Mental Causation

Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

This course will introduce the contemporary problem of mental causation — the problem of how the mind makes things happen in the rest of the world — first by tracing its historical origins in early modern philosophy, and then by examining how this frames the recent debates in the philosophy of mind. Mental causation has been seen to be a problem for dualist views of the mind and for physicalist views. We will discuss the problem of mind-body interaction as it arose for Descartes’s dualism, and the treatments of the problem by Leibniz, Malebranche and others. We will then examine the mental causation as a problem for contemporary non-reductive physicalism, and at the various physicalist solutions to this problem. On the way we will look at the relationship between the doctrine of externalism and mental causation, as well as at non-causal views of the mind. The guiding assumption of the course is that mental causation is not just a marginal technical issue, but a problem that lies at the heart of the metaphysics of mind.

The goal of the course is to provide an overview of the problem of mental causation and its significance in the philosophy of mind.

Course requirements:
All students must attend the classes and are required to produce regular brief reflections on their reading, via the moodle site.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, students who have done the required work will:
— understand the main historical background of the contemporary mental causation debate;
— understand the main positions in the contemporary debate;
— understand the significance of the debate for the philosophy of mind as a whole


All other students taking the class for credit must submit a 2,500 word final paper on a topic agreed in advance with the instructor. The grade for the class will be the grade earned for the final paper, though in exceptional cases extra credit may be awarded for participation throughout the term.
The final paper will be due on: DATE TO BE CONFIRMED

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