The Causal Closure of What? An Epistemological Critique of the Principle of Causal Closure

Carlo Gabbani


The paper analyses the so-called causal-closure thesis: “Pick any physical event (...) and trace its causal ancestry or posterity as far as you would like; the principle of causal closure of the physical domain says that this will never take you outside the physical domain. Thus, no causal chain involving a physical event will ever cross the boundary of the physical into the nonphysical” (J. Kim, Philosophy of Mind [1996], chap. 6, p. 147). I focus on two problems concerning this thesis: the first, the argument from the “open-ended character” of physics, is already well known. The other one, is more neglected, but it seems to cast a relevant shadow of circularity on the use of the causal closure thesis as an empirical principle. I end with some meta-philosophical remarks, arguing that we should not even accept causal physicalism as a philosophical 'stance': paraphrasing Wittgenstein, the limits of our physicalistic language (as well as those of our scientific language in general) do not mean the limits of our world.


causal closure; physicalism; causation

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