Neural Synchrony and the Causal Efficacy of Consciousness

Topoi 39 (5):1057-1072 (2020)
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The purpose of this paper is to address a well-known dilemma for physicalism. If mental properties are type identical to physical properties, then their causal efficacy is secure, but at the cost of ruling out mentality in creatures very different to ourselves. On the other hand, if mental properties are multiply realizable, then all kinds of creatures can instantiate them, but then they seem to be causally redundant. The causal exclusion problem depends on the widely held principle that realized properties inherit their causal powers from their realizers. While this principle holds for functional realization, it fails on a broader notion of realization that permits the realization of complex qualitative properties such as spatial and temporal patterns. Such properties are best seen as dependent powerful qualities, which have their causal roles in virtue of being the qualities they are, and do not inherit powers from their realizers. Recent studies have identified one such property—neural synchrony—as a correlate of consciousness. If synchrony is also partially constitutive of consciousness, then phenomenal properties are both multiply realizable and causally novel. I outline a version of representationalism about consciousness on which this constitution claim holds.

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David Yates
Universidade de Lisboa


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