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The Power of Natural Selection

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In a recent paper, Steven Horst argued that if traditional physicalist accounts of consciousness cannot explain why there are conscious phenomena in the world then teleological accounts of consciousness that appeal to the notion of natural selection cannot do so either. I agree with Horst's conclusion but his reasoning fails to address a rebuttal to his argument made by the major proponent of such theories, namely, Fred Dretske. Dretske argues that artificial selection can create new features and that, in an analogous fashion, natural selection can too. I show that Dretske's rebuttal is inadequate because crucial features of the analogy fail. Teleological accounts of consciousness that appeal to natural selection can only explain the prevalence of consciousness.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept of Logic and Metaphysics, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9AL, Scotland. Email:

Publication date: August 1, 2002


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