Causal Role of Phenomenal Consciousness


  • Roberto Horácio Sá Pereira Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro



phenomenal causation, structuring causes, triggering causes, structuring behavior


My account of the causal role of consciousness in a physical world is modeled on Dretske's celebrated explanation of the causal role of beliefs (something that Dretske himself never offered). First, behavior must be understood as a (broadly individuated) process rather than an event that begins with some external stimulus causing some neurological event C, and ends with causing a bodily movement M (e.g., the Kennedy assassination is a process that begins with Oswald pulling the trigger at 12:30 pm CST on November 23 in 1963 in Dallas, Texas, but only ends half an hour later when Kennedy is pronounced dead at 1 pm CST). The internal neurological event C causes bodily movement M, but only by virtue of being recruited by natural selection to represent the instantiation of some external property F when properly stimulated under normal circumstances. But the reason why C causes M lies in the fact that C represents the instantiation of the external property F. E.g. I withdraw my hand from a hot surface because the activation of nociceptive specific neurons in my parietal lobe (together with the activation of neuronal patterns in my motor cortices) was recruited by natural selection to represent the tissue damage in my hand. The activation of nociceptive specific neurons causes my hand to withdraw but for the reason that it represents tissue data at the time that I felt pain in my hand.


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