Friday, June 9, 2017

Some Notes on My Recent Research

I’ve recently received some feedback on my PhD work that I have submitted so far. Without getting too far into it, I am writing a bit (for this current chapter) on the pairing problem. For those who are unfamiliar, the pairing problem basically says that it does not appear that there is anything in virtue of which a mental cause can be paired with a physical effect, and that where we can describe cause/effect pairings, we do so in a manner wholly descriptive of the physical (e.g., the cause is x distance away from the effect, the laws of nature are such-and-such, etc.). Thus, there probably (or necessarily!) is not any realistic way mental causes can be paired with physical effects.

This has traditionally been used to bring up a problem for dualist conceptions of action (where humans who have a soul can interact with the physical world, including their bodies). However, it has recently been applied by Andrei Buckareff to divine causation as well. This is where my current research comes in. I’d like to provide a potential positive model for divine causation, but in order to do so, I’ll need to interact with the divine pairing problem.

The feedback I received for my progression panel was really helpful. However, I was reminded that, in a PhD, there is a sense in which no one knows more of what you’ve written than you do. I am not claiming I am the world’s expert on the pairing problem (far from it); all I am saying is that I know what I mean to convey, why I am conveying it, etc., and this can be advantageous. One of the criticisms was that he thought it may result in the cause and effect being located in the same place, in which case we are still left with the question of what pairs the cause and effect together.

While I will need to take care to be clear on this, I think it makes the mistake of thinking that mental events are or can be located somewhere, if by located we mean “physically located.” A counterintuitive result of discussing mental events or substances as causes and physical location is that these events or substances as causes are not located anywhere! Nonetheless, I intend to work to undercut the pairing problem and to see if I can provide a positive model of God’s creative and sustaining interaction with the world.


  1. I assume you've read these, but, in case you haven't, Rasmussen, Bailey, and Van Horn's "No Pairing Problem" is the best article on the subject, followed closely by Plantinga's "Materialism and Christian Belief.

    1. Thanks for this! I have not read Plantinga's in full yet, but I have also utilized the "No Pairing Problem" article in one of my chapters!


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