Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 143–159 | Cite as

What does It Mean to be a Mechanism? Stephen Morse, Non-reductivism, and Mental Causation

  • Katrina L. SifferdEmail author
Original Paper


Stephen Morse seems to have adopted a controversial position regarding the mindbody relationship: John Searle’s non-reductivism, which claims that conscious mental states are causal yet not reducible to their underlying brain states. Searle’s position has been roundly criticized, with some arguing the theory taken as a whole is incoherent. In this paper I review these criticisms and add my own, concluding that Searle’s position is indeed contradictory, both internally and with regard to Morse's other views. Thus I argue that Morse ought to abandon Searle’s non-reductive theory. Instead, I claim Morse ought to adopt a non-eliminative reductive account that can more easily support his realism about folk psychological states, and the existence of causally effective mental states in a purely physical world.


Stephen Morse Mind–body relationship Non-reductive theory Responsibility Non-eliminative reductive theory 



The author is grateful to Stephen Morse, Michael Moore, and other attendees of a conference on Stephen’s work at the European University Institute in Florence for their comments on an early draft of this paper. Tyler Fagan and two anonymous reviewers for this journal provided valuable feedback on the penultimate draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Elmhurst CollegeElmhurstUSA

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