Skip to main content

Anomalous Monism: Oscillating between Dogmas


Davidson’s anomalous monism, his argument for the identity between mental and physical event tokens, has been frequently attacked, usually demanding a higher degree of physicalist commitment. My objection runs in the opposite direction: the identities inferred by Davidson from mental causation, the nomological character of causality and the anomaly of the mental are philosophically problematic and, more dramatically, incompatible with his famous argument against the third dogma of empiricism, the separation of content from conceptual scheme. Given the anomaly of the mental and the absence of psychophysical laws, there are no conceptual resources to relate mental and physical predicates. We fall in the third dogma if we claim that the very same token event is mental and physical. One of the premises must be rejected: I will claim that we do not need a law to subsume cause and effect to be entitled to speak of causation. Davidson has never offered an argument to back this premise. Against such a dogma I will sketch some ideas pointing towards a different conception of causality, singularist and undetachable from explanatory practices.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. G.E.M. Anscombe (1957) Intention Blackwell Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  2. M.A. Antony (2003) ArticleTitle‘Davidson’s Argument for Monism’ Synthese 135 1–12 Occurrence Handle10.1023/A:1022986117864

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Davidson D. (1967). ‘Causal Relations’. In: Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980, pp. 149–162

  4. Davidson, D.: 1969, ‘The Individuation of Events’, in Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980, pp. 163–180.

  5. Davidson, D.: 1970, ‘Mental Events’, in Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980, pp. 207–225.

  6. Davidson, D.: 1974, ‘On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme’, in Davidson, Inquires into Truth and Interpretation, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1984, pp. 183–198.

  7. Davidson, D.: 1977, ‘The Method of Truth in Metaphysics’, in Davidson, Inquires into Truth and Interpretation, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1984, pp. 199–214.

  8. M.J. García Encinas (2003) ArticleTitle‘Aposteriori Necessity in Singular Causation and the Humean Argument’ Dialectica 57 41–55

    Google Scholar 

  9. Hegel, G. W. F.: 1802, Faith and Knowledge, SUNY, New York, 1977; tranlation of Glauben und Wissen by H. S. Harris and W. Cerf.

  10. Hornsby, J.: 1980/1, ‘Which Physical Events are Mental Events?’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 81, 73–92.

  11. J. Hornsby (1995) ‘Agency and Causal Explanation’ J. Heil A. Mele (Eds) Mental Causation Clarendon Press Oxford 161–188

    Google Scholar 

  12. J. Hornsby (1998) ‘Dualism in Action’ A. O’Hear (Eds) Current Issues in Philosophy of Mind Cambridge University Press Cambridge 377–401

    Google Scholar 

  13. Hume, D.: 1748, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Clarendon Press, Oxford; 3rd edition edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge and text revised by P. H. Nidditch, 1975.

  14. Kant, I.: 1790, Critique of Judgement, Oxford University Press, Oxford; Kritik der Urteilskraft translated by J. C. Meredith, Lagarde und Friederich, Berlin, 1973.

  15. McDowell, J.: 1985, ‘Functionalism and Anomalous Monism’, in Mind, Value and Reality, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1998, pp. 325–340.

  16. D. Owens (1992) Causes and Coincidences Cambridge University Press Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. De Pinedo.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

De Pinedo, M. Anomalous Monism: Oscillating between Dogmas. Synthese 148, 79–97 (2006).

Download citation


  • Opposite Direction
  • Physical Event
  • Conceptual Scheme
  • Mental Causation
  • Event Token