Nonreductivism: The Relevance of N-Continuity

  • Marc Slors
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 86)


In the previous chapter I have argued that N-continuity is a part of folk-psychology in more respects than that its being a precondition for memory. The concept of N-continuity and its corollary—diachronic mental holism—does not just help to solve problems facing a psychological continuity criterion of personal identity, then, its reality is quite independent of this explanatory function. Now it is time to see whether N-continuity has consequences for the philosophy of mind. In this chapter I claim that it has.


Personal Identity Causal Power Mental Content Mental Causation Causal Efficacy 
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  1. 1.
    The argument from these sections is taken largely from Slors (1998c).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The fact that no mental state can be cast in terms of its physical realiser does not preclude the possibility that we might be able to infer the existence and nature of a mental state from information concerning the realiser, as some analytical functionalists think is possible. The absence of classical mental-to-physical bridge laws, then, does not imply the absence of nomological relations between physical states and mental states.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Baker (1993) makes a similar point, showing the incompatibility of mental causation with the conjunction of strong supervenience (which is akin to the physical realisation thesis) and the causal closedness of the physical. Her point, unlike Kim’s, is that we should regard this as a reductio ad absurdum of a metaphysics consisting of strong supervenience and the causal closedness of the physical, given the fact that we cannot do without mental causation. Obviously, the untenability of reductivism is a premise of Baker’s.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Roughly speaking there are two types of objection against it. On the one hand, there are objections that claim that Hume did not succeed in establishing a necessary connection between causation and time’s passage. These objections claim that the argument is logically invalid (e.g. Stroud (1977, pp.253–4); Beauchamp and Rosenberg (1981, p.192)). On the other hand, there are objections against the idea of a full analysis of causal asymmetry in terms of time’s passage. Metaphysically minded philosophers tend to look for a more substantial asymmetry between cause and effect than the bare fact that a cause precedes its effect (Papineau (1985)).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    It has been shown to be possible, for instance, to interpret the relevant fragment of text as a logically valid argument (Costa (1986)). See for criticism of the metaphysical argument e.g. Ehring (1987).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Note that multiple realisation is not precluded by a nomological characterisation of realisation. It is perfectly possible for one type of mental state to be realisable by various physical state types while each of the realiser state types nomologically implies, under appropriate circumstances, the same mental state type.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Davidson ([19701 1980, pp.215–6): “(...) [I]f anomalous monism is correct, not only can every mental event be uniquely singled out using only physical concepts, but since the number of events that falls under each mental predicate may, for all we know, be finite, there may well exist a physical open sentence coextensive with each mental predicate, though to construct it might involve the tedium of a lengthy uninstructive alternation.”Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Davidson (Ibid. P.214): “Anomalous monism resembles materialism in its claim that all events are physical, but it rejects the thesis, usually considered essential to materialism, that mental phenomena can be given a purely physical explanation.”Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kim (1984, 1989, 1993a, 1993b), Honderich (1982), Sosa (1984), Johnston (1985), Fodor (1989), Dretske (1989), and McLaughlin (1993).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jackson and Pettit (1988, 1990), Pettit (1993a). Kim (1998) takes causal relevance to be more or less identical with what he has labelled ‘supervenient causation’ (Kim 1984). The difference, however, is that in supervenient causation, if a base-level state A causes a base-level state B, all properties that supervene on A appear to superveniently cause all properties that supervene on B. In the case of causal relevance, by contrast, one is able to single out the higher-level properties that are causally relevant from those that aren’t.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    I am avoiding the term ‘nomological’ since the connections at issue are at least partly conceptual.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    The reasoning behind this is in fact more complex than I make it appear. The point is that since mental states are multiply realisable, mental laws are in fact nomologically heterogeneous. That is, they consist of disjunctions of bits and pieces of various physical laws. This is why even mental regularities can be better explained in physical terms. (See Kim (1997), see for criticism Slors (1997)).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Although one may well argue that even such a thought requires reference to the events of learning the meaning of ‘raining,’ etc. The point is, of course, that such reference can be implicit or abstract for the largest part. However different your experience of learning the meaning of ‘raining’ is from mine, there will be little difference between our respective thoughts with the content ‘it is raining now.’Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    One thing in Einsteinian physics that might be considered to counter my contention here is the relativity of time indexes of objects, states or events. It should not be thought, however, that this relativity leads to the rejection of the claim that all properties that figure in physical theory can be assigned to objects at one particular time in abstraction from whatever else happens at other times. For it is not the case that an assigned property’s time index requires reference to objects and events at other (relative) times. All the relativity amounts to is that the being co-temporal of property instantiations is dependent upon ones description and frame of reference.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Heisenberg’s uncertainty relation is not a counter-example to this as long as it is given an epistemic reading. That is, as long as it is read as saying that we cannot know the specific time an electron exists when we know the exact place it exists at and vice versa (and not that when an electron exists at a particular place, it does so at no particular time or something along likewise absurd lines), nothing I said is contradicted. Thanks to Florian Bekkers.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    I am using the term ‘supervenience’ in the standard analytical sense (there can be no change in the supervening domain unless there is change in the subvening domain), not in Davidson’s slightly idiosyncratic sense.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    The terms are taken from Rescher (1996). Apart from the terminology, not much else is taken from it. Rescher, for instance, describes process metaphysics as the view that in physical reality the process has priority over its temporal parts.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc Slors
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal Dutch Academy for the Arts and SciencesUniversity of NijmegenThe Netherlands

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