Researchers in the psychological sciences have put forward the thesis that various sources of psychological, cognitive, and neuroscientific evidence demonstrate that being conscious of our mental states does not make any difference to our behaviour. In this paper, I argue that the evidence marshalled in support of this view—which I call psychological epiphenomenalism—is subject to major objections, relies on a superficial reading of the relevant literature, and fails to engage with the more precise ways in which philosophers understand mental (...) states to be conscious. I then appeal to work on implementation intentions to demonstrate that an intention’s being “access conscious” enhances its functional role, which makes it more likely that we will successfully carry out our intended behaviour. The result is that consciousness in at least one relevant sense is not epiphenomenal, with further work remaining to be done to show how other kinds of consciousness cause behaviour too. (shrink)
When philosophers defend epiphenomenalist doctrines, they often do so by way of a priori arguments. Here we suggest an empirical approach that is modeled on August Weismann’s experimental arguments against the inheritance of acquired characters. This conception of how epiphenomenalism ought to be developed helps clarify some mistakes in two recent epiphenomenalist positions – Jaegwon Kim’s (1993) arguments against mental causation, and the arguments developed by Walsh (2000), Walsh, Lewens, and Ariew (2002), and Matthen and Ariew (2002) that natural (...) selection and drift are not causes of evolution. A manipulationist account of causation (Woodward 2003) leads naturally to an account of how macro- and micro-causation are related and to an understanding of how epiphenomenalism at different levels of organization should be understood. (shrink)
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)
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)
In the domain of evolutionary cognitive archaeology, the early body ornaments from the Middle Stone Age/Palaeolithic are generally treated as mere by-products of an evolved brain-bound cognitive architecture selected to cope with looming social problems. Such adaptive artefacts are therefore taken to have been but passive means of broadcasting a priori envisaged meanings, essentially playing a neutral role for the human mind. In contrast to this epiphenomenalist view of material culture, postphenomenology and the Material Engagement Theory have been making a (...) case for the active role of artefacts on the count that they can actually shape and restructure the human mind. By bringing these dissenting voices together, the paper at hand employs an enactive way of thinking in order to challenge the epiphenomenalist take on early body ornaments. In fact, two variants of enactivism are presented, each advancing a unique explanation of how the engagement of early humans with body ornaments transformed their minds along the two postphenomenological categories of embodied and hermeneutic cognition. Our theoretical frameworks specifically seek to explore how early beadworks could have scaffolded the creation of semiotic categories and the development of cognitive processes. Despite relying on inherently different premises, both theories suggest that beads fostered the emergence of an epistemic apparatus which thoroughly transformed the way humans engaged with the world. Having concurred on the ornaments’ transformative effects, we ultimately conclude that the epiphenomenalist paradigm best be replaced with an enactive approach grounded on the dictates of postphenomenology and the MET. (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.
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)
Jaegwon Kim used the causal exclusion argument as a weapon against non-reductive physicalism in the philosophy of mind. The aim of this paper is to inquire into the consequences of this argument in order to check whether they are devastating to the initial position. The main focus will be the question of whether type epiphenomenalism, the alleged consequence of the causal exclusion argument, really leads to eliminativism about the mental. In order to cast some doubt on this claim I (...) use David Lewis's distinction between sparse and abundant properties and draw a comparison between mental predicates and deflationary truth. The conclusion is that the causal exclusion argument doesn't lead to eliminativism as traditionally conceived and some of Kim's theses might in fact be approved by non-reductive physicalists. (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)
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 epistemic argument against epiphenomenalism aims to prove that even if epiphenomenalism is true, its adherents are not able to justify their inferential beliefs. This would mean that they cannot know that they are right which is a self-stultifying consequence. I elaborate on this problem and then present an updated version of epiphenomenalism based on property dualism. I argue that this position is capable of refuting the conclusion of the epistemic argument even in spite of accepting its (...) essential assumptions. This was made possible by an upgraded property exemplification account of events. I also argue against a view which, if true, gives substantial support to the epistemic argument: that a belief justified by other beliefs is knowledge only if it is caused by those beliefs in virtue of their contents. (shrink)
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)
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 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.
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)
A prominent objection against epiphenomenalism—the doctrine that mental phenomena are causally inefficacious—is that it is incompatible with the phenomenon of human agency. It is essential for our being agents, so the argument goes, that our mental states contribute to the causation of our actions. In this paper, I wish to refute that objection and argue that epiphenomenalism, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, is fully compatible with human agency.
Epiphenomenalism has had a long historical tradition. It is the view that mental properties are causally inert with respect to the physical world. In this paper, I argue that this tradition faces enormous challenges and needs better arguments to defend its position, and to demonstrate this, I interrogate the strands including computationalism, the idea of the illusion of conscious will, and causal exclusionism.
I want to show that a common and plausible interpretation of what science tells us about the fundamental structure of the world – the ‘scientific picture of the world’ or SPW for short – leads to what I’ll call ‘generalized epiphenomenalism’, which is the view that the only features of the world that possess causal efficacy are fundamental physical features. I think that generalized epiphenomenalism follows pretty straightforwardly from the SPW as I’ll present it, but it might seem (...) that, once granted, generalized epiphenomenalism is fairly innocuous, since its threat is too diffuse to provoke traditional worries about the epiphenomenal nature of mental states. If mental states are epiphenomenal only in the same sense that the putative powers of hurricanes, psyche- delic drugs or hydrogen bombs are epiphenomenal, then probably there is not much to worry about in the epiphenomenalism of the mental. I agree that the epiphenomenalism of hurricanes and the like is manageable, but it will turn out that ensuring manageability requires that mental states have an ontological status fundamentally different from that of hurricanes, drugs and bombs, a status that is in fact inconsistent with the SPW. So I’ll argue that generalized epiphenomenalism does have some seriously worrying consequences after all. (shrink)
In its recent history, the philosophy of mind has come to resemble an entry into the genre of Hammer horror or pulpy science fiction. These days it is unusual to encounter a major philosophical work on the mind that is not populated with bats, homunculi, swamp-creatures, cruelly imprisoned genius scientists, aliens, cyborgs, other-worldly twins, self-aware Computer programs, Frankenstein-monster-like ‘Blockheads,’ or zombies. The purpose of this paper is to review the role in the philosophy of mind of one of these fantastic (...) thought-experiments — the zombie — and to reassess the implications of zombie arguments, which I will suggest have been widely misinterpreted. I shall argue that zombies, far from being the enemy of materialism, are its friend; and furthermore that zombies militate against the computational model of consciousness and in favour of more biologically-rooted conceptions, and hence that zombie- considerations support a morereductivekind of physicalism about consciousness than has been in vogue in recent years. (shrink)
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)
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)
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.
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 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.
This paper provides articulates a non-epiphenomenal, libertarian kind of free will—a kind of free will that’s incompatible with both determinism and epiphenomenalism—and responds to scientific arguments against the existence of this sort of freedom. In other words, the paper argues that we don’t have any good empirical scientific reason to believe that human beings don’t possess a non-epiphenomenal, libertarian sort of free will.
In the first part of this paper I argue that epiphenomenalism does not pose a threat to nonreductive physicalism, if type-epiphenomenalism does not imply the redundancy of mental (or in general higher-level) typing of events and/or states. Furthermore, if justifiable induction over folk-psychological regularities is possible independently of the ways in which these regularities are realized, type-epiphenomenalism does not imply the redundancy ofmental typing. Inthe second part of this paper I explain how justifiable 'cross-realization induction' can be (...) possible. This explanation does what none of the currently available ones can: combine the generally accepted ideas that (i) folk-psychology is a successful means of predicting, explaining, and understanding human behaviour and (ii) that mental states are multiply realized. Given these two steps, it is relatively safe to say that there is no epiphe-nomenalism-threat to nonreductive physicalism. (shrink)
The chief motivation for epiphenomenalist dualism is its promise to solve dualism’s causal exclusion problem without inducing causal overdetermination or violations of the causal closure of the physical. This paper argues that epiphenomenalist dualism is itself susceptible to an exclusion problem. The problem exploits symmetries of determination and influence generated by a wide class of physical theories. Further, I argue that there is an interference effect between solving epiphenomenalist dualism's exclusion problem and using epiphenomenalist dualism as a solution to the (...) causal exclusion problem. What emerges is an overlooked, empirically-motivated challenge to epiphenomenalist dualism. (shrink)