Kim on the Mind-Body Problem

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9 Scopus citations


For three decades the writings of Jaegwon Kim have had a major influence in philosophy of mind and in metaphysics. Sixteen of his philosophical papers, together with several new postscripts, are collected in Kim [1993]. The publication of this collection prompts the present essay. After some preliminary remarks in the opening section, in Section 2 I will briefly describe Kim's philosophical 'big picture' about the relation between the mental and the physical. In Section 3 I will situate Kim's approach on the larger philosophical landscape, vis-à-vis various other approaches frequently discussed in contemporary philosophy of mind. This comparative discussion will further illuminate Kim's own position, and also will serve as groundwork for subsequent discussion. In Section 4 I will point out certain persistent internal tensions in Kim's philosophical position on the mind-body problem, tensions that emerge especially clearly against the backdrop of Section 3's comparative discussion of Kim's position relative to various competing positions. In the remainder of the paper I will focus on two issues at the heart of his position, with particular attention to what he says about them in some of the more recent papers and the postscripts in Kim [1993]. First, how should a materialist understand the notion that the mental is 'determined' by the physical? More specifically, what role, if any, should be played by the concept of supervenience in explicating this kind of determination relation? Kim's views on this matter have recently changed, and I will discuss the issue with particular attention to his own latest remarks on it. This is the business of Section 5. Second, need a viable materialism assert that mentalistic psychology is reducible to neurobiology (and ultimately to physics)? More specifically, should a materialist insist on reducibility, despite the currently influential line of argument used by non-reductive materialists, the 'multiple realization' argument? On this matter too, Kim's views have changed somewhat; again, I will discuss the issue with particular attention to his recent thinking. This is the business of Section 6.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)579-607
Number of pages29
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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