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A Dilemma for Davidson’s Anomalous Monism

Hemmo, Meir and Shenker, Orly (2020) A Dilemma for Davidson’s Anomalous Monism. [Preprint]


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Is freedom compatible with determinism? Davidson (in “Mental Events”) famously rephrased this question by replacing “freedom” with “anomaly of the mental”, that is, failure to fall under a law. In order to prove that the anomaly of the mental is compatible with other conjectures he makes, in particular that: (a) there is psycho-physical causation; (b) “where there is causality, there must be a law” (Davidson 1970, p. 208); and (c) the mental supervenes on the physical, Davidson proposed a model (i.e., an interpretation under which all these conjectures are true), that came to be known as anomalous monism. Accepting (as working hypotheses) all of Davidson’s conjectures, we compare the structure of Davidson’s argument with that of Einstein’s argument for the special theory of relativity. This leads us to an exposition of Davidson’s ontology in terms that are inspired by recent results in the philosophy of physics, that is, in terms of fundamental ontology and high-level coarse-grained descriptions. We explain in what sense Davidson’s model is a principle theory (in Einstein’s terms) and discuss some requirements that the constructive theory underlying Davidson's principle approach must satisfy. We propose two constructive theories of description that may underlie Davidson's approach and this deeper structure leads us to formulating a dilemma according to which Davidson's approach entails either a non-physicalist type-identity reductive and monistic structure of events; or else it entails a structure of events that requires what we call token-substance dualism. We consider some issues which seem to suggest that the first horn of this dilemma collapses into a reductive type-identity physicalist theory, contrary to Davidson's intent. Finally, we show how Davidson's achievement of accounting for some freedom of the mental from the physical and the anomaly of the mental within anomalous monism can be achieved in a fully reductive type-identity physicalist theory.

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Item Type: Preprint
Additional Information: Under review
Keywords: Anomalous Monism; description; dualism; non-reductive physicalism; principle vs. constructive theory; reduction; type-identity.
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
General Issues > Structure of Theories
Depositing User: Meir Hemmo
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2021 21:41
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2021 21:41
Item ID: 19563
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
General Issues > Structure of Theories
Date: 2020

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