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Vaassen, Bram
Publications (3 of 3) Show all publications
Vaassen, B. (2019). Causal after all: a model of mental causation for dualists. (Doctoral dissertation). Umeå: Umeå University
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Causal after all: a model of mental causation for dualists
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this dissertation, I develop and defend a model of causation that allows for dualist mental causation in worlds where the physical domain is physically complete.

In Part I, I present the dualist ontology that will be assumed throughout the thesis and identify two challenges for models of mental causation within such an ontology: the exclusion worry and the common cause worry. I also argue that a proper response to these challenges requires a thoroughly lightweight account of causation, i.e. an account that allows for causes to be metaphysically distinct from the phenomena that produce or physically necessitate their effects.

In Part II, I critically evaluate contemporary responses to these challenges from the philosophical literature. In particular, I discuss (i) List and Stoljar’s criticism of exclusion worries, (ii) Kroedel’s alternative dualist ontology, (iii) concerns about the notion of causal sufficiency, and (iv) Lowe’s models of dualist mental causation. I argue that none of these proposals provide independent motivation for a thoroughly lightweight account of causation and therefore leave room for improvement.

In the first four chapters of Part III, I develop a thoroughly lightweight model of causation, which builds on interventionist approaches to causation. First, I explain how so-called ‘holding fixed’-requirements in standard interventionist accounts stand in the way of dualist mental causation. I then argue that interventionist accounts should impose a robustness condition on causal correlations and that, with this condition in place, the ‘holding fixed’-requirements can be weakened such that they do allow for dualist mental causation. I dub the interventionist model with such weakened ‘holding fixed’-requirements ‘insensitive interventionism’, argue that it can counter the exclusion worry as well as the common cause worry, and explain under which circumstances it would predict there to be dualist mental causation. Importantly, these circumstances might, for all we know, hold in the actual world.

In the final three chapters of Part III, I defend insensitive interventionism against some objections. I consider the objection that causation must be productive, the objection that causes must (in some sense) physically necessitate their effects, and the objection that insensitive interventionism is too permissive. I respond by drawing from the literature on causation by absences and on the relation between causation and fundamental physics. Overall, insensitive interventionism performs as well as standard interventionist accounts. I conclude that insensitive interventionism is a credible model of causation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University, 2019. p. 290
Umeå studies in philosophy, ISSN 1650-1748 ; 13
Mental Causation, Dualism, Non-Reductionism, Causal Exclusion, Causation, Interventionism, Negative Causation, Omissions, Neo-Russellianism, Causation and Physics
National Category
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-162376 (URN)978-91-7855-098-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-09-11, Samhällsvetarhuset Hörsal D, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2019-08-21 Created: 2019-08-18 Last updated: 2019-08-20Bibliographically approved
Vaassen, B. (2019). Dualism and Exclusion. Erkenntnis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Dualism and Exclusion
2019 (English)In: Erkenntnis, ISSN 0165-0106, E-ISSN 1572-8420Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Many philosophers argue that exclusion arguments cannot exclude non-reductionist physicalist mental properties from being causes without excluding properties that are patently causal as well. List and Stoljar (Australas J Philos 95(1):96–108, 2017) recently argued that a similar response to exclusion arguments is also available to dualists, thereby challenging the predominant view that exclusion arguments undermine dualist theories of mind. In particular, List and Stoljar maintain that exclusion arguments against dualism require a premise that states that, if a property is metaphysically distinct from the sufficient cause of an effect, this property cannot be a cause of that effect. I argue that this premise is indeed likely to exclude patently causal properties, but that exclusion arguments against dualism do not require this premise. The relation that enables metaphysically distinct properties to cause the same effect in the relevant way turns out to be tighter than the relation typically posited between dualist conscious properties and their underlying physical properties. It is therefore still plausible that the latter causally exclude the former and that compelling exclusion arguments against dualism can be formulated by using a weaker exclusion premise. I conclude by proposing such a formulation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Netherlands: , 2019
Dualism; Mental Causation; Causal Exclusion; Exclusion; Exclusion Argument; Non-Reductionism; Overdetermination
National Category
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-158424 (URN)10.1007/s10670-019-00118-1 (DOI)
Available from: 2019-04-27 Created: 2019-04-27 Last updated: 2019-04-30
Vaassen, B. (2016). Basic Beliefs and the Perceptual Learning Problem: A Substantial Challenge for Moderate Foundationalism. Episteme: A journal of individual and social epistemology, 13(1), 133-149
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Basic Beliefs and the Perceptual Learning Problem: A Substantial Challenge for Moderate Foundationalism
2016 (English)In: Episteme: A journal of individual and social epistemology, ISSN 1742-3600, E-ISSN 1750-0117, Vol. 13, no 1, p. 133-149Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In recent epistemology many philosophers have adhered to a moderate foundationalism according to which some beliefs do not depend on other beliefs for their justification. Reliance on such ‘basic beliefs’ pervades both internalist and externalist theories of justification. In this article I argue that the phenomenon of perceptual learning – the fact that certain ‘expert’ observers are able to form more justified basic beliefs than novice observers – constitutes a challenge for moderate foundationalists. In order to accommodate perceptual learning cases, the moderate foundationalist will have to characterize the ‘expertise’ of the expert observer in such a way that it cannot be had by novice observers and that it bestows justification on expert basic beliefs independently of any other justification had by the expert. I will argue that the accounts of expert basic beliefs currently present in the literature fail to meet this challenge, as they either result in a too liberal ascription of justification or fail to draw a clear distinction between expert basic beliefs and other spontaneously formed beliefs. Nevertheless, some guidelines for a future solution will be provided.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016
Epistemology, Epistemology of Perception, Modest Foundationalism, Perception, Basic Beliefs
National Category
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-117016 (URN)10.1017/epi.2015.58 (DOI)000370865600008 ()

Special Issue 01 (The Epistemology of Perception)

Available from: 2016-02-18 Created: 2016-02-18 Last updated: 2018-06-07Bibliographically approved

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