalous monism is accused of entailing property epiphenomenalism, but given Davidson's understanding of the causal relata, such accusations are wholly misguided. There are, I suggest, two different forms of property epiphenomenalism. The first understands the term ‘property' in an ontological sense, the second in a linguistic sense. Anomalous monism cannot plausibly be accused of either. The first cannot legitimately be applied to anomalous monism as it is incompatible with Davidson's ontology. And accusations of predicate epiphenomenalism, although consistent with Davidson's ontology, are ungrounded regarding Davidson's anomalous monism. Philosophers of mind have mislocated the problem with Davidson's anomalous monism, which in fact lies with the implausible theory of the causal relata upon which it rests.

Keywords: Davidson; anomalous monism; epiphenomenalism; mental causation; property

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09672550600858346

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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