Causal Realism in the Philosophy of Mind

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Essays in Philosophy, ISSN: 1526-0569, Vol: 15, Issue: 2, Page: 299-313

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Gibran, Ben
Pacific University Library; Pacific University Libraries
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article description
Causal realism is the view that causation is a structural feature of reality, a power inherent in the world to produce effects independently of the existence of minds or observers. This article suggests that certain problems in the philosophy of mind are artefacts of causal realism because they presuppose the existence or possibility of a real causal nexus between the ‘physical’ and the ‘mental’. These dilemmas include (but are not necessarily limited to) the 'hard problem' of consciousness and the problems of free will and mental causality. Since the ostensible causal nexus cannot be directly perceived, it is sublimated into obscure and elusive phenomena along the purported mental causal chain. The antithesis of causal realism, and the proposed solution to the problems above, is causal anti-realism: the view that causation is not a fundamental property of the world, but of how observers purposively interpret ‘the world’. Causal anti-realism is compatible with causal pragmatism, which allows for the practical use of causal terms. Causal anti-realism denies the possibility of ontological reduction and is therefore incompatible with materialism and with materialist assumptions about the atom. The article concludes that causal anti-realism is at least prima facie reconcilable with idealism.