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Papineau - Naturalism and the Mind

(Text as at 18/12/2010 19:58:05)

(For earlier versions of this Note, see the table at the end)


  1. Papineau was very brief. He had a short hand-out ("Papineau (David) - The Argument for Naturalism about the Mind") and gestured towards some of the detail therein without labouring the points.
  2. It’s a mug’s game trying to define Philosophical Naturalism. (I think) he mentioned one of his books ("Papineau (David) - Thinking About Consciousness"), which doesn’t define it, and of which this talk is effectively Chapter 1 ("Papineau (David) - The Case for Materialism"), Section 1.2.
  3. He’s interested in arguments and conclusions, not labels. Start with agreed premises – things all are agreed on – then valid arguments may lead to new knowledge.
  4. Focus is on the nativism of human minds. The physicalist view is that human minds are not separate from the physical brain. It is not denied that there are minds, or consciousness – just that they are the same as brain-processes. We have two sets of co-referential terms.
  5. See the hand-out ("Papineau (David) - The Argument for Naturalism about the Mind") for the “no over-determination” argument. There are no causal gaps. Multiple causation is possible – we take the counterfactual approach in such cases – eg. you can be killed by shooting and by lightening – but this is not1 the case in this situation.
  6. What’s the trick here? Why aren’t we all physicalists if this simple argument is sound? The second premise – the causal closure of the physical – is a recent discovery.
  7. The alternatives are ideas like Leibniz’s pre-established harmony.
  8. Physical effects can involve “action at a distance”. Why does this undermine causal closure? Does this allow other “forces” – mental or vital?
  9. Conservation laws would be respected by these spooky forces – so “nervous energy” would be convertible into kinetic energy.
  10. But now, detailed research at the cellular level shows that there is nothing left over.
  11. "Popper (Karl) & Eccles (John) - The Self and Its Brain" was considered cranky, even at the time. The physical realm has been seen to be causally closed since the 1950s.



In-Page Footnotes:

Footnote 1: So, if I had not been shot, I would still have been killed by lightening. But in the mind/brain case, if my brain hadn’t done the thinking, there would have been no thought.


Printable Versions:



Previous Version of this Note:

Date Length Title
18/06/2010 14:54:14 16 Papineau - Naturalism and the Mind



Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
18/12/2010 19:58:05 None available Heythrop - Religion and Naturalism Conference



Summary of Note Links to this Page

Haldane - Naturalism and the Mind Heythrop - Religion and Naturalism Conference      

To access information, click on one of the links in the table above.




References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Papineau (David) The Argument for Naturalism about the Mind Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Religion and Naturalism, Heythrop College, 12 July 2010 Yes
Papineau (David) The Case for Materialism Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Papineau - Thinking About Consciousness, Chapter 1 No
Papineau (David) Thinking About Consciousness Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Papineau (David) - Thinking About Consciousness No
Popper (Karl) & Eccles (John) The Self and Its Brain Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Popper (Karl) & Eccles (John) - The Self and Its Brain No



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  1. Black: Printable Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2017
  2. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2017




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