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Adaptive Complexity and Phenomenal Consciousness

Shaun Nichols and Todd Grantham
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 67, No. 4 (Dec., 2000), pp. 648-670
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/188711
Page Count: 23
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Adaptive Complexity and Phenomenal Consciousness
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Abstract

Arguments about the evolutionary function of phenomenal consciousness are beset by the problem of epiphenomenalism. For if it is not clear whether phenomenal consciousness has a causal role, then it is difficult to begin an argument for the evolutionary role of phenomenal consciousness. We argue that complexity arguments offer a way around this problem. According to evolutionary biology, the structural complexity of a given organ can provide evidence that the organ is an adaptation, even if nothing is known about the causal role of the organ. Evidence from cognitive neuropsychology suggests that phenomenal consciousness is structurally complex in the relevant way, and this provides prima facie evidence that phenomenal consciousness is an adaptation. Furthermore, we argue that the complexity of phenomenal consciousness might also provide clues about the causal role of phenomenal consciousness.

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