Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-jb2ch Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-03-03T19:00:15.523Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Is Consciousness a Spandrel?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 June 2015

ZACK ROBINSON
Affiliation:
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – ST. LOUIS
COREY J. MALEY
Affiliation:
UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS
GUALTIERO PICCININI
Affiliation:
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – ST. LOUISpiccininig@umsl.edu

Abstract:

Determining the biological function of phenomenal consciousness appears necessary to explain its origin: evolution by natural selection operates on organisms’ traits based on the biological functions they fulfill. But identifying the function of phenomenal consciousness has proven difficult. Some have proposed that the function of phenomenal consciousness is to facilitate mental processes such as reasoning or learning. But mental processes such as reasoning and learning seem to be possible in the absence of phenomenal consciousness. It is difficult to pinpoint in what way phenomenal consciousness enhances these processes or others like them. In this paper, we explore a possibility that has been neglected to date. Perhaps phenomenal consciousness has no function of its own because it is either a by-product of other traits or a (functionless) accident. If so, then phenomenal consciousness has an evolutionary explanation even though it fulfills no biological function.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © American Philosophical Association 2015 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Block, Ned. (1978) ‘Troubles with Functionalism’. In Savage, C. W. (ed.), Perception and Cognition: Issues in the Foundations of Psychology (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), 261325.Google Scholar
Block, Ned. (1995) ‘On a Confusion about a Function of Consciousness’. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 18, 227–47.Google Scholar
Block, Ned, and Fodor, Jerry A.. (1972) ‘What Psychological States Are Not’. Philosophical Review, 81, 159–81.Google Scholar
Carruthers, Peter. (2000) Phenomenal Consciousness: A Naturalistic Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Chalmers, David J. (1995) ‘Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness’. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2, 200–19.Google Scholar
Chalmers, David J. (1996) The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Dennett, Daniel C. (1991) Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
Dretske, Fred. (1997) ‘What Good Is Consciousness?’. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 27, 115.Google Scholar
Eccles, John. (1992) ‘Evolution of Consciousness’. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 89, 7320–24.Google Scholar
Flanagan, Owen J. (1995) ‘Deconstructing Dreams: The Spandrels of Sleep’. Journal of Philosophy, 92, 527.Google Scholar
Flanagan, Owen J., and Polger, Thomas W.. (1995) ‘Zombies and the Function of Consciousness’. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2, 313–21.Google Scholar
Gould, Stephen J. (1991) ‘Exaptation: A Crucial Tool for an Evolutionary Psychology’. Journal of Social Issues, 47, 4365.Google Scholar
Gould, Stephen J., and Lewontin, Richard C.. (1979) ‘The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Program’. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 205, 581–98.Google Scholar
Heil, John. (2012) The Universe as We Find It. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Humphrey, Nicholas. (2011) Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Irvine, Elizabeth. (2013) Consciousness as a Scientific Concept: A Philosophy of Science Perspective. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnston, Mark. (2006) ‘Better than Mere Knowledge? The Function of Sensory Awareness’. In Gendler, Tamar S. and Hawthorne, John (eds.), Perceptual Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 260–90.Google Scholar
Kim, Jaegwon. (1998) Mind in a Physical World: An Essay on the Mind-body Problem and Mental Causation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Kirk, Robert. (2014) ‘Zombies’. In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2014. Available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/zombies/.Google Scholar
Kriegel, Uriah. (2004) ‘Consciousness and Self-Consciousness’. The Monist, 87, 185209.Google Scholar
Levine, Joseph. (1983) ‘Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap’. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 64, 354–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lycan, William G. (1987) Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Maley, Corey, and Piccinini, Gualtiero. (Forthcoming) ‘A Unified Mechanistic Account of Teleological Functions for Psychology and Neuroscience’. In Kaplan, David (ed.), Integrating Psychology and Neuroscience: Prospects and Problems (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
McGinn, Colin. (1989) ‘Can We Solve the Mind-body Problem?Mind, 98, 349–66.Google Scholar
Millikan, Ruth. (1984) Language, Thought, and Other Categories: New Foundations for Realism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Nagel, Thomas. (1974) ‘What Is It Like to Be a Bat?Philosophical Review, 83, 435–50.Google Scholar
Nagel, Thomas. (2012) Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist New-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Nichols, Sean, and Grantham, Todd. (2000) ‘Adaptive Complexity and Phenomenal Consciousness’. Philosophy of Science, 67, 648–70.Google Scholar
Papineau, David. (2001) ‘The Rise of Physicalism’. In Gillett, Carl and Loewer, Barry (eds.), Physicalism and its Discontents (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), 336.Google Scholar
Place, Ullin T. (2000) ‘The Causal Potency of Qualia: Its Nature and its Source’. Brain and Mind, 1, 183–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Polger, Thomas W., and Flanagan, Owen J.. (2002) ‘Consciousness, Adaptation and Epiphenomenalism’. In Fetzer, James H. (ed.), Consciousness Evolving (Amsterdam: John Benjamins), 2142.Google Scholar
Ramachandran, V. S., and Hirstein, William. (1997) ‘Three Laws of Qualia: What Neurology Tells Us about the Biological Functions of Consciousness, Qualia, and the Self’. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 4, 429–58.Google Scholar
Rosenthal, David. (2008) ‘Consciousness and Its Function’. Neuropsychologia, 46, 829–40.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Seth, Anil. (2009) ‘Functions of Consciousness’. In Banks, William P. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Consciousness (Boston: Elsevier), 279–93.Google Scholar
Sober, Elliott. (1990) ‘Putting the Function Back into Functionalism’. In Lycan, William (ed.), Mind and Cognition (Malden, MA: Blackwell), 6370.Google Scholar
Sufka, Kenneth. (2000) ‘Chronic Pain Explained’. Brain and Mind, 1, 155–79.Google Scholar
Trehub, Arnold. (2013) ‘Where Am I? Redux’. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 20, 207–25.Google Scholar
Tye, Michael. (1996) ‘The Function of Consciousness’. Noûs, 30, 287306.Google Scholar
van Gulick, Robert. (1989) ‘What Difference Does Consciousness Make?Philosophical Topics, 17, 211–30.Google Scholar
Varki, Ajit, and Brower, Danny. (2013) Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind. New York: Twelve.Google Scholar