Philosophical Studies

, Volume 151, Issue 2, pp 207–226 | Cite as

Taking realization seriously: no cure for epiphobia

  • Sven WalterEmail author


The realization relation that allegedly holds between mental and physical properties plays a crucial role for so-called non-reductive physicalism because it is supposed to secure both the ontological autonomy of mental properties and, despite their irreducibility, their ability to make a causal difference to the course of the causally closed physical world. For a long time however, the nature of realization has largely been ignored in the philosophy of mind until a couple of years ago authors like Carl Gillett, Derk Pereboom, or Sydney Shoemaker proposed accounts according to which realization is understood against the background of the so-called ‘causal theory of properties’. At least partially, the hope was to solve the problem of mental causation, in particular the kind of causal exclusion reasoning made famous by Jaegwon Kim, in a way acceptable to non-reductive physicalists. The paper asks whether a proper explication of the realization relation can indeed help explain how physically realized mental properties can be causally efficacious in the causally closed physical world and argues for a negative answer: it is important for the non-reductive physicalist to understand what exactly the realization relation amounts to, but it does not solve the problem of mental causation.


Mental causation Realization Non-reductive physicalism Causal theory of properties Causal powers Epiphenomenalism 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Cognitive ScienceUniversity of OsnabrueckOsnabrueckGermany

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