All theories of mind need to do justice to the multiple realizability intuition:
- Conscious beings in general, and persons in specific, could have a physical constitution very different from ours (e.g., silicon, plasma cloud, etc.), with the computational algorithms being significantly different as well.
Here, now, is my hypothesis. Any naturalist story that does justice to (1) will be apt to count many human social groups as both conscious and as persons. Social groups do represent the environment and themselves, and respond to such representations in various sophisticated ways, including self-reflection analogous to that which persons engage in. Social groups have corporate representations that are not the same as individual representations and corporate desires that are not the same as individual desires. To a very rough first approximation, a social group believes p provided that a majority of the members believes p in a way that is appropriately explanatorily connected with their group membership (e.g., their belief is in the right way explained by or explains their group membership), and desires p provided that it has the right kind of tendency to pursue p. Anything that can design an airplane is likely conscious and a person. But an airplane can be designed by both an individual human, and a social group such as two brothers.
- If naturalism holds, then many human social groups are conscious and a number of these are persons.
- Human social groups, other than perhaps the Church, are not persons.
The dualist does justice to (1) without falling into an assertion that social groups are persons in a very simple way: a necessary condition for being conscious is having a soul or something like that, and a plasma cloud could have that, and social groups, at least other than the Church, in fact don't have that. (I am not saying that social groups couldn't have that, though I think they couldn't. I am inclined not to consider the Church literally a person, either.)
Objection 1: The naturalist can make it a condition of personhood that one not have persons as proper parts.
Response: If naturalism is true, the nerves in my shoulder could so grow that they would engage in the kind of computation characteristic of persons, and then a person would be a proper part of a person.
Objection 2: Social groups don't exist.
Response: It would be tough for a naturalist to hold that social groups don't exist and human beings do—both are appropriately posited by developed special sciences.