PollutionI am getting more and more interested in anti-naturalism about the mind. This novel interest is the outcome of two converging lines of thought.

The first concerns the role of the social/conversational/linguistic (?) context in shaping truth and meaningfulness when talking about some domain. To a certain extent, it seems that kinds derive their identity conditions from the conversational context in which we talk about them. Indeed, many concepts are defined by everyday conversation without that we check for their physical identity conditions, and for many concepts (e.g., money) physical identity conditions are certainly not sufficient to define them. But if kinds can derive their identity conditions from the conversational context in which we talk about them, then referring to the physical constitution of the world does not seem, at least apparently, a privileged strategy to define what we can talk about. There are certainly many things we can talk about—and we can talk about consistently—that maybe do not match the domain of physical entities. If mental concepts belong to this set of entities, then we have some reasons to doubt about both the possibility and the need to identify them in some material/physical way.

The other line of thought depends on a criticism to the nomological-deductive model of scientific theories. An important reason to be naturalist about the mental, it seems, is that, if we accept the principle of causal closure of the world, then nothing can have causal efficacy without also being physical. From this it is derived that the mental must be either eliminated or identified with the physical basis on which it supervenes. Since physics (and the other natural sciences—but I will not consider them here for the sake of simplicity) is the language that we have to describe the physical world, it also follows that the mental needs to be re-described in terms of the language of physics… and here lies the mistake. The assumption beyond this reduction of the mental to the physical is that there is a strict correspondance between the language of physics and the structure of reality so that, if something is real, then it must be possible to describe it, at least in the very last end, with the language of physics. The practice of science tells us, however, that such a strict correspondance between language and the world is only presupposed by the nomological-deductive model of scientific explanation, and that this model is by now problematic. We do not have privileged way to talk about reality, we can only build different models that—we hope—clarify different parts of it. If this is the case, there is no a priori reason why the language of mental concepts must be reduced to the language of physics. Maybe, these two languages construct different models of reality, each of them being equally useful and predictive in its own context.

I post herein some links about readings related to these two issues, hoping later to expand the list, and my research on this list… stay tuned then! Of course, this list does not want to be exaustive or representative: I am just collecting reading that may be relevant for the topic.

1. Pragmatic definition of mental kinds

2. Scientific theories, models, and explanations