Sven Walter

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780199262618
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy


Show Summary Details


Epiphenomenalism is not only at odds with our intuitive conception of ourselves as autonomous agents. It also faces a whole series of theoretical difficulties. Among other things, it appears to undermine freedom of the will, the possibility of an evolutionary account of the mind, our conviction that others enjoy a mental life similar to ours, the application of epistemic norms like justification, warrant, or reasonableness to processes of belief formation, the distinction between reasons for an action and the reasons for which it was performed, and our ability to refer to, have knowledge of, and have memories about mental states. This article briefly sketches two of the most important of them, saying why the epiphenomenalist's standard response to them appears unsatisfactory. Then it considers an issue that has so far been mostly neglected; namely, the question of which account of causation would allow for a coherent formulation of the epiphenomenalist's position. Finally, it suggests an alternative version of epiphenomenalism, which, though not free from problems, may be superior to the traditional version.

Keywords: epiphenomenalism; epistemic norms; mental life; justification; warrant; causation

Article.  4872 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.