A Role for Consciousness

Philosophy Now 65:22-24 (2008)
Abstract
         Many scientists and philosophers would answer nothing. According to them, the physical world operates in accordance with the laws of physics, chemistry and biology, and is closed to being affected by anything non-physical.  Thus, any effects that conscious experiences may have can only come about by virtue of physical brain processes that are associated with and perhaps constitute these experiences.          This physicalist approach, however, raises the question why, if all is achieved by physical processes operating in accordance with physical laws of nature, are some of these processes associated with and possibly constitutive of subjective conscious experiences, when this association does precisely nothing. From an evolutionary viewpoint, this would not seem to make sense: the selection of consciousness through the survival and reproduction of conscious organisms strongly suggests that consciousness confers an advantage on an organism that has it.          A possible answer is that somehow conscious experiences are inevitably associated with certain advantageous physical processes, so that when these advantageous processes were selected in evolution, consciousness was selected with them. Just as, for example, a polar bear can’t have the useful warmth of its coat..
Keywords Applied Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0961-5970  
DOI philnow20086599
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