July 28, 2020 // Matthew Owen

Professor Kyumin Moon (Korea University) is editing a special issue of the scientific journal Entropy on the integrated information theory (IIT) and consciousness. I have contributed an article, The Causal Efficacy of Consciousness. In this article, I provide a roadmap through the maze of mental causation for IIT by clarifying which philosophical commitments regarding the nature of consciousness and causation will lead to which problems and how they might or might not be overcome. General readers who may not be interested in IIT specifically but mental causation generally will likely be most interested in Section 5, where I argue that an essential physicalist principle–the causal closure of the physical domain–needs to be and can be rationally denied to overcome the causal exclusion problem. Also, in Section 6, I discuss the causal pairing problem and how it is broader than often thought, in that it applies not only to mental-to-physical causation but also physical-to-mental causation. Here I also outline my response to the causal pairing problem from Owen (2019), which is based on a hylomorphic understanding of human ontology. 

Readers will likely notice by the end that what I call “non-physicalist IIT” seems to fair best (compared to “reductive IIT” and “non-reductive IIT”) with respect to the problems of mental causation. For some, specifically those who think a science of consciousness requires physicalism, this might elicit the concern that embracing such a non-physicalist view would undermine a science of consciousness and the possibility of empirically discerning and quantifying consciousness. I address this concern from the perspective of neo-Thomistic hylomorphism in Measuring the Immeasurable Mind: Where Contemporary Neuroscience Meets the Aristotelian Tradition, which is forthcoming from Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield).