Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Shoemaker's analysis of realization: a review

Date: 18 March 2015

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB


Sydney Shoemaker has been arguing for more than a decade for an account of
the mind-body problem where the notion of realization takes centre stage.
His project consists in providing a notion of realization which is
consistent with the multiple realizability of mental properties or events,
and explains (i) that the physical grounds the mental, and (ii) that the
causal work of mental events is not screened off by that of physical events.
His proposal consists in individuating properties in terms of causal powers,
and defining realization as a relation of inclusion between sets of causal
powers. Thus, as the causal powers which define a mental property are a
subset of the causal powers which characterize a physical property, it can
be said that physical properties realize mental properties. In this paper we
examine the physicalist credentials of Shoemaker’s mind-body theory in
relation with three important issues: the direction of the relation of
dependence that the theory commits to, the possibility of allowing mental
properties to exist without being anchored by physical properties, and the
compatibility of the theory with the causal closure of the physical world.
We argue that the theory is problematic in all the three respects examined.
Then we move to consider whether the theory should count as a mind-body
theory at all, given that it seems to commit to a distorted view on mental