Consciousness and mental causation: Contemporary empirical cases for epiphenomenalism, in Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness

Oxford University Press (2021)
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In its classical form, epiphenomenalism is the view that conscious mental events have no physical effects: while physical events cause mental events, the opposite is never true. Unlike classical epiphenomenalism, contemporary forms do not hold that conscious menĀ­ tal states always lack causal efficacy, only that they are epiphenomenal relative to certain kinds of action, ones we pre-theoretically would have thought consciousness to causally contribute to. Two of these contemporary, empirically based challenges to the efficacy of the mental are the focus of this chapter. The first, originating in research by Libet, has been interpreted as showing that the neural events initiating voluntary actions precede our conscious willing of them, meaning the conscious will cannot be what causes them. The second challenge, originating in studies by Milner and Goodale, consist of instances in which the content of visual consciousness and motor action dissociate, casting doubt on the intuitive view that visual consciousness guides visually based motor action.

Author's Profile

Benjamin Kozuch
University of Alabama


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