Acta Analytica

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 32–47 | Cite as

Program explanations and causal relevance

  • Sven Walter


Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit have defended a non-reductive account of causal relevance known as the ‘program explanation account’. Allegedly, irreducible mental properties can be causally relevant in virtue of figuring in non-redundant program explanations which convey information not conveyed by explanations in terms of the physical properties that actually do the ‘causal work’. I argue that none of the possible ways to spell out the intuitively plausible idea of a program explanation serves its purpose, viz., defends non-reductive physicalism against Jaegwon Kim’s Causal Exclusion Argument according to which non-reductive physicalism is committed to epiphenomenalism because irreducible mental properties are ‘screened off’ from causal relevance by their physical realizers. Jackson and Pettit’s most promising explication of a program explanation appeals to the idea of invariance of effect under variation of realization, but I show that invariance of effect under variation of realization is neither necessary nor sufficient for causal relevance.


mental causation causal relevance causal exclusion argument program explanations non-reductive physicalism 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sven Walter
    • 1
  1. 1.Universität BielefeldFakultät für Geschichtswissenschaft Philosophie und Theologie Abteilung PhilosophieBielefeldGermany

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