, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 183–200

Mental Causation and the Agent-Exclusion Problem

Original article

DOI: 10.1007/s10670-007-9067-9

Cite this article as:
Horgan, T. Erkenn (2007) 67: 183. doi:10.1007/s10670-007-9067-9


The hypothesis of the mental state-causation of behavior (the MSC hypothesis) asserts that the behaviors we classify as actions are caused by certain mental states. A principal reason often given for trying to secure the truth of the MSC hypothesis is that doing so is allegedly required to vindicate our belief in our own agency. I argue that the project of vindicating agency needs to be seriously reconceived, as does the relation between this project and the MSC hypothesis. Vindication requires addressing what I call the agent-exclusion problem: the prima facie incompatibility between the intentional content of agentive experience and certain metaphysical hypotheses often espoused in philosophy–metaphysical hypotheses like physical causal closure, determinism, and the MSC hypothesis itself. I describe several radically different approaches to the vindication project, one of which would repudiate the MSC hypothesis and embrace metaphysical libertarianism about freedom and determinism. I sketch the position I myself favor–a specific version of the generic approach asserting that the intentional content of agentive experience is compatible with the MSC hypothesis (and with physical causal closure, and with determinism). I describe how my favored approach can plausibly explain the temptation to embrace incompatibilism concerning the agent-exclusion problem.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Department University of ArizonaTucsonUSA