Anomalous monism

View associated especially with the American philosopher Donald Davidson (1920-2003), saying that mental events are identical with certain physical events (hence the monism), but that there are no laws which are purely mental, or which connect mental events with physical ones (hence the ‘anomalous’; that there are no strict deterministic laws for predicting or explaining mental events is called the ‘anomalism of the mental’).

This is because whether two events are connected by a law depends on how they are described. Two mental events will also be two physical events, and described in physical terms may be connected by a law; but if one or both are described in mental terms (for example, as a decision rather than as a neurone-firing), no law will connect them.

This is because, though any mental event is identical with some physical event, there is no reason to think that all mental events of a certain kind (for example, all decisions) are also physical events of one and the same kind (for example, a certain kind of neurone-firing).

Davidson’s view is a token identity theory of mind and body.

D Davidson, ‘Mental Events’, Experience and Theory, L Foster and J W Swanson, eds (1970); reprinted in D Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events (1980)

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