Constitutive Overdetermination
Paul (L.A.)
Source: Topics in Contemporary Philosophy vol. 4: Causation and Explanation, MIT Press. Forthcoming Summer 2005.
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. If persons, cats and cellphones are not identical to the sums that constitute them, there seems to be a problem with symmetric causal overdetermination: anything the cat causes is also caused by her constitutive sums of microparticles, atoms, molecules, etc.
  2. But persons, cats and cellphones are not identical to the sums that constitute them.
  3. I argue that the problem of constitutive overdetermination is serious, in particular because of the problem of additivity: if there is constitutive overdetermination, there is a transfer of energy, momentum, or some other conserved quantity from each overdetermining cause to the effect, but each quantity alone is sufficient to bring about the effect.
  4. If these conserved quantities are additive, constitutive overdetermination violates the laws. I then argue that constitutive overdetermination is an artifact of a flawed interpretation of the layered model of the world and propose a new interpretation.
  5. The argument is developed in the context of a discussion of the relations between objects, but there are obvious connections to debates in philosophy of mind, especially debates concerning mental causation1.


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