Monday, July 23, 2012


Ivan Pavlov
While many philosophers regard human being as a complex creature with an unexplored mental inside, others believe, however, that all your mental states are merely physical processes which take place inside your brain. This theory is known as epiphenomenalism. According to the epiphenomenalism definition these are not your thoughts which make you feel angry and turn red. These are only symptoms of the same external situation. Therefore thoughts are no more than a simple illusion caused by external conditions. Also there is no such thing as free will.

You’ve probably heard many times of Ivan Pavlov, Russian physiologist. He’s famous for his research on conditioning and reflex actions. He proved that animal’s behaviour may be altered by rewarding an animal for “good” actions and punishing for those which are considered to be “wrong”. Imagine that you’ve got a dog and you punish it for biting furniture and reward for obeying you; soon he will obey you even if there is no reward afterwards. This shows how much the behaviour has to do with upbringing. In philosophy of psychology there’s even a theory called behaviourism (which shares many similarities with epiphenomenalism) that all what people (and animals) do are in fact behaviours (including thoughts). What are the arguments for epiphenomenalism?

Well, there aren’t many but I’ll give you the one which is probably most often used by epiphenomenalists – scientific research. In 1970s American scientist B. Libet found out that it actually takes 0.5 seconds before a stimulus (such as touching something hot) enters your consciousness. However, your body would be able to respond to such a stimulus within only 200 milliseconds. Personally, I think it proves nothing – it’s rather obvious that you and me do not control everything what happens in our bodies. I don’t have to think about veins so they could start pumping my blood. I don’t need to make a conscious decision about my lungs – oh, breathe, my lungs! I can’t imagine living with my consciousness filled with completely unnecessary information. What would be the point?

Think again about the definition of epiphenomenalism. Now try to answer a simple question: “How can an epiphenomenalist argue that his theory is true?”. Since, according to epiphenomalists, all mental phenomena are simply are just random physical processes? Arguing that epiphenomenalism is the right theory is meaningless since to actually perceive it as a true one, you should be able to think logically; something which would not be even possible if epiphenomenalism were true. Any attempt to prove the theory right would actually result in proving epiphenomenalism wrong… What do you think about epiphenomenalism! I’d love to hear from you in the comments! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...