Essay about Qualia and Epiphenomenalism

Essay about Qualia and Epiphenomenalism

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The philosophical theory of dualism holds that mind and body are two separate entities. While dualism presupposes that the two ‘substances’ may interact, it contrasts physicalism by refusing to denote correlation between body and mind as proof of identity. Comparing the two theories, dualism’s invulnerable proof of the existence of qualia manages to evade arguments from physicalism. While a common argument against qualia—non-physical properties defined in Jackson’s Knowledge Argument—targets the unsound nature of epiphenomenalism, this claim is not fatal to the theory of dualism as it contains claims of causation and fails to stand resolute to the conceivability of philosophical zombies. This essay argues that epiphenomenalism, while often designated as a weakness when present in an argument, can remain in valid arguments from qualia.
Jackson’s Knowledge Argument presents the thought experiment of Mary the scientist. Given the task of studying color in a monochromatic environment using a black-and-white television screen, Mary develops a complete physical knowledge of color vision. Upon release into the polychromatic, it is rational to believe that Mary will acquire some sort of knowledge. Thus, this implies that there is some sort of knowledge of color vision that Mary did not have prior to her release. Having known all the physical facts, it follows that non-physical facts must exist. These non-physical facts, defined by Jackson as qualia, are the subjective experiences of the individual. As Jackson states in his paper, analysis of the brain cannot reveal information regarding “the hurtfulness of pains, the itchiness of itches, pangs of jealousy, or about the characteristic experience of tasting a lemon, smelling a rose, heari...


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...equence of the fact that certain happenings in the brain cause both. The physical changes observed in Mary after experiencing color may be the result of these enigmatic occurrences. While interactions with qualia may precede physical changes, it is in violation of Humean philosophy to claim that correlation indicates causation.
Jackson’s Knowledge Argument, while relying on the validity of epiphenomenalism, manages to stand to arguments of physicalism. The ability of conceivable ‘zombies’ to register qualia without experiencing it responds to the claims of acquaintance arguments. Furthermore, beliefs that qualia would provoke physical changes and reactions are accompanied by flawed assertions of attempting to capture the nature of causation. Qualia and the necessity of non-physical knowledge to their existence provide valid arguments to upholding dualist beliefs.

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