Do our conscious experiences cause us to do anything?

This is the first in an article series exploring the philosophical topic of consciousness and the problem of its causal interaction with the world. The article goes over a commonly held position among philosophers of mind known as epiphenomenalism.

What is consciousness?

            One of the most difficult philosophical issues of the modern day is known as the mind-body problem. Specifically, philosophers have had difficulty in reconciling our scientific understanding of the world with the existence of consciousness, a challenge that has been labeled the hard problem of consciousness.

            But before I begin, I should point out what I mean by ‘consciousness’. Consciousness is used by people to mean many different things. In popular culture, it’s usually just synonymous with awareness, however most philosophers use the word in a more specific way to pick out our inner subjective states.

            Basically, consciousness refers to your private mental life. To be conscious means that there’s an experience associated with being you. It feels like something to be you, just as it feels like something to be a dog or a dolphin, but – presumably – it doesn’t feel like anything to be a rock or an iPhone.

            The difficulty comes when we try to explain how my subjective experiences could causally interact with the objective material world. If my subjective experiences are real, then they would seem to be objects in their own right that are distinct from the physical stuff of the world1. That’s because an experience doesn’t have an electric charge, nor does it exert gravitational attraction or do any of the other stuff physical things do.

            Rather, experiences are painful or pleasurable, and subjective in all the other ways only an experience can be. But if that’s true, then how could this immaterial stuff ever affect the physical matter of the real world (and vice versa)?

            In this article, I will explore a philosophical stance known as epiphenomenalism, which is an attempt by some philosophers to explain this very issue.

  • Epiphenomenalism: The philosophical stance that consciousness exerts no causal influence in the physical world

            According to the epiphenomenalists, physical matter in our brains might cause our consciousness, but our conscious experiences themselves, such as redness or itchiness, don’t have any impact on the world at all.

            In this way, epiphenomenalists can readily explain the existence of our conscious experiences as being some after-effect caused by our brain. Furthermore, they don’t have to buy into any mysterious immaterial-material interactions (i.e. the immaterial causing the material), because they explicitly rule out any causal influence by our consciousness on the physical world. Science can continue to explain the behavior of all the physical stuff in the world, and our subjective experiences arise from the physical behavior of our brains.

            This seems really neat, but it does have the unfortunate side effect of excluding the possibility of free will, since under epiphenomenalism our inner mental lives, including our will, have no real influence on the outside world2.

Does free will disprove epiphenomenalism?

            Of course, abandoning free will won’t seem appealing to most people for a whole host of reasons. It just seems obvious to many that we have free will or something like it. After all, when I consciously decide to raise my arm up, it goes up.

              So how do the proponents of epiphenomenalism explain the apparent existence of free will? Well, in reality, the existence of free will is quite philosophically contentious, and just because it seems that my arm went up because I consciously willed it to do so doesn’t mean that this is true. For instance, it’s entirely possible that my arm went up solely because of the activations in the neural circuitry in my brain and the nerve impulses in my arm, and that my conscious awareness of this action was merely a sort of ‘afterthought’ caused by my brain.

            In addition, there were a whole host of ‘common-sense’ positions that seemed obvious in the past, such as the geocentric theory of the solar system, that later fell apart after closer scientific inspection. Opponents of free will propose that our intuitions concerning free will are similar. Just as the ancient Greeks formed misguided common-sense intuitions concerning the nature of the solar system because of their implicit reliance on an outdated Aristotelian physical worldview (for example: if the earth was going around the sun, why don’t we feel it?), so too, they claim, we base our common intuitions concerning free will on a ‘folk psychological’ theory of the human mind which is scientifically outdated.

 A bigger problem with epiphenomenalism

           If abandoning free will is the price of adopting epiphenomenalism, then that doesn’t seem to be too bad of a deal for many philosophers. But the price tag of epiphenomenalism might be higher still. For it’s one thing to say that my raising my own arm is not caused by my conscious state, and quite another to say that my writing this article about consciousness at this very moment is not actively caused by my own inner subjective state!

How could my brain have even come up with the thought to write up this article about whether it may (or may not) be influenced in doing so by its conscious self, if my conscious self was not the progenitor of that thought? To be clear, I am not insisting that it would have been literally impossible for my brain to do so. After all, the writing of an article consists of nothing more than the movements of my fingers in sequence, effectuated by the activity of my muscles and nerves, which are in turn caused by my brain.

            So, if I am not claiming that under epiphenomenalism it’s impossible for my brain to write this article, then what’s the problem? The issue is that it seems like my brain’s activity and my behavior are perfectly correlated with my inner conscious states, when there’s no reason for such a coincidence to be realized in the first place under epiphenomenalism, making the correlation truly miraculous.

            This exact criticism is explored in one of the most common philosophical counters to epiphenomenalism, known as the evolutionary argument. Before we can understand it however, we must first explore a phenomenon known as qualia inversion.

What’s qualia inversion?

            Qualia inversion is the idea that your conscious experiences could be ‘inverted’ from mine, and we would never know the difference.

            I’m sure we have all wondered as kids whether it is possible for my perception of blue to be your perception of red. As long as our perceptions are internally consistent, we may never realize the difference. Maybe, that’s even why people have different favorite colours!

            Well, philosophers have wondered about this too. The idea of qualia inversion is usually used to demonstrate other things, but it can also be invoked to give an evolutionary argument against epiphenomenalism.

  • The evolutionary argument against epiphenomenalism: If my consciousness doesn’t cause me to do anything, then why have we evolved the right conscious experiences to perfectly match our behavior?

            We feel as though pain is bad, and our brain acts as if it is (it tries to stop the activity), and we feel as though pleasure is good and our brain appears to agree with us (it tries to keep engaging in the activity). Granted, there’s no perfect overlap between the two. We are often capable of restraining our pleasures when we choose to, and of enduring hardship for some greater gain. Nevertheless, the coincidence seems uncanny.

            But if my consciousness has no causal influence on my brain and body, there should be no reason for such an overlap. Just as the real Alex (the author of this piece) hates putting his hand in boiling water and enjoys eating chocolate, there might exist an Alex 2.0 in some nearby physical world who is identical with me in every way but for the fact that he experiences the above two actions in an inverted way.

            In this bizarre alternative world, poor Alex 2.0 has a terrible compulsive addiction to eating chocolate even though it causes him excruciating pain and scalds his tongue. If that sounds weird, remember that under epiphenomenalism there is no causal input by my consciousness. Both the real Alex and Alex 2.0 aren’t consciously choosing to pull their hand from the boiling water, hence the point about there being no free will in the introduction.

            If epiphenomenalism is right, I just happened by extraordinary luck to end up with my subjective experiences perfectly aligned with my bodily states, when I could have ended up like Alex 2.0, or any of the other many misfit combinations. Even though my brain might causally influence my subjective states, so long as epiphenomenalism holds true there will never be any causal influence in the opposite direction, from my subjective states to my brain states, and therefore there is no evolutionary pressure to select for subjective states that match the brain states.

            Epiphenomenalism can explain why my qualitative inner experiences are consistently associated with certain brain states (because my brain causes my experiences), but it has a problem explaining why the proper experiences are aligned with the proper brain states.

Can epiphenomenalism account for the miraculous coincidence?

            Some philosophers have attempted to defend epiphenomenalism by arguing that the observed ‘miraculous’ correlation between my conscious phenomenal states and my brain activity are easily attributable to some natural phenomena, and therefore needs no explanation at all.

            Said philosophers might point out that even if epiphenomenalism is true, it doesn’t follow that there can’t be any causal connection between my mind and my brain. We know for instance that epiphenomenalism is compatible with the notion that the brain causes the mind. More importantly, there might exist an underlying cause for both mind and brain. If there existed some additional third cause which affected both my brain and my conscious mind, then that would explain why my mind and brain happened to be in constant synchronicity. 

            Many3 have tried to argue in this vein that the reality of epiphenomenalism is no different from that of any other correlative natural phenomena. The fact that the brain and mind are always in alignment is no more mysterious than an object and its shadow being in constant correspondence.

            However, this argument by itself is insufficient to do away with the thrust of the evolutionary argument. It only establishes that the constant correlation between brain and mind is easily attributable to some third effect. Yet the true ‘miracle’ of the coincidence at hand lies not in a lack of a possible cause, but in the fact that this coincidence - along with whatever cause is responsible for it - appears to be extremely improbable under epiphenomenalism and not nearly so improbable under its alternatives. If that doesn’t quite make sense, don't worry, I’ll explain it in a moment.

Improbable vs improbable by chance

            To understand the point about improbability, we have to appreciate the difference between the merely improbable, and that which is improbable by chance. There are all kinds of improbable events which happen in our lifetimes, but it is only those which are improbable by chance that we find truly remarkable. For example, suppose I was driving on a wet rainy road, and I discovered that the raindrops on my windshield had, by pure coincidence, lined up to spell out my social security number. Obviously, I would be in my rights to be spooked by that coincidence, and I might wonder if someone was pulling a prank on me, among other things.

            But if you think about it, there exist all kinds of possible configurations that the raindrops on my windshield could have taken, each of them as improbable as the next. If I took a photo of some random pattern on my windshield during my morning commute, the probability that that exact configuration of raindrops would be replicated is roughly just as low as the probability of my social security number being written in the raindrops on my car.

            Now of course, I wouldn’t find such a random configuration to be exceptional at all. Just as we wouldn’t find it the least bit remarkable if a monkey randomly bashing away on a typewriter happened to spit out the sequence “hygalojo3wq-21f43e8cfca”, and yet we would all be astounded if that same monkey happened to type out “I love bananas”. Ironically, it's actually more improbable that said monkey would randomly type out the former phrase, given its longer length. So, you should bet that it would write out the words “I love bananas” by chance before it wrote out the gibberish above.

            This aspect of being astounding or remarkable is the crucial distinction between improbability (typing out random phrases) and improbability by chance (the monkey typing “I love bananas”). So, what makes the latter remarkable but the former banal? It’s because, as the philosopher Philip Goff puts it, “there’s no (non-ad hoc) non-chance hypothesis that would render (the gibberish sequence) much more probable… whereas there is a (non-ad hoc) non-chance hypothesis that would render (“I love bananas”) more probable4

            In other words, it’s because we can’t conceive of any explanation that is more compelling than random chance to justify why the monkey typed out the gibberish phrase, that it seems so utterly banal to our eyes. And since we can readily imagine plausible non-random explanations for why the monkey typed out “I love bananas”, like the monkey being trained on the typewriter, or the typewriter in question being rigged in some fashion, we find the coincidence to be too uncanny for us to just accept the explanation of random chance.

Deconstructing the case for epiphenomenalism

            Having made the above delineation, we can now better appreciate the strength (or lack thereof) of the argument put forward by the defender of epiphenomenalism. It’s not enough to point out that there could be an explanation for why my brain and mind are fortuitously correlated in the form of an underlying cause for both. That only resolves the mere improbability of my mind always working in tandem with my brain. 

What we really need is an explanation that could account for the improbability by chance which is put forth by the evolutionary argument. The crux of the evolutionary argument is to point out that the happy coincidence between my behavior (eating chocolate) and my conscious states (feeling pleasure) is improbable by chance, and not simply some improbable event.

            We can imagine all kinds of other possible correlations between my conscious state and behavior, like a universe where I felt excruciating pain every time I ate chicken, but because my conscious mind has no influence on my behavior, I’m compelled to silently watch on in horror as I keep munching on chicken while I smile and declare “this is yummy, I want more”. Put this way, the vast majority of alignments would be mismatches of some kind, even if not necessarily to the degree I described. 

Thus, it’s more than merely improbable that we happened to have a perfect, or nearly perfect, match between our conscious and physical conditions. Of all the possible associations between mind and body, only ours (or ones very much like ours) would happen to work so heavily in our favour. This is similar to how the intelligible phrases written by the monkey constitute a very small subset of all the possible randomly typed sequences.

            What makes our case of near-perfect correlation between brain and mind improbable by chance is the fact that we possess an easy explanation for the improbability at hand, namely: epiphenomenalism is false, and we possess the free will to choose behaviors which align with our conscious states. The epiphenomenalist can only account for the mere improbability of the coincidence by attributing it to some underlying causal mechanism, but because any such mechanism could in theory have picked out any possible mind-body correlation, misfit or not, it’s still a poor explanation for why we happen to possess a fit coordination of physical and phenomenal states. That’s because according to the evolutionary argument, misfit combinations are no more evolutionarily maladaptive than fit ones are. 

On the other hand, the free will anti-epiphenomenalist stance can easily explain fit correlations, and so it’s a far more preferable explanation to epiphenomenalism. As such, epiphenomenalism continues to be a problematic stance, and the mind-body problem must for the moment remain unresolved.


            In my next follow-up articles, I will continue this series by exploring some potential solutions to the mind-body problem that I find more workable. This will include standard solutions like physicalism (consciousness is physical), as well as more exotic theories such as panpsychism, which is the position that everything in the universe, including atoms, are conscious (yes, you read that right).

            As it stands, we are left with a serious conundrum. It’s no wonder then that this issue remains among the most challenging philosophical problems of the contemporary era, and why it has been aptly named the hard problem of consciousness.

Possible Objections

If you can think of any counters to my argument against epiphenomenalism, let me know and I can put it in this section, along with my response. Here’s some hypothetical ones that I came up with off the top of my head.

1.    What if there aren’t multiple causal mechanisms in our brains that could output all kinds of possible combinations between our conscious and physical states? What if consciousness is tied to a functional or behavioral state of the brain, and not with the brain state itself? In that case, there would be no other possible causal mechanisms which could output a different conscious state for a given behavioral state of the brain. Therefore, there’s no need to explain the ‘miracle’ of our conscious states perfectly correlating with behavior.  


This only pushes the argument a step further back though. We would still want to know why we were born in a universe with such incredible luck, where the only selectable underlying physical mechanism that correlates mind with brain happens to work so advantageously in our favour. Accepting this explanation still means that we have to admit that we were tremendously lucky, whereas the free will anti-epiphenomenalist stance solves the problem without any need to invoke luck at all, so it’s still preferable.

2.     You are saying that even if functionalism is correct, it would still be a matter of luck that it happened to be the case that in our universe a particular functional state is correlated with the right conscious state. But doesn’t this argument also defeat your objection against epiphenomenalism? After all, it seems like we would also have to be exceptionally fortunate to have been born in a universe where the correct causal mechanism existed, such that the right conscious state caused the right behavior, as opposed to the conscious state causing the wrong behavior. [Thanks to Dmitriy aka ReasonMeThis for suggesting this objection]


This would indeed be a self-defeater for the above type of causal account, where it’s just a deterministic fact that certain conscious states cause certain physical states. But that’s not the kind of psycho-physical causal account that I have in mind. A free will anti-epiphenomenalist stance is not, by definition, deterministic (at least not in that specific sense). So, it wouldn’t be true that a particular conscious state causes a particular physical state.

Rather, the free will argument proposes that our seat of consciousness, which is composed of an amalgamation of multiple complex conscious states, has broad causal authority. If we have free will, then we have the power to select for a great deal of physical behavior. It’s not the case that you must scream if you are in pain; agents with free will may still choose to remain silent if it is within their ability. We only tend to select certain actions because that’s exactly what you would expect an agent with the power of free will to do (to choose behaviors that best fulfill its desires).

 This means that there’s little to no luck involved. Any selection for a fit combination of phenomenal and physical states is explainable under free will (which ensures that agents always desire phenomenally good things) and evolutionary theory (which ensures that phenomenally good things are aligned with evolutionary adaptive choices). Hence, there’s no need to explain any fortuitous alignment if you accept the free will argument. There would only be a need to explain why we happen to live in a universe where free will is possible, but this is an entirely different sort of possibility, which warrants a different level of skepticism. Presumably, our epistemic priors for the existence of free will are a great deal more favorable than our epistemic priors for the random selection of fit psycho-physical correlations. 


1) Naturally there are accounts of conscious experiences which reduce our subjective experiences to the physical stuff of the world. But we are here assuming for the purposes of this article that our conscious experiences are not wholly physical. Meaning that there at least exists a component of our consciousness which is not fully describable in physical terms. In my next follow-up article, I explore the standard physicalist accounts of consciousness and I argue therein that none of them can work.

2) Since we are assuming that our conscious experiences are immaterial, it follows that the locus of free will must also be immaterial and ‘outside’ the brain.  

3) Most famously, the philosopher Daniel Dennett gave an example illustrating how the existence of spandrels as an architectural item of choice is no coincidence. Dennett initially used the analogy to make a critique in evolutionary theory, but it’s also been brought up by other philosophers as something that works in favour of epiphenomenalism. 

4) The Lottery Fallacy, Fine-Tuning, and the Multiverse – Conscience and Consciousness 

4 Comments - Go to bottom

  1. I've been having a discussion with my colleague Dmitriy (aka ReasonMeThis) on the merits of the free will argument, and I thought it productive to bring our conversation into the public light, which is why I'm posting my response in this comment thread. He brought up many good points that I thought needed to be addressed.

    One issue that he raised had to do with my response to the first objection of the evolutionary argument. The first objection points out that the evolutionary argument assumes that there are multiple possible evolutionary pathways (MEP), with each leading to different physical-phenomenal combinations. It could have been, for instance, that I had evolved a brain state which was evolutionary adaptive, but which predisposed me to feel as if I'm always in phenomenal agony 24/7. Of course, we are fortunate in that none of us have evolved such a state; those unfortunate people who are experiencing constant mental anguish do in fact exhibit evolutionary maladaptive behaviors.

    So, the evolutionary argument can only work if this multiple evolutionary pathway (MEP) assumption is sound. But whether it is sound well depend on our theory of consciousness, and how we think consciousness is correlated with the physical world. This is where my response comes in because I argue that even if the base assumption is unsound, that this only pushes the argument against epiphenomenalism a step further back.

    But now there comes an issue with this hypothetical retort as well, the "self-defeater" for the anti-epiphenomenalist (objection 2). I tried to give a response which suggested that once we fully flesh out the free will response, we will see that the response isn't self-defeating, but I don't think I did a very good job in explaining why. So, I want to devote the rest of my comment(s) to explaining why I believe the free will objection stands.

    Before I start though, I want to begin by pointing out that there is good reason to think that the MEP assumption is sound. There are serious problems with the theories of consciousness which would deny the possibility of MEP. Such theories have to argue that consciousness is correlated in some way with the evolutionary adaptive state itself, and not with some brain state or computational or physical substrate. Typically, this will be a form of behavioralism or functionalism.

    The problem with functionalism (I am going to skip behavioralism since it has well known issues) is that it seems implausible that an experiential state could be identical with, or supervene on, a functional state of the mind. There are well known difficulties with expanding functionalist theories to incorporate the experiential aspect of the mind. In fact, the original point of qualia inversion was to criticize functionalism.

    On the other hand, we have good evidence that consciousness states are well correlated with brain states and given that a functional cognitive state is multiply realizable (we can imagine all kinds of different brain states which implement a single functional state), it seems like that is sufficient on its own to establish the reality of MEP.

    Having said this, I'm now going to argue that we can in fact establish a satisfying free will account which knocks down epiphenomenalism, for the functionalist in the audience or for the person tempted to deny MEP.


    1. My argument is that once we deny MEP, we are still lucky to have been born in a universe where the fixed combinations of physical and phenomenal states are so favorably disposed to our phenomenal wellbeing. I will term this the "luck argument" so as to distinguish it from the original evolutionary argument which accepts MEP.

      The obvious question to address is why we cannot also establish a self-defeater for the luck argument. We saw in objection 2 that one can easily defeat a basic causal account of consciousness (my phenomenal state P causes my physical behavior B) using the luck argument, because we would still have to have been lucky to have been born in the right universe with the right causal mechanism.

      However, I claim that free will is different, and that any appropriate free will account is not susceptible to an equivalent 'lucky' challenge. What makes free will different is that it explicitly rejects the truth of the basic causal account. It is not that a given phenomenal state causally influences my behavior or brain state; rather my ability to causally influence the physical world is attributed to my 'will', which operates neither according to some (basic) deterministic or stochastic methodology, but rather works in some nebulous in-between phase, according to my desires and wishes.

      Explaining exactly what this in-between methodology is will be very difficult. Some think it is impossible or implausible, and that we have good reason to reject this concept of free will from the get-go. However, it's not mandatory that we have a solid working definition of free will in order that we possess some evidence for the reality of the concept (as Dmitriy explains in his latest article). We can still know of the reality of free will by experiencing it in our daily lives, just as we know of the reality of a dog through ostensive action, even if we have enormous difficulty with defining what a dog really is.

      If you accept the above account of free will, then the problem of the self-defeating case for epiphenomenalism evaporates. To see why, we will have to break down the luck objection into two parts:

      1) Why we couldn't have been born in a universe where phenomenally good states were correlated with evolutionary maladaptive behaviors.
      2) Why we couldn't have been born in a universe where we happened to desire phenomenally bad outcomes.

      Notice that the free will argument does not do away with the first objection; it's still possible that we could have been born in a universe with a misfit combination. What the argument does is establish that our being born with a fit combination is not a matter of pure luck (as it would be with a basic casual account, or under epiphenomenalism), but is owed to a combination of anthropic selection and evolutionary pressure.

      If you believe that we have free will, then you accept that we will act according to our desires, and that what we desire is to be in phenomenally good (acceptable) states. Thus, any universe with a misfit combination, where a phenomenally bad state was correlated with physically advantageous behavior, and vice versa, will be one that is evolutionary untenable according to the definition of free will. In such a universe, all agents with free will would have chosen the physically deleterious behaviors and would have consequently quickly gone extinct.

      Notice this doesn't hold true for the basic causal account, because it could have been the case that our misfit combination consisted of a phenomenally bad state causing an advantageous behavioral outcome. But by the definition of free will, we can see that this isn't possible. Thus, it's no surprise that we ended up in a universe displaying a fit combination of laws (supposing that we had free will), for the same reason we don't live in a hostile universe inimical to the formation of life.

    2. This leads me onto the second point, for accepting that the definition of free will precludes our desiring to be in phenomenally bad states, why couldn't it have been the case that we were born in a universe with "schmee will"? Where schmee will is just like free will, except that agents mostly desire to be in phenomenal agony.

      Explaining this will mean that we will just have to accept some definition of 'desires and wishes' which is incompatible with the schmee will hypothesis. Such proponents of free will would have to argue that it's simply a logical oxymoron to desire to be in a terrible phenomenal state. Some aspect of a phenomenal state’s 'goodness' by definition makes it desirable, meaning that an organism will have a phenomenal predisposition to achieve it.

      Of course, there are problems with such an account. One could point to real life examples where it seems like people do desire phenomenally bad outcomes. What about people with masochism for example? Or the severely chronically depressed who want nothing more than to curl up in a corner and die? Or the duty-bound soldier who feels compelled to endure torture for the sake of his country, despite the intense suffering he experiences?

      There are two replies which can be brought forth against this charge. Firstly, many such examples could be erroneous. It seems plausible, for instance, that the masochist experiences enough pleasure to counteract the pain of his self-inflicted actions. The curled up misanthrope may have no good phenomenal outcomes. They may be curled in a corner precisely because they can no longer experience the ordinary phenomenal pleasures of life, and taking any action would not only be pointless, but possibly too mentally painful.

      Secondly, agents with free will are only phenomenally predisposed to want desirable outcomes. To be in a phenomenally bad state, is by definition to be predisposed to avoid it. But that doesn't mean that such predispositions can't be overridden. Nor does it mean that all of our actions are attributable to free will. Thus, any legitimate examples where it seems like our desires borne of free will have been overridden can be explained on these grounds.

      Naturally, this opens up yet another objection, which is that we might still have been lucky to have been born in a universe where our desires of free will are not totally or near totally overridden by some unconscious desires. There would be little to no incentive for a fit combination of laws in such a universe.

      But this seems to me to be a different sort of possibility from that facing the epiphenomenalist. The question is not whether we were lucky to have been born in our universe (for we may indeed have been lucky), but whether simply, given the reality of the fit combination, it makes more sense to believe in epiphenomenalism or free will. As long as the subset of free will universes with broad causal authority (and where our desires are not nearly always overridden) is substantially larger than the subset of fit universes under epiphenomenalism, we should accept that the former is more plausible than the latter.

    3. Notice that we don't need a huge amount of causal authority under the free will account either, just enough to explain why some combinations between phenomenal and physical states are so fortuitously correlated. In fact, for all we know we could have been born in a universe where we had a great deal more conscious authority than we currently exhibit. Where, for instance, we could just "think ourselves" into the immediately appropriate conscious state of mind; powers we obviously do not possess. Put this way, there's no reason to even think that we are particularly advanced along the spectrum of "causal authority" that beings with free will might possess, or reason to think that we are even lucky to begin with. Certainly not to the degree of immense luck that would be required under epiphenomenalism.

      Hopefully, this establishes that the free will account is substantially different from the basic causal account, and that if you buy into free will then you don't have to worry about the luck argument in the same way that the epiphenomenalist does.


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