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Causal Relevance of Mental Properties: A Refutation of Kim’s Exclusion Argument

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Non-reductive physicalism is attacked by Jaegwon Kim’s exclusion argument. Kim argues that if mental and physical properties are distinct, then mental properties are causally irrelevant. My task in this paper is to refute this argument and to provide a solution for the problem of mental causation. Taking mental properties as higher-order properties, I attempt to propose a property-exemplification account of events that is compatible with the thesis of token identity. I then attempt to refute the exclusion argument by arguing that mental causation and physical causation are not homogeneous; that is, they are two different kinds of causation. Kim’s exclusion argument only demonstrates the impossibility of a productive conception of mental causation; however, only a difference-making conception is appropriate for mental causation and human agency. If these results are plausible, they would serve as a metaphysical basis for an autonomy approach to mental causation, which attempts to save the causal relevance of mental properties by arguing that there is only intra-level causal relevance.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310028, China E-mail:


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