The Causal Closure Argument is No Threat to Non-Reductive Physicalism

  • Peter Menzies Australian National University
Keywords: causal closure argument, difference-making theory of causation, non-reductive physicalism


Non-reductive physicalism is the view that mental events cause other events in virtue of their mental properties and that mental properties supervene on, without being identical to, physical properties. Jaegwon Kim has presented several much-discussed arguments against this view. But the much simpler causal closure argument, which purports to establish that every mental property is identical to a physical property, has received less attention than Kim’s arguments. This paper aims to show how a non-reductive physicalist should rebut the causal closure argument. A crucial premise in the argument is a principle stating that the physical world is causally closed. It states, roughly, that every physical event has a physical sufficient cause. I argue that when the principle is formulated in this way (and the other premises are given a natural reading), the causal closure argument is invalid. Less frequently, the causal closure principle is formulated in terms of a difference-making conception of causation so that it states that every physical effect has a physical difference-making cause. I argue that the principle, so formulated, is false and the causal closure argument unsound. Either way the argument lacks the apodeictic force to compel acceptance of its conclusion.

How to Cite
Menzies, P. (2015). The Causal Closure Argument is No Threat to Non-Reductive Physicalism. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 8(29), 21-46. Retrieved from