Russellian monism—an influential doctrine proposed by Russell (The analysis of matter, Routledge, London, 1927/1992)—is roughly the view that physics can only ever tell us about the causal, dispositional, and structural properties of physical entities and not their categorical (or intrinsic) properties, whereas our qualia are constituted by those categorical properties. In this paper, I will discuss the relation between Russellian monism and a seminal paradox facing epiphenomenalism, the paradox of phenomenal judgment: if epiphenomenalism is true—qualia are causally inefficacious—then (...) any judgment concerning qualia, including epiphenomenalism itself, cannot be caused by qualia. For many writers, including Hawthorne (Philos Perspect 15:361–378, 2001), Smart (J Conscious Stud 11(2):41–50, 2004), and Braddon-Mitchell and Jackson (The philosophy of mind and cognition, Blackwell, Malden, 2007), Russellian monism faces the same paradox as epiphenomenalism does. I will assess Chalmers’s (The conscious mind: in search of a fundamental theory. Oxford University Press, New York, 1996) and Seager’s (in: Beckermann A, McLaughlin BP (eds) The Oxford handbook of philosophy of mind. Oxford University Press, New York, 2009) defences of Russellian monism against the paradox, and will put forward a novel argument against those defences. (shrink)
I formulate an argument against epiphenomenalism; the argument shows that epiphenomenalism is extremely improbable. Moreover the argument suggests that qualia not only have causal powers, but have their causal powers necessarily. I address possible objections and then conclude by considering some implications the argument has for dualism.
Consciousness and evolution are complex phenomena. It is sometimes thought that if adaptation explanations for some varieties of consciousness, say, conscious visual perception, can be had, then we may be reassured that at least those kinds of consciousness are not epiphenomena. But what if other varieties of consciousness, for example, dreams, are not adaptations? We sort out the connections among evolution, adaptation, and epiphenomenalism in order to show that the consequences for the nature and causal efficacy of consciousness are (...) not as dire as has sometimes been supposed. (shrink)
Role-functionalism for mental events attempts to avoid epiphenomenalism without psychophysical identities. The paper addresses the question of whether it can succeed. It is argued that there is considerable reason to believe it cannot avoid epiphenomenalism, and that if it cannot, then it is untenable. It is pointed out, however, that even if role- functionalism is indeed an untenable theory of mental events, a role-functionalism account of mental dispositions has some intuitive plausibility.
Epiphenomenalism is the view that mental events are caused by physical events in the brain, but have no effects upon any physical events. Behavior is caused by muscles that contract upon receiving neural impulses, and neural impulses are generated by input from other neurons or from sense organs. On the epiphenomenalist view, mental events play no causal role in this process. Huxley (1874), who held the view, compared mental events to a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work (...) of a locomotive. James (1879), who rejected the view, characterized epiphenomenalists' mental events as not affecting the brain activity that produces them "any more than a shadow reacts upon the steps of the traveller whom it accompanies". (shrink)
I begin with the view that the usual property‐based epiphenomenalist challenges to anomalous monism are unconvincing in light of Davidson's reluctance to analyze causation in terms of properties. I argue, however, that the challenges against Davidson do hold in the weaker sense that although mental events have causal efficacy the identification of an agent's reasons does not causally explain behaviour. I then show that in light of Davidson's commitment to psychophysical supervenience this does not constitute a serious problem for anomalous (...) monism. (shrink)
While epiphenomenalism—i.e., the claim that the mental is a causally otiose byproduct of physical processes that does not itself cause anything—is hardly ever mentioned in philosophical discussions of free will, it has recently come to play a crucial role in the scientific attack on free will led by neuroscientists and psychologists. This paper is concerned with the connection between epiphenomenalism and the claim that free will is an illusion, in particular with the connection between epiphenomenalism and willusionism, (...) i.e., with the thesis that there is empirical evidence for a thoroughgoing skepticism with regard to free will that is based on the claim that mental states are epiphenomena. The paper discusses four arguments for willusionism that in some form or other appeal to epiphenomenalism and argues that three of them can be discarded relatively easily. The fourth one, based on Daniel Wegner’s theory of apparent mental causation and his claim that free will is an illusion because the feeling of conscious will is epiphenomenal with regard to the corresponding voluntary actions, is dealt with in more detail. The overall verdict is negative: there is no empirical evidence for any kind of epiphenomenalism that would warrant the claim that free will is an illusion. Whatever it is that makes free will the object of contention between neuroscience and philosophy, epiphenomenalism provides no reason to think that free will is an illusion. (shrink)
James developed an evolutionary objection to epiphenomenalism that is still discussed today. Epiphenomenalists have offered responses that do not grasp its full depth. I thus offer a new reading and assessment of James’s objection. Our life-essential, phenomenal pleasures and pains have three features that suggest that they were shaped by selection, according to James: they are natively patterned, those patterns are systematically linked with antecedent brain states, and the patterns are “universal” among humans. If epiphenomenalism were true, phenomenal (...) patterns could not have been selected (because epiphenomenalism precludes phenomenal consciousness affecting reproductive success). So epiphenomenalism is likely false. (shrink)
Some physicalists (Balog 2012, Howell 2013), and most dualists, endorse the acquaintance response to the Knowledge Argument. This is the claim that Mary gains substantial new knowledge, upon leaving the room, because phenomenal knowledge requires direct acquaintance with phenomenal properties. The acquaintance response is an especially promising way to make sense of the Mary case. I argue that it casts doubt on two claims often made on behalf of physicalism, regarding parsimony and mental causation. I show that those who endorse (...) the acquaintance response face special obstacles to invoking parsimony in an argument for physicalism. And I show how acknowledging the phenomenon of acquaintance can ease the dualist’s problems with mental causation, by dispelling three key objections to epiphenomenalism. The most challenging of these objections is that epiphenomenalism blocks an evolutionary explanation of the so-called “hedonic/utility match”. I propose that pleasures and pains, while themselves epiphenomenal, can nonetheless explain positive and negative associations with stimuli, associations that can contribute to fitness. (shrink)
Epiphenomenalism claims that all conscious events are caused immediately by brain events, and no conscious events cause brain events. In order to have a justified belief in a theory someone needs a justified belief that it or some higher-level theory predicts certain events and those events occurred. To have either of the latter beliefs we depend ultimately on the evidence of apparent experience, memory, and testimony, which is credible in the absence of defeaters; it is an undermining defeater to (...) a belief produced by apparent memory that it was not caused by a past belief, and to a belief produced by apparent testimony that it was not caused by an intention to say what the speaker believes. A justified belief in epiphenomenalism requires either evidence about when conscious events occurred or evidence about what some theory that brain events are caused solely by physical events predicts, but epiphenomenalism rules out the availability of the evidence of apparent memory and testimony on these matters. Hence only a rare individual scientist who could hold in her mind at one time the proof that a theory makes certain predictions could have a justified belief that epiphenomenalism is true. It follows that recent neurophysiological work in the tradition of Libet has no tendency whatever to provide a justified belief in epiphenomenalism. (shrink)
Despite the fact that Davidson's theory of the causal relata is crucial to his response to the problem of mental causation - that of anomalous monism - it is commonly overlooked within discussions of his position. Anomalous monism is accused of entailing property epiphenomenalism, but given Davidson's understanding of the causal relata, such accusations are wholly misguided. There are, I suggest, two different forms of property epiphenomenalism. The first understands the term 'property' in an ontological sense, the second (...) in a linguistic sense. Anomalous monism cannot plausibly be accused of either. The first cannot legitimately be applied to anomalous monism as it is incompatible with Davidson's ontology. And accusations of predicate epiphenomenalism, although consistent with Davidson's ontology, are ungrounded regarding Davidson's anomalous monism. Philosophers of mind have mislocated the problem with Davidson's anomalous monism, which in fact lies with the implausible theory of the causal relata upon which it rests. (shrink)
Colin McGinn urged that while a brain state P explains consciousness, a conception P is cognitively inaccessible to us. This paper argues that McGinn's argument for his form of materialism is committed to P being epiphenomenal or causally inert relative to such things as the movements of our bodies. As a result, McGinn's materialism creates a duality in the brain and thereby faces the same problem of epiphenomenalism which plagues the Cartesian dualist.
In his so-called argument from consciousness (AC), J. P. Moreland argues that the phenomenon of consciousness furnishes us with evidence for the existence of God. In defending AC, however, Moreland makes claims that generate an undesirable tension. This tension can be posed as a dilemma based on the contingency of the correlation between mental and physical states. The correlation of mental and physical states is either contingent or necessary. If the correlation is contingent then epiphenomenalism is true. If the (...) correlation is necessary then a theistic explanation for the correlation is forfeit. Both are unwelcome results for AC. (shrink)
The so-called problem of mental causation as discussed in the recent literature raises three central challenges for an adequate solution from a physicalist perspective: the threat of epiphenomenalism, the problem of externalism (or the difficulty in accounting for the causal efficacy of extrinsic mental properties) and the problem of causal exclusion (or the threat of over determination). We wish to account for mental causationas a real phenomenon within a physicalistic framework without accepting epiphenomenalism or overdetermination. The key ideas (...) of our proposal are an internal realism of causation combined with a relative notion of individuating events. We are arguing?contra Davidson?tha there is no absolute notion of events (neither as types nor as tokens) but rather one which is relative to explanatory interests and our intuitions concerning a relevant spatial and temporal overlap. Furthermore, we are presupposing a metaphysics of internal realism: We can only characterize entities by means of concepts produced within our epistemological framework. Physical concepts and mental concepts crossclassify the world as it is. Relying on this framework we try to explain how mental causation can be adequately described: Although mental concepts are not reducible to physical concepts and mental event-tokens may be different from "underlying" physical event-tokens, mental events are real phenomena that are realized by physical phenomena in special context conditions. (shrink)
Epiphenomenalism has been criticized with several objections. It has been argued that epiphenomenalism is incompatible with the alleged causal relevance of mental states, and that it renders knowledge of our own conscious states impossible. In this article, it is demonstrated that qualia-epiphenomenalism follows from some well- founded assumptions, and that it meets the cited objections. Though not free from difficulties, it is at least superior to its main competitors, namely, physicalism and interactionism.
Physicalist epiphenomenalism is the conjunction of the doctrine that tokens of mental events are tokens of physical events and the doctrine that mental events do not exert causal powers by virtue of falling under mental types. The purpose of the paper is to show that physicalist epiphenomenalism, contrary to what many have thought, is not subject to the objections that have been raised against classic epiphenomenalism. This is argued with respect to five such objections: that introspection shows (...) that our mental properties are causally efficacious; that concrete existents and their properties necessarily possess causal powers; that the explanatory and predictive success of psychology implies that psychological properties exist and are causally efficacious; that epiphenomenalism cannot deal with the other minds problem, and that it is unlikely that our mentality does not endow us with evolutionary advantages and therefore it is unlikely that mental properties are not causally efficacious. (shrink)
Thomas Huxley is often identified as the originator of the doctrineknown as ``epiphenomenalism,'' but there appears to be littleappreciation for the details of Huxley's theory. In particular,conflicting interpretations show that there is uncertainty about twoaspects of his position: whether mental states are completelywithout causal powers or simply have no influence on the behavior theyare typically taken to explain, and whether conscious epiphenomena arethemselves physical states of the brain or immaterial items. I clarifythese issues and show that Huxley's brand of (...)epiphenomenalism is in factdifferent from the forms usually attributed to him. (shrink)
I propose a new form of epiphenomenalism, 'explanatory epiphenomenalism', the view that the identification of A's mental properties does not provide a causal explanation of A's behaviour. I arrive at this view by showing that although anomalous monism does not entail type epiphenomenalism (despite what many of Davidson's critics have suggested), it does (when coupled with some additional claims) lead to the conclusion that the identification of A's reasons does not causally explain A's behaviour. I then formalize (...) this view and show that it is an attractive position, because it captures the insights of existing forms of epiphenomenalism without their onerous metaphysical commitments. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to defend the causal efficacy of consciousness against two specters of epiphenomenalism. We argue that these challenges are best met, on the one hand, by rejecting all forms of consciousness-body dualism, and on the other, by adopting a dynamical systems approach to understanding the causal efficacy of conscious experience. We argue that this non-reductive identity theory provides the theoretical resources for reconciling the reality and efficacy of consciousness with the neurophysiology of the brain (...) and body. (shrink)
One of the strongest objections to epiphenomenalism is that it precludes any kind of knowledge of qualia, since empirical knowledge has to include a causal relationship between the respective belief and the object of knowledge. It is argued that this objection works only if the causal relationship is understood in a very specific sense (as a 'direct' causal relationship). Epiphenomenalism can, however, live well with other kinds of causal relationships ('indirect' causal relationships) or even with a reliability account (...) of knowledge which does not invoke causation at all. Michael Pauen has argued extensively (this volume of Journal of Consciousness Studies), however, that this line of defence doesn't work because it presupposes the existence of psychophysical laws connecting qualia with physical phenomena which cannot be established under epiphenomenalist presuppositions. It is argued that Pauen's arguments lead to sceptical consequences which threaten not only interactionist alternatives to epiphenomenalism but finally his own account. (shrink)
I have argued that to say qualia are epiphenomenal is to say a world without qualia would be physically identical to a world with qualia. Dan Cavedon-Taylor has offered an alternative interpretation of the commitments of qualia epiphenomenalism according to which qualia cause beliefs and those beliefs can and do cause changes to the physical world. I argue that neither of these options works for the qualia epiphenomenalist and thus that theory faces far more serious difficulties than has previously (...) been recognized. (shrink)
Epiphenomenalism expressed as a form of materialism in two key axioms; distinguished from Cartesian dualism, physicalism, eliminativism; shown to be compatible with a subjective experience of free choice but not with libertarian free will - the social consequences of this view.
Semifactuals and Epiphenomenalism -/- Mental properties are said to be epiphenomenal because they do not pass the counterfactual test of causal relevance. Jacob (1996) adopts the defence of causal efficacy of mental properties developed by LePore and Loewer (1987). They claim that those who argue for the epiphenomenalism of the mental place too strong a requirement on causal relevance, which excludes causally efficacious properties. Given a proper analysis of causal relevance, the causal efficacy of mental properties is saved. (...) I defend the counterfactual test and epiphenomenalism of the mental against this critique. In causal counterfactuals we hold everything the same, take out the causal property and see if the effect property occurs. We do not replace the causal property with a barely different property as presupposed by LePore and Loewer. But I recognize some general problems in making counterfactual claims about mental events, which raise doubts about the usefulness of the counterfactual test in general. (shrink)
I argue that, on plausible assumptions, anomalous entails monism epiphenomenalism of the mental. The plausible assumptions are (1) events are particulars; (2) causal relations are extensional; (3) mental properties are epiphrastic. A principle defender of anomalous monism, Donald Davidson, acknowledges that anomalous monism is committed to (1) and (2). I argue that it is committed to (3) as well. Given (1), (2), and (3), epiphenomenalism of the mental falls out immediately. Three attempts to salvage anomalous monism from (...) class='Hi'>epiphenomenalism of the mental are examined and rejected. I conclude with reflections on the status of non-reductive physicalism. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have recently held that the phenomenal aspect of experience cannot be adequately dealt with within a materialist account of the mind-body relation. A natural response for those who take both this objection and scientific considerations seriously is to adopt either a double-aspect theory of mind or a version of epiphenomenalism. In this paper I will examine such a view recently defended by Keith Campbell. Campbell calls his view a ‘new’ epiphenomenalism. I shall begin by (...) considering Campbell's conception of an imitation-man, a notion which has been elsewhere employed in arguments against materialism. I shall demonstrate that Campbell is thereby committed to entertaining seriously a suspect form of causation which I have labeled "sometime-causation". I shall then proceed to argue that for this and other reasons, Campbell's ‘new’ epiphenomenalism is not clearly superior to its traditional predecessor. (shrink)
Epiphenomenalism is a theory concerning the relation between the mental and physical realms, regarded as radically different in nature. The theory holds that only physical states have causal power, and that mental states are completely dependent on them. The mental realm, for epiphenomenalists, is nothing more than a series of conscious states which signify the occurrence of states of the nervous system, but which play no causal role. For example, my feeling sleepy does not cause my yawning — rather, (...) both the feeling and the yawning are effects of an underlying neural state. (shrink)
Many writers, both scientists and philosophers, when discussing the mind‐body problem, adopt what might be called the physicalist principle of the closedness of the physical world. They reject the possibility that the physical world is causally open to a realm of conscious experience that is not part of it.Among the upholders of such a view are those who may be called radical materialists or radical physicalists, who deny that there exists a realm of conscious experience. Also, there are the proponents (...) of various identity theories, who admit that there is such a realm, but claim that it may be in some sense identified with parts of the physical world.There are, however, other writers who accept the physicalist principle, but who nevertheless also accept that there exists a genuinely autonomous realm of conscious experience. Such writers often hold some form of panpsychism or epiphenomenalism, and in what follows these two views are briefly explained and critically discussed. (shrink)
In "metaphysics" richard taylor argues that epiphenomenalism is implausible because it leaves open the possibility that human behavior occurs without the presence of mental events. in my paper i examine the sort of possibility involved and conclude that the logical possibility of "mind-less behavior" which epiphenomenalism must allow is an equal possibility for all competing theories of mind. thus, epiphenomenalism is seen to be no worse off in this respect than other theories and taylor's objection fails.
In this doctoral dissertation I consider, and reject, the claim that recent varieties of non-reductive physicalism, particularly Donald Davidson's anomalous monism, are committed to a new kind of epiphenomenalism. Non-reductive physicalists identify each mental event with a physical event, and are thus entitled to the belief that mental events are causes, since the physical events with which they are held to be identical are causes. However, Jaegwon Kim, Ernest Sosa and others have argued that if we follow the non-reductive (...) physicalist in denying that mental features can be reduced to physical properties, then we must regard mental properties as being causally irrelevant to their bearers' effects, In short, the non-reductive physicalist is said to be committed to the belief that while there are mental causes, they do not cause their effects in virtue of being the types of mental state that they are. It is in this sense that non-reductive physicalists are thought to represent a new form of epiphenomenalism. After a brief survey of the history of epiphenomenalism, and its mutation into the contemporary strain that is believed to afflict non-reductive physicalism, 1 argue against the counterfactual criterion of the sort of causal relevance that we take mental features to enjoy. I then criticize the 'trope' response to the epiphenomenalist threat, and conclude that much of the current debate on this topic is premised on the mistaken belief that there is some variety of causal relevance that is not simply a brand of explanatory relevance. Once this is seen, it will seem much less plausible that mental properties are excluded from relevance to the phenomena of which we typically take them to be explanatory. (shrink)
The type-type reductive identity of the mental to the physical was once the dominant position in the mental causation debate. In time this consensus was overturned, largely due to its inability to handle the problem of multiple realizability. In its place a nonreductive position emerged which often included an adherence to functionalism. Functionalism construes mental properties as functional states of an organism, which in turn have specific physical realizers. This nonreductive form of functionalism, henceforth called role functionalism, has faced a (...) number of criticisms itself. Chief among these is the concern that the realizer of the functional role is causally sufficient, so the role property does not make a contribution of its own. In this paper I argue that there is a way for unreduced functional properties to play a role after all. This is done by conceiving of functional properties as higher level functional properties of a macro system which determine that its realizers will play the roles that they play. (shrink)
A common contemporary claim is the conjunction of metaphysical naturalism—the idea, roughly, that there is no such person as God or anything at all like God—with the view that our cognitive faculties have come to be by way of the processes to which contemporary evolutionary theory direct our attention. Call this view ‘N&E’. I’ve argued elsewhere that this view is incoherent or self-defeating in that anyone who accepts it has a defeater for R, the proposition that her cognitive faculties are (...) reliable, which then gives her a defeater for any proposition she believes, including, of course, N&E itself. The argument for, in turn, depends essentially on the proposition that P is low or inscrutable. To support, I divided N&E into mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive subcases, arguing that in each subcase Si, P is low or inscrutable. I won’t repeat this argument here, but I do want to focus on a certain essential aspect of the argument for. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor has long championed the view, recently dubbed “scientific intentional realism” (Loewer and Ray, 1991, p. xiv), that “a scientifically adequate psychology will contain laws that quantify over intentional phenomena in intentional terms.” On such a view our belief/desire psychology will be “vindicated” through empirical investigation; that is, it will be shown to denote the explanatory (or causally salient) states or events in the production of thought and behavior. That intentional properties, states, or events have causal efficacy---are not mere (...) epiphenomena---is necessary for any such vindication. This paper investigates whether intentional properties can if fact ground or sustain the causal relations empirical psychology aims to reveal. I conclude that intentional properties are not amenable to such an explanatory role, and that, therefore, a different vindication of intentional description is required of the realist. (shrink)