Consciousness and Persons: Unity and Identity
Tye (Michael)
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Back Cover Blurb

  1. In Consciousness and Persons: Unity and Identity Michael Tye takes on the thorny issue of the unity of consciousness1 and answers these important questions:
    • What exactly is the unity of consciousness2?
    • Can a single person have a divided consciousness?
    • What is a single person?
  2. Tye argues that unity is a fundamental part of human consciousness – something so basic to everyday experience that it is easy to overlook. For example, when we hear the sound of waves crashing on a beach and at the same time see a red warning flag, there is an overall unity to our experience; the sound and the red shape are presented together in our consciousness. Similarly, when we undergo a succession of thoughts as we think something through, there is an experience of succession that unifies the thoughts into a conscious whole.
  3. Tye's account covers the unity of perceptual experience at a single time;
    • bodily sensations at a single time;
    • perceptual experiences, bodily sensations, conscious thoughts, and felt moods at a single time; and
    • the unity of experience through time.
  4. Turning to the split-brain phenomenon, he proposes an account of the mental life of split-brain subjects and argues that certain facts about these subjects offer further support for his theory of unity.
  5. Finally, addressing the topic of the nature of persons and personal identity, Tye finds the two great historical accounts – the ego theory and the bundle theory – lacking, and he makes an alternative proposal.


Bradford Books, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2003. Once nice paperback copy, adulterated by my annotations.

"Olson (Eric) - Review of Tye's 'Consciousness and Persons - Unity and Identity'"

Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73, 2006: 500-503

Author’s Introduction
  1. There is much to admire in this book. It is written in a pleasingly straightforward style, and offers insight on a wide range of important issues.
  2. The book's main topic is the unity of phenomenal consciousness. Phenomenal consciousness is the property that a mental state has when there is something it feels like to be in that state – experiences being the clearest example. Experiences are unified when there is something it is like to have them together: if I see a bird and at the same time hear it squawk, these experiences are unified; if you see the bird and I hear it, they are not. But this unity does not simply amount to the experiences' belonging to the same subject, Tye says, because in split-brain cases a single person might have simultaneous but disunified experiences. Tye's question is what phenomenal unity does amount to.

Later Excerpt
  1. Tye's final chapter ("Tye (Michael) - Persons and Personal Identity") appears to be entirely independent of his discussion of phenomenal unity. Here he makes three main claims. The first is that people necessarily match up one to one with "person-level psychological frameworks", which consist of the beliefs, desires, experiences and so on that explain a person's behavior (141). So a person x existing in one situation is identical with a person y existing in another if and only if the psychological frame- work that x has in the first situation is the very psychological framework that y has in the second.
  2. This proposal is less interesting than it sounds. It appears to imply that no person – none of us – can exist at a time without having a psychological framework. It follows that I was never an early-term foetus1: I came into being several months, at least, after I was conceived. But it is unclear what it implies beyond that. Could I survive a brain transplant2 (where the rest of me is destroyed)? Or Star Trek teleportation3? In these cases the resulting being has got a psychological framework, and according to Tye he is me if and only if the framework he has then is the one I have now. But Tye doesn't say when psychological frameworks existing at different times are identical, and his opinions about who is who in these cases are based on other considerations.
  3. We might expect someone who held that people necessarily match up one to one with psychological frameworks to say that people are psychological frameworks – beings composed not of matter but of mental states. But this is not Tye's view. He says instead – and this is his second claim – that we are brains (142). Strictly speaking we each weigh less than three pounds. Most of us have never literally seen a person, and wouldn't want to. …


"Tye (Michael) - Consciousness and Persons: Preface"

Source: Tye - Consciousness and Persons, 2003, Preface

"Tye (Michael) - Consciousness and Persons - Introduction: Kinds of Unity and Kinds of Consciousness"

Source: Tye - Consciousness and Persons, 2003, Introduction

  1. Preliminary Remarks
  2. Cases of Consciousness (or Its Absence)
  3. Kinds of Consciousness
  4. Kinds of Unity1

"Tye (Michael) - The Unity of Perceptual Experience at a Time"

Source: Tye - Consciousness and Persons, 2003, Chapter 1

  1. Multiple Experiences and the Problem of Unity
  2. Undermining the Problem as Standardly Conceived
  3. The One Experience View
  4. An Account of Synchronic Phenomenal Unity

"Tye (Michael) - The Body Image and the Unity of Bodily Experience"

Source: Tye - Consciousness and Persons, 2003, Chapter 2

  1. The Body Image
  2. A Theory of Bodily Sensations
  3. The Problem of Bodily Unity

"Tye (Michael) - The Unity of Perceptual and Bodily Experiences, Occurrent Thoughts, and Moods"

Source: Tye - Consciousness and Persons, 2003, Chapter 3

  1. Opening Remarks
  2. Perceptual Consciousness and Experience of the Body
  3. Unity and Conscious Thoughts
  4. Unity and Felt Moods

"Tye (Michael) - The Unity of Experience Through Time"

Source: Tye - Consciousness and Persons, 2003, Chapter 4

  1. Examples of Unity through Time
  2. The Specious Present and the Problem of Diachronic Unity
  3. An Account of Unity through Time
  4. Some Mistakes, Historical and Contemporary
  5. Carnap and the Stream of Consciousness

"Tye (Michael) - Split Brains"

Source: Tye - Consciousness and Persons, 2003, Chapter 5

  1. Results of Splitting the Brain
  2. Multiple Personality Disorder1, Split Brains, and Unconscious Automata
  3. Indeterminacy in the Number of Persons
  4. Disunified Access Consciousness
  5. Disunified Phenomenal Consciousness: Two Alternatives
  6. The Nontrantitivity of Phenomenal Unity

"Tye (Michael) - Persons and Personal Identity"

Source: Tye - Consciousness and Persons, 2003, Chapter 6

  1. The Ego Theory and the Bundle Theory Quickly Summarized
  2. Objections to the Ego Theory
  3. Objections to the Bundle Theory
  4. A New Proposal
  5. Problem Cases
  6. Vagueness in Personal Identity

"Tye (Michael) - Consciousness and Persons: Representation"

Source: Tye - Consciousness and Persons, 2003, Appendix

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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