Epiphenomenalism returns?

At first glance, these scientists seem to be treating something as a "new realization" that's actually an old item of philosophical scrutiny (re: "[consciousness has] no causal relationship with or control over mental processes"). The problem with the causal asymmetry of epiphenomenalism is how could the "non-conscious brain systems" be verbally reporting on the qualitative experiences (conscious affairs) at all if the latter have no return effect or influence (potency)? Such inconsistency may eventually try to remedy itself by sliding into the phenomenal nihilism view that the brain is actually just making-up or pretending that there are feelings and extrospective/introspective manifestations. Something which one could entertain with regard to other people being p-zombies, but which would be a denial of ludicrous magnitude with regard to one's own inner life. (IOW, a potential path from epiphenomenalism to phenomenal nihilism to solipsism.)


EXCERPT: . . . But common sense can be easily confused. Consider these questions for example: if you felt pain in an amputated leg, where is the pain? If you say it is in your head, would it be in your head if your leg had not been amputated? If you say yes, then what reason have you for ever thinking you had a leg? [...] most of us consider consciousness – our subjective awareness – to be responsible for creating and controlling our thoughts, memories and actions. At the same time, we recognise that some of these psychological processes are carried on beyond our awareness.

[...] The key driver behind this traditional distinction stems from our own powerful belief that causality links subjective awareness with the daily experience of appearing to have control over our thoughts, feelings and actions. Over the past 100 years, however, a growing body of evidence has begun to question this binary distinction. [...] our thoughts, beliefs, sensations, perceptions, emotions, intentions, actions and memories – are actually formed backstage by fast and efficient non-conscious brain systems.

[...] Previously, we argued that while undeniably real, the “experience of consciousness” or subjective awareness is precisely that – awareness. No more, no less. We proposed that while consciousness is created by brain systems, it has no causal relationship with or control over mental processes. The fact that personal awareness accompanies the contents of the personal narrative is causally compelling. But it is not necessarily relevant to understanding and explaining the psychological processes underpinning them.

This quote from George Miller – one of the founders of cognitive psychology – helps explain this idea. When one recalls something from memory, “consciousness gives no clue as to where the answer comes from; the processes that produce it are unconscious. It is the result of thinking, not the process of thinking, that appears spontaneously in consciousness”.

Taking this further, we propose that subjective awareness – the intimate signature experience of what it is like to be conscious – is itself a product of non-conscious processing. This observation, was well captured by pioneering social psychologist Daniel Wegner when he wrote that, “unconscious mechanisms create both conscious thought about action and the action, and also produce the sense of will we experience by perceiving the thought as the cause of the action”.

Our proposition that both the subjective experience of consciousness (personal awareness) and associated psychological processes (thoughts, beliefs, ideas, intentions and more) are products of non-conscious processes is consistent with the fact that non-conscious automatic brain systems reliably carry out all of our core biological processes (such as respiration and digestion) efficiently, and often without our awareness.

It is also consistent with a wider prevailing observation found in the natural sciences – especially neurobiology. In this field conscious primacy is not nearly as prevalent as it is in psychology. Complex and intelligent design in living things are not assumed to be driven by conscious processes. Instead they are thought to come from adaptive processes which accrued through natural selection....

MORE: https://theconversation.com/what-if-cons...ain-107973
Phantom pain is an argument for the brain-in-a-jar primacy of consciousness. There has not been any conclusive evidence that conscious thought is "actually formed backstage by fast and efficient non-conscious brain systems". There have just been Libet-like experiments that only demonstrated the brain readying itself to answer or doing its analog of a random number generator.

This seems to be conflating the conscious and subconscious, only the latter of which operating below our awareness. And while a memory can be evoked unbidden, usually by external stimuli or by relation to directed though, we do often make a willful choice to recall one.

And they don't even seem to attempt to explain how autonomic biological processes make any argument about conscious thought.

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