Davidson's identity crisis



Publication Details

Hutto, D. (1998). Davidson's identity crisis. Dialectica, 52 (1), 45-61.


Professor Davidson’s anomalous monism has been subject to the criticism that, despite advertisements to the contrary, if it were true mental properties would be epiphenomenal. To this Davidson has replied that his critics have misunderstood his views concerning the extensional nature of causal relations and the intensional character of causal explanations. I call this his ‘extension reply’. This paper argues that there are two ways to read Davidson’s ‘extension reply’; one weaker and one stronger. But the dilemma is that: (i) the weak extension reply on its own isn’t sufficient to support the principle of the nomological character of causality, (ii) anything strong enough to support that principle under the weak extension reply would be strong enough to warrant the strong extension reply; but (iii) the strong extension reply threatens the very stability of anomalous monism by threatening the causal potency and reality of the mental. For these reasons, I claim that either version of the ‘extension reply’ is bad news for anomalous monism. I conclude by suggesting that a form of absolute idealism circumvents the very assumptions that generate these kinds of difficulty for committed monists.

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