Donald Davidson wanted to resolve what he saw as a conflict in all materialist philosophies of mind, and in particular with identity theory, in the idea that mental phenomena have a causal role, and yet physical science has no need to refer to the mental. The problem stems from three plausible principles:. Davidson accepts all three and tries to show they are compatible. To this end, he presents a version of the identity theory which shows how the three principles can be reconciled, anomalous monism.

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Anomalous Monism is a theory about the scientific status of psychology, the physical status of mental events, and the relation between these issues developed by Donald Davidson. It claims that psychology cannot be a science like basic physics, in that it cannot in principle yield exceptionless laws for predicting or explaining human thoughts and actions mental anomalism. It also holds that thoughts and actions must be physical monism, or token-identity. Thus, according to Anomalous Monism, psychology cannot be reduced to physics, but must nonetheless share a physical ontology.

While neither of these claims, on its own, is novel, their relation, according to Anomalous Monism, is. It is precisely because there can be no such strict laws governing mental events that those events must be identical to physical events.

Previous identity theories of mind had held that claims concerning the identity of particular mental and physical events tokens depended upon the discovery of lawlike relations between mental and physical properties types. Empirical evidence for psychophysical laws was thus held to be required for particular token-identity claims.

Token-identity claims thus depended upon type-identity. It in effect justifies the token-identity of mental and physical events through arguing for the impossibility of type-identities between mental and physical properties. For discussion of philosophical positions related to Anomalous Monism, see the supplement on Related Views.

The appeal of Anomalous Monism is due to these enigmatic features, a fairly straightforward argumentative structure, and its attempt to bring together an intuitively acceptable metaphysics monism with a sophisticated understanding of the relation between psychological and physical explanatory schemes anomalism.

Its explicit assumptions are each intended, on their own, to be acceptable to positions opposing monism, but, when taken together, to show that monism is in fact required. The basic structure of the argument for Anomalous Monism is as follows.

We start with the plausible assumption that some mental events, such as believing that it is raining, are caused by certain physical events, in this case the rain.

Davidson calls this the Principle of Causal Interaction; we shall call it the interaction principle:. The Interaction Principle : Some mental events causally interact with some physical events.

Davidson presents this assumption as obvious and not in need of justification, but we shall see that motivations for it can be found in parts of his writings 2. To this interaction principle is added the requirement that all singular causal interactions are covered by strict laws—laws with fully articulated antecedents which guarantee some fully articulated consequence for caveats and details, see 3.

Davidson calls this the Principle of the Nomological Character of Causality; we shall call it the cause-law principle:. This cause-law principle was also initially assumed without argument by Davidson, though we shall see below 3. That is, whenever events of kind P 1 occur, events of kind M 1 must follow. However, Davidson then claims that there can be no such laws. He calls this the Principle of the Anomalism of the Mental, and it holds that mental properties are not suitable for inclusion in strict laws of any kind; we shall call it the anomalism principle:.

The Anomalism Principle : There are no strict laws on the basis of which mental events can predict, explain, or be predicted or explained by other events. Davidson offered loose ruminations concerning rationality and rationalizing explanations, which purportedly constitute the very nature of mental properties, in support of the anomalism principle 4. All of this will be discussed in detail below. With the interaction principle, the cause-law principle, and the anomalism principle now in place, we can see that there is a tension in need of resolution.

From the interaction and cause-law principles it follows that there must be strict laws covering the interaction between mental and physical events. But the anomalism principle entails that there are no strict psychophysical laws.

How can all three principles be held simultaneously? That is, m 1 and p 1 must instantiate properties suitable for inclusion in strict laws; but since we know that M 1 is not a property of this kind, m 1 must instantiate some other property. Therefore, every causally interacting mental event must be token-identical to some physical event—hence, monism 5.

Monism : Every causally interacting mental event is token-identical to some physical event. In arguing in this way, Davidson relies upon a key distinction between explanation and causation. While explanation is, intuitively, an intensional notion—one sensitive to how events are described—causation is extensional, obtaining between pairs of events independently of how they are described.

That explosion, let us suppose, was the most newsworthy event of the day. How the cause is described is relevant to whether an explanation occurs. Causes and effects can be accurately picked out using a variety of expressions, many of which are not explanatory. As we shall see, the distinction between causation and explanation is crucial to Anomalous Monism 6.

Finally, to alleviate certain concerns about the adequacy of the form of physicalism he was endorsing, Davidson endorsed a dependency relation of supervenience of the mental on the physical, and claimed that it was consistent with Anomalous Monism 5. Supervenience of the Mental on the Physical : if two events share all of their physical properties, they will share all of their mental properties. In what follows 2—5 , each step of this argument will be analyzed and discussed separately, but always with an eye to the overall argument.

The interaction principle states that some mental events causally interact with some physical events. In this section we will look briefly at a number of issues related to this principle: how mental and physical events are demarcated, the nature of events themselves, the scope of the interaction principle, the relationship between mental events and causation, and the use of the interaction principle in establishing one component of mental anomalism— psychological anomalism , according to which there can be no strict, purely psychological laws.

Psychological anomalism is to be distinguished from psychophysical anomalism , which holds that there can be no strict psychophysical laws. This latter thesis will be explored in detail in our discussion of the anomalism principle 4. Generally, Davidson expresses some skepticism about the possibility of formulating a clear and general definition of the class of mental phenomena Davidson , And he is suspicious about the idea of mental states given to, but uninterpreted by, concepts Davidson a , which is how philosophers have often thought of conscious phenomena.

But for current purposes the class of propositional attitudes will suffice as a criterion for the mental. One key reason for so limiting the reach of Anomalous Monism, as we shall see 4.

Conscious events have traditionally been thought to occur in non-rational animals, a position with which Davidson shows some sympathy Davidson a. One half-hearted attempt comes in the statement that. Davidson , One important component of such descriptions is their capacity to figure in strict laws of nature see 3. While this is non-negotiable for physical terms, it is an open question for mental terms, and Davidson will be arguing 4 for a negative answer.

When Davidson first argued for Anomalous Monism he subscribed to a causal criterion of event-individuation, according to which two events event-descriptions are identical co-refer if they share all the same causes and effects Davidson He much later came to reject that criterion in favor of one according to which events are identical if and only if they occupy the same spatiotemporal region Davidson b.

The difference between these views will not, however, be reflected in our discussion. It does not appear to affect either the derivation or the essential nature of Anomalous Monism. For controversies concerning extensionalism, see 5. The interaction principle states that at least some mental events cause and are caused by physical events Davidson , This leaves open the possibility of mental events that do not causally interact with physical events. His later views on event-individuation appear to leave this possibility open, but his general claims about the causal individuation of mental contents and attitudes see 4.

In any case, Davidson goes on to say that he in fact believes that all mental events causally interact with physical events Davidson , , but he restricts his argument only to those that actually do. Given the pressures just noted in favor of the inclusive reading of the interaction principle, we shall assume it in what follows. The interaction claim itself should be understood as follows: some events that have a mental description or instantiate a mental property cause and are caused by events that have a physical description or instantiate a physical property.

At this stage that possibility is left as an open question, but it is important to notice that for it to be an open question we need to at least allow for a distinction between events and the ways in which they are picked out in language. Though this will be focused on separately below 6 , it is also important to recognize that we are beginning with the assumption that mental events cause and are caused by physical events. However, since Anomalous Monism is based upon the interaction principle, Davidson can claim in response that if Anomalous Monism is true, then mental events are already known to have a kind of causal efficacy.

As we shall see, this point is not by itself sufficient to ward off all epiphenomenalist concerns about Anomalous Monism. But it does serve to remind us of the full framework within which challenges to Anomalous Monism must be assessed, and in particular brings out the reliance of that framework on specific assumptions about causality see Sections 4.

What needs to be noted at this point is that Davidson argued early on for the claim that mental events have causal efficacy, through noting a problem for non-causal accounts of action explanation Davidson The agent acted because of some specific beliefs and purposes, but other beliefs and purposes of his could just as easily rationalize that action, and thus be cited in its explanation. Was the agent moving his hand as he did because he wanted to swat the fly, relieve a cramp, or wave in greeting?

He may well have wanted to achieve all three of these aims, but still only in fact performed the action because of one of these reasons. What exactly does this argument show? It is intended to tell against non-causal theories of action, which deny that reasons explain actions by causing them. There have been sophisticated attempts, on the behalf of non-causal theories of action explanation, to respond to this challenge von Wright ; Wilson ; Ginet ; for a good overview, see Stoutland ; and see related discussion in 6.

However, assuming the argument is successful, while it does establish mental efficacy of a kind, it does not by itself establish the interaction principle.

Establishing that reasons explain actions by causing them, and that therefore reasons causally interact with actions , does not establish that reasons causally interact with physical events.

Dualists who reject the identity of mental and physical events will surely object. A key point to grasp in many of the issues raised by Anomalous Monism is that there is an important distinction between action and behavior. According to Davidson, action is intentionally described behavior—the moving of a hand through space in a certain way may, but need not, be an action of waving or swatting or any action at all.

It may simply be mere bodily behavior—as happens as the result of a muscle twitch or a strong gust of wind. However, while this is necessary for action, it is not, according to Davidson, sufficient. The behavior must be caused in the right way by the beliefs and desires. A mountain climber might become so unnerved by his desire to rid himself of an annoying second climber sharing his rope and belief that jiggling the rope is a means for doing so that he unintentionally jiggles the rope, leading to the loss of the second climber.

This is not an action—it is mere behavior that happens to him, no different than if caused by a muscle twitch or gust of wind. Davidson is skeptical about the possibility of cashing out what it means to be caused in the right way Davidson b, 78—9 , for reasons relating to mental anomalism Davidson b, 80; see 4 for explicit discussion.

It does not follow from the fact that reasons must cause actions in order to explain them that reasons must cause behavior or the interaction principle that reasons do cause behavior. It does not entail that actions are physical behavior. This point is important when one considers the wider framework to which the interaction principle contributes.

Since Davidson is attempting to derive monism from it and other principles that are themselves neutral about the metaphysics of mind, he cannot assume that action is identical with behavior on pain of circularity.

How this relates to the wave of epiphenomenalist criticism about Anomalous Monism will be explored in detail below 6 , and see the supplement on Mental Properties and Causal Relevance.

More generally, physical conditions will always play some role in any plausible psychological generalizations, because physical intervention e. Psychophysical anomalism , the other component of mental anomalism and the one that denies the possibility of such strict laws, is thus the view that Davidson focuses on establishing.

The cause-law principle states that events related as cause and effect are covered by strict laws. In the earliest formulations of Anomalous Monism, Davidson assumed but did not argue for this principle.


Donald Davidson: Anomalous Monism

Sign in Create an account. Syntax Advanced Search. Summary Anomalous Monism is a philosophical theory about the mind-body relationship, developed by Donald Davidson. The theory has two components. One is the claim that the domain of mental events is anomalous, meaning that mentalistic descriptions of events, unlike physicalistic ones, are not subsumable under strict, exceptionless laws.


Anomalous monism

Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order. Anomalous monism, proposed by Donald Davidson in , implies that all events are of one fundamental kind, namely physical. But it does not deny that there are mental events; rather, it implies that every mental event is some physical event or other.

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