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Title: The epiphenomenal mind
Author: Buttars, Simon
ISNI:       0000 0001 3512 8547
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2003
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The Epiphenomenal Mind is both a deflationary attack on the powers of the human mind and a defence of human subjectivity. It is deflationary because in the thesis I argue that consciousness is an epiphenomenal consequence of events in the brain. It is a defence of human subjectivity because I argue that the mind is sui generis real, irreducible, and largely an endogenous product (i.e. not dependent on society or its resources). Part I is devoted to arguing that the conscious mind is epiphenomenal. Arguing from, the irreducibility of mental states, the causal closure of the physical domain, and the principle of causal explanatory exclusion, I seek to demonstrate that all theories of mental causation necessarily violate one or more of these premises. Contemporary approaches to mental causation come under two broad categories, those that argue that mental events are supervenient on physical events (such as Davidson, Kim and Horgan) and those (like Haskar) who argue that the mind is an emergent property of the brain. Supervenience based theories, I argue, end up reducing mental states in their search for a theory of mental causation and emergence based theories end up violating the principle of the causal closure of the physical. In part II, I explore some of the consequences of epiphenomenalism for social theory. This exploration comes in the context of a defence of human subjectivity against (i.) those sociological imperialists who view the mind and self as a 'gift of society', and (ii.) social situationalists who have abandoned the concept of action and an interest in 'what's in the head' of the actor, in favour of a concept of social action which views behaviour as action only to the extent that it is socially meaningful. The conclusion is that the social sciences should return to an interpretative style (Weberian) methodology.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (Great Britain) (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B Philosophy (General) ; HM Sociology