Epiphenomenalism and Causal Asymmetry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Epiphenomenal Dualists hold that the mental does not affect the physical but the physical affects the mental. I argue that, since the empirical basis of this claim is questionable, the attraction of this position must stem from elsewhere: the metaphysical unattractiveness of denying causal autonomy to the physical. This must rest on a particular view of causal asymmetry. But now Epiphenomenal Dualists face a dilemma. Reductive accounts of causal asymmetry can’t explain why it would be metaphysically unattractive. On the other hand, if Epiphenomenal Dualists appeal to a primitive notion of asymmetric necessitation to characterise causal asymmetry, they must appeal, at least in part, to a causal theory of temporal precedence to explain why, metaphysically necessarily, causes usually precede their effects. This undermines the physical’s claim to autonomy in just as damaging a way due to the problem of situating non-physical mental events in time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReal Metaphysics
EditorsHallvard Lillehammer, Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge and Kegan Paul
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)0-415-24981-3
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Cite this