Degree Type

Honors Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences


Philosophy and Religious Studies

Degree Name

Honors in the Major

First Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Matheson

Second Advisor

Dr. Mitchell Haney

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Carelli


The exclusion problem challenges views that hold that the mental is distinct from and irreducible to the physical. I follow Karen Bennett’s formulation of the exclusion problem, which is unique in that it sets up the problem as a set of five inconsistent claims, where at least one of which must be denied: DISTINCTNESS, COMPLETENESS, EFFICACY, EXCLUSION, NON-OVERDETERMINATION. In brief, the issue is that if the mental and physical are distinct, and each is causally sufficient to bring about their effects, then our actions would frequently be overdetermined. However, since mental overdetermination isn’t something that happens frequently, the five claims are inconsistent. Throughout this work, I consider two solutions to the exclusion problem that focus on the nature of overdetermination and whether mental causation should be counted as overdetermination. The first solution is inspired by Jonathan Schaffer. The “Schaffer-inspired” solution is that, because overdetermination is not inherently problematic, the exclusion problem does not present an inconsistency—the truth of the five claims do not provide any reason to think that mental causation poses an actual problem. In motivating this solution, I detail Ted Sider’s motivations for NON-OVERDETERMINATION, explain the Schaffer-inspired solution, and raise an objection to this solution employing some work done by Sarah Bernstein. The second solution, proposed by Karen Bennett, is to deny that mental causation is overdetermination by creating a counterfactual test for overdetermination. In motivating the solution, I explain Bennett’s counterfactual test for overdetermination, show the different ways in which a person could deny EXCLUSION using these counterfactuals, and explain and motivate a recent objection to Bennett’s solution by Chiwook Won. In formulating both solutions to the problem, I appeal to supervenience of the mental and physical and conclude that these solutions both solve the exclusion problem. I ultimately conclude that both solutions are equally acceptable, that the exclusion problem does not dissolve the non-reductivist framework into inconsistency, and that deciding between the solutions requires future work in determining the true nature of overdetermination.

Included in

Philosophy Commons