Department of Philosophy
Department Seminar

Michael Baumgartner: The inherent empirical underdetermination of mental causation

The fourth and last Department Seminar this Fall will be held by Michael Baumgartner (UiB). Open for all.


It has become a popular view among non-reductive physicalists that it is possible to devise empirical tests generating evidence for the causal efficacy of the mental, whereby the exclusion worries that have haunted the position of non-reductive physicalism for decades can be dissolved once and for all. In this talk, I aim to show that these evidentialist hopes are vain. I argue that, if the mental is taken to non-reductively supervene on the physical, there cannot exist empirical evidence for its causal efficacy. While causal structures without non-reductive supervenience relations can be conclusively identified in ideal discovery circumstances, it is impossible, in principle, to generate evidence that would favor models with mental causation over models without. Ascribing causal efficacy to the mental, for the non-reductive physicalist, is a modeling choice that must be made on the basis of metaphysical background theories or pragmatic maxims guiding the selection among empirically indistinguishable models.