Causal closure of the physical, mental causation, and physics

  • Dejan R. DimitrijevićEmail author
Paper in Philosophy of the Natural Sciences


The argument from causal closure of the physical (CCP) is usually considered the most powerful argument in favor of the ontological doctrine of physicalism. Many authors, most notably Papineau, assume that CCP implies that physicalism is supported by physics. I demonstrate, however, that physical science has no bias in the ontological debate between proponents of physicalism and dualism. I show that the arguments offered for CCP are effective only against the accounts of mental causation based on the action of the mental forces of a Newtonian nature, i.e. those which manifest themselves by causing accelerations. However, it is conceivable and possible that mental causation is manifested through the redistribution of energy, momentum and other conserved quantities in the system, brought about by altering the state probability distribution within the living system and leading to anomalous correlations of neural processes. After arguing that a probabilistic, interactionist model of mental causation is conceivable, which renders the argument from causal closure of the physical ineffective, I point to some basic features that such a model must have in order to be intelligible. At the same time, I indicate the way that conclusive testing of CCP can be done within the theoretical framework of physics.


Causal closure of the physical Mental causation Second law of thermodynamics Physics Probability distribution 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Niš, Faculty of Sciences and Mathematics, Department of PhysicsNišSerbia

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