By David Harvey
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Problems and Theories: The Mind-Body Problem 15 2. Problems with Dualism: The Problem of Mental Causation Even though they appear to be intuitively plausible and supported by good arguments, nowadays, antireductionism and neodualism are “minority” opinions with respect to a materialist philosophical orthodoxy. The main reason some argue against dualism is probably based on the problem of mental causation, the main test for antireductionist views of mind since the time of Descartes. Mental causation is crucial for the construction of what Wilfrid Sellars (1963) calls our “manifest image,” the picture of a subject responsible for its actions and capable of knowledge.
Subjectively felt qualities can make a difference only if they are realized or generated in a nonmagical way by underlying objective physical properties, and hence only if they are themselves physical . . (Tye, 1995, p. 57) Tye gives us the link between the mind-body problem and the problem of mental causation: non-reductive theories would interpret mental causes as nonphysical. The alternative is reductionism: mental states would be nothing but physical states. This is the reason why the problem does not arise for the identity theorists or eliminativists, but only for those holding that our mental aspect is irreducible to the physical (Crane, 1995, p.
This means that mental processes are multiply realizable. They are supportable in principle by any kind of substratum stable enough to allow the process to carry out all the steps articulating the input-output mediation. In Dennett’s words: Functionalism is the idea that handsome is as handsome does. . The actual matter of the brain . . is roughly . . irrelevant. . According to this tempting proposal, even the underlying micro architecture of the brain’s connection can be ignored for many purposes .