A Pill Against Epiphenomenalism

  • Patrick Spät


This paper argues that epiphenomenalism – the view that physical states cause mental states, but not vice versa – is counterintuitive. Though we cannot prove its falsehood we can give strong reasons for not believing in inefficacious mental states. In doing so, this paper claims that the well-known counter-examples like arguments from the common sense or the theory of evolution are correct. Unfortunately, many arguments against epiphenomenalism do not contain empirical facts from the neurosciences. This paper tries both to do justice to this lack and to establish a new argument against epiphenomenalism: The placebo-effect provides good reasons to hold the view that mental states are efficacious in respect to an agent´s behaviour. On the one hand it is difficult for the epiphenomenalist to explain the placebo-effect without considering the causal effects of mental states, on the other hand there are well-founded empirical studies on the placebo-effect which support the contemporary claims against an epiphenomenal view.