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PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS electronic journal


P H I L O S O P H Y   P A T H W A Y S                   ISSN 2043-0728

Issue No. 196
24th September 2015

Edited by Matthew Sims


I. 'Dualism and the Individuation of Cartesian Minds: Grappling with
Strawson's Anti-Dualism Arguments in 'Self, Mind and Body'' by Eric

II. 'On the Validity of Quantum Consciousness' by Catherine Nickford

III. 'Can Consciousness Emerge in a Machine Simulation?' by Yissar
Lior Israeli

IV. 'Limiting the Self -- Extended Cognition and Standing States' by
Matthew Sims



Issue 196 of Philosophical Pathways is dedicated to the subject of
consciousness and the mind.

Questions concerning both consciousness and the mind have long been
focal points that have saturated philosophical thought in one form or
another; from the ancient Greeks' theories on the soul, to the
writings of Descartes -- to whom it may be correct to bestow the
title 'the founder modern philosophy of mind', both ontological
questions such as 'what is the soul and how does it differ from all
else?' and epistemological questions, 'how can I know I have a
soul?', 'how can I know that the world is the way I perceive it to
be?' have lead philosophers in their quest to understand both the
world and its inhabitants -- namely us. Although, today, the number
of philosophers who openly support Cartesian dualism are few, if any,
Descartes' philosophical legacy is nonetheless far and wide reaching.
This being said, the sustained development of the natural sciences
over the last century can be certainly recognized as a major point of
departure from having little evidence that the mind is a physical
thing to having a reasonable amount of evidence that the mind is not
a immaterial thing. Particularly, developments in the areas of
neuroscience and cognitive science have supported the notion that the
mind has more in common with the computer standing before you now than
with some immaterial substance whose essence that of being a 'thinking

A natural question to ask then is, with the development of these
recent disciplines having the success that they have had, why is
philosophy of any use to an analysis of the mind? The old adage comes
to mind 'if the shoe fits, wear it.' If neuroscience and cognitive
science have provided us with satisfactory explanations of many of
the mental phenomena that have concerned us, then why not just leave
it to them to construct a theory of the mind? Why not let them wear
the shoe? If things were only that easy! The problems that we are
occupied with when analyzing the mind and the notion of consciousness
are more than filling some theoretical space with the best
explanation, but also delimiting the very space which needs to be
explained. Cognitive science may be able to produce an adequate
theory of mental functions and how various mental modules are
engaged, affect and are affected by one another, however, such a
theory presupposes an adequate conception of the mind itself. It is
here that philosophy rears its head. Namely, it must attempt to
answer many of the same questions about the mind that have captured
the interest of philosophers throughout history: 'What is the mind?',
'What is an adequate demarcation of consciousness?' 'How can I know
that the world is at all like that which I am conscious of ?' 'Can I
know that others experience the world like me?' 'Can I know that
other have experiences at all?' These questions cannot be merely
answered by examining the physiological substrata of the brain, nor
will they be answered by theories that take them for granted.
Philosophic approaches to these questions are still as relevant as
they ever were, if not more so.

Considering the continued wide-spread specialization inherent in the
natural sciences today, philosophy, although it too being subject to
specialization, continues to be a discipline whose essence is, to use
a Humean metaphor, to turn the object of enquiry over upon all of its
sides to discover its nature. This often involves the philosopher
turning herself over in the process -- taking nothing for granted. It
is this which distinguishes the philosophical method for an analysis
of mind from that of the disciplines mentioned above. This of course
is not to say that it is not the unity and whole of the labour of
many distinct disciplines that will eventually lead to an adequate
theory of the mind. On the contrary, today we live in a very exciting
time -- one in which the efforts of a combined intellectual labour
consisting of many specialized disciplines (and some which are not)
can be focused upon a common goal, providing one another with the
resources particular to them. Philosophy is no stranger to leaning
upon resources external to its own. However, let it not be mistaken
that it currently has nothing to provide in an analysis of the mind.
Be it the case that the reader has taken time to engage with
Philosophical Pathways, assent to this very point may likely to be
assumed. However, if this reader is skeptical about the philosophy's
ability to further contribute to an understanding of the mind, I
encourage the reader to engage with what follows. I hope that these
articles will aid in illustrating that the significance of both the
questions that philosophy is apt to ask and its method of enquiry
upon attempting to answer them have been and will continue to occupy
a significant place in both the analysis of the mind and in the
phenomenon of consciousness.

In 'Dualism and the Individuation of Cartesian Minds: Grappling with
Strawson's Anti-Dualism Arguments in 'Self, Mind and Body'', Eric
DeJardin begins by calling our attention to the nature of the
Cartesian substance dualism distinction; the mind, an essentially
thinking thing, being an utterly distinct substance as that of a
body, whose essence is being a spatially extended thing. The relation
of the particular person to the particular human being that the
dualist argues follows from the mind-body distinction is such that
the former is individuated by the mind and the later, by the body.
P.F. Strawson, in his article entitled 'Self, Mind, and Body' (1966)
put forth a formidable problem which occurs as a result of this view,
namely that if a mind is a particular thing, one which individuates a
particular person, then it must be the case that it can be subject to
being counted or individuated and the very notion of an immaterial
substance seems prone to being nonindividuatable. Thus, Strawson
argues that given that there is no criterion of individuation
available for the Cartesian, the very notion of a Cartesian mind that
demarcates a particular individual, one that is subject to
predication, is an unintelligible notion. Without the possibility of
individuation, not only could one Cartesian mind be in fact many, but
dualism is shown to be false given that the concept of a mind becomes
dependent upon the concept of a human being in order to for it to be
the object of intelligible predication.

In his analysis of Strawson's argument, DeJardin brings forth from it
three interdependent theses, the Reduction Thesis, the Dependence
Thesis and The Individuation Thesis, and then methodically proceeds
to illustrate how they fail to do the work which Strawson's argument
requires of them. Thus, DeJardin argues that Strawson's anti-dualist
argument is untenable. After presenting two of his own very thought
provoking individuation criteria for Cartesian minds, DeJardin
meticulously turns the anti-dualist's cannon back upon him. He argues
that the anti-dualist, given his position that bodies are to act as an
individuation criterion for persons, and the problems inherent in
individuation of bodies, faces serious difficulties of his own with
respect to the individuation of persons. It must be noted that
although DeJardin argues against both Strawson's negative and
positive theses, his argument itself is not pitted against
materialism and manages to abstain from assent to either the dualist
or the materialist position.

Catherine Nickford, in her contribution 'On the Validity of Quantum
Consciousness', presents a case for understanding consciousness as
quantum mechanical phenomenon. The elusive nature of consciousness
which makes it difficult to pin down as a particular physical state
can, according to Nickford, be explained in a sufficient manner when
seen within the framework of a quantum mechanical theory. Within such
a framework, macro-physical observable matter and phenomena are
hypothesized as being the result of quantum micro-particle (quanta)
behavior. Quanta, considered as waves of varying probability, whose
individual wave-function peaks are indicative of the maximum
probability of a particle's being spatio-temporally located, Nickford
suggests, can be considered as 'permanent possibilities of macroscopic
objects'. Using such a framework to analyze consciousness, Nickford
presents a theory from Hameroff and Penrose. This theory claims that
the observation of a quantum system, which subsequent to observation
is not in any particular state but in a superposition, results in a
collapse of that system into a specific state. This is deemed
subjective reduction, given the dependency of the specific state upon
subjective observation. Objective reduction, however, is a
self-collapse occurring in virtue of the behavior and properties of
the system itself. Conscious events, seen as neuronal microtubule
state manifestations, Hameroff and Penrose claim, are correlated to
this kind of objective quantum self-collapse. Nickford maintains that
if a quantum theory of consciousness along these lines can be
accepted, the result would be explanatory not only of why
consciousness is difficult to pin down as an observable physical
state, but of its non-computational, i.e. non-algorithmic, nature.
This is an advantage that such a theory has over purely materialist
empirical theories about consciousness, many of which explain it in
terms of being an emergent property in a determinate physical system.
She concludes, when setting one's ontological gaze at a micro-level of
description of reality, the truth of such a theory results in a kind
of substance monism and a property dualism; the former being the
substance of quantum potentiality and the later being its attributes
-- the mental and the physical; together composing a unified world --
one which is both observed and experienced and yet also unrealized.
However, at the macro-level of description, physicalism most
accurately describes our empirically observable phenomena. Thus her
ontological position may be called quantum contextualism.

In 'Can Consciousness Emerge in a Machine Simulation?', Yissar Lior
Israeli gives a brief overview of some of the foundational theories
of consciousness within philosophy of mind. He goes on then to argue
that emergentism is the best explanation for consciousness. In short,
emergentism can be understood as the notion that a system's observed
dynamics cannot be predicted from its substratum constitutent
components. The term emergence refers to the rise of properties that
cannot be reduced to the substrata nor expected from it. One example
of an emergent property by John Stuart Mill that is commonly used to
illustrate the phenomenon is that of the emergence of the crystalline
property of frozen H2O -- particularly exemplified in snowflakes, that
is not predictable from having complete knowledge of the properties of
its individual elemental components, oxygen and hydrogen. Theories of
emergence are, however, far reaching in their explanations of a
multitude of phenomena in biology, chemistry, physics and the social
sciences. Israeli, after giving a brief exposition of how
consciousness can be construed as an emergent property, then goes on
to argue, upon the assumption that consciousness is truly an emergent
property of the brain, the possibility of an emergent conscious state
emerging in a system that functionally simulates the brain should be
at least contingently possible. Upon admitting to this contingent
possibility, Israeli concludes his paper with an epistemological
problem, namely, if the problem of other minds has been one that has
at least shown us that there is no infallible method of discovering
whether or not anyone other than oneself is indeed conscious, then
given the absence of such a method, if consciousness did emerge in
such brain simulation, how could we possibly recognize its presence?
His response reminds us that, if infallible knowledge of other minds
is too much to ask for in our case, then why require it of such a
possible simulation? This answer leans on the fact that we can be
reasonably justified when attributing consciousness to others like
ourselves because it remains to be the best explanation for others'
behavior. If this is the case, then the same will have to do if and
when we are faced with a complex system whose behavior is best
explained by its being conscious.

In the last essay of this issue, entitled, 'Limiting the Self --
Extended Cognition and Standing States', the author presents an
analysis of Brie Gertler's argument against Andy Clark and David
Chalmer's extended mind hypothesis (EMH). The EMH, as construed by
Clark and Chalmer's (C&C), questions standard cognitive science's
notion of the brain-bound mind and goes on to make the controversial
claim that given how we define having some mental state or process,
if there is something which just to happens to be located externally
from the subject's cranium (or body for that matter) and that
something happens to cognitively function for that subject in a way
such that if it were contained inside the head we would find little
reason to deny pronouncing it as being a cognitive constituent, then
by want of avoiding arbitrary cognitive process demarcations we
should accept such an external device or action as a constituent of
the subject's cognition. Furthermore, and more important to Gertler's
argument, C&C claim that standing states (non-occurrent beliefs and
desires -- those that one has at t but which are not entertained at
t) can be cognitively extended beyond the bounds of the skull if the
extension plays the correct type of cognitive function role for the
subject. Gertler, in her paper 'Overextending the Mind', presents a
very convincing argument against this version of the EMH which
attempts to illustrate that its truth as described, along with C&C's
notion that the mind is comprised of both standing and conscious --
occurrent states, results in not only a violation of a commonly
accepted physical law, i.e. that nothing can occupy two distinct
spatial locations simultaneously, but also flaunts our common
intuitions about personal identity and the self. After presenting
Gertler's argument, the author introduces another argument, the
Argument from Extended Accountability, in hopes of augmenting the
problem of the extended self by enlisting our moral intuitions. 'How
could a sleeping person be morally accountable for committing a
murder that was motivated by his set of standing states but carried
out by a robot in possession of these standing states?' Then, after
not having found a necessary condition additional to those offered by
C&C in order to constrain standing beliefs, a proposal on a condition
for qualifying as some particular person's extended standing states
is turned to -- what the author calls the General Condition (GC). It
is argued that because the GC distinguishes extended standing states
that are someone's from states which were someone's and it is only in
virtue of the former which talk about sameness of extended self
becomes a relevant issue, given the intuition pumps as described,
that which is claimed to be an extension fails to be so. It is
concluded that if our intuitions about self-identity should be that
which prevents us from accepting the EMH, then because there is no
issue to be had in either Gertler's argument or in the author's
augmented argument, the EMH with respect to extended standing states
remains a tenable position hold.

I am extremely grateful to all the contributors of this issue for
dedicating both their time and effort in making it come to be. I am
especially grateful to Dr. Geoffrey Klempner, my one time mentor, for
giving me the opportunity of editing this issue and moreover, for
providing me with a sustained opportunity to philosophize. His
guidance and encouragement over the years has proven invaluable only
second to his patience. I would also like to thank both Marco Totolo
and Eric DeJardin for their insightful feedback and encouragement.
Last but not least, I am indebted to Dima Sims, a constant source of

Without further ado, Philosophical Pathways issue 196.

(c) Matthew Sims 2015

Email: sims303@hotmail.com

About the editor:



Cartesian dualism (henceforth: dualism) is the view that human beings
comprise two utterly distinct substances, viz. mind and body, that are
intimately united in a relation of mutual interaction. Since they are
utterly distinct substances, minds and bodies possess utterly
distinct properties. Bodies, for instance, are extended in space, and
so are spatially locatable. But (Cartesian) minds are immaterial, and
thus are not spatially locatable. Further, while the dualist is
committed to the notion that the body is an essential element of the
human being, it's the mind alone, he would claim, that, strictly
speaking, constitutes the person. For a person is, the dualist would
say, fundamentally a 'thinking thing', and it is (he would say) the
mind that thinks, not the body. Talk about a particular person,
therefore, as opposed to talk about a particular human being, is, for
the Cartesian, talk about a particular mind.

However, the notion of the particularity of Cartesian minds raises a
problem for the dualist. For 'mind' is a sortal term -- that is, it
names a kind of thing, the individual instances of which can, at
least in principle, be counted. Thus the content of the Cartesian
concept of a mind must provide us with a means of counting individual
minds. If it does not, then it's difficult to say in what sense the
sortal 'Cartesian mind' names a genuine kind. For some terms that
purport to name countable kinds can be revealed, upon analysis, to be
in fact instances of what David Wiggins calls 'dummy sortals', i.e. to
be terms that merely seem to name countable kinds (Wiggins 1967, pg.
29). For example, the term 'thing' is a dummy sortal, for although it
makes grammatical sense to qualify 'thing' with various quantifier
expressions (e.g. one thing, many thing, ten things, etc.), it's not
possible to count the number of things within a given domain.
(Consider, for instance, your computer: is it one thing, or is it as
many things as it has separable parts? How would you decide between
the two? And if you choose, for whatever reason, the latter answer,
then what about the separable parts -- e.g. molecules, atoms, quarks,
etc. -- that compose each separable computer part? Must we count each
of them to determine how many things we have? And so on.) Hence, the
dualist's concept of a mind, if it's a genuine sortal term, must
provide us with criteria for individuating particular minds. That is,
the concept must provide us with a principled way to ascertain whether
what the dualist would call two qualitatively identical individual
minds -- that is, two minds with identical properties -- should be
judged to be numerically identical -- i.e. to be one and the same
mind -- or distinct. And if it fails to satisfy this requirement,
it's doubtful whether the concept it purports to denote as a kind is
ultimately an intelligible one.

In section one, I shall present an argument developed by Strawson
defending the conclusion that the sortal 'mind', as the dualist
understands it, is unintelligible because it lacks an adequate
criterion of individuation (Strawson 1966, pp. 169-177). I shall then
argue that Strawson's argument for the ultimate unintelligibility of
the dualist's concept of a mind fails to refute dualism. In section
two, I shall suggest two ways in which the dualist might provide a
criterion for individuating minds. Finally, in section three, I shall
argue that the anti-dualist faces problems as serious as those that he
argues the dualist faces vis-a-vis the individuation-of-minds problem.


I would argue that Strawson's anti-dualism argument can best be
understood in terms of the interdependence of three theses, which I
shall call the 'Reduction Thesis', the 'Dependence Thesis' and the
'Individuation Thesis'. I shall also argue that all three theses are
problematic in their own way, and hence conclude that Strawson has
not shown that dualism is either unintelligible or false. (Dualism
may of course be, in fact, either unintelligible or false -- or both
-- but the issue here is whether Strawson has shown it to be so.)

Strawson's argument begins with an observation concerning ordinary
talk about human beings. (He calls it ordinary talk about 'persons'
-- indeed, this is the term he uses throughout his essay. However, as
we'll see below, his use of this term is ambiguous in the context of
discussions of dualism. Hence, we'll use 'human beings' for now). We
frequently ascribe both mental predicates like 'is thinking' or
'desires truth', and corporeal predicates like 'is tall' and 'has
brown hair' to one and the same subject, e.g. the human being 'John'.
But the dualist must judge such talk to be 'metaphysically
misleading'. For while John's body is tall, it cannot think, and
while John's mind can think, it cannot be tall (or short, large,
etc.). Hence, the dualist is committed to the notion that ordinary
talk with specific human beings as subject terms is, at least in
principle, reducible to talk about their minds and their bodies.
Further, whatever we predicate of human beings must be also be
reducible, either to mental predicates that are predicated of minds
alone, or to physical predicates that are predicated of bodies alone.
This is the Reduction Thesis, and as we've seen it comprises both
subject and predicate reductions.

The Reduction Thesis in general seems unobjectionable. For it merely
requires that one's metaphysical position be expressible in precise
terms if discussion of it in ordinary language is unclear or
obfuscatory. And this just is one key job for philosophy in general.
But I'd argue that Strawson's application of the Reduction Thesis to
dualism is problematic. For by requiring that mental subjects be
ascribed only mental predicates, and that corporeal subjects be
ascribed only corporeal predicates, Strawson ignores the fact that
(Cartesian) dualists are interactionists, not parallelists. That is,
since dualists believe mind affects the body, some mental subjects
will have corporeal predicates. And, since dualists believe that the
body affects the mind, some corporeal subjects will have mental
predicates. So while the dualist may be committed to the Reduction
Thesis, he will not agree that he must attempt to effect his
reduction in the way Strawson claims he must.

Strawson argues that the Reduction Thesis implies a further
commitment on the part of the dualist. For if the dualist is
committed to reducing talk about human beings to talk about minds and
bodies, it follows, Strawson argues, that he is committed to the
notion that the concept of a human being is dependent on the concept
of a mind. I take it that the dependence relation that Strawson is
deploying here can be elucidated as follows: for the dualist, the
intelligibility of talk about human beings must depend on the
intelligibility of talk about minds. That is, to understand what a
human being is, we must first understand what a mind it. Thus, if we
should discover that the dependence is the other way around -- i.e.
that our concept of a mind depends for its intelligibility on our
concept of a human being -- it follows that minds are not, as the
dualist believes, distinct components of human beings. Rather, minds
would then depend on human beings for their intelligibility. And in
much the same way that our conceiving of surfaces depends on our
prior conceiving of material objects implies that surfaces, in virtue
of this conceptual dependence, cannot exist sans the existence of
material objects, minds could not intelligibly be said to exist sans
the existence of human beings (Strawson 1966, pg. 171). (I shall have
more to say below on the relation between conceptual and ontological
dependence when we discuss the Individuation Thesis.) Thus the
dualist must aver that the concept of a mind is intelligible
independently of the concept of a human being, and hence that the
concept of a human being depends on the concept of a mind. This is
the Dependency Thesis.

Now for Strawson, the term 'person' denotes a being to which both
mental and corporeal predicates are applicable. That is, it denotes
something akin to (though not identical to) our everyday use of the
term 'human being'. However, I'd argue that because the dualist is an
interactionist, he will use the general term 'person', which is
sometimes used in ordinary language to refer to the human being, and
other times used to refer to something more fundamental, in at least
two distinct ways. That is, he will have two distinct concepts of a
person (again, at least as the term is used in ordinary language).
First, he will view persons as thinking things, i.e. as minds. Since,
as I said in the very first paragraph of this essay, this constitutes
the essence of a person for the dualist, let's call this strict (for
the dualist) use of the term 'person' the 'Essential Person'. But
second, he will (non-strictly) view persons as Essential Persons who
are united, contingently yet intimately, with particular bodies.
Let's call the unity referenced by this use of the term 'person' the
'Factual Person'. (N.B. though the 'Factual Person' is identical with
the dualist's concept of a human being, it's not identical with the
ordinary concept of a human being, and certainly is not identical
with Strawson's concept of a human being/ person; hence, it's
important to distinguish the Factual Person/ dualist's human being
from the ordinary or Strawsonian notion of a human being/ person).

We can now reformulate Strawson's Dependency Thesis as follows: The
concept of the Factual Person -- that is, the dualist's concept of
the human being -- depends for its intelligibility on the concept of
the Essential Person. And this allows us to restate the Reduction
Thesis more precisely as well, viz. some talk of Factual Persons and
their predicates is reducible to talk of Essential Persons and their
predicates. For where statements involving interaction between the
Essential Person and his body are concerned, the dualist just is
talking about the Factual Person, and not about the Essential Person
alone. And the dualist is certainly not talking about how the
Essential Person interacts with some 'bodily person', a notion that
has no purchase for the Cartesian.

This closes the distance between the dualist notion of dependency and
what Strawson claims is the anti-dualist notion of dependency,
according to which the concept of a mind is dependent on the concept
of a person/ human being. For we can clarify the dualist's dependency
relation further by recalling that for the dualist, the Essential
Person can only be directly encountered by the individual himself;
only I have direct access to my mind, and I only have direct access
to my mind. So even if Strawson is right that the concept of a mind
depends on the concept of a person, it seems to be the case that my
concept of a person depends on my concept of my mind. For I suppose
that your mind, which I cannot access directly, is essentially like
mine; without this first person access to my mind, I'd be unable to
conceive of your mind. And hence it is the dualist who ultimately
gets the dependency relation right.

Strawson's primary target with the Reduction and Dependency theses,
however, is not the predicate term, but the subject term. For
Strawson argues that the very idea of what we have called the
Essential Person, i.e. a Cartesian mind, is incoherent because there
is no principle according to which Essential Persons can be
individuated. To speak about minds is to predicate various properties
of them. But to predicate a particular property of a particular
essential person/ mind, we must be able to refer to that mind. And to
refer to a particular mind, we must be able to explain how minds are
individuated; otherwise, we are not justified in concluding that we
have successfully picked out a single mind. For it seems as if what
the dualist takes to be reference to a single mind could in fact
involve multitudinous minds (Strawson 1966, pp. 173-174). And if we
cannot refer to particular minds, then we cannot make intelligible
statements about them.

Further, Strawson argues that the dualist cannot secure reference to
particular minds by referring to particular human beings. For he
argues that doing so concedes the conceptual primacy of the concept
of the human being, while the dualist is committed to the conceptual
primacy of the concept of the mind (Strawson 1966, pg. 174). And for
Strawson, conceptual primacy and metaphysical primacy track one
another. For he believes that talk about concepts -- especially
fundamental concepts -- and their relations 'amounts to' talk about
things and their relations (Strawson 1992, pp. 31-33). Hence, if the
concept of a mind can only be individuated through its reliance on
the concept of a person, then minds are metaphysically parasitical on
persons. Hence, they cannot exist independent of persons, since they
cannot be intelligibly conceived independent of persons. But if this
is so, then dualism is false. This is the Individuation Thesis, and
it's what Strawson calls dualism's 'central difficulty'.

I'd argue that Strawson conflates a number of key issues. First, he
supposes that we can only refer to particulars if we can individuate
them. But as Kripke has argued, we often seem to refer to individuals
without individuating them property-wise. So, while I may only know
that Feynman was a famous physicist -- which is hardly a unique
property! -- it seems as if I can successfully refer to him through
the use of the name 'Feynman' (Kripke 1980, pg. 81). Second, Strawson
supposes that a criterion of individuation for some sortal amounts to
a criterion for counting instances of it. But as Wiggins has argued,
this is not necessarily so. For example, we can individuate instances
of the sortal 'crown', such as the pope's crown, without being able to
specify whether it should be counted as one crown or as three crowns
(Wiggins 1980, pg. 73).

Further, borrowing from the terminology of personal identity, we
might distinguish the criterion of individuation from evidence of
individuation. The metaphysics of individuation is concerned with
developing a criterion for individuating entities of a given type,
while the epistemology of individuation is concerned with the
evidence we adduce to individuate entities of a given type. And as
with personal identity, the two notions come apart. Thus, good
evidence of individuation may not satisfy criteria of individuation,
and an appeal to criteria of individuation may not be necessary for
evidence of individuation.

We can put the distinction between criteria and evidence to work in
other ways as well. For Strawson claims that dualists cannot appeal
to human beings (i.e. the Factual Person) to individuate minds. But
it seems perfectly legitimate for the dualist to appeal to human
beings as evidence of the individuation of minds, even if they cannot
appeal to human beings, as Strawson does, as a criterion of the
individuation of minds (since the dualist believes that the mind can
exist without a body). And this fact too helps explain much ordinary
talk about Factual Persons.

Finally, Strawson arguably confuses assertability conditions with
truth conditions. For he repeatedly requires the dualist to show how
he could know whether utterances that purport to pick out a
particular mind are true, i.e. whether their assertability conditions
are satisfied (Strawson 1966, pp. 174-176). But the intelligibility of
such utterances -- which is what Strawson purports to be primarily
concerned with -- depends rather on knowing what would have to obtain
for such utterances to be true, i.e. on knowing their truth
conditions. And since one can know the truth conditions of an
utterance without being able to satisfy its assertability conditions,
utterances about particular minds can be intelligible even if they
fail to meet Strawson's demands. (For example, I can know perfectly
well what the truth conditions of the utterance, 'I'm now speaking to
President Obama by phone' are -- i.e. I can know what would have to
obtain in order for the utterance to be true -- without knowing
whether it's assertability conditions have been satisfied -- i.e.
without knowing whether I'm in fact speaking to President Obama, as
opposed to a clever impressionist.)

Having argued that Strawson's anti-dualism argument is unsuccessful,
I shall now suggest two ways in which Cartesian minds might be


Descartes defined a mind as 'a thing that doubts, understands,
affirms, denies is willing, is unwilling, and also imagines and has
sensory perceptions' (Descartes 1985, pg. 19). Since we can conceive
of something possessing these capacities while lacking a body,
Cartesian minds are essentially immaterial (Descartes 1985, pg. 54).
But we can conceive of two such minds with identical qualitative
properties. How, then, could Cartesian minds be individuated?

Here is my first suggestion for individuating Cartesian minds.
Suppose the human being Jones utters the Cogito -- 'I think,
therefore I am'. A Cogito-type utterance cannot fail to refer, and
it's necessarily true when uttered. Now let's grant Strawson's point
that we cannot satisfy the assertability conditions of claims
concerning whether Jones's utterance was a consequence of the
activity of one or more than one mind. Does it follow that we cannot
supply the truth conditions of such claims? It does not, for
Cartesian minds, possessing as they do various capacities -- the
capacity to affirm or will or perceive -- can thus be said to possess
various dispositional or modal properties. So, if a particular mind
causes Jones to utter a particular sentence, the effect will be the
expression of a particular proposition. And since indexicals like the
'I' of the Cogito refer to the person uttering them, it's plausible to
suppose that if two qualitatively identical minds cause the human
being Jones to utter the Cogito, Jones will with one utterance
expresses two distinct propositions. Whereas if one mind causes Jones
to utter it, he expresses only one proposition. We may thus
individuate Cartesian minds via some of their effects -- that is, via
the modal property that distinct minds will express distinct
propositions if they utter Cogito-type sentences.

One might object that this criterion is circular insofar as only
distinct minds could, on my account, express distinct Cogito-style
propositions. Hence, so the objection goes, the criterion presupposes
that the minds involved in expressing those propositions have already
been individuated. But it's important to keep in mind that I'm
referring to dispositional or modal properties. Hence, it need not be
the case that any such propositions have actually been expressed. So,
Strawson's claim is that there is no way to distinguish (not
epistemically, but logically) two qualitatively identical Cartesian
minds. But my claim is that, if we grant (a) the suppositions above
about how indexicals like 'I' function, (b) the dualist's claim that
we can make sense of notion that 'I' is used to refer, at least some
of the time, to the Essential Person, and (c) objects possess modal
or dispositional properties, then there could not in principle be two
qualitatively identical minds. For any two minds will necessarily
possess the distinct modal property that Cogito-style utterances will
express distinct -- indeed, singular (for each particular mind) --
propositions. And if this is right, then we can distinguish --
logically, if not epistemically -- Cartesian minds by way of these
modal properties.

One may also object that (b) above is false, i.e. one might claim
that the indexical 'I' refers to the human being, and cannot be used
to refer to the mind alone (Strawson 1966, pg. 176). But we sometimes
do meaningfully use the term 'I' in ways that cannot be understood to
refer to ourselves qua human beings. If I say, 'I believe that I was
Napoleon in a past life', I don't thereby assert that I believe that
Napoleon possessed any of my current corporeal properties. Or, if a
transgender person says, 'I was born with the wrong body', the term
'I' cannot refer to the human being as such, since it directly
contrasts a specific body with the person referenced by the use of

Here is my second suggestion for individuating Cartesian minds. Let's
distinguish qualitative properties, such as redness, which two
particulars could possess, from non-qualitative properties, which
only one particular can possess. Nothing in Strawson's argument
prohibits the dualist from appealing to non-qualitative properties,
like 'being identical to oneself', to individuate minds. Or nothing
in Strawson's argument would prevent the dualist from appealing to
the bare particular, or substrate of each mind as an individuator of
Cartesian minds. This is not to say that these alternatives succeed,
for they raise many problems themselves (e.g. is there such a thing
as the property of being self-identical? Can we make sense of a bare
particular? And so on.) But the essential point is both that these
are candidates for individuators, and nothing in Strawson's argument
rules them out. Yet it seems his argument must rule them out if it's
to show that dualism is unintelligible because minds cannot be
individuated sans a reliance on human beings.


I shall now argue that the anti-dualist faces problems with
individuating minds that are as serious as those the dualist faces.
For one key part of Strawson's anti-dualism argument consists in his
claim that the anti-dualist doesn't face an individuation problem.
But is this right? Strawson claims that the anti-dualist individuates
minds by individuating human persons (Strawson 1966, pg. 174). And how
does the anti-dualist individuate persons? A Strawsonian person is a
body to which both corporeal and mental predicates are applicable
(Strawson 1959, pg. 104). Therefore, persons are first identified by
the applicability of such predicates to particular bodies, and then
individuated via their bodies.

But how are bodies individuated? By their location in 'a system of
spatio-temporal relations' (Strawson 1959, pg. 25). But we can
conceive of such a system that contains only two qualitatively
identical objects -- such as Strawsonian persons -- which stand in
perfectly symmetrical spatial relations to each other, and which thus
cannot be individuated via location (Black 1952, pg. 156). Further,
the location-solution merely pushes the problem of individuating
bodies back a step, for now we're faced with the question of how to
individuate spatial location, i.e. points in space (Taliaferro 1986,
pg. 267). We cannot appeal to bodies to individuate points in space
without circularity, since bodies will then be individuated by points
in space, and points in space by bodies (Hoffman and Rosenkrantz 1991,
pg. 189) And we cannot appeal to relations involving other points in
space to individuate a particular point in space without begging the
question, since doing so presumes the existence of distinct spatial
points, which hence must already have been individuated (Moreland
1998, pg. 252). Thus, if we individuate minds by individuating human
beings, and human beings by individuating bodies, and bodies by
individuating points in space, then until we have a criterion for
individuating points in space, we have no criterion for individuating
minds. Therefore, if Cartesian minds are unintelligible because they
lack a criterion of individuation, it follows by parity of reasoning
that Strawsonian minds too are unintelligible.

A further problem with individuating persons via their bodies is that
persons and bodies have distinct persistence conditions (Lowe 2000,
pg. 16-18). Suppose each atom of my current body is replaced by atoms
taken from a cloned body, and that each 'original' atom is destroyed
as soon as it's replaced. When this process is complete, my
'original' body will no longer exist, with only the reassembled
clone-body remaining. But it's plausible to suppose that the same
person will persist through the atomic exchange; thus, the person can
plausibly survive the destruction of the body. But suppose I die
shortly after the transfer is complete. The person will no longer
exist, but the reassembled body will nonetheless remain, and thus the
body can survive the destruction of the person. But then specific
bodies and specific persons don't necessarily track one another
metaphysically. Hence, it's not clear that we can, as Strawson
supposes, individuate persons criteriologically by individuating
bodies (though we may do so evidentially).


I have argued that Strawson has failed to refute dualism. It doesn't
follow, of course, that dualism is true, but only that Strawson
hasn't provided us with good grounds for rejecting it. I then argued
that we can conceive of ways in which Cartesian minds might be
individuated. Finally, I argued that the problem of individuation is
not an issue for the dualist alone, but afflicts the anti-Cartesian
as well.


Black, M., 1952, 'The Identity of Indiscernibles', Mind, 61: 153-64.

Descartes, R. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vol.2.
translated by John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff and Dugald Murdoch,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985

Hoffman, J. and Rosenkrantz, G., 1991 'Are Souls Unintelligible?',
Philosophical Perspectives, Vol. 5, Philosophy of Religion: 183-212

Kripke, S., 1980, Naming and Necessity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press

Lowe, E.J., 2000 An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Moreland, J.P., 1998 'Theories of Individuation: A Reconsideration of
Bare Particulars', Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79: 251-263

Strawson, P.F., 1992, Analysis and Metaphysics, Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Strawson, P.F., 1959, Individuals, London: Methuen.


1. I would like to thank Matthew Sims for his many helpful comments
on an earlier draft of this essay, and Joanne Lovesey and Richard
Chappell for comments on previous, shorter essays from which much of
the content of this essay was drawn.

(c) Eric DeJardin 2015

Email: dejardin@cox.net



Metaphysicians have often tended to project their ethical ideals and
intuitions into the ultimate structure of reality. This has led to
the positing of numerous metaphysical entities whose nature is
incoherent with known universal laws, and this is the usual defense
made by reductionists in their approach to mind-body dualism.
However, the variants between the corporeal and the incorporeal are
not necessarily explicable in reductionist terms. In this paper, I
will try to analyse and compare those ways in which consciousness is
irreducible to, yet by necessity linked with its ontological physical
correlates, with particular regard to recent theories of quantum

With the birth of quantum mechanics, a notable challenge to the
traditional idea of substance as mere tangible material has arisen
from the Standard Model[1] of particle physics. Within the framework
of quantum theory, the elemental units (quanta) that constitute
matter are dissimilar to objects encountered macroscopically. When
sufficiently isolated from the environment quanta may be viewed as
waves. These quantum waves (wave-functions) are essentially waves of
varying probability of locating a particle at some specific position,
and the peak of the wave-function indicates the location with maximum
probability of a particle being found at that point[2] in space-time.
Given that a quantum event begins at a particular point in space-time,
there is a certain point in space-time where the cycle is complete,
and it is at that point the quantum entity loses its individuality
within an entangled state to become some new entity. It is at that
point that the quantum process recommences. The structure of matter
therefore appears to endure through time by virtue of the cyclic
nature of the quantum events that constitute its very existence and
in this way, quantum events may therefore be seen as permanent
possibilities of macroscopic objects.

Many will accept that the philosophical basis for consciousness
should be explained by some form of materialism or physicalism.
Classical scientific theories[3] of consciousness assume that it
simply emerges from a deterministic process similar to a
computational program that is presumed to take effect in the brains
of living organisms. Though so far consciousness cannot be proved to
be either purely physical or purely non-physical, and quantum theory,
the nature of which I have briefly described, has perhaps allowed for
a new concept of matter which may leave some room for better
understanding consciousness. The tenets and findings in quantum
theory have revealed a counter-intuitive realm in which the solidity
of matter and the very distinction between viewing subject and viewed
object somehow vanish. It has been suggested by Hameroff and Penrose,
in their paper Orchestrated Reduction of Quantum Coherence in Brain
Microtubules: a Model of Consciousness[4], that consciousness itself
is a quantum phenomenon. In this paper it is proposed that the
cytoskeleton[5] of a neuron contains a number of microtubules[6] that
control the function of synapses, and that the state of consciousness
is simply a manifestation of the quantum cytoskeletal state and its
interplay between quantum and mechanical levels of activity (p476 of
Mathematics and Computers in Simulation 40, Reduction of Quantum
Coherence in Brain Microtubules: A Model for Consciousness, S.
Hameroff, R. Penrose (1996)). The theory begins with 'subjective' and
'objective' reduction. The former occurs when an observer measures a
quantity in a quantum system; that is, a system in which discrete
units of energy in the realm of atomic and subatomic length scales
are measured ('quantized'). The system is not in any specific state,
but in a 'superposition' of possible states until it is observed, and
the observation causes the system to reduce or 'collapse' to a
specific state. Superpositioned states each have their own space-time
geometry, and under special circumstances to which microtubules are
suited, the separation of space-time geometry of these
Superpositioned states[7] reaches a point where the system must
choose one state. 'Objective' reduction, therefore, is a type of
collapse of the wave-function that occurs when the system itself must
select between significantly differing space-time geometries, owing to
the tension in the fabric of space-time that is caused by mass-energy
displacement between quantum states in superposition. This
'self-collapse' results in particular states that regulate neural
processes, and these states can interact with neighbouring states to
represent, propagate and process information. Each self-collapse
corresponds to a discrete conscious event, and sequences of events
then give rise to a 'stream' of consciousness. The proteins then
somehow 'tune' this self-regulated objective reduction, which itself
controls the operation of the brain through its effects on coherent
flows inside microtubules of the cytoskeleton. Necessarily, there are
two inferences to be made here. Firstly, it would appear from this
proposed model that 'proto-conscious' information is encoded in
space-time geometry at the fundamental Planck-scale process[8], to
which our minds are able to tune in, thereby suggesting that there is
an assortment of conscious states that exist in a world of their own.
Secondly, it is thought that the collapse of the wave-function is
what gives nature its seeming non-algorithmic essence. Penrose argues
that quantum mechanisms are non-algorithmic and 'super-computational'
and therefore may, if tapped into, provide a mechanism for
understanding. This may be argued for as follows. There is an
algorithm for determining the truth of a mathematical proposition.
The algorithm must be reliable otherwise the verdict about the
proposition cannot be precisely known. However, if it is consistent,
the algorithm cannot by definition be applied to itself to establish
whether it is accurate. The inference is that either we cannot know
something is really the case, or the method employed to discover the
fact cannot be verified. Penrose believes that our ability to know
mathematical and indeed all truths is incontrovertible. In this
manner he suggests that we know our understanding is correct and
therefore we know something that cannot be known algorithmically (p.
129 of The Emperor's New Mind, R. Penrose, (1989)).

The non-computational aspect of consciousness is indeed consistent
with the very nature of quantum mechanics and the profoundly twisted
geometry of relativistic space-time, in which the volatile behaviour
of sub-atomic particles is to be regarded as the essential reality of
an intractable world; one which gives rise to all sorts of
indeterminacies fundamental in nature. Nowhere else is this better
underlined than by the principle of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen
('EPR') paradox[9]. Bohr's[10] response, in support of such a
principle, was that quanta only display such effects when in contact
with physical obstacles or receptors, constantly making their
presence known in a way that could only be observed and recorded in
the mind of the observer. Einstein found this explanation
objectionable on the basis that it conflicted with the common sense
assumption that sub-atomic particles are localised pieces of matter
with specific, deterministic physical qualities; even if they cannot
be directly observed through consciousness. If Bohr's explanation was
wrong, the indeterminacy principle was wrong and the whole fabric of
quantum theory would be brought into question. Yet, quantum
experiments, continued to predict experimental results with great
accuracy. This was indeed a paradox -- and one which, within our
apparently material universe, only succeeds in highlighting the
phenomenally subjective nature of consciousness as being indefinable
in terms of consciously apprehended physical principles alone. Such
observations are strikingly consistent with the 'Copenhagen
interpretation'[11] of quantum mechanics where elementary phenomena
are only phenomena if they are registered.

The Copenhagen interpretation also leads us to the problem as to how
one is able to determine whether quanta, the building blocks of
physical reality, exist before registering in the consciousness of an
observer. Intuitively, it seems they must, but this is the same logic
that led to the EPR paradox. The 'Schrodinger's Cat' paradox
highlights the difficulty of this question. Schrodinger's cat is a
famous illustration of the principle in quantum theory of
superposition, proposed by Erwin Schrodinger in 1935. Schrodinger's
cat serves to demonstrate the apparent conflict with what quantum
theory tells us is true about the nature and behaviour of matter on
the microscopic level and what we observe to be true about the nature
and behaviour of matter on the macroscopic level -- everything visible
to the unaided human eye. In this thought experiment, the cat's state
(dead or alive) essentially depends upon the collapse of the
wave-function to form a physical quantum from a decaying radioactive
source in a box containing the cat, and a vial of poison that will be
released when the quantum registers. If the cat, poison and
radioactive source are all part of a quantum mechanical system, what
must we say constitutes registration? The problem of when and how the
quantum wave collapse occurs is even more critical if we accept Von
Neumann's conclusion in his classic work The Mathematical Foundations
of Quantum Mechanics[12], that no physical separation is possible
between quantum systems and classical physical objects. If quanta do
not exist until they register as effects on a receptor and we have no
way of knowing of them until evidence of their effects is received in
our consciousness via a chain of quanta and receptors, knowing
whether they exist or not without the presence of consciousness is
problematic. The difficulty here, both for the investigation of
consciousness and for physics is that posed by conscious distinction
itself, that is, the objectively physical is always outside
consciousness and is always its object, thus rendering all mechanisms
we posit to explain consciousness objects of consciousness.

It must be borne in mind that the orchestrated objective reduction
theory does have its limitations. We may easily identify the
correlation between an observed quantum process and the physical
phenomenon of brain activity, and most often the macroscopic
characteristics of physical objects and activity can be seen as
generated from a microscopic account. However, it is so far not
possible to establish how sensory awareness could be directly
causally linked to physical brain activity. The primary reasons for
this are twofold. Firstly, the notions of cause and effect are
applicable only to observed phenomena within the spatio-temporal
sphere, and secondly, scientists are simply confined to accounting
for phenomena solely in terms of other phenomena, always leaving
behind an indelible residue.

Given the forms of our cognition of phenomena are presupposed in all
scientific enquiry, it cannot surely fall within the province of
science alone to investigate their nature. Scientific concepts and
manners of representation may, in fact, themselves be interpreted in
a way that does not require us to expect that anything is really
being spoken of apart from perceived facts and empirical
abnormalities. Berkeley, concerned at all times that terms and
expressions should be related to particular 'ideas' of sense,
characterised purported natural laws as no more than 'rules...
observed in the production of natural effects' (p. 25 of Principles
of Human Knowledge (World's Classics), George Berkeley (1988)).
Austrian physicist Ernst Mach denied that such laws could be spoken
of as residing 'in nature'. Only individual instances or 'cases' of
laws did this, the laws more appropriately being described as 'things
of the thought'. (p. 12 of Mach's Principle: From Newton's Bucket to
Quantum Gravity (Einstein Studies), Julian B. Barbour, H. Pfister
(1995)). Likewise, Mach questioned whether we should treat the
'unobservables' as real existents, and when discussing atomic theory
he described atoms as merely representing a mathematical 'model' so
as to aid in the mental reproduction of the facts. For Mach it was
therefore impossible to accept the principle of their actual
existence since they could not be perceived by the senses.

Substance-dualist views posit that the mental and the physical are
both real, insofar as matter, having the essential property of being
spatially extended, is distinct from the mind, the essential property
of which is having the capacity to think. Neither can be said to be
assimilated into the other, and views of this nature are rooted in
Descartes Meditations. Descartes' model views the material world as
pure extension, which is infinitely divisible (Part II (IV) of The
Principles of Philosophy, Descartes (2012)). In this model, different
portions of matter move along at various speeds in relation to one to
another, which is what differentiates things in the universe.

Similarly, contemporary quantum physicists also postulate a dual
reality. At the ordinary level,the level at which we operate and
experience events as discrete and concrete 'realities', realities
that are quite sufficiently explained in terms of classical physics
(inasmuch as matter does dissolve into wave in the quantum realm).
But at that other level, the level of true reality, the
submicroscopic level of noumenon as understood by the quantum
physicists, all is waves of probability and propensity. Reality at
the quantum or 'thing-in-itself' level seems to be nothing more than
chaos of tendency to exist and survive patterns of probabilities.

Many attempts to extend materialism through such emergence theories
usually follow the Aristotelian tradition, which is wholly distinct
to that of the dualist Cartesian conception of the relation between
matter and the incorporeal. For Aristotle, there was no exact science
of matter and how substance behaved was essentially affected by its
form. In this way, matter was perceived as determinable and made
determinate by its form. The Aristotelian model thus has many forms
and substances, which necessarily resulted in many levels of ontology
(Part 5 of section 1 of The Categories, Aristotle).

Conversely, Locke provided a wholesale rejection of the Aristotelian
concept of matter and notions of substance in particular, by
replacing the notion of substance with corpuscularism. He had argued
in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding that the mind, observing
through its ideas that an amalgam of qualities occur in regular
sequences, naturally tends to explain these sequences in terms of the
intrinsic 'properties' that objects have as part of their real
essences. By considering the sources of human knowledge, Locke
contended that we must take into account the ways in which such
factors as the operations of our sense-organs contribute towards the
character of our perceptual experience, and, in reducing mental and
cognitive processes to mere sensations, he contended that although
things may appear to us in a certain way, the characteristics that we
attribute to them do not really belong to them unless they are primary
in nature (such as size or shape) (viii 9, Part II, An Essay
Concerning Human Understanding, Locke). That is to say, the primary
qualities of objects produce ideas that 'resemble' the corresponding
qualities of the objects that caused us to have those ideas. The
secondary qualities of objects instead produce ideas that do not
resemble the corresponding qualities in the objects that gave rise to
those ideas. We may take colour as a prime example. Colour perception
is not created by a chromatically discriminative optical system, for
when chromatic data is accessible to the cognitive processes it can
be referenced against an innate typical matrix of subjective imagery,
allowing the perception of colour to affect the experiential visual
process. Similarly, as a result of the operations of the mind as an
agency rather than a mere recipient of discrete sense-impressions, we
perceive objects as having spatio-temporal qualities. The human mind,
then, is ordered in determinate ways that we use to organise our

But it must be remembered that references to objects and causal
connections are only legitimate in the context of empirical or
phenomenal reality as serving to define the phenomena of the world of
sense. How is it possible to make such references in order to connect
the phenomenal sphere itself with what lies outside it?

The quantum world is not a world of actual events like our own but a
world full of unrealised potentia. What contemporary quantum physics
seems to indicate is that far below the microscopic level, the world
is not a world of spatially and temporally located particles of
matter. Particle 'reality' is a subjective imposition that enters the
picture only when an 'observer' enters. Unobserved, true reality, at
its deepest level, consists only of possibilities and tendencies and
what we take to be the attributes of 'matter' are really events that
occur in the acts of observing and perceiving.

It is a combination of space, time, and causality that provides the
natural structure for organising our experience. These abstract
categories allow us to think relationally in the most rudimentary
sense; understanding simple events require one to represent the
spatial relations among objects, the relative durations of actions or
movements, and links between causes and effects. It is by virtue of
space, time and causality that reality can manifest itself to us as a
world inhabited by a variety of individual objects. Our awareness of
empirical reality, then, consists in the apprehension of ideas and
representations which have as their basis the data provided by the
senses that are structured in accordance with the universal framework
of space, time and causality imposed by us as perceiving subjects. In
this manner, it may be inferred that intellect and matter may be
perceived as one and the same thing, seen at some transcendent, or
profounder level of 'true' reality that is unfettered by time, space
or causality. Mind and matter may ultimately be conceived as
attributes of what is essentially one and the same 'substance', a
substance that, together with mind and matter, makes up the totality
of existence.

To expound, existence may be best characterised by three realms as
opposed to a mere dualistic entity; namely by the physical realm of
determinism, the mental realm of actuality and the realm of
potentiality. It is the mental which governs itself in the image of
the former and the latter, since it is itself non-computational. The
quantum aspects of brain functioning to produce the mind may be
applied through physics, and from the realm of potentiality we can
infer the universal Platonic Idea which governs the classification of
man's place in relation to nature. The mental provides the reference
frame between both of these, which takes the form of 'knowledge' of
the physical and the Platonic in its own perceptions. By revisiting
the Penrose-Hameroff model of consciousness, it is apparent that the
electrical firing in synapses is discontinuous and discrete whereas
consciousness itself is self-evidently sequential and continuous.
Thus, the basis of consciousness must lie in an external, constant
reference frame which is receiving these electro-chemical impressions
within the space-time surrounding their occurrence. One that governs,
yet perfectly coincides with, the system of operation for the
aggregate organisation of massive bodies as a self-referencing,
closed unit.


Alexander, Peter, Ideas Qualities and Corpuscles, Cambridge
University Press Ed 1985.

Aristotle, Prior Analytics, Hugh Tredennick (trans.), pp. 181-531 in
Aristotle, Volume 1, Loeb Classical Library, William Heinemann,
London Ed 1938.

Atmanspacher, H., and Fuchs, C., (eds.), The Pauli-Jung Conjecture
and Its Impact Today, Exeter: Imprint Academic Ed 2014

Banks, Erik C. Machian Elements and Psychophysical Relations in S.
Mori, et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 23rd Int'l Conference in
Psychophysics: International Society of Psychophysics Ed 2007.

Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge (World's Classics) Ed 1988.

Chalmers, David J., The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental
Theory, New York: Oxford University Press Ed 1997.

Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John
Cottingham, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Ed 1996.

Descartes, The Principles of Philosophy Ed 2012.

Hameroff, S.R., and Penrose, R., Conscious Events as Orchestrated
Space-time Selections, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 3(1): 36-53
Ed 1996

Julian B. Barbour & H. Pfister, Mach's Principle: From Newton's
Bucket to Quantum Gravity (Einstein Studies) Ed 1995.

Locke, J., An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Ed 2008.

Penrose, R., The Emperor's New Mind Ed 1989.

Schrodinger, Erwin. Mind and Matter. Cambridge University Press, Ed

S. Hameroff, R. Penrose, Reduction of Quantum Coherence in Brain
Microtubules: A Model for Consciousness, Mathematics and Computers in
Simulation 40 Ed 1996.


1. This is the name given to the theory of fundamental particles and
how they interact with one another.

2. Precisely where a particle is and how it is moving when observed
is still 'indeterminate' and results in random measured values.

3. Those which do not incorporate quantum mechanics.

4. Orchestrated Objective Reduction ('ORCH-OR') theory.

5. the structure that holds the cell together.

6. hollow protein cylinders.

7. known as the 'warping' of these space-times.

8. A process whereby the sub-atomic particle interactions in terms of
quantum field theory break down and become inadequate; concepts of
size and distance vanish

9. This thought experiment was designed to exhibit the failure of the
'indeterminacy principle' characteristic of quantum mechanics, in the
case of the creation of a pair of twin particles and subsequent
discovery of certain physical characteristics of those particles at
some distance from the point of their creation. The principle behind
this thought experiment was that if the particles were physical
entities the indeterminacy principle failed.

10. Niels Bohr, physicist (1885-1962), was the first to apply the
quantum concept, which restricts the energy of a system to certain
discrete values, to the problem of atomic and molecular structure. An
account of the debates between Einstein and Niels Bohr have been
written by Bohr in an article titled 'Discussions with Einstein on
Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics' (From Albert Einstein:
Philosopher-Scientist (1949), publ. Cambridge University Press).

11. The 'Copenhagen interpretation' holds that quantum mechanics does
not yield a description of an objective reality but only deals with
probabilities of observance and measurement. Assuming wave-functions
are not real, wave-function collapse is interpreted subjectively. The
moment one observer measures the spin of one particle, he knows the
spin of the other. However, another observer cannot benefit until the
results of that measurement have been relayed to him, at less than or
equal to the speed of light.

12. Von Neumann, J., The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum
Mechanics (1995), Princeton University Press.

(c) Catherine Nickford 2015

Email: catherine.nickford@yahoo.com



There are many sci-fi books, movies and TV series depicting conscious
machines; artificial entities that are aware of themselves and their
surroundings; machines that both think and emote. Could such
conscious machines ever be actualized? If so, it seems that an
explanation is required as of how consciousness could exist in an
inorganic matter. Even before that, to appreciate what such
possibility would involve, we have to deal with some fundamental
questions: What is consciousness? How could we come to know that a
machine is conscious?

It should be obvious by now that there is a relation between brain
and mind. The most straightforward evidence of this is that people
with damaged brain tissue, due to injuries or sickness, behave and
experience the world differently than before. For example, those
suffering from Alzheimer's disease, resulting from a degeneration of
the brain, not only lose their memory but also exhibit mild to
dramatic behavioural changes and loss of self-identity.

This being the case, most philosophers believe that something like
the possession of a brain is a necessary but not sufficient condition
for consciousness, i.e. without a brain, consciousness is not
possible, but having a brain is not enough; there is an extra
something that enables consciousness. The main discussion in
philosophy of mind is what is exactly this 'extra' and how it can
explain the relation of the brain to consciousness. While avoiding
the trap of supplying an explicit definition of consciousness, a term
which often proves elusive, I will say that when philosophers use the
term consciousness the following two criteria are commonly referred
to: having a first-person point of view and having subjective
experience in the sense of 'what it is like' for me to be in this
state. Over the course of what follows, I hope to clarify and expand
upon these criteria by presenting some different theories of mind
that do try to explain what consciousness is and how it can be
accounted for. In the first section of this essay I will briefly
cover some of the main theories in philosophy of mind regarding
consciousness for this purpose. Following this, I will present an
argument in favour of accepting consciousness as an emergent
phenomenon. Lastly, I'll argue that if consciousness is an emergent
property, then there is no principled reason why it should not emerge
from a machine simulation.

1. Overview

Discussions of what consciousness is can be found in early Greek and
Hindu philosophy, however, Descartes may have been the first in the
Western philosophical tradition to frame the mind-body problem in a
clear and reasoned way. Descartes' view is that consciousness (mind)
is immaterial and somehow interacts with the matter (brain) and thus,
the material brain and immaterial mind are two ontologically distinct
substances. This thesis is what has become known in the literature as
Cartesian dualism. Today, only few philosophers or scientists support
Cartesian substance dualism.

In contrast with dualism, physicalism, a form of monism, holds that
there is nothing beyond physical matter, and hence consciousness is a
result of brain activity. We may not yet have the correct scientific
explanation of how consciousness arises from the brain but such an
explanation involves nothing beyond the world of physics.
Physicalists usually explain consciousness via supervenience -- the
idea that psychological states supervene on physical states; if two
persons are indistinguishable in all of their physical properties,
they must also be indistinguishable in all of their mental
properties. The same goes for computer running software, if my
computer runs solitaire, then it is impossible for any other computer
with exactly the same electronic states not to be running solitaire.

Thomas Nagel (1974) introduced the following argument against
physicalism: physical information doesn't tell you: what it is like
to be a bat. How the world is from another point of view. Nagel: 'An
organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is
something it is like to be that organism -- something it is like for
the organism.'[1] If we'll consider pain vs. C-fibre firing,
according to Nagel, there is no such thing as 'pain in itself'
(C-fibre firing) as an objective experience, there's only how pain
strikes me -- a subjective experience.

Another strong argument against physicalism is the knowledge
argument, where Frank Jackson (1982, 1986) introduces Mary -- a
brilliant scientist who learns all the physical truths about the
world, vision and colour from a black and white room[2]. The argument
posits that when Mary leaves her B&W room and sees a red tomato, she
learns a new fact -- what it is like to see red. This occurs as a
result of her having a new subjective experience by which she becomes
familiar with qualia, the intrinsic qualities of phenomenal
experience; in this case redness. The conclusion of the argument is
that physicalism is false. While the gist of Nagel's argument is that
one can have all the physical facts without having knowledge of the
other persons' view, the point of Jackson's is that one can have all
the physical facts without having knowledge of qualia.

Several other arguments that support the existence of qualia include
the conceivability argument, inverted qualia, philosophical zombies
and the explanatory argument. Chalmers (2003) says that these
arguments are part of a general problem, exemplified in what has
become known as the explanatory gap; Chalmers named this the 'hard
problem' of consciousness -- the problem of explaining how qualia or
subjective experience emerges in our minds[3].

Physicalists have not remained silent to these objections and have in
response suggested several counter arguments. One such counter
argument, the ability hypothesis (Nemirow & Lewis) argues that rather
than having learned new facts or truths, Mary acquires new abilities;
She gains know-how not knowing-that[4]. Another response emphasizes
the possibility of Mary acquiring 'Knowledge by acquaintance'.[5] On
this view, it is held that Mary becomes directly acquainted with the
phenomenal character of colour experience, in the way that one can
become acquainted with a city by visiting it.

Another view adopted by both Patricia and Paul Churchland is that
when it is said that consciousness emerges from the brain there is a
suggestion that something else besides the neural activity is going
on, something correlated but distinct from the neural activity. But
then again, what is that extra thing that happens? According to this
view, all questions about consciousness can be reduced to what
Chalmers calls the 'easy problems' and eventually be solved. Put
otherwise, the concepts of popular psychology that we use to explain
our mental states (intentions, beliefs, desires, etc.) will
eventually be replaced by neurobiological models that have yet to be
developed. According to Patricia Churchland, the fact that it is
currently very hard for us to imagine a solution to the problem of
consciousness tells us absolutely nothing about whether or not this
phenomenon can actually be explained. In her view, it is too easy to
conclude that a phenomenon such as consciousness is inexplicable
simply because current human psychology cannot grasp it.[6]

The knowledge argument continues to inspire ongoing discussion on the
nature of consciousness and its relation to the physical world. The
main discussion point being, how subjective experience and mental
states arise from brain states.

2. Emergence

Sometimes a system with multiple interacting components gives rise to
some surprising and unpredicted dynamics that cannot be found or
predicted by looking at any of the components in isolation; such an
emergent phenomena is not a priori predictable from its substrata and
none of the components share the property the system at large holds.
The explanation for emergent phenomena takes place at another level
distinct from its substrata.

Like water (H2O) has the novel properties of wetness and liquidity
that cannot be found in either Hydrogen or Oxygen, by analogy mental
states arise from brain states but do not share their properties,
mental states are not identical to any brain states but instead
emerge from them. If the later is the case, then it offers an account
as to why qualia cannot be reduced to any particular physical

Emergent properties are properties of a system and dependent on that
system's components, their properties, and configurations; emergence
arises when the system in question passes a critical threshold of
complexity and organization. Philosophers who support emergentism,
view emergence to be compatible with physicalism in the sense that
the universe is made exclusively of physical entities while at the
same time rejecting the reducibility of the mental to the physical.
Moreover, it is important to note that the truth of emergentism is
consistent with the falsity of substance dualism (in the Cartesian

David Chalmers (2006) defined a distinction between weak and strong
emergence in order to capture the difference usage of the term
'emergence' in science and philosophy.

Strong Emergence: 'We can say that a high-level phenomenon is
strongly emergent with respect to a low-level domain when the
high-level phenomenon arises from the low-level domain, but truths
concerning that phenomenon are not deducible even in principle from
truths in the low-level domain. Strong emergence is the notion of
emergence that is most common in philosophical discussions of
emergence, and is the notion invoked by the British emergentists of
the 1920s'[7]

Weak Emergence: 'We can say that a high-level phenomenon is weakly
emergent with respect to a low-level domain when the high-level
phenomenon arises from the low-level domain, but truths concerning
that phenomenon are unexpected given the principles governing the
low-level domain. Weak emergence is the notion of emergence that is
most common in recent scientific discussions of emergence, and is the
notion that is typically invoked by proponents of emergence in complex
systems theory.'[8]

While we can usually say that instances of strong emergence are also
instances of weak emergence -- the phenomenon is not deducible and
unexpected -- the converse, however, does not hold.

Weak emergence is common in complex system theories and other
scientific fields where complexity, self-organization, functional
organization and system's behaviour are paramount.

Let's look at an ant colony as an example of weak emergence. The ant
colony exhibits complex behaviour -- food is gathered, tunnels are
excavated, waste discarded and the colony is protected and populated
-- without any centralized decision making (the queen does not give
direct orders). All of these processes are successfully carried out
despite the fact that each individual ant acts independently; only
communicating with other ants by leaving chemical traces that are
picked up and acted upon by other colony members.

An objection to strong emergence -- mainly raised by physicalists --
is that even if strong emergence is possible there are no real cases
of it in the world. In response, the proponents point to mental
properties. Chalmers (2006) considers consciousness as the only
intrinsic example of strong emergence in nature. If consciousness can
be considered generally to be quite a unique state, which it is, then
its uniqueness lends to the idea that strong emergence is something
that is also unique.

When considering the behaviour of an ant colony, although we can
analyse the behaviour of a specific ant or we can analyse the
behaviour of the entire colony, the mechanism that gives rise to the
organization and behaviour of the colony as a whole eludes us.
Similarly, the use of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging)
and other tools enable scientists to explore the behaviour of neurons
and their functions, researching the neurophysiological structure of
the brain. However this may be, the mechanism that gives rise to
consciousness from brain matter eludes us. Emergence gives us the
best explanation to date of that 'mechanism' in its claiming that
multiple autonomous agents (ants, neurons) interact and communicate
with other local agents or occasionally remote ones, and that this
results in a system's behaviour which itself cannot be reduced to the
individual agents.

In response to this, I concede that biology and neuroscience may not
yet have the means to explain the mechanism(s) underlying emergence,
but just because it is presently inexplicable, does not mean that
emergentism is a false theory or that it will always be inexplicable.

Patricia Churchland presents a view that in the history of science
many problems seemed inexplicable but eventually with the progress of
science an explanation was found.[9] She makes a distinction between
'we cannot now explain' and 'we can never explain'. At this point in
time our understanding of the mind is still immature and we should
not speculate about consciousness as a 'hard problem'. 'When not much
is known about a topic, don't take terribly seriously someone else's
heartfelt conviction about what problems are scientifically
tractable. Learn the science, do the science, and see what

3. Emergence of consciousness in machine simulation

While there are several on-going projects around the world
researching the brain, one in particular -- the European Human Brain
project (HBP)[11] -- has brain simulation as one of its objectives:
'Simulate the brain -- Develop ICT tools to generate high-fidelity
digital reconstructions and simulations of the mouse brain, and
ultimately the human brain.'[12] HBP supervisor, Prof. Henri Markram,
believes this can be achieved by 2023.

Suppose then that consciousness is an emergent property of a physical
system (the brain). If this is the case, then would our creating an
accurate simulation of a human brain in another platform, say
equivalent with all the neurons, synapses and the intricate and
complex activity of the brain, bring about the sufficient conditions
for consciousness to emerge?

Before going on, there is an important distinction to be made here in
regard to artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness. It is
not the purpose of this essay to explore the question of whether or
not consciousness can be created artificially in some machine
(machine consciousness) or whether an artificial intelligence (AI)
can exhibit conscious behaviour, but rather to explore the
possibility of consciousness emerging in a machine that is a brain

With this in mind, let us approach the question above. While it seems
obvious that the brain is a necessary requirement for having
consciousness, is it sufficient? Some philosophers believe that
aspects of the agent's body (other than the brain) are constitutive
for cognitive processing. This view is termed embodied cognition and
the following examples[13] are representatives:

We typically gesture when we speak to one another, and gesturing
facilitates not just communication but language processing itself
(McNeill 1992).

Vision is often action-guiding, and bodily movement and the feedback
it generates are more tightly integrated into at least some visual
processing than has been anticipated by traditional models of vision
(O'Regan and Noe 2001).

There are neurons, mirror neurons that fire not only when we
undertake an action, but do so when we observe others undertaking the
same actions (Rizolatti and Craighero 2004).

We are often able to perform cognitive tasks, such as remembering,
more effectively by using our bodies and even parts of our
surrounding environments to off-load storage and simplify the nature
of the cognitive processing (Donald 1991).

The brain simulation should have input and output capabilities for
interacting with the world. Sally Goerner and Leslie Allan Combs
write: 'Consciousness always has an object. In other words, it is
always about something. We are not just conscious, we are conscious
of the taste of food, the smell of the sea, a tooth ache. We are
conscious of joy, of boredom, of the meaning of words on the page in
front of us, of the sound of music playing in the next room, of our
own thoughts, of memories. The point is that virtually all experience
is experience of something... Consciousness would seem to be
intimately involved with the informing of the brain and mind by
objects of attention.'[14]

I would concede that input and output mechanisms are needed as causal
processes -- sounds, sights, etc. -- but these mechanisms are not part
of a conscious states. When we see a sunset or listen to music, a
chain of events occurs; one starting with the activation of receptors
and proceeding subsequently to the transduction of proximal stimuli,
neurons firing in the brain, integration with memory, attachment of
emotion and meaning and so on. Somewhere along this process,
consciousness emerges, but the stimuli (certain wavelength in the
case of the sunset and series of sounds in the case of music) are not
those things within which a state occurs or those things which it is
constituted of; a conscious state -- the experience of seeing a
sunset or listening to music -- emerges within this process.


The question of how the brain gives rise to consciousness is the key
question and science has yet to identify the mechanism that is
involved. This does not mean that the explanation is not 'out there'
to be discovered; as Patricia Churchland prompts us to go do the
science and let the future be the judge of it. Notwithstanding, the
best explanation so far is given by emergence; consciousness arises
from the brain via emergent property. It follows that if a simulation
of the brain can be created in a machine, it is a possibility that
consciousness could emerge. I acknowledge of course that it is not as
simple as that, as proponents of embodied cognition are quick to point
out; being that mere brain simulation is not enough, we should
simulate sense organs and the simulation should be able to interact
with the world. Today we do not have the technology at our disposal
to create a brain simulation of small mammal, let alone a human brain
with around 100 billion neurons -- the HBP is extremely ambitious in
its timeline objective. But if the technology were to become
available and it would allows us to build a simulation in a machine,
another difficulty arises. How would we ever know that it was

As there is no 'test for consciousness', there is no method of coming
to know with certainty whether other people share the same conscious
states that we experience; we have a sense of self and subjective
experience and we assume that other people share this experience and
we believe them when they say they do. So even if a brain simulation
were eventually produced and it told us that it is aware of itself,
feels and experiences 'what it's like', our knowing whether or not it
would qualify as conscious would be questionable at most.

So how can we test if a machine has qualia if there is no test
available for knowing of the presence of consciousness in other

So long is there is no formal test, I would suggest that the same
practice of belief that we extend to other people should be extended
to the machine simulation. If its behaviour is indistinguishable from
that of (what we assume to be) a conscious person and it will report
to us about its subjective experience we should believe it.

'When we understand consciousness -- when there is no more mystery --
consciousness will be different, but there will still be beauty, and
more room than ever for awe.' -- Dennett, Consciousness Explained


Chalmers D., 'Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness', Journal of
Consciousness Studies, 1995, pp. 200-219

Chalmers D., 'Strong and weak emergence', in P. Davies & P. Clayton
(eds.) 'The re-emergence of emergence', Oxford University Press, 2006

Churchland Patricia, 'The Hornswoggle Problem', Journal of
Consciousness Studies 3, 1996, pp. 402-8

Conee E., 'Phenomenal Knowledge', Australasian Journal of Philosophy,
1994, pp. 136-150

Jackson F., 'Epiphenomenal Qualia', Philosophical Quarterly 32, 1982,
pp. 127-136

Lewis D., 'What Experience Teaches', In William G. Lycan (ed.), Mind
and Cognition, 1990, pp. 29--57

Nagel T., 'What is it Like to Be a Bat?', In Philosophical Review 83
(October), 1974, pp. 435-50

Wilson, Robert A. and Foglia, Lucia, 'Embodied Cognition',The
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy(Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N.

Sally Goerner and Allan Combs, 'Consciousness as a self-organizing
process: an ecological perspective', 1998, pp. 123-127





1. Nagel, 'What is it Like to Be a Bat?' (1974), p. 436.

2. Jackson, 'Epiphenomenal Qualia', 1982, p. 130.

3. Chalmers, Paper 'Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness', 1995

4. Lewis, 'What Experience Teaches,', 1990

5. Conee , 'Phenomenal Knowledge', 1994, p. 144

6. Patricia Churchland, 'Chalmers' Zombies and The Hornswoggle
Problem', article, 2003

7. Chalmers, 'Strong and weak emergence', in 'The re-emergence of
emergence', 2006

8. Ibid

9. Patricia Churchland, 'The Hornswoggle Problem', 1996, pp. 402-408

10. Ibid

11. http://www.humanbrainproject.eu

12. http://www.humanbrainproject.eu/en_GB/roadmap

13. Wilson, Robert A. and Foglia, Lucia, 'Embodied Cognition',The
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy(Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N.
Zalta (ed.)

14. Sally Goerner and Allan Combs, 'Consciousness as a
self-organizing process: an ecological perspective', 1998, pp. 123-127

(c) Yissar Lior Israeli 2015

Email: yissar@gmail.com



In the last decade, the hypothesis of situated cognition has received
a fair amount of attention. This hypothesis, in short, claims that
although the brain is necessary with respect to the obtaining of
various cognitive processes, it is not sufficient for many cognitive
processes to obtain. Given this superficial description, one may
certainly feel, at least one should feel, it is a quite trivial
hypothesis. It needn't be a point of contention for most that a
cognitive process, say of visually perceiving some object, not only
involves the brain but also involves the use of some sensory organs
such as the eyes and the perception of some distal object. Nor would
it ruffle many feathers to claim that the content of many of our
beliefs are is the result a process that involves not only our
sensory organs, which present distal information about the world, but
the world itself as being the object of our attitudes and veridical
perceptions. All superficialities aside, situated cognition is to
correctly be understood as making a claim that is anything other than
trivial. As presented within the framework of one strain of situated
cognition, the extend mind hypothesis, EMH, the claim is a
constitutive one; there are events or objects additional to the brain
which figure in constitutively to the obtaining of cognitive states.
Such states might be those of involved in perceiving, problem
solving, language acquisition and use, memory recall, and belief and
desire formation. Andy Clark and David Chalmers, two of the pioneers
of EMH, constrain the types of cognitive states that can be extended
to those that are standing -- those states such as 'beliefs embedded
in memory' (Clark and Chalmers, p. 33); in short, those beliefs and
desires which are not at t being entertained but are nonetheless a
part of one's mental makeup.

The purpose of this essay is to focus on something that can equally
be regarded as a vexing explanatory challenge brought about by and a
difficult objection to the EMH; a difficulty which, even if one were
to accept EMH, would have to be faced regardless of its being found
true. It can be summed up in asking this: 'If an agent's cognition
were to be extended, where does the agent's self-identity stop? Is
she merely her biological body or is she her biological body and the
extension?' The latter brings about the unintuitive result that she
can exist in two distinct, non-overlapping spatial regions
simultaneously. This difficulty is brought to light and exploited by
Brie Gertler in her paper 'Overextending the Mind'. In this essay, I
will present Gertler's argument, showing how it exemplifies the
problem of extended self-identity. Then I will augment it in such a
way as to transform it into a case where our intuitions about moral
accountability are enlisted. By nudging the problem into a moral
framework, I hope to sharpen our intuitions about self-identity and
as a result clearly demarcate where it is that one begins and where
that same person ends in extended cases. After this I will introduce
a necessary condition for being a standing state, along with a
further necessary condition for being an extended cognitive state. I
will then argue that because the problematic cases of extended
identity do satisfy the former condition but fail to satisfy the
later, the unintuitive conclusions that follow from both of the
presented arguments against EMH cannot be pushed through. Therefore,
we are not forced to choose between the correctness of EMH or our
intuitions about the delimitations of the self.


Some preliminary remarks are needed before turning to Gertler's
argument. Being that her argument begins by assuming the truth of EMH
as favored by Clark and Chalmers, henceforth referred to as C&C, in
their paper 'The Extended Mind', it would be beneficial to understand
the rationale behind C&C's argument in favor of the possibility of
extended minds. In their paper C&C invite us to imagine a person
Otto, who failing to have a functioning standing memory due to
Alzheimer's disease, enters all of his trusted beliefs into a
notebook. In circumstances that require access to his standing
beliefs and desires, it is to this he refers. The force of their
parity argument might be said to be this: if the extension functions
in a way that is similar enough to something which we would have no
problem accepting as a constituent of a cognitive state were it
cranially contained, then on pains of drawing arbitrary distinctions,
we should have no problem in accepting something which extends outside
the head as such a constituent. Thus it argued that Otto's journal,
playing the same cognitive role as a normally functioning person's
standing beliefs do, counts as a part of Otto's mind -- his standing
memory to be sure. Additionally C&C put forth a short list of
necessary conditions for being a standing belief. They include: being
easily accessible, being constantly available, and being subject to
automatic endorsement.[1] From the assumption that one's standing
beliefs are constituents of one's mind and that because Otto's
standing beliefs are in his notebook, the conclusion is drawn that it
is possible that the one's mind can extend out into the world beyond
the skin.

Gertler's argument, what I will refer to henceforth as the argument
from overextension (AFO), takes the form of a reductio ad absurdum.
Assuming the truth of EMH with respect to standing states, the AFO
goes on to show that this assumption leads to an unintuitive result;
one that is not only incompatible with our common concept of the self
but also conflicts directly with a widely accepted notion in physics
-- nothing can occupy spatially distinct and non-overlapping
locations simultaneously.

The AFO can be represented as follows:

i. Otto's journal is a constituent of his mind (assumption -- the
truth of EMH)

ii. If Otto's journal is as a constituent of his mind, then on pains
of arbitrariness, a robot, whose 'action plan' program is informed
exclusively by an input system that detects the environmental layout
and all of Otto's uploaded notebook entries and who satisfies C&C's
standing belief criteria should also count as being a constituent of
Otto's mind.

iii. Standing states alone are sufficient for explaining actions.

iv. If a constituent of X's mind produced some token action, then X
produced that token action. (assumption)

v. If one day, while Otto were sleeping, the robot went out and
performed an action based entirely on those standing states, say go
grocery shopping and thereafter bake banana bread, then because those
beliefs and desires are sufficient for explaining the action and they
are constituents of Otto's mind, then those actions would be Otto's
actions. (iii. and iv.)

vi. If X performs a token action and Y performs a numerically
identical token action, then X is identical to Y. (Principle of Token

vii. Otto occupies two non-overlapping spatial locations at the same
time; both sleeping in one place and say shopping in another place.

viii. No one thing can be in two distinct and non-overlapping places
at one time


ix. C) Thus, EMH or one or more of the premises are false.

If this analysis represents Gertler's argument correctly, it becomes
apparent that in order for it to get off the ground, premises iii.
and iv. are must be accepted. On a first pass, premise iii. seems to
be a kind of Humean truism about motivation.[2] For instance, say I
had the fleeting occurrent belief that 'I should eat something' and
my coming to believe this was the result of previously having a
painful feeling in my stomach. Addition to these, say I also had an
occurrent desire to eat an apple located in my backpack -- a desire
that I still have but one which I am not aware of any longer. Now,
given these standing beliefs and desires (and a multitude of other
background beliefs and desires) is my reaching into my backpack for
the apple sufficiently explained? Well C&C seem to think so. In their
original argument, they claim that Otto's walking to the MoMA is
sufficiently explained by merely referring to the entries in his
notebook. If this is the case, then my reaching for the apple can
also be sufficiently explained by my standing beliefs and
dispositions. Whether or not this is really the case, I will take up
in the next section. However, let's continue to analyze the argument
in hope of understanding what leads to the unpalatable conclusion
that Gertler draws.

Premise iv. does not require a stretch of imagination for one to
admit to its plausibility. If some action is caused exclusively by a
set of beliefs and desires, where beliefs and desires are understood
as constituents one's mind, then the agent from which those beliefs
and desires would spring, would also be the cause of that action; it
is her mind responsible for the action and thus it is her action.

Continuing, premise v. follows from premises iii. and iv., while
premise vii. follows from the acceptance of what I've called the
Principle of Token Action-Identity stated in premise vi.; a principle
which I think most would take to be obvious. If the argument is valid,
the result commits us to the conclusion that Otto exists in two
distinct non-overlapping regions of space simultaneously. That this
result is inconsistent with the laws of physics seems to be a good
enough reason to look else where within the argument to locate a
faulty premise(s).[3] Gertler, herself, responds to the problem by
denying the mind is constituted by standing states and argues instead
that occurrent states demarcate the mental. Doing this, she is able to
accept the contingent possibility that the mind may be extended in the
way that C&C have formulated. The mind as she understands it, however,
falls under a narrower concept. While Gertler's solution may or may
not persuade for a number of reasons, taking issue with it is beyond
the scope of this essay.

What should be gleaned from the absurd conclusion that follows from
accepting all AFO's premises? One thing is that it reveals a
potential problem with the extended hypothesis; if we allow for
objects laying beyond the skin to be extended constituents of
standing cognitive state, objects that are spatially distinct from
those agents whom they are extensions of, then it seems as if we must
also extend the notion of the self as far as those extensions reach in
order to be consistent with plausible notions about motivation,
action, and agency. Now whether or not this is considered to be a
problem or merely a challenge is dependent upon one's pre-existing
notion of the self and its peripheral notions. If one such peripheral
notion becomes unintelligible as a result of a spreading out of the
self, and that notion is essential to practical and normative
reasoning, then what seemed a challenge is revealed to be nothing
less than a problem.

To illustrate the weight of such a problem, I would like to present
an argument that is based upon the AFO, what I call the argument from
extended accountability (AFEA). It is by means of it, that I hope to
engage our intuitions about how the acceptance of EHM seems to have
intractable results concerning the notion of the morally accountable

Argument from Extended Accountability: AFEA

i. Otto's journal is a constituent of his mind. (assumption -- the
truth of EMH)

ii. If Otto's journal is as a constituent of his mind, then on pains
of arbitrariness, a robot, whose 'action plan' program is informed
exclusively by an input system that detects the environmental layout
and all of Otto's uploaded notebook entries and who satisfies C&C's
standing belief criteria should also count as being a constituent of
Otto's mind.

iii. Standing states alone are sufficient for explaining actions.

iv. If a constituent of X's mind produced some token action, then X
produced that token action. (assumption)

v. One day Otto, after having seen his neighbor abuse his dog,
thought to himself, 'People like that shouldn't be allowed to live.'
He also for a moment felt a fleeting desire to harm his neighbor.
Rather on act on it, Otto went to sleep. If, while Otto was sleeping,
the robot murdered the neighbor based entirely on Otto's standing
states, then because those beliefs and desires are sufficient for
explaining the action and they are constituents of Otto's mind, then
those actions would be Otto's actions. (iii. and iv.)

vi. If X performs a token action and Y performs a numerically
identical token action, then X is identical to Y. (Principle of Token

vii. Otto is identical to the robot (v. and vi.)

viii. The robot is morally accountable for committing the murder.

ix. Otto is morally accountable for committing the murder (vii.,
viii. and Leibniz's Indiscernibility of Identicals)

x. There is a strong intuition that Otto did not commit the murder


xi. C) Thus our intuitions are wrong or one of the premises are false.

One question that should immediately arise in response to this
argument is 'how large of a role should we allow our moral intuitions
to play?' Unlike the AFO, the AFEA does not end in a metaphysical
inconsistency but in a distinct kind of uneasy moral feeling that
'certainly there is something that sets Otto apart from being
accountable for the murder, even if it can be explained exhaustively
in virtue of his standing states.' In the following section I will
make an effort to locate the reason as to why our intuitions, under
the assumption that they are relevant enough to matter, are correct.
If our intuitions that Otto is not morally accountable can be
supported, then given the strength of this support, a plausible
constraint on sameness of personal identity with respect to extended
standing systems may appear in the clearing.


A proponent of EMH might waste little time in denying that our
intuitions are as the conclusion says they are or she might claim
that if they are so, then there is good reason to believe these
intuitions to be mistaken. In process, she may ask us to consider an
analogy between this kind of morally extended robot case and a case
of extended moral accountability of parents with respect to their
children. Imagine that someone's child steals something from a store.
It would seem certain that upon getting caught in the act, the child
AND the parent would be held accountable. The parent as legal
guardian is responsible for her/ his child's wellbeing and wellbeing
can easily be construed as referring to actively constraining the
child's behavior such as to not flout the social laws as well as not
allowing situations to occur which might endanger the child's safety.
If this is plausible, then any intuition about Otto not being
accountable for the behavior of his robot is just wrong; particularly
considering that it is much like a child, who after having acquired
many of the beliefs and desires of its parent, carries out some
action as a result of having those very beliefs.

This kind of response gets something very correct and something very
incorrect. The good news first is that, yes, those who do have
children are likely to take responsibility for their children's
actions and are often held accountable for those actions --
particularly when they reflect the desires of parent. Now for the bad
news -- the argument presented makes specific use a case of murder for
the purposes of pushing our moral intuitions as far as they can go.
Would we hold a parent accountable for their child committing a
murder? An answer to this question may begin by mentioning that
accountability is gradient and that given the reality of such a case,
we may not hold the parent fully accountable but only partially so.
However, this is distinct from Otto's case in that we, accepting
certain premises, are led to hold Otto fully accountable given the
fact that the robot's standing states are exclusively Otto's standing
states and it was these states that exclusively led to the murder.
Such standing state exclusivity, in the case of a murderous child
seem to require nothing less that the child being some kind of
robot.[4] This, of course, is not to deny the influence of a parent's
beliefs and desires on her/ his child. What it is denying, however, is
the analogy's force given the distinct natures of the two cases. If
the analogy is found wanting, then it is simply not a plausible way
to disentangle ourselves from the unintuitive result of accepting all
of the premises that led up to the conclusion. This is not to say that
EMH is the culprit but only that until the other premise are found
false, it remains to be suspect.

Why is it that we have the intuitions that we do in the case as
described? A good a place as any to approach finding an answer may be
questioning C&C's conditions for standing beliefs and desires. In
hopes of illustrating that they are not restrictive enough, I invite
the reader to imagine an individual, Bill, who has a functioning
memory and thus has accessible standing beliefs, and yet Bill by some
fluke of nature cannot modify or correct his beliefs when presented
with new conflicting evidence. In such case, would we really be
willing to grant Bill, although having states that are accessible,
consistently available and subject to automatic endorsement, the
possession of standing beliefs? Let's advance a negative answer to
this question for sake of seeing where it may lead us in our enquiry.
Thus one might reply, 'If there were such states, whatever kinds of
states these would be, their function would be far from those of
standing beliefs and desires!'

Before pursuing this, more needs to be said about the notion of
modification. I purpose that the modification of a standing state may
best be understood in respect to its membership status, i.e. whether
or not it belongs to a total coherent set of beliefs and desires. My
token belief that 'it's raining outside', after looking out the
window and seeing no rain, is not modified so as to be the same
belief negated. The new belief that 'it's not raining outside' is a
different belief altogether! My previous belief is modified in the
sense that it becomes a member of the set of beliefs that I don't
assent to (although I may have access to). Its content, however,
remains the same. Now if Bill were come to have the fleeting belief
that 'its raining outside' and then minutes later look out the window
to see no rain, he, unable to modify his standing belief, would still
assent to it and simultaneously come to have the new belief that
'it's not raining'. The reader can surely see where this is going;
his new belief, although true and justified, would be overridden by
the immutable standing belief 'it's raining outside'. If this is
true, Bill would always, and not as a result of his own will but by
disposition alone, believe that it's raining outside. So one might
argue that such a 'belief' fails to function in a way that would be
beneficial to him and thus should not be considered to be a standing
belief. This person may also suggest an addition to C&C's standing
state conditions such as the following. Let's call this the rational
coherence condition (RCC):

RCC: Where X is a belief or desire, and S is a system, for all X, if
X is standing cognitive state in a system, S, then X must be subject
to potential modification by S given the presence of new information
and its rational coherence with the rest of S's background standing

When returning to C&C's original example with Otto's notebook,
assuming something like the RCC is correct, we can see that Otto's
notebook, although it is located beyond the skin, is subject to
modification given new and more coherent information. If Otto, while
underway to the MoMA, sees that the museum has moved, he is able to
modify the notebook entry given this new information. Moving on to
the AFO, however, it seems that the RCC is not satisfied in the case
as described. When Otto falls asleep, his potential ability for
altering his desires and beliefs given new information is put on
hold. This in itself is not problematic, given that the constraint's
'potential' qualification leaves room for a sleeping agents standing
beliefs to still qualify as such. The problem is that there are some
beliefs that Otto does not have but would have if introduced to new
information -- beliefs which could possibly affect the justificatory
standing of his standing beliefs. However, given the robots
informational input system, its set of standing states, and an action
program, it fails in a way in which Otto would succeed. Were Otto at a
grocery store in the banana aisle and had smelled the bananas himself,
he might have had a change of mind -- be it that the smell might have
been so overwhelming that his desire for anything to do with bananas
is overridden by a want for fresh and odorless air. The robot, as
described cannot modify its 'desires' and 'beliefs' in such a way.
Its states, or whatever they are, fail to satisfy RCC and thus fail
to count as standing states.

This kind of reasoning I think is mistaken for two reasons. The first
reason is that RCC is not a necessary condition for having standing
states such as beliefs or desires. A further example may make this
clear. Imagine now that Bill's brain damage causes him to see and
hear an imaginary friend, Anna and nothing anyone could say or do, no
amount of inconsistent evidence or new occurrent beliefs are able to
unhinge or make him give up his assent to 'Anna exists'. If, however,
Bill's behavior can be best explained in terms of him having the
belief that 'Anna exists', then surely it would be correct to
accredit him with such a belief even if it is immutable.[5] If this
were the case, then to require the RCC in addition to those of C&C's
necessary conditions for something qualifying as a standing belief
would be a mistake. At most, the RRC would be something that could
constrain the kind of beliefs that qualify as rational beliefs, but
this, I trust, is too trivial to be of any use. Although, for most,
the fact that the RCC is not necessary should be sufficient evidence
to justify our completely turning our gaze from it, by not abandoning
it straight away, the second reason as to why a search for necessary
conditions on standing states is a misplaced effort becomes clear. It
is only when this mistake is clearly cast that another more plausible
condition may expose itself to us. This is what I will now attempt to

Assuming that the RCC were necessary for standing beliefs, its being
so wouldn't do the work needed of it. The reason being is that given
the complete set of Otto's standing beliefs and desires, the robot
would be able to surely satisfy the RCC. It would simply, given that
set, infer how to modify the belief or desire. If it has the standing
conditional belief that 'if bananas are overly ripe, then they are not
to be purchased', then this belief would override the standing desire
for banana bread and the robot might simple return home empty-handed
as Otto would have. This brings out a striking point about beliefs
and desires. Beliefs and desires are not just about overly ripe
bananas or banana bread, they are much of the time about 'those
horrible smelling overripe bananas' or 'this mouthwatering smelling
banana bread'. The intentional content of standing states are often
determined in part by phenomenal content of occurrent states. To be
sure of this, just look at the computer screen before you. To limit
your experience to 'there is an illuminated whitish screen peppered
with black letters' would be to pilfer the very feel of your
experience for sake of perhaps easily communicating something about
it. Your experience presents something present rather than
descriptive or conceptual. 'THIS!' This phenomenal content is
demonstrative in that it refers to particular qualities as presented
by your subjective occurrent states. So, given the input of overly
ripe bananas, even if the robot's set of standing states might be
able to be used to inferentially deduce a response similar to one
that Otto might have, unless its encoding of phenomenal content is
identical to the way in which Otto would encode it, what at most
could be said is that it satisfies C&C's conditions and the RCC but
in way that is distinct from the way Otto would satisfy it. Moreover,
the robot as described fails to have phenomenal content given that it
fails the capacity to have occurrent states. This last point carries
over to the AFEA also. Although Otto's robot may contain a set of
beliefs and desires which were had at one point by Otto, because Otto
is absent at the scene of the murder, there is no possibility for the
non-occurrent robot to have exactly the same kind of new input which
is necessary for identical kinds of belief and desire modification.
If this the case, then it fails to say that the difference between
Otto's input + phenomenal content and the robots input + action
program would result in a difference in the way that the set of
standing states are modified. This point can be emphasized further by
looking at a quite plausible general condition for successful
extension of standing states. What I'll for simplicity sake just call
the GC.

GC: If an agent's, A's, standing states are cognitively extended via
extension, E, then it must be the case that E represents A's
motivational set such that that set will supervene on A's occurrent

This is just to say that there is no change in the robot's M-set
without a change in Otto's occurrent states. Why would a
supervenience relation be relevant here? For one, in order for
something to be someone's M-set, whether or not an extended someone,
that person's M-set should be acknowledged as being dependent upon
her/ his conscious states. To imagine a case where this does not hold
is to imagine a case where one's beliefs and desires are not dependent
upon one's own conscious experiences; thus it unintelligible to even
call them one's own beliefs and desires. To see the GC in action,
just note that in both AFO and AFEA a change in the robot's input
states, might alter its set of standing beliefs and desires. It then
might modify Otto's pre-existing M-set in a way that has nothing to
do with Otto's consciousness. Thus, calling such a modified state a
constituent of Otto's M-set would be plainly incorrect. Furthermore,
as described, even if Otto were awake, his occurrent states wouldn't
make a difference to the robot's M-set without an additional upload.
Given this, while Otto sleeps there is no route in virtue of which
the robot's M-set could supervene on Otto's occurrent states. If this
is the case, then neither the AFO or the AFEA can be pushed through to
their unintuitive, if not absurd, conclusions. Of importance also is
to point out that in coming to this difference that makes a
difference, we, in carefully tracing out our reasons for abandoning a
condition that was unnecessary for standing states, were able to
locate one that is plausibly necessary standing state ownership. For
given the nature of the problems that the AFO and AFEA both present,
what was needed was a constraint not on what qualifies as a standing
belief but what qualifies as someone's extended standing belief.


If one concedes to the assumption that one's standing states count as
being constituents of one's mind, then Otto's standing states fail to
be his the moment it is admitted that they can alter without his
occurrent states altering. As a result, Otto's mind is extended only
insofar as his M-set can be affected by him. Sure, our beliefs are
still our even while we sleep, but what makes them ours is that their
potential for modification is tied up with our potential occurrent
alterations. This conclusion differs from Gertler's. While she
locates the mind narrowly in only occurrent states, I am putting
forth that the mind is constituted of both standing and occurrent
states but that an agent's standing states -- assuming the
possibility of extension -- are dependent upon the occurrent states
of that very agent. Where this dependency relation holds, so does the
extended mind relation. To conclude, because Otto's mind is not in
more than one place at one time, the difficulty of establishing the
bounds of the self becomes superfluous; at least in the way in which
these cases have been described!


Clark, Andy (2008): Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action and
Cognitive Extension, Oxford; OUP, 2008.

Clark, Andy & Chalmers David (1998): 'The Extended Mind' Analysis 58:

Gertler, Brie (2007): 'Overextending the Mind', in Gertler and
Schapiro (Eds) Arguing about the Mind, (New York: Routledge pp.

Hume, David Treatise of Human Nature, edited by L.A. Selby-Bigge, 2nd
ed. Revised by P.H. Nidditch, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.

Williams, Bernard (1981): 'Internal and external reasons' reprinted
in his Moral Luck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).


1. C&C do mention a fourth criterion, but given their own admittance
that it is arguable, I have not included it in this list.

2. David Hume, in his Treatise argued, I think quite successfully,
that the having of beliefs and desires are sufficient for motivation.
(David Hume, A Treatise on Human Nature, book II, section III)

3. Although quantum mechanical theory may provide a compelling reason
to disregard this result as something that should be considered

4. Hypnosis might be another plausible example.

5. I am indebted to Eric DeJardin for this example and his pointing
this out to me.

6. The term motivational set, or M-set, should be understood here as
Bernard Williams coined it in 'Internal and external reasons'; as
one's subjective set of pre-existing beliefs and desires against
which one measures the coherency of new beliefs and desires in a
rational manner. (Williams, pp. 102-103). Of course, if the
possibility of extended standing states are to be granted to
non-human animals, the notion of M-set must be relinquished for some
kind of set that is not constrained by rationality.

(c) Matthew Sims 2015

Email: sims303@hotmail.com

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