Volume 26, 2001
Nancy Slonneger Hancock
Anomalous Monism and Physical Closure
The principle of the anomalousness of the mental (PAM) is one of the most controversial principles in Donald Davidson’s argument for anomalous monism (AM). It states that there cannot be any laws (psychophysical or psychological) on the basis of which mental events can be predicted and explained. The argument against such psychological laws rests on the claim that psychology is not a comprehensive closed system (though physics is). Here I sketch the argument for AM, focusing on the role of PAM and the concept of closure. I present characterizations of the notion of closure offered by William Stanton and Brian McLaughlin. McLaughlin argues that Stanton’s characterization makes the argument for AM circular. McLaughlin offers a different characterization, but I argue that given Davidson’s criterion of event identity and individuation, the two are equivalent and thus both are subject to McLaughlin’s objection. If I’m right about this, there are still a couple of options open to Davidson and the defenders of Anomalous Monism. However, I conclude by indicating why neither seems promising to me.