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Emergence, Epiphenomenalism and Consciousness

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Causation can be regarded from either an explanatory/epistemic or an ontological viewpoint. From the former, emergent features enter into a host of causal relationships which form a hierarchical structure subject to scientific investigation. From the latter, the paramount issue is whether emergent features provide any novel causal powers, or whether the 'go' of the world is exhausted by the fundamental physical features which underlie emergent phenomena. I argue here that the 'Scientific Picture of the World' (SPW) strongly supports the claim that ontological causation is exhausted in the elementary physical features of the world. A method is developed for distinguishing 'emergent ontological causation' from the epistemological emergent explanatory patterns sanctioned by the SPW, and it is argued that the SPW implies that all emergence is mere epistemological emergence. However, this leads to a paradox when applied to consciousness itself, which turns out to be both epiphenomenal and viewpoint dependent.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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