Remarks on the Ontology of Living Beings and the Causality of Their Behavior

  • Thomas BuchheimEmail author
Part of the Historical-Analytical Studies on Nature, Mind and Action book series (HSNA, volume 2)


Beginning with Aristotle, two classical arguments are brought forward against the identification of ‘psychic’ or ‘mental’ states with physical states. These arguments show that the difference between mental and physical states is not describable as the layering of ontological levels, which would amount to a ‘vertical dualism’ of body and soul. Rather, they are different processing rhythms or articulating patterns of the same body. One could thus speak of a ‘horizontal dualism’, i.e. a dualism of different but intertwined formative patterns within one and the same living body. Psychic states only exist insofar as they are embedded in the life episodes of the whole organism. As such, they always have biographical relevance and are bundled into operations (activities) of the living system in general. In contrast, physical states and corporal processes are only symptoms of certain life episodes and are not necessarily correlated in any definite way. Even though the neuronal states of a living being play a central role in its behavior, they are simply the correlated symptoms of bodily phenomena. As such, they fail to give a complete explanation of one’s behavior and of particular life episodes. It has been demonstrated experimentally that a change of situation and its embedded psychic states can be causally prior to a change of neuronal stimuli, which implies that the life episode and its embedded psychic and mental characteristics can change the neuronal symptoms but not vice-versa. In this way, this article presents a general model of mental causality that is sensitive to vital operations, and in which the concept of ‘favoring’ plays a central role.


Mental states Mental causation Mind-brain relation Aristotle 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyLudwig-Maximilians-University of MunichMunichGermany

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