Mind in a Physical World. An Essay on the Mind-Body Problem and Mental Causation . Jaegwon Kim. Cambridge, Massachusetts: A Bradford Book, MIT Press, 1998, 146 pp. + viii. Paper, $15.00. Can we find a place for the mind in a fundamentally physical universe? Now in its fifth printing, Mind in a Physical World remains an important work for readers interested in the mind-body problem, mental causation, and general issues of emergence and reduction. Based on four Townsend Lectures Kim delivered at Berkeley in 1996, the book examines the difficulties associated with claiming both that the mental is real (there is robust mental causation), and that all things are ultimately physical. While the mind- body problem is itself of considerable interest to those in the religion and science discussion, the book’s real significance for that conversation is in its suggestions for understanding the general relationship between higher and lower property levels, e.g., physics to chemistry, chemistry to biology, biology to psychology, psychology to sociology, etc. While Kim concedes that there are indeed emergent causal properties – thus avoiding the conclusion that “all causal powers seep down, ending up deposited at the most basic level of microphysics” -- he points out that such properties remain micro- based, that is, they supervene upon configurations of their micro-constituents. Accordingly, robust claims of causal emergence are blocked. Moreover, Kim identifies the putative causal powers of the mind with its brain state realizers. The questions Kim addresses are familiar. Are properties at the higher levels in some sense reducible to those at the lower levels, or can we speak about the real emergence of new properties? Can higher-level properties be realized by lower-level
properties without being in some sense, reducible to those properties? Finally, is the notion of supervenience useful in conceiving the relationship between property levels, that is, can supervenience be construed as a metaphysical relation capturing the dependency of the higher levels on the lower levels? With temerity, adroitness and clarity Kim stakes out his position over and against a host of contemporary philosophers, e.g., Baker, Block, Burge, Davidson, Fodor, Horgan, Jackson, Pettit, Putnam, Searle, and even himself. Arguably the leading thinker of supervenience over the last twenty years, Kim here deepens his criticisms of the last few years, claiming that supervenience is simply not capable of performing the task assigned to it, for it does not offer the kind of restraint upon the distribution of higher- level properties necessary to capture the notion of the determination of the higher by the lower.
- Fall '19
- Physicalism, microphysics. Kim