Consciousness, adaptation, and epiphenomenalism

In James H. Fetzer (ed.), Consciousness Evolving. John Benjamins (1998)
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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.

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Tom Polger
University of Cincinnati


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