The causal exclusion problem is often considered as one of the major difficulties for which non-reductive physicalists have no easy solution to offer. Some non-reductive physicalists address this problem by arguing that mental properties are to some extent causally autonomous. If this is the case, then mental properties will not be causally excluded by their physical realizers because causation, in general, is a relation between properties of the same level. In this paper, I argue that the response from causal autonomy cannot be successful for two reasons. First, it does not offer a satisfactory explanation for how mental particulars can have causal efficacy in a non-reductive physicalist framework. Second, the causal considerations underpinning this response do not really support the conclusion that mental properties are causally autonomous.
Since reform and opening-up began in 1978, Chinese Marxist philosophy has undertaken the double mission of enhancing the emancipation of the mind in society and of realizing its own ideological emancipation. It has gone through an evolutionary process from “extensive discussion about the criterion of truth” to “reform of philosophical textbooks”; from the proposal of the philosophical conception of “practical materialism” to reflection on “modernity”; and from the carrying-out of dialogues among Chinese, Western, and Marxist philosophies to the exploration of “new forms of civilization.” Chinese Marxist philosophy has shifted its way of doing research with practical materialism as a core conception, and it changed such modes of thinking as the intuitive theory of reflection based on naïve realism, the theory of linear causality based on mechanical determinism, and the reductionism of essence based on abstract substantialism. As a result, it has boosted changes that were already underway in Chinese philosophy, worldviews, theories of truth, conceptions of history, and views of development, and it has further endowed the discourse system of Marxist philosophy with laudable subjectivity and originality.
In his review of the trio of philosopher-scientist dialogues on the nature and capacities of the human mind, Paul Thagard (2018) advocates clearly and forcefully for a fairly extreme position, which he advances as preferable to an equally extreme alternative. I will suggest a middle path that becomes attractive when one attends not just to the range of data now pouring forth from the sciences of mind but also to our own experience as minded individuals.
In modern Western liberal discourse, human dignity has been cast as an important component of basic human rights, while so-called human rights have been generally understood as certain inborn, inherent and inalienable properties of every human being. In this understanding, human dignity is just a natural endowment rather than a historically constructed social-cultural phenomenon. Based on this premise, liberalism is justified for the reason that under a social condition of complete freedom, individuals will spontaneously exercise their rights thus to secure their dignity. However, from a Confucian point of view, human dignity is socially defined and exists in concrete forms in social-cultural contexts. Dignity is not an abstract, universal, minimal standard that can be applied to all people at every time; it refers to individuals’ decency and grace under various given social contexts, and it corresponds to particular roles, statuses and even ages and genders of individuals in their respective societies. The full realization of human dignity relies on certain social-cultural or institutional arrangements. Confucian li is precisely this kind of arrangement, which designs a whole set of regulations and norms in order to maintain human dignity in general, as well as to maintain different people’s dignity in varying situations. Therefore, according to Confucianism, behaving appropriately according to the norms and regulations of li is just a way to preserve dignity.
Editors Frontiers of Philosophy in China
This commentary discusses how philosophy and science can collaborate to understand the human mind, considering dialogues involving three philosophers and three cognitive scientists. Their topics include the relation of philosophy and science, the nature of mind, the problem of consciousness, and the existence of free will. I argue that philosophy is more general and normative than science, but they are interdependent. Philosophy can build on the cognitive sciences to develop a theory of mind I call “multilevel materialism,” which integrates molecular, neural, mental, and social mechanisms. Consciousness is increasingly being understood as resulting from neural mechanisms. Scientific advances make the traditional concept of free will implausible, but “freeish” will is consistent with new theories of decision making and action resulting from brain processes. Philosophers should work closely with scientists to address profound problems about knowledge, reality, and values.