Supervenience and the problem of down-ward causation



Physicalism, mental causation, causal closure, causal relevance of properties


It seems that higher-level, nonbasic properties can only manifest their causal powers by exerting causal influence on lower-level, physically basic phenomena in the first place. A very influential line of reasoning conceives of this form of downward causation as either reducible to causation by physical properties or as ultimately untenable, because incompatible with the causal closure of physical reality. The paper argues that this is not so. It examines, first, why it is that a recent attempt by Noordhof to substantiate the notion of supervenient causation in a nonreductive framework fails. The upshot of this examination is the claim that any attempted specification of the most basic causal factors which supposedly underlie a causal transaction cannot account for the counterfactually necessary connections with the effect in question. By contrast, the specification of these factors at a higher level would allow establishing such connections. The paper closes with a discussion of how this view of autonomous causation at the higher-level can coexist with the notion of a complete specification of the causes of any physical effect exclusively in physical terms.


Não há dados estatísticos.

Biografia do Autor

Wilson Mendonça, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

Professor na Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.



Corbí, J.E. & Prades, J.L. (2000). Minds, Causes, and Mechanisms (Oxford, Blackwell).

Heil, J. & Mele, A. (eds.) (1993). Mental Causation (Oxford, Clarendon Press).

Fodor, J. (1987). Psychosemantics (Cambridge, Mass., The MIT Press).

Kim, J. (1989). The Myth of Nonreductive Materialism. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association, 63, pp. 31-47.

Kim, J. (1993a). Can Supervenience and ‘Non-Strict Laws Save Anomalous Monism? In Heil and Mele (1993), pp. 19-26.

Kim, J. (1993b). The Non-Reductivist’s Troubles with Mental Causation. In Heil and Mele (1993), pp. 189-210.

Kim, J. (1998). Philosophy of Mind (Boulder, Westview Press).

Mill, J.S. (1873). A System of Logic (London, Longmans).

Noordhof, P. (1999). Causation by Content? Mind and Language, 14, pp. 291-320.

Steward, H. (1997). The Ontology of Mind (Oxford, Oxford University Press).




Como Citar

MENDONÇA, W. Supervenience and the problem of down-ward causation. Manuscrito: Revista Internacional de Filosofia, Campinas, SP, v. 25, n. 3, p. 251–270, 2002. Disponível em: Acesso em: 4 fev. 2023.