Jaegwon Kim’s supervenience argument objects to the possibility of emergent causation (both downward and same-level) based on both (1) the causal overdetermination of both (a) higher-level emergent events and (b) lower-level basal events, and (2) the causal closure principle of the physical domain. Kim argues that emergent causation entails epiphenomenalism. Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophy skeptically critiques the primary (ultimate) existence of causal phenomena and instead suggests that all such phenomena may only be secondarily (conventionally) existent. Mādhyamikas acknowledge that, conventionally, emergent phenomena appear to cause both basal phenomena and other emergent phenomena. However, contra Kim, Mādhyamikas doubt that causal relations ultimately exist between, or among, emergent phenomena and basal phenomena because they doubt that anything ultimately exists. As such, the Madhyamaka critique of causality may provide a skeptical response to Kim because Kim assumes that both emergent and basal phenomena are primarily existent. Altogether, I argue that if we draw upon and accept the Madhyamaka critique of causality, then we may resolve Kim’s problem of epiphenomenalism by reconceptualizing causality as a relation obtaining conventionally between phenomena, while remaining silent on the status of causation at the ultimate level of truth. By arguing this point, I do not mean to suggest that the Madhyamaka critique of causality, while plausible, is in fact correct. Rather, I intend only to show that plausible responses to Kim’s argument may be found by considering less commonly taught philosophical traditions in relation to Kim’s metaphysical assumptions.
JUNGBAUER, Tyler J.
"A Madhyamaka Critique of Jaegwon Kim's Supervenience Argument,"
Comparative Philosophy: Vol. 15:
1, Article 8.
Available at: https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/comparativephilosophy/vol15/iss1/8