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Anomalous monism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-V004-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 21, 2024, from

Article Summary

Anomalous monism, proposed by Donald Davidson in 1970, implies that all events are of one fundamental kind, namely physical. But it does not deny that there are mental events; rather, it implies that every mental event is some physical event or other. The idea is that someone’s thinking at a certain time that the earth is round, for example, might be a certain pattern of neural firing in their brain at that time, an event which is both a thinking that the earth is round (a type of mental event) and a pattern of neural firing (a type of physical event). There is just one event, that can be characterized both in mental terms and in physical terms. If mental events are physical events, they can, like all physical events, be explained and predicted (at least in principle) on the basis of laws of nature cited in physical science. However, according to anomalous monism, events cannot be so explained or predicted as described in mental terms (such as ‘thinking’, ‘desiring’, ‘itching’ and so on), but only as described in physical terms. The distinctive feature of anomalous monism as a brand of physical monism is that it implies that mental events as such (that is, as described in mental terms) are anomalous – they cannot be explained or predicted on the basis of strict scientific laws.

Citing this article:
McLaughlin, Brian P.. Anomalous monism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-V004-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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