A Grounding Physicalist Solution to the Causal Exclusion Problem
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Remember how Kim (Philos Perspect 3:77–108, 1989, in: Heil and Mele (eds) Mental causation, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993b) used to argue against non-reductive physicalism to the effect that it cannot accommodate the causal efficacy of the mental? The argument was that if physicalists accept the causal closure of the physical, they are faced with an exclusion problem. In the original version of the argument, the dependence holding between the mental and the physical was cashed out in terms of supervenience. Due to the work or Fine (Philos Perspect 8:1–16, 1994) and others, we have since come to realize that modal notions are not well-suited to perform the work of properly characterizing dependence. As a consequence of this, an increasingly larger community of contemporary metaphysicians prefer to spell out mental-physical dependence in terms of a non-causal and non-reductive notion called grounding, which is intended to target a particular sort of metaphysical relation that takes us from ontologically less fundamental features of the world to that which is more fundamental. In this paper I join forces with those who think that this shift in focus is on the right track. More specifically, I will argue that the grounding physicalist can solve the exclusion problem in a way that is preferable to the supervenience-based nonreductive physicalist solution, as well as in a way that is compatible with the externalist picture of the mental.