Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Epiphenomenalism, philosophy of mind: theories that conceive the mind as a side effect of brain processes, the mind itself does not cause any effects. See also supervenience, identity theory, mind, brain, materialism, reductionism, dualism, property dualism.

Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Item Summary Meta data
I 150
Epiphenomenalism/Consciousness/Chalmers: Question: when consciousness only supervenes naturally (but not logically) on the physical, there is apparently no causality involved. Then consciousness would only be a side effect and would not exist at all. (Huxley (1874) (1)) argues thus.
ChalmersVs: the causal unity of our physical world looks only like epiphenomenalism.
I 151
VsEpiphenomenalism/Chalmers: a strategy against it would be to deny the causal unity of the physical world. We should not do that. There are better ways that assume more appropriate assumptions of metaphysics and causation.
1. Regularity-Based Causation/Chalmers: Instead of causality, we could assume regularity with Hume. Then one could argue that the behavior itself would have been the same without phenomenological consciousness.
ChalmersVs: there are many systematic regularities between conscious experiences and later physical events, each of which leads us to conclude a causal link.
I 152
2. Causal overdetermination: one might assume that a physical and a phenomenal state, although completely separated, might cause a later physical state. Problem: causal redundancy.
Solution: Tooley (1987) (2): we could assume an irreducible causal connection between two physical and one separate irreducible causal connection between a phenomenal and a physical state. This is a non-reducible view of causation.
ChalmersVsTooley: it is not easy to show that there is something wrong with it. I do not pursue this, but it has to be taken seriously.
3. Non-supervenience of the causation: facts about consciousness and those about causation are the only facts which do not logically supervene on certain physical facts.
Chalmers: it is quite natural to speculate as to whether these two kinds of non-supervenience have a common root.
Rosenberg: (1966) (3) has developed this. Rosenberg Thesis: Experience recognizes causation or some aspects of it. After that, causation needs recognition by someone or something.
ChalmersVsRosenberg: this is, of course, very speculative, and leads among other things to panpsychism.
I 153
In addition, the zombie problem would persist.
4. The intrinsic nature of the physical: thesis: a physical theory characterizes above all the relations of its entities, i.e. its propensities to interact with other elements.
Problem: what is it that causes all these relations of causation and combinations? Russell (1927) (4): This is what the physical theory is silent about.
Solution: to adopt an intrinsic nature of the physical elements.
Chalmers: the only class of such intrinsic properties would be the class of phenomenal properties.
I 154
There must be no panpsychism following from this. Instead, we can assume proto-phanomenal properties.
I 159
VsEpiphenomenalism/Chalmers: Arguments against it fall into three classes:
1. Those which concern the relations of experience to normal behavior,
2. Those which concern the relations of experience to judgments about normal behavior,
3. Those which concern the overall picture of the world, which provokes the acceptance of epiphenomenalism.
Ad 1. VsEpiphenomenalism: For example, the intuitions about why I withdraw my hand from a flame are strong, on the other hand, we can clarify these intuitions by assuming regularities. We simply perceive experiences more directly than the corresponding brain states.
Ad 2. VsEpiphenomenalism: It seems to be extremely counterintuitive that our experiences could be irrelevant to the explanation of our behavior.
I 160
Ad. 3. VsEpiphenomenalism: the image of the world which is drawn by it is implausible because there should be nomological appendages which are not integrated into the system of other natural laws.
Epiphenomenalism/Chalmers: I do not describe my own position as epiphenomenalism. The question of the causal relevance of experience remains unanswered.

1. T. Huxley, On the hypothesis that animals are automata. In: Collected Essays, London 1987, pp. 1893-94.
2. M. Tooley, Causation: A Realist Approach, Oxford 1987
3. G. H. Rosenberg, Consciousness and causation: Clues toward a double-aspect theory, Ms Indiana Universwity, 1996.
4. B. Russell, The Analysis of Matter, London 1927

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Cha I
D. Chalmers
The Conscious Mind Oxford New York 1996

Cha II
D. Chalmers
Constructing the World Oxford 2014

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2019-07-16
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