Physicalism, Dualism and the Mind-Body Problem

Doctoral Dissertation


In this dissertation, I examine the implications of the problem of mental causation and what David Chalmers has dubbed the “ hard problem of consciousness” for competing accounts of the mind. I begin, in Chapter One, with a critical analysis of Jaegwon Kim’s Physicalism, or Something Near Enough. (2005) There, I maintain that Kim’s ontology cannot adequately address both the problem of mental causation and the “ hard problem of consciousness.” In Chapter Two, I examine the causal pairing problem for substance dualism. I demonstrate both that the substance dualist can respond to the argument at no great cost, and that the pairing problem applies, with equal force, to the irreducible qualia posited on Kim’s account.

Chapters Three and Four are devoted to what I take to be the central argument against any kind of dualism: the causal exclusion argument. In Chapter Three, I examine dualistic responses to the exclusion argument that grant the causal closure of the physical world. I note that these responses, though technically adequate, are nevertheless theoretically unpalatable. In addition to requiring the dualist to adopt unconventional attitudes towards causation, responses of this variety also have the unfortunate result of rendering libertarian freedom impossible. Finally, in Chapter Four, I turn my attention to the question of causal closure. I maintain that the causal closure of the physical world, though widely affirmed, is nevertheless extraordinarily difficult to support. In light of Hempel’s Dilemma, causal closure is either false, compatible with dualistic interaction, or unacceptably stipulative. There is, I maintain, no causal closure principle up to the tasks required by the causal exclusion argument. For that reason, I conclude that the dualist ought not to worry about causal closure.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-12072010-202652

Author Dolores G. Morris
Advisor Alvin Plantinga
Contributor Leopold Stubenberg, Committee Member
Contributor Michael Rea, Committee Member
Contributor Marian David, Committee Member
Contributor Alvin Plantinga, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Philosophy
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2010-11-05

Submission Date 2010-12-07
  • United States of America

  • Dualism

  • Physicalism

  • Consciousness

  • Mental Causation

  • Mind-Body Problem

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility and Access Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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