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*Events, functional reductionism, and mental causation: An examination of Kim's theory

Jong-Wang Lee, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The functionalist conception of reductive physicalism that Kim has recently espoused, though it is the best theory of mental causation currently available, nevertheless is faced with a problem and unable to respond to some objections. I suggest that the root of Kim's difficulties is his somewhat controversial account of events, the so-called property instantiation account of events Kim develops in a series of recent papers. My diagnosis is that the problem Kim's view faces is dependent upon how we choose between two possible interpretations of one important feature of Kim's event ontology, a feature that concerns the relationship between events and event-describing sentences. I call the two possible interpretations the “strict interpretation,” and the “non-strict interpretation.” ^ In discussing Kim's theory of events, it is essential to distinguish the two interpretations. The strict version of event ontology is that event-describing sentences and events are truly in a strict one-to-one correspondence relation and therefore each event has only one event-describing sentence. The non-strict version is that event-describing sentences and events are in a rough one-to-one correspondence relation, and therefore each event may have non-synonymous or logically in-equivalent event-describing sentences. ^ With respect to these two interpretations, Kim seems to be faced with a dilemma. If he adopts the strict interpretation as his official line of event ontology, he can save “explanatory realism,” the view that explanatory relations are individuated in terms of causal relations and thus the principle of causal/explanatory exclusion, but he will not be able to cope with some objections against his functional conception of reductive physicalism. If he goes with the non-strict interpretation, he loses his explanatory realism, but can successfully respond to the objection to his physical functionalism. I argue, however, that the loss of explanatory realism is not so serious for his purposes. Even if he loses explanatory realism, there still remains a purely causal exclusion principle which he can use to defend his account against the non-reductionists's theories of MC. Finally, I suggest and develop an alternative functionalist solution interpreted in terms of the nonstrict interpretation of event ontology. ^

Subject Area

Philosophy|Education, Philosophy of

Recommended Citation

Lee, Jong-Wang, "*Events, functional reductionism, and mental causation: An examination of Kim's theory" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9962061.