Dualism all the way down: why there is no paradox of phenomenal judgment

Synthese 200 (2):1-24 (2022)
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Epiphenomenalist dualists hold that certain physical states give rise to non-physical conscious experiences, but that these non-physical experiences are themselves causally inefficacious. Among the most pressing challenges facing epiphenomenalists is the so-called “paradox of phenomenal judgment”, which challenges epiphenomenalism’s ability to account for our knowledge of our own conscious experiences. According to this objection, we lack knowledge of the very thing that epiphenomenalists take physicalists to be unable to explain. By developing an epiphenomenalist theory of subjects and mental states, this paper argues that there is nothing paradoxical or problematic about the epiphenomenalist’s understanding of phenomenal judgments or phenomenal self-knowledge. The appearance of paradox emerges from inconsistently combining (epiphenomenalist) dualism about qualia with a physicalistic conception of subjects of experience. The lesson we should take from this is not that there is anything wrong with epiphenomenalism, but that epiphenomenalist dualists should be “dualists all the way down”—embracing a picture of mind that gives phenomenology a central place, in its understanding of both subjects and their knowledge of their own minds. Epiphenomenalist-friendly accounts of reference and memory are also developed, showing that neither of these issues creates a paradox for the epiphenomenalist.

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Author's Profile

Helen Yetter-Chappell
University of Miami

Citations of this work

Modal Idealism.David Builes - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Epiphenomenal qualia.Frank Jackson - 1982 - Philosophical Quarterly 32 (April):127-136.
Consciousness and Fundamental Reality.Philip Goff - 2017 - New York, USA: Oup Usa.
The content and epistemology of phenomenal belief.David Chalmers - 2002 - In Aleksandar Jokic & Quentin Smith (eds.), Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 220--72.

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