ANS51(4)152-161 - ACTIVITAS NERVOSA SUPERIOR Activitas...

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Activitas Nervosa Superior 2009; 51 :2,152-161 152 I S P HENOMENAL C ONSCIOUSNESS A C OMPLEX S TRUCTURE ? Chuck Stieg * Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA Received September 21, 2009; accepted October 14, 2009 Abstract Evolutionary explanations of psychological phenomena have become widespread. This paper examines a recent attempt by Nichols and Grantham (2000) to circumvent the problem of epiphenomenalism in establishing the selective status of consciousness. Nichols and Grantham (2000) argue that a case can be made for the view that consciousness is an adapta- tion based on its complexity. I set out this argument and argue that it fails to establish that phenomenal consciousness is a complex system. It is suggested that the goal of establishing consciousness as an adaptation may be better served by rejecting the distinction between access consciousness and phenomenal consciousness. Key words: Consciousness; Complexity; Adaptation INTRODUCTION Evolutionary explanations of psychological phenomena have become fairly widespread, as have critiques of those same explanations (Barkow et.al 1992, Davies 1999, Fodor 2000, Godfrey-Smith 1996, Grantham and Nichols 1999, Okasha 2003, Shapiro 1999). The evolutionary origin of consciousness is one such phenomenon. The search for evolutionary explanations of consciousness is fueled by questions such as „why are humans conscious?‟ and „is consciousness an adaptation?‟ (see, for example, Polger and Flanagan 1999). To be an adaptation, consciousness must have some effects which have been selected for such that consciousness has evolved via natural selection as opposed to its presence being explained in other ways such as an exaptation, a spandrel, or by random drift and chance. It would help to make the case that consciousness is an adaptation if there was an obvious function that it served or effects which it had, however, the threat of epiphenomenalism makes this difficult. In this paper, I will examine a recent attempt to circumvent the problem of establishing the selective status of consciousness based on postulating a function. Nichols and Grantham (2000) argue that a case can be made for the view that consciousness is an adaptation based on its complexity. Since the only scientifically respectable explanation for a complexly structured entity is that of evolution by natural selection, they conclude that consciousness is an adaptation. The examination of this argument will proceed as follows. First, I will set out the problem of epiphenomenalism which motivates Nichols and Grantham‟s argument. Second, I will present their argument in detail and follow this up with a series of objections. The objections, roughly, can be categorized as falling under two general types. The first concerns the character of functional descriptions of cognitive processes and the assumption of modularity and the second concerns questions of consistency. Questions regarding the need for adaptive explanations
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This note was uploaded on 03/08/2011 for the course CLNICAL PS 2010 taught by Professor Actnervsuper during the Spring '11 term at The Chicago School of Prof. Psychology.

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ANS51(4)152-161 - ACTIVITAS NERVOSA SUPERIOR Activitas...

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