Dualism Or Physicalism: What´s Emergentism?

Proyash Sarkar

Emergentism refers to a wide range of theories—right from dualism to physicalism. We shall see below that the basic contention of emergentism is neutral about the dualism/physicalism debate. Roughly speaking, emergentism about the mental is the claim that the mental is an emergent property of the physical. It arises out of the basal property, i.e. the physical, yet retains its independence, in the sense that it has its independent causal power. Thus the mental has its distinctive existence. This claim comes with different shades giving rise to a wide range of theories of the mind. The mere claim that the mental arises out of the physical, shows the dependence of the former on the latter.

Emergent Properties Emergent
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Reductive materialism does not accept independence of the mental. Thus it is an arch-rival of emergentism, still it accepts mental causation. On this view the mental is identical with some physical states, some brain states in particular, and they can act as a cause bringing about changes in the physical realm. One of the virtues of reductive materialism is that mental causation poses no challenge to it. Since a mental state is ‘reducible’ to a physical state, mental causation turns out to be physical to physical causation for the reductive materialist. This solution does not seem to be available to the British emergentist of late nineteenth and early twentieth century, as he accepts independent causal efficacy of the mental. One proposal may be that mental causation amounts to the mental initiating a causal process. In reductive physicalism, it is the physical that initiates the causal process. However, this proposal appears to be unworkable, as the causal chain does not seem to have a beginning. No particular point of time can possible be identified as the initial point, the beginning, of the process, unless one accepts an unmoved mover or something alike. Another proposal is that the mental acts as links in causal chains, may it be physical or mental. Such a proposal makes room for mental to mental as well as mental to …show more content…
If x and y are two objects which are indiscernible with regard to their physical property (P), they would be indiscernible with regard to their mental property (M). (Property covariation). This basic idea of covariation has appeared in different forms in the philosophy of mind according to the requirement of the respective theories. We shall come to this point shortly. This shows that the supervenient properties (mental properties) depend on the base properties (physical properties) (Dependence). This, does not imply, the proponent of the supervenience theory claims, that the mental is reducible to the physical. This theory is neutral about metaphysical commitments and claims that the dependence of the supervenient on the subvenient (the base property) does not mean that the supervenient can be explained away in terms of the subvenient, or that everything we can say about the supervenient can be analyzed in terms of the properties of the subvenient. ‘Determination of A by B does not imply that A and B are not distinct.’ (Non-deducibility) Neither does this latter claim of non-reducibility of the mental to the physical commit the theory to the metaphysical doctrine of property

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