Mental Causation and the New Compatibilism

  • Jens Harbecke


Twenty years ago Stephen Yablo developed his original theory of mental causation, which has drawn much attention ever since. By providing a  detailed reconstruction of Yablo’s approach, this paper first demonstrates that a certain line of critique that has repeatedly been brought forward against Yablo over the last two decades misconstrues the core idea of the model. At the same time, the reconstruction reveals that Yablo’s approach is probably the first explicit version of the “new compatibilism” within the philosophy of mind. This fairly young family of theories essentially claims a non-identity as well as a non-distinctness of mental and physical phenomena. The second part of the paper then demonstrates that the new compatibilist approaches in general, and Yablo’s theory in particular, even though they can resist much of the popular criticism, fall prey to a new theoretical trilemma once the nature of the respective analysantia is made explicit. Finally, a model of the psychophysical relation is developed that may allow the new compatibilists to escape the mentioned trilemma