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Evolutionary explanation and the hard problem of consciousness

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Abstract:

Chalmers and others have argued that physicalist microexplanation is incapable of solving the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. This article examines whether evolutionary accounts of the mind, such as those developed by Millikan, Dretske and Flanagan, can add anything to make up for the possible short falls of more reductionist accounts. I argue that they cannot, because evolutionary accounts explain by appeal to a selectional history that only comes into the picture if consciousness can first arise due to spontaneous mutation in some individual organism, and explaining this emergence of consciousness from DNA and embryology calls for precisely the kind of structurally-based supervenience account that Chalmers et al. have objected to. Not only does an evolutionary account not succeed where a reductionist account fails; the evolutionary account presupposes the possibility of a reductionist account.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Wesleyan University, Middletown CT 06459, USA.

Publication date: January 1, 1999

imp/jcs/1999/00000006/00000001/917
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