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The Causal Efficacy of Consciousness

by 1,2
Yakima Valley College, Yakima, WA 98902, USA
Center for Consciousness Science, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
Entropy 2020, 22(8), 823;
Received: 10 June 2020 / Revised: 16 July 2020 / Accepted: 17 July 2020 / Published: 28 July 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Integrated Information Theory and Consciousness)
Mental causation is vitally important to the integrated information theory (IIT), which says consciousness exists since it is causally efficacious. While it might not be directly apparent, metaphysical commitments have consequential entailments concerning the causal efficacy of consciousness. Commitments regarding the ontology of consciousness and the nature of causation determine which problem(s) a view of consciousness faces with respect to mental causation. Analysis of mental causation in contemporary philosophy of mind has brought several problems to the fore: the alleged lack of psychophysical laws, the causal exclusion problem, and the causal pairing problem. This article surveys the threat each problem poses to IIT based on the different metaphysical commitments IIT theorists might make. Distinctions are made between what I call reductive IIT, non-reductive IIT, and non-physicalist IIT, each of which make differing metaphysical commitments regarding the ontology of consciousness and nature of causation. Subsequently, each problem pertaining to mental causation is presented and its threat, or lack thereof, to each version of IIT is considered. While the lack of psychophysical laws appears unthreatening for all versions, reductive IIT and non-reductive IIT are seriously threatened by the exclusion problem, and it is difficult to see how they could overcome it while maintaining a commitment to the causal closure principle. Yet, non-physicalist IIT denies the principle but is therefore threatened by the pairing problem, to which I have elsewhere provided a response that is briefly outlined here. This problem also threatens non-reductive IIT, but unlike non-physicalist IIT it lacks an evident response. The ultimate aim of this survey is to provide a roadmap for IIT theorists through the maze of mental causation, by clarifying which commitments lead to which problems, and how they might or might not be overcome. Such a survey can aid IIT theorists as they further develop and hone the metaphysical commitments of IIT. View Full-Text
Keywords: mental causation; integrated information theory; consciousness; physicalism; monism; physical causal closure; causal exclusion; causal pairing; psychophysical laws mental causation; integrated information theory; consciousness; physicalism; monism; physical causal closure; causal exclusion; causal pairing; psychophysical laws
MDPI and ACS Style

Owen, M. The Causal Efficacy of Consciousness. Entropy 2020, 22, 823.

AMA Style

Owen M. The Causal Efficacy of Consciousness. Entropy. 2020; 22(8):823.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Owen, Matthew. 2020. "The Causal Efficacy of Consciousness" Entropy 22, no. 8: 823.

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