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e-book Re-Emergence: Locating Conscious Properties in a Material World (MIT Press)

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Likewise, we need reason to think that a phenomenon can both depend for its existence on its base, and yet also figure as a cause in ways in which its base cannot; more generally, we need reason to think that a property or phenomenon may both depend on its base and yet also be something "over and above" the base.

Much of Part I of Re-Emergence thus consists in defending the general viability of an emergentist metaphysical framework; that is to say, a framework that involves a commitment to instances of E1-E3. After spelling out the basics of an emergentism position in Chapters 1 and 2, including why we should think that there can be no physical explanation for consciousness, Vision argues in Chapter 3 that to say that one phenomenon depends on or is "realized by" another does not entail that the dependent phenomenon is identical with, or nothing over and above, the phenomenon upon which it depends.

The slogan is: a property or phenomenon may be different from its base, but not distinct from its base p. Likewise, in Chapter 4, Vision rejects several related reasons why some have thought that causation by emergent properties is problematic, while in Chapter 5 he argues that there are effects that are not possible without conscious mental causes p.

The overall picture that emerges from Part I is that there are no compelling objections to adopting an emergentist position about some phenomenon, and that there is something to be said in favor of emergentism about consciousness. Part II is then dedicated to critiquing a variety of alternative positions on consciousness and its relation to the physical world: reductive physicalism Chapter 6 , representationalism Chapter 7 , and nonreductive or "token" physicalism Chapter 8.

Vision claims that all of these alternative outlooks are problematic, and none preferable to emergentism. If we grant that consciousness depends on the physical world--an eminently plausible contention--the controversial features of Vision's emergentism about consciousness consists in his endorsement of the following:. There is no explanation, in principle, for why conscious phenomena depend on their physical bases--the dependence is metaphysically brute. Conscious phenomena are causes in ways in which there are no sufficient causes at the level of their physical bases.

Though Visions arguments against the physical explicability of consciousness are not wildly original, they merit further consideration, and engage with several well-known suggestions for example, that considerations related to simplicity and theoretical coherence provide reason to think that consciousness is a physical phenomenon, with a physical explanation. While Vision's argument here is not entirely transparent, it may perhaps be set out as follows.

In Chapter 4, Vision offers an extended defense of the claim that dependent properties can, indeed, figure as causes. The worry that Vision addresses here, due largely to the work of Jaegwon Kim, is that if we assume that physical effects always have sufficient physical causes, dependent properties and phenomenon will be causally redundant--they will "overdetermine" their physical effects.

For example, if we think that every instance of bodily behavior has a sufficient physical cause, any alleged mental cause of that behavior will be redundant and unnecessary. Vision's response, in effect, is that there is nothing especially problematic about the sense in which a dependent property and its physical base may both figure as causes of an effect; this, in turn, is grounded in the claim, defended in Chapter 3 and noted above, that a property may be different from its base without being distinct from its base.

Vision then argues, in Chapter 5, that there are some physical effects that require mental causes. In particular, genuine actions--"doings" as opposed to "mere happenings"--require a conscious mental etiology. There is a difference between intentionally going to a football game a genuine action or "doing" and being taken to a football game a "mere happening" pp.

To casually explain the genuine action of going to a football game, we have to appeal to the conscious beliefs and desires of the subject; such physical behavior "couldn't occur without intentionality" in its causal history p. These arguments merit further scrutiny. It is common to distinguish between beliefs, desires, and other "propositional attitudes", which may be conscious or unconscious, and conscious sensations, like itchiness or the visual experience of redness.

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Because of this, it is not obvious that an argument that establishes that certain physical behavior could not occur without being caused by conscious beliefs thereby establishes that certain physical behavior could not occur without being caused by conscious sensations, and thus that there are certain behaviors that require a causal etiology that appeals to sensations. This suggests that when it comes to novel causality, Vision at best succeeds in establishing emergentism only about a subset of conscious phenomenon, namely the conscious propositional attitudes beliefs, desires, and so on.

Indeed, despite the centrality of novel causal powers to an emergentist outlook, Vision never directly argues for the claim that conscious sensations have novel powers--in other words, that sensations have physical effects that do not also have sufficient physical causes. The closest we get to such an argument is the general contention that properties that depend on the physical world may figure as causes of physical effects, which aside from providing little reason to think that conscious sensations in particular are causes of such effects, provides little reason to think that conscious sensations are causes of physical effects where there is no sufficient physical.

We may agree that for a behavior to count as an action, some conscious propositional attitude or attitudes must figure as a cause of that behavior--in other words, that certain kinds of behavior, actions as opposed to "mere happenings", require a causal etiology that involves conscious beliefs and desires. The problem is that without further argument, it seems that this does not establish that such behavior fails to have sufficient physical causes.

Generally, to say that a certain kind of effect requires a certain kind of cause does not entail that some other kind of cause may not be sufficient for such effects; this is especially the case where the kind of cause required for the kind of effect itself depends on some other kind of phenomenon for its existence.

Schematically, the working assumption is that for any conscious belief M that figures as a cause of a behavior B, there is an instance of a physical property or phenomenon P that necessitates M. But in this case, even if B requires a causal history that involves a mental state like M, it is very hard to see why P should not be regarded as causally sufficient for B. For example, even if the action of going to a football game requires a conscious mental cause, the action may also have a sufficient physical cause, which itself necessitates the causally relevant conscious mental cause.

While there is perhaps more that can be said here, if this line of criticism is on track, we are left with the conclusion of Chapter 4, that conscious states, and dependent phenomena more generally, may figure as causes, leaving open whether there are also sufficient physical causes of the same effects.

Re-Emergence presents a synoptic picture of the place of consciousness in the material world, and in doing so argues for the general viability of an emergentist metaphysical framework. Despite the criticisms just advanced, it is a valuable work, and will be of interest to students and professionals working on the metaphysics of mind--and, indeed, the metaphysics of the natural world more generally.

Some people find this unsettling, but Flanagan thinks we can handle it. With an open mind, good humor, encyclopedic knowledge, and philosophical tenacity, Flanagan tackles the Big Question: Can we find Meaning and Truth at the same time? Great reading for Homo sapiens. Flanagan takes on the big questions and his answers to them deserve to be read by all. In fact those meaning of life questions have been deliberately avoided. Owen Flanagan brings his trademark clarity, breadth of scientific knowledge, and wit to bear on questions that may have seemed too big for analytic philosophy--what is the relation between religion and science, and what can we do to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives in a material world defined by scientific inquiry?

He includes an exceptionally well-informed and thoughtful account of the Buddhist tradition, and empirical findings from 'positive psychology', as well as philosophical arguments. The book is a distinctive and compelling combination of skeptical rationality and gentle affirmation of the enchantment of the everyday. Now, Owen Flanagan brings his trademark clarity, breadth of scientific knowledge, and wit to bear on questions that have seemed too big for analytic philosophy-what is the relation between religion and science, and what can we do to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives in a material world defined by scientific inquiry?

This book is a distinctive and compelling combination of skeptical rationality and gentle affirmation of the enchantment of the everyday. Show More Show Less. Any Condition Any Condition. No ratings or reviews yet. Be the first to write a review. Best Selling in Nonfiction See all. Save on Nonfiction Trending price is based on prices over last 90 days. You may also like. World History Hardcover Nonfiction Books. World Books. Illustrated History Hardcover World Books.

Vision claims that all of these alternative outlooks are problematic, and none preferable to emergentism. If we grant that consciousness depends on the physical world--an eminently plausible contention--the controversial features of Vision's emergentism about consciousness consists in his endorsement of the following:.

There is no explanation, in principle, for why conscious phenomena depend on their physical bases--the dependence is metaphysically brute. Conscious phenomena are causes in ways in which there are no sufficient causes at the level of their physical bases. Though Visions arguments against the physical explicability of consciousness are not wildly original, they merit further consideration, and engage with several well-known suggestions for example, that considerations related to simplicity and theoretical coherence provide reason to think that consciousness is a physical phenomenon, with a physical explanation.

While Vision's argument here is not entirely transparent, it may perhaps be set out as follows. In Chapter 4, Vision offers an extended defense of the claim that dependent properties can, indeed, figure as causes. The worry that Vision addresses here, due largely to the work of Jaegwon Kim, is that if we assume that physical effects always have sufficient physical causes, dependent properties and phenomenon will be causally redundant--they will "overdetermine" their physical effects. For example, if we think that every instance of bodily behavior has a sufficient physical cause, any alleged mental cause of that behavior will be redundant and unnecessary.

Vision's response, in effect, is that there is nothing especially problematic about the sense in which a dependent property and its physical base may both figure as causes of an effect; this, in turn, is grounded in the claim, defended in Chapter 3 and noted above, that a property may be different from its base without being distinct from its base.

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Mental Causation (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Vision then argues, in Chapter 5, that there are some physical effects that require mental causes. In particular, genuine actions--"doings" as opposed to "mere happenings"--require a conscious mental etiology.

There is a difference between intentionally going to a football game a genuine action or "doing" and being taken to a football game a "mere happening" pp. To casually explain the genuine action of going to a football game, we have to appeal to the conscious beliefs and desires of the subject; such physical behavior "couldn't occur without intentionality" in its causal history p.

These arguments merit further scrutiny. It is common to distinguish between beliefs, desires, and other "propositional attitudes", which may be conscious or unconscious, and conscious sensations, like itchiness or the visual experience of redness. Because of this, it is not obvious that an argument that establishes that certain physical behavior could not occur without being caused by conscious beliefs thereby establishes that certain physical behavior could not occur without being caused by conscious sensations, and thus that there are certain behaviors that require a causal etiology that appeals to sensations.

This suggests that when it comes to novel causality, Vision at best succeeds in establishing emergentism only about a subset of conscious phenomenon, namely the conscious propositional attitudes beliefs, desires, and so on. Indeed, despite the centrality of novel causal powers to an emergentist outlook, Vision never directly argues for the claim that conscious sensations have novel powers--in other words, that sensations have physical effects that do not also have sufficient physical causes. The closest we get to such an argument is the general contention that properties that depend on the physical world may figure as causes of physical effects, which aside from providing little reason to think that conscious sensations in particular are causes of such effects, provides little reason to think that conscious sensations are causes of physical effects where there is no sufficient physical.

We may agree that for a behavior to count as an action, some conscious propositional attitude or attitudes must figure as a cause of that behavior--in other words, that certain kinds of behavior, actions as opposed to "mere happenings", require a causal etiology that involves conscious beliefs and desires. The problem is that without further argument, it seems that this does not establish that such behavior fails to have sufficient physical causes.

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Generally, to say that a certain kind of effect requires a certain kind of cause does not entail that some other kind of cause may not be sufficient for such effects; this is especially the case where the kind of cause required for the kind of effect itself depends on some other kind of phenomenon for its existence.

Schematically, the working assumption is that for any conscious belief M that figures as a cause of a behavior B, there is an instance of a physical property or phenomenon P that necessitates M. But in this case, even if B requires a causal history that involves a mental state like M, it is very hard to see why P should not be regarded as causally sufficient for B. For example, even if the action of going to a football game requires a conscious mental cause, the action may also have a sufficient physical cause, which itself necessitates the causally relevant conscious mental cause.

While there is perhaps more that can be said here, if this line of criticism is on track, we are left with the conclusion of Chapter 4, that conscious states, and dependent phenomena more generally, may figure as causes, leaving open whether there are also sufficient physical causes of the same effects.

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Re-Emergence presents a synoptic picture of the place of consciousness in the material world, and in doing so argues for the general viability of an emergentist metaphysical framework. Despite the criticisms just advanced, it is a valuable work, and will be of interest to students and professionals working on the metaphysics of mind--and, indeed, the metaphysics of the natural world more generally. It is written in an accessible and engaging manner, and might even be useful to the engaged novice as an introduction to how contemporary philosophers approach the mind-body problem.

Kevin Morris , Ph. We feature over in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.


  • Works by Gerald Vision.
  • The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds In A Material World?
  • Christmas at Atherton Ranch (Kinsale Book 2).
  • "Review of "Re-Emergence: Locating Conscious Properties in a Material W" by Jim Blackmon.
  • Mary and Jesus in Islam.

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