Zombies and epiphenomenalism

Document Type: 
ASSC Conference Item
Article Type: 
Theory of Consciousness
Zombies, consciousness, epiphenomenalism, physicalism
Deposited by: 
Dr. Andrew R. Bailey
Date of Issue: 
Andrew Bailey
Event Dates: 
23-26 Jun 2006
Event Location: 
Oxford, UK
Event Title: 
10th annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
Event Type: 
ASSC Conference
Presentation Type: 
Number of Pages: 
This paper examines the relationship between the claim that zombies are metaphysically possible and the notion that phenomenal consciousness is epiphenomenal. It is often taken that the former entails the latter, and that therefore any implausibility or even incoherence in the notion of conscious epiphenomenalism thus calls into question the genuine possibility of zombies. After laying out this initial intuition as forcefully as possible, this paper considers four ways in which the zombist might respond, arguing two are inadequate but the others more forceful. The two responses which I argue are uncompelling are: 1) appeals to causal overdetermination; 2) appeals to non-standard accounts of causation (e.g. Humean regularities; panprotopsychism); I then consider in more detail two further responses: 3) that the zombist need appeal only to the physicalist’s best guess about physics, and thus is not in principle committed to causal closure in the actual world; 4) that the zombist can make use of ‘gap-filling’ or ‘gap-bridging’ to deal with causal lacunae in zombie worlds. I conclude that the relation between the zombie hypothesis and epiphenomenalism is a fairly complex one, and that although it is too simple to say that the zombie hypothesis entails the epiphenomenalism of phenomenal consciousness in the actual world, nor is it plausible for the zombist to deny any connection between the two.
ASSC_Poster_01.pdf1.31 MB