Mind, Self and Person
O'Hear (Anthony), Ed.
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CUP Book Description

  1. The Royal Institute of Philosophy's London Lecture series for 2013–14 brought together contributions from a distinguished group of leading figures in the philosophy of mind. The topic the lecturers were asked to speak and write on, 'Mind, Self and Person', has been at the forefront of philosophical enquiry throughout the history of the subject, and, as will be evident from this volume, is as lively and contested an area of investigation in contemporary philosophy as it was in the days of the ancient Greeks.
  2. This collection of papers covers a wide range of issues, including consciousness, the mind and its relation to the body, the self, the nature of the human person, personal identity, the link between mind and morality, the existence of group minds and the educational implications of what we think about the mind.


Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements, Vol. 76, Cambridge University Press (30 July 2015)

"O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person: Introduction"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Full Text
  1. This volume contains papers based on the lectures given in the Royal Institute of Philosophy's London Lectures series for 2013-14. The topic the lecturers were asked to speak and write on, Mind, Self and Persons, has been in the forefront of philosophical enquiry throughout the history of the subject, and, as will be evident from this volume, is as lively and contested an area of investigation in 2014, as it was in the days of the ancient Greeks.
  2. The topic is not only lively: as the papers collected here amply demonstrate it covers a wide range of issues: consciousness itself, the mind and its relation to the body, the self, the nature of the human person, personal identity, the relation of the mind to morality, the existence of group minds and the implications of what we think about the mind for education. These and other topics are vigorously investigated by a distinguished group of leading figures in current philosophy of mind.
  3. […]
  4. […] readers might be interested to know that podcasts of the lectures as originally delivered are available1 on the Royal Institute of Philosophy's website (Web Link).

COMMENT: This is also a YouTube video. See Web Link.

In-Page Footnotes ("O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person: Introduction")

Footnote 1: All are available, with the exception of that by Galen Strawson

"Sprevak (Mark) & Statham (David) - Group Minds and Explanatory Simplicity"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Authors’ Abstract
  1. This paper explores the claim that explanation of a group’s behaviour in term of individual mental states is, in principle, superior to explanation of that behaviour in terms of group mental states.
  2. We focus on the supposition that individual-level explanation is superior because it is simpler than group-level explanation. In this paper, we consider three different simplicity metrics.
  3. We argue that on none of those metrics does individual-level explanation achieve greater simplicity than a group-level alternative.
  4. We conclude that an argument against group minds should not lay weight on concerns of explanatory simplicity.

YouTube Abstract
  1. Do groups of agents (corporations, institutions, commercial organisations) have minds over and above the minds of the individual people involved? Can an organisation such as Microsoft truly be said to form a belief, a desire, an intention, can it regret a past decision, or be riled to anger?
  2. One influential argument against group minds is that they would violate Occam's razor: one can explain the behaviour of the company just as well without the excess of positing a group mind. I argue that this simplicity-based criticism of group minds is misplaced. Any argument based on simplicity would also eliminate our own individual minds.

  • For a YouTube podcast – delivered at the Royal Institute of Philosophy, 18/10/2013 – entitled "Do Group Minds Exist?", see Web Link.
  • Sprevak delivered the above on his own.
  • Sprevak refers to Statham as a collaborator – Statham seems to be Sprevak's research student.

"Snowdon (Paul) - Philosophy and the Mind/Body Problem"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

YouTube Abstract
  • The paper aims to support a two-sided conjecture about the mind/body problem.
    1. Despite the mind/body problem having been a focus of massive attention no philosophers have adduced or discovered good arguments favouring any particular answer to the problem, and,
    2. the fundamental explanation for this is that when correctly conceived the problem is rather a scientific one than a philosophical one.
  • Taking the acceptance or rejection of materialism as the basic choice in considering the problem, conjecture (1) is itself two sided;
    1. there are no good philosophical reasons to say that materialism is false, and,
    2. there are no good philosophical reasons to say that materialism is true.
  • (1) and (2), it is suggested, reflect the fact that the mind/body problem is asking what the real nature of mental occurrences and states is, in particular, do such mental features have a purely physical nature. Despite their propensity to pronounce on such matters, philosophers should realise that they have no grounds for determining the real nature of such phenomena.
  • The argument proceeds by trying to provide a formulation of the mind/body problem, which is compared and contrasted with the self/body problem. Although not the same problem consideration of the self/body problem highlights that philosophers tend to argue against physicalist type identities on the basis of supposed modal differences. This is true in the case of most arguments against materialism. It is argued that there are no good reasons to agree with such modal claims.
  • The weakness with arguments for materialism, it is argued, is that either they start too far away from materialism and provide too little reason to believe in it, as in the case of Smart's famous argument, or they start too close to materialism, and appeal to things that only a materialist would accept, a criticism it is argued applies to some well-known arguments based on causal considerations.

  • The purpose of this talk is motivate a thesis2 – namely, that the Mind/Body problem is not a philosophical problem but an empirical one, about the real nature of mental processes, which philosophers are ill-equipped to address, “having very limited access to reality”.
  • This explains why there’s been so little progress towards a solution despite the problem having been the focus of attention since WW2.
  • The potential solutions to the problem are basically
    1. materialism – that matter is all there is, and that the mental can be reduced to it, is nothing over and above it – and
    2. its denial.
  • There are no good philosophical reasons to choose either horn of the dilemma, though Snowdon inclines towards the materialist horn, and thinks it’s easier to show that there are no good reasons against materialism than that there are no good reasons in its favour.
  • The reason is that arguments against materialism all seem to take the same form, so are an easier target:
    1. if materialism (M) is true, then some conclusion (C) follows,
    2. We can show not-C,
    3. Therefore not-M.
  • In general, C is filled out as a modal claim, and Snowdon says that these implications are such that philosophers have no good reason to deny them.
  • However, arguments in favour of materialism can take any form.
  • Two thoughts:-
    1. The mind/body problem is one about the real nature of processes in the world, so how are philosophers in a position to show what the real nature is or isn’t?
    2. Arguments in favour of materialism either start so far from materialism that – plausible though they might be – they can’t really get you there, or are so close to materialism as only to entice the already-converted.
  • Many people – mostly scientists – already agree with Snowdon’s conjecture that philosophers ought not to be involved in the mind/body problem, but that’s from the standpoint of not knowing quite what philosophers do. Snowdon is an insider, so is better equipped to explain why.
  • The approach to the Mind/Body problem traditionally involves describing two relata – Mind and Body – and positing a relation between the two.
  • Snowdon can’t see anything wrong with this approach as such. Both mind and body are well understood in virtue of philosophers being able to give examples – and Snowdon gives a few of the standard ones. He does point out, though, that while physical things are everywhere, mental things are not; and it’s the real nature of these mental events and their real relation to the physical things in the world that we’re after.
  • The choice is basically between saying
    1. that the mental occurs purely in virtue of the physical and is nothing over and above it and
    2. it is not
  • As for the relation3 between mind and body, Snowdon mentions four possibilities, and gives the usual brief explanations:-
    1. Reduction4 (mentioned above)
    2. Constitution5 (but not material constitution, or – probably – the sort envisaged by Baker6): mental features are exhaustively constituted by the presence of physical features.
    3. Supervenience7: the mental supervenes on the physical; so, necessarily, once the physical features are fixed, the mental features are fixed as well. Snowdon doesn’t particularly endorse this stance, but for now just notes the element of modality.
    4. Identity8: mental occurrences are identical to certain physical occurrences; they are the very same thing.
  • The Self/Body problem
    1. Snowdon compares the Mind/Body problem with a similar-sounding but in fact different one, namely the Self/Body problem.
    2. Snowdon equates this problem with the question9 “am I or am I not identical to my body”.
      1. The Mind/Body problem is about the ontological nature of certain phenomena we find in the world, while
      2. the Self/Body problem is about the relation between certain objects10 we find in the world.
    3. The Self11 – as conceived of by Snowdon – is just me; the Body is equally unproblematical.
    4. So the Self/Body problem is analogous to the Mind/Body problem, and has been addressed similarly – particularly by philosophers inimical to materialism – ie. using modal arguments and intuitions, but these intuitions are unreliable.
  • Snowdon gives Descartes – who was interested in the Self/Body Problem – as his example. He cites two of Descartes’s modal arguments, which are intended to show that Descartes is distinct12 from his body:-
    1. My body is necessarily extended, but I am not:
      1. This is a valid argument, but how did Descartes know that he was not essentially extended?
      2. His argument is just that he can’t discern any reason why he is.
      3. But even his contemporaries “blew his philosophy out of the water” by pointing out that this proves nothing other than that by simply thinking about the matter he hadn’t discovered the facts.
      4. They gave the example of Pythagoras’ theorem: until Pythagoras’ discovery, no-one knew the necessary properties of right-angled triangles.
      5. So the fact that you can’t affirm a necessary modal property doesn’t mean that you lack it, only that you haven’t managed to work things out.
    2. I can solve any problem, but bodies cannot solve any problem.
      1. This is from the Discourse on Method and is very odd. Snowdon’s response is that this is doubly false:-
      2. Just why did Descartes think he could solve any problem? He couldn’t.
      3. The properties of matter are much greater than Descartes could imagine. He was thinking of clocks, but the CNS13 is material and can do a lot (namely, “what Descartes can do”).
      4. So, this is the sort of argument whose premises might look plausible to a philosopher, but when you stand back from them, they are not.
  • What we should be getting from this is a scepticism about the way philosophers handle modality. He has no theory of all this – and is willing to allow that we can make modal judgements and have modal knowledge – but “what he’s trying to sell” is that there are some modal claims we can’t make.
  • Snowdon wants now to return to the Mind/Body problem and move on to the sort of modal argument philosophers have used recently to attack materialism.
  • His example is from "Chalmers (David) - The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory". He will not address Chalmers’ “impressive” book directly, or engage closely with its “extremely complicated” text. This is one of the problems with philosophers – who love complexity – so the crucial point of the central and rather simple argument gets lost.
  • So, we move on to Chalmers’ Zombie14 Argument for rejecting materialism, which reduces to this:-
    1. A zombie is someone materially identical you, atom by atom, but without any conscious experience.
    2. If materialism is true, then any being like you would have conscious experiences, because these experiences – according to materialism – just are the workings of the CNS.
    3. But, zombies – so defined – are possible … the reason being …
    4. Zombies are conceivable – I can imagine them.
    5. What is conceivable is possible (a premise often omitted)
    6. So, your mind’s modal properties differ from those of your brain’s – in that your brain could have no phenomenal properties (ever) but your conscious mind could not – without ceasing to be a conscious mind.
    7. So, your conscious mind is not identical to your brain.
    8. So, materialism is false.
  • Snowdon sees two obvious objections to this.
    1. Conceivability doesn’t imply possibility.
    2. Just what does Chalmers think he’s conceiving when he conceives of a Zombie? Snowdon makes two points:-
      1. Chalmers can’t really imagine the human body (or brain) other than in the most superficial way, so he’s not really imagining anything.
      2. This is clear when we repeat our question – and the answer is again very slender – I’m imagining a brain just like mine with no conscious experience.
      Well, this is far too slight an argument to tell us anything about what’s happening in the real world.
  • The necessity of Identity
    1. Kripke argued for the necessity of identity in "Kripke (Saul) - Identity and Necessity" and also in "Kripke (Saul) - Naming and Necessity"; and his arguments have great intuitive plausibility, but lead Kripke into some problems:-
      1. His argument for necessity showed that if heat is indeed molecular motion, then it is necessarily molecular motion.
      2. Now if we – say as “revisionary scientists” – think we can imagine heat not being molecular motion we must be wrong.
      3. So what we’re imagining (says Kripke) must be the effect of heat, rather than heat itself; and that makes perfect sense.
      4. However, Kripke was / is an anti-materialist, and he didn’t want to apply this “redescriptive” strategy in the case of the mind.
      5. But Snowdon thinks that we are imagining heat without molecular motion in any case – what’s hard about imagining molecular motion, or the lack of it?
      6. So the correct response is that this “imagining” can’t get you anywhere: and this is the point – if philosophers aren’t in a position to demonstrate that heat is not molecular motion, they aren’t in a position – using similar arguments – to “show” the real nature of mental states. Why think they know more about the mind than about heat, other than that they’ve always claimed to do so, but haven’t been so stupid as to imagine they can intuit the real nature of heat?
    2. So, again, the message is that we should be suspicious of arguments based on modality.
    3. Snowdon mentioned that Chalmers distances himself from all this.
  • That’s enough on the anti-materialist arguments, which depend on modal claims that philosophers are in no position to affirm.
  • What about arguments in favour of materialism?
  • He starts by considering Smart’s contribution – especially in the seminal "Smart (J.C.C.) - Sensations and Brain Processes", which (together with other papers published at the time) shifted the debate from the supposition that the philosophy of mind was all about conceptual analysis; ie.
    1. Gilbert Ryle thought that conceptual analysis would dispose of the Mind/Body problem.
    2. Peter Strawson thought that conceptual analysis could dispose of Cartesian dualism by showing it to be incoherent.
    3. Wittgenstein is not quite in the same camp, but you still didn’t need to do any work to solve the Mind/Body problem.
    What Smart did was show that we need knowledge of the real world: that (eg.) what’s going on in perception involves an appeal to neuroscience. No amount of conceptual analysis is going to tell us about what conscious experiences really are – this requires an appeal to the real world.
  • There are two arguments for materialism that Snowdon will consider:-
    1. Smart’s identity theory, and
    2. Papineau’s over-determination argument
  • Smart’s identity theory
    1. Uses Occam’s Razor; but this is a cateris paribus principle – so, go for the simpler theory unless there’s some reason to go for the more complex theory.
    2. So, materialism is simpler than its denial, and Smart thought he could show that the CP principle is satisfied – other things are equal.
    3. There are two obvious problems with Smart’s approach.
      1. Smart tried to pick off the objections to materialism, and there are two problems with this:
        1. he doesn’t address all the problems and
        2. those he does address he doesn’t really answer.
      2. Why do philosophers thinking about materialism suppose that the kinds of difficulties that occur to them are the only ones? It presupposes that philosophers are experts when they aren’t – the problems might arise (say) in constructing a physical theory of pain.
    4. This is ultimately too far from the topic to motivate those not already convinced.
  • Papineau’s over-determination argument:
    1. The most popular argument today, that Snowdon used to think was really good.
    2. Developed by Christopher Peacocke and well expressed by David Papineau in "Papineau (David) - Thinking About Consciousness", chapter 1 ("Papineau (David) - The Case for Materialism").
    3. The argument has three key premises:-
      1. Conscious mental experiences have physical effects (the experience of thirst causes you to go to the fridge)
      2. The completeness of physics tells us that all causation is ultimately physical causation, and any physical effect ultimately has a physical cause.
      3. The physical effects of conscious mental occurrences aren’t always over-determined by distinct causes.
    4. Causal over-determination is a problem15. The conclusion is that all mental causation is really physical causation: if there is “mental” causation distinct from physical causation, then we have two causes for the same event, which is a problem.
    5. There are – thinks Snowdon – problems with this argument which won’t get the materialist where he wants to go.
      1. The logic of the argument:
        1. Does the argument claim that all conscious experiences have physical effects? If so, it is a very strong claim that is hard to justify. How do we know? So, it’s a claim about just some conscious experiences.
        2. Then the third premise adds a further restriction – the physical results of at least some conscious events aren’t over-determined by distinct causes.
        3. So the conclusion is that there are only some conscious events whose physical results are not over-determined.
      2. Secondly, the conclusion – that some mental events don’t have over-determined physical effects – might be accounted for by some theory other than materialism. So we’re not even sure if materialism is implied by this restricted subset of conscious experience.
      3. Causation is a quagmire that is as poorly understood as the Mind/Body problem itself.
      4. Then Papineau16 notices two things:-
        1. The epiphenominalist option – maybe I was wrong in thinking that all conscious events had physical effects. He just claims that Smart has disproved epiphenomenalism, but Snowdon notes that he has demonstrated the weakness of Smart’s approach.
        2. The completeness of physics premise would only be accepted by those (like Snowdon himself) who belong to the materialist faith. A non-materialist hasn’t been given much reason to accept it.
      5. So, Papineau’s argument uses premises that are just too close to where you want to get. So, it’s not definitive and conclusive.
  • So, that explains why philosophers haven’t got anywhere, and we hand the problem over to those who can do it!

COMMENT: For a YouTube podcast – delivered at the Royal Institute of Philosophy, 25/10/2013 – see Web Link.

In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Philosophy and the Mind/Body Problem")

Footnote 1:
  • My comments are based on the YouTube video, and not the paper as such, which I didn’t then have,
  • For the video, see Web Link,
  • These notes are fairly full, and are hopefully accurate, though are not a transcript.
Footnote 2: Snowdon calls it a “conjecture”, which he wouldn’t be able to demonstrate however much time he had.

Footnote 3: As posited by the materialist!

Footnote 7: I need a Note on supervenience, but don’t have one yet.

Footnote 9: This is a very brief and misleading statement, especially as Snowdon – an animalist – knows that “bodies” are not the same things as “organisms”. But this doesn’t really matter here, and “body” is probably being used in the sense of “organism” in any case.

Footnote 10: Snowdon gesticulates in a way that’s intended not to assume that he and his body are identical, but it’s a hard act as he just points twice to the same thing.

Footnote 12:
  • Snowdon has an aside where he claims that there’s a distinction between
    1. “being distinct from your body” and
    2. “not being identical to your body”.
  • Snowdon will only address the second – allegedly weaker – claim.
  • I couldn’t see the difference, myself.
Footnote 13: Snowdon doesn’t mention computers.

Footnote 15: I seem to have invented this bullet, and I don’t think Snowdon actually said it, but he should have!

Footnote 16:
  • I think that’s what Snowdon said, though the second “thing” appears to have been noticed by Snowdon himself.
  • Snowdon makes out Papineau’s argument to be rather feeble. Is it (in real life)?

"Olson (Eric) - On Parfit's View That We Are Not Human Beings"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person, 2015: 39-56

Author’s Abstract
  1. Derek Parfit claims that we are not human beings. Rather, each of us is the part of a human being that thinks in the strictest sense. This is said to solve a number of difficult metaphysical problems.
  2. I argue that the view has metaphysical problems of its own, and is inconsistent with any psychological-continuity account of personal identity over time, including Parfit's own.

  1. The Narrow Criterion
  2. Peculiarities of the Narrow Criterion
  3. Why Parfit Thinks We’re Not Human Beings
  4. The Embedded-part View
  5. Thinking-subject Minimalism
  6. The Embodied-part View and Identity Over Time
  7. Functioning Brains
  8. Alternatives


"O'Brien (Lucy) - Ambulo Ergo Sum"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract
  1. It is an extraordinary thing that Descartes' famous Cogito argument is still being puzzled over; this paper is another fragment in an untiring tradition of puzzlement.
  2. The paper will argue that, if I were to ask the question 'do I have grounds for thinking that I exist?' the Cogito could provide for a positive answer.
  3. In particular, my aim in this is to argue, in opposition to recent discussion by John Campbell, that there is a way of construing conscious thinking on which the Cogito can be seen to provide a non-question begging argument for one's own existence.

  • Academia.edu.
  • This is also a YouTube video of a Royal Institute of Philosophy lecture, Royal Institute of Philosophy, 08/11/2013; accessed August 2015. See Web Link.

"Madden (Rory) - The Place of The Self in Contemporary Metaphysics"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract
  1. I explain why the compositionalist conception of ordinary objects prevalent in contemporary metaphysics places the manifest image of the human self in a precarious position: the two theoretically simplest views of the existence of composites each jeopardize some central element of the manifest image.
  2. I present an alternative, nomological conception of ordinary objects, which secures the manifest image of the human self without the arbitrariness that afflicts compositionalist attempts to do the same.
  3. I close by sketching the consequences of the recommended position for the traditional personal identity debate about the nature and persistence of human selves.

  • My comments are based on the YouTube video; I have not, as yet, read the paper.
  • I got the impression from the lecture that this is mostly a discussion of mereology, with (just maybe) the Self being used an example. Hence, it is a bit of a subterfuge to smuggle this talk in under the series heading.
  • … to be continued

  • Draft available on Academia.edu.
  • For the video of the Royal Institute of Philosophy lecture of 15/11/2013, see Web Link.

"Churchland (Patricia) - The Brains Behind Morality"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract1
  1. One tradition in moral philosophy depicts human moral behaviour as unrelated to social behavior in nonhuman animals. Morality, on this view, emerges from a uniquely human capacity to reason. By contrast, recent developments in the neuroscience of social bonding suggest instead an approach to morality that meshes with ethology and evolutionary biology.
  2. According to the hypothesis on offer, the basic platform for morality is attachment and bonding, and the caring behavior motivated by such attachment. Oyxtocin, a neurohormone, is at the hub of attachment behavior in social mammals and probably birds. Not acting alone, oxytocin works with other hormones and neurotransmitters and circuitry adaptations. Among its many roles, oxytocin decreases the stress response, making possible the trusting and cooperative interactions typical of life in social mammals.
  3. Although all social animals learn local conventions, humans are particularly adept social learners and imitators. Learning local social practices depends on the reward system because in social animals approval brings pleasure and disapproval brings pain. Acquiring social skills also involves generalising from samples, so that learned exemplars can be applied to new circumstances. Problem-solving in the social domain gives rise to ecologically relevant practices for resolving conflicts and restricting within-group competition.
  4. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that explicit rules are essential to moral behaviour, norms are often implicit and picked up by imitation. This hypothesis connects to a different, but currently unfashionable tradition, beginning with Aristotle's ideas about social virtues and David Hume's 18th century ideas concerning "the moral sentiment".

COMMENT: YouTube; Royal Institute of Philosophy, 20/11/13, see Web Link.

In-Page Footnotes ("Churchland (Patricia) - The Brains Behind Morality")

Footnote 1: This is the YouTube abstract; there’s a different one in the book.

"Strawson (Galen) - 'The Secrets of All Hearts': Locke on Personal Identity"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract
  1. Many think John Locke's account of personal identity is inconsistent and circular. It’s neither of these things. The root causes of the misreading are
    1. the mistake of thinking that Locke uses 'consciousness' to mean memory,
    2. failure to appreciate the importance of the 'concernment' that always accompanies 'consciousness', on Locke’s view,
    3. a tendency to take the term person, in Locke's text, as if it were (only) some kind of fundamental sortal term like 'human being' or 'thinking thing', and to fail to take proper account of Locke's use of it as a 'forensic' term (Section 26).
  2. It's well known that Locke uses person as a forensic term, but the consequences of this have still not been fully worked out.


"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Selfless Persons: Goodness in an Impersonal World?"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract
  1. Mark Johnston takes reality to be wholly objective or impersonal, and aims to show that the inevitability of death does not obliterate goodness in such a naturalistic world. Crucial to his argument is the claim that there are no persisting selves.
  2. After critically discussing Johnston's arguments, I set out a view of persons that shares Johnston's view that there are no selves, but disagrees about the nature of reality. On my view, a wholly objective world is ontologically incomplete: Persons have irreducible first-person properties.
  3. My aim is to show that we can (and should) reject selves, but that we can (and should) retain persons and their essential first-person properties as ontologically significant.


"Dainton (Barry) - From Phenomenal Selves to Hyper-Selves"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract1
  1. The notion that we are subjects of experience is an appealing one, or so many have found. But precisely how should these "subjects" be construed?
  2. In responding to the Cartesian view that a subject is essentially conscious Locke responded by claiming that is not "any more necessary for the soul always to think than for the body always to move". He went on to suggest that from the fact that we sometimes think, we should conclude "that there is something in us that has the power to think".
  3. Construing subjects (or selves) as things that have the potential to be conscious is itself an attractive option, or so I have argued previously. Here I respond to some recent objections to construing selves in this way. I will be focusing principally on the allegation (levelled by Tim Bayne and Mark Johnston) that identifying subjects with the things which have the capacity for consciousness faces a fatal problem: what if these things have the ability to produce several streams of consciousness at a time, rather than just not one? Aren't subjects beings who enjoy a unified consciousness at any given time?
  4. I will be arguing that this problem is not fatal. What it reveals is that the relationship between subjects, the unity of consciousness and time is more complex than has often been assumed. There is, it turns out, more than one way for a subject to be conscious.

COMMENT: For a YouTube podcast – Royal Institute of Philosophy, 31/01/2014 – see Web Link.

In-Page Footnotes ("Dainton (Barry) - From Phenomenal Selves to Hyper-Selves")

Footnote 1: This is the YouTube abstract - there's another in the book.

"Hacker (P.M.S.) - An Intellectual Entertainment - The Nature of the Mind"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract1
  1. The question of the nature of the relationship between someone's mind and body has been on the philosophical agenda at least since Socrates. It has been remarkably refractory. If one has a mind and has a body, who or what is it that possesses such things? Is it one's mind that has a body or one's body that has a mind? Or is it the self that has both? Or the person?
  2. Scrutiny of the misleading possessive form of representation sheds light on the matter. To have a mind, as Aristotle already knew, is to possess an array of rational powers of intellect and will. To have a body is to possess an array of somatic characteristics. The possessor is the living human being.
  3. Human beings are living organisms, self-moving, rational substances consisting of matter. So they are bodies. But the body one is must not be confused with the body one has (one cannot have what one is). Since the mind one has is not a thing of any kind, and the body one has is merely a set of somatic properties, there is no relation between someone's mind and body, any more than there is a relation between being green and having the value of five pounds. But, of course, one can have a variety of attitudes towards one's body and towards one's mind.

  • For the YouTube podcast – Royal Institute of Philosophy, 07/02/2014 – see Web Link.
  • This is entitled “Resolving the Mind-Body Problem”.

In-Page Footnotes ("Hacker (P.M.S.) - An Intellectual Entertainment - The Nature of the Mind")

Footnote 1:
  • This is the YouTube abstract – there is no abstract in the book.
  • I found the YouTube podcast easily the most entertaining of the series – Hacker brings off the discussion in the various voices excellently.
  • That said, I’m not sure how much value it has other than – as the title suggests – as an entertainment for those knowledgeable about the issues.
  • But the conclusion – that mental states are only attributable to the whole person rather than to parts (in particular, the brain) – is taken up and strenuously rejected by "Crane (Tim) - The Mental States of Persons and their Brains" later in this series.
  • There’s a follow-up dialogue in Philosophy 89 (2014), 511-535. I don’t yet have access to this paper.

"Pink (Thomas) - Nature, Self, and Power"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract
  1. It is often thought that as human agents we have a power to determine our actions for ourselves. And a natural conception of this power is as freedom -- a power over alternatives so that we can determine for ourselves which of a variety of possible actions we perform. But what is the real content of this conception of freedom, and need self-determination take this particular form?
  2. I examine the possible forms self-determination might take, and the various ways freedom as a power over alternatives might be constituted. I argue that though ordinary ethical thought, and especially moral blame, may be committed to our possession of some capacity for self-determination, the precise nature of this power is probably ethically underdetermined -- though conceptions of the nature of the power that come from outside ethics may then have important implications for ethics.

COMMENT: For the YouTube podcast – Royal Institute of Philosophy, 14/02/2014 – see Web Link.

"Crane (Tim) - The Mental States of Persons and their Brains"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract
  1. Cognitive neuroscientists frequently talk about the brain representing the world. Some philosophers claim that this is a confusion.
  2. This paper argues that there is no confusion, and outlines one thing that ‘the brain represents the world’ might mean, using the notion of a model derived from the philosophy of science. This description is then extended to make apply to propositional attitude attributions.
  3. A number of problems about propositional attitude attributions can be solved or dissolved by treating propositional attitudes as models.

YouTube Abstract
  1. Is it incoherent to attribute a mental state or process to a part of a person, like a brain? Some people think so. Yet such attributions are made frequently and effortlessly by psychologists and neuroscientists. What should we make of this?
  2. Rather than dismissing such attributions as confusions, this talk will offer an understanding of what it means to attribute a mental state to a brain as well as to a person, by providing an interpretation of Daniel Dennett's famous distinction between the personal and the subpersonal.

  • For the YouTube podcast – Royal Institute of Philosophy, 21/02/2014 – see Web Link.
  • For an on-line version, see Web Link

"Honderich (Ted) - Actual consciousness: database, physicalities, theory, criteria, no unique mystery"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract1
  1. Is disagreement about consciousness largely owed to no adequate initial clarification of the subject, to people in fact answering different questions - despite five leading ideas of consciousness?
  2. Your being conscious in the primary ordinary sense, to sum up a wide figurative database, is initially clarified as something's being actual — clarified as actual consciousness.
  3. Philosophical method like the scientific method includes transition from the figurative to literal theory or analysis,
  4. A new theory will also satisfy various criteria not satisfied by many existing theories,
  5. The objective physical world has specifiable general characteristics including spatiality, lawfulness, being in science, connections with perception, and so on.
  6. Actualism, the literal theory or analysis of actual consciousness, deriving mainly from the figurative database, is that actual consciousness has counterpart but partly different general characteristics. Actual consciousness is thus subjectively physical. So physicality in general consists in objective and also subjective physicality.
  7. Consciousness in the case of perception is only the dependent existence of a subjective external physical world out there, often a room,
  8. But cognitive and affective consciousness, various kinds of thinking and wanting, differently subjectively physical, is internal - subjectively physical representations-with-attitude, representations that also are actual. They differ from the representations that are lines of type, sounds etc. by being actual,
  9. Thus they involve a subjectivity or individuality that is a lawful unity,
  10. Actualism, both an externalism and an internalism, does not impose on consciousness a flat uniformity, and it uniquely satisfies the various criteria for an adequate theory, including naturalism,
  11. Actual consciousness is a right subject and is a necessary part of any inquiry whatever into consciousness,
  12. All of it is a subject for more science, a workplace,
  13. There is no unique barrier or impediment whatever to science, as often said, no want of understanding of the mind-consciousness connection (Nagel), no known unique hard problem of consciousness (Chalmers), no insuperable difficulty having to do with physicality and the history of science (Chomsky), no arguable ground at all of mysterianism (McGinn).

COMMENT: For the YouTube podcast – Royal Institute of Philosophy, 28/02/2014 – see Web Link.

In-Page Footnotes ("Honderich (Ted) - Actual consciousness: database, physicalities, theory, criteria, no unique mystery")

Footnote 1:
  • See Web Link for Honderich’s latest working of the paper, which has a very similar, but slightly different – though equally prolix – abstract.
  • See Web Link for McGinn's assassination of Honderich's earlier work, and some links – it’s from Honderich’s page at UCL.

"Bakhurst (David) - Training, Transformation, and Education"

Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person

Author’s Abstract1
  1. In "McDowell (John) - Mind and World", John McDowell concludes that human beings "are born mere animals, and they are transformed into thinkers and intentional agents", principally by their initiation into language. Such "transformational views" of human development embrace a model of learning by initiation that represents language acquisition as a movement from a non-rationally secured conformity with correct practice, through increasing understanding of correct practice, to a state of rational mastery of correct practice. As such, they tend to represent initiate learning as beginning with something like what Wittgenstein calls "training" (parallel ideas are found in Vygotsky2).
  2. This paper considers the cogency of this picture of learning and development. I argue that although the idea of training (as developed, say, by Meredith Williams) can be defended from the usual objections, it is susceptible to criticisms brought recently by Sebastian Rödl, who argues that it is unfaithful to the reality of infancy and the nature of child-parent interaction. Rödl's criticisms draw attention to the pre-linguistic child's motivation to be "one of us", to find mutual recognition as one of a kind. A being whose life activity manifests this form of consciousness, he maintains, is not an object of training, but a subject of education.
  3. I argue that Rödl's arguments, combined with Michael Tomasello's3 compelling empirical work on language acquisition, force us to revise the transformational view, but do not refute it outright as Rödl believes.

COMMENT: For the YouTube podcast – Royal Institute of Philosophy, 07/03/2014 – see Web Link.

In-Page Footnotes ("Bakhurst (David) - Training, Transformation, and Education")

Footnote 1:
  • This is the YouTube abstract; there’s another – slightly different – abstract in the book.
  • This abstract points out that the paper ends with an application to “Derek Parfit’s claim that persons are not human beings”. It will be interesting to see any contrast with the analysis in "Olson (Eric) - On Parfit's View That We Are Not Human Beings".
  • The paper has interesting things to say about nativism, but doesn’t seem to mention Chomsky.
Footnote 2: See "Vygotsky (Lev), Hanfman (Eugenia), Vakar (Gertrude) - Thought and Language".

Footnote 3: See Tomasello (Michael).

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  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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