Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The unity of consciousness

Here’s a familiar kind of argument:

  1. A spatial arrangement of ingredients of a mental life would not yield a unity of consciousness.

  2. We have a unity of consciousness.

  3. Our mental life is not constituted by a spatial arrangement of ingredients.

  4. So, our minds are not spatially extended entities (and in particular they are not brains).

(The last step requires some additional premises about extension and mereology.)

But our unity of consciousness also includes ingredients that take time. We are aware of motion, and motion takes time. We consciously think temporally extended thoughts. If we take the argument (1)-(4) seriously, it looks like we should similarly conclude that our souls are not temporally extended entities.

This might be a reductio ad absurdum of the line of argument (1)-(4). For it seems that even the dualist will recognize the essentially temporally extended nature of many of our conscious states.

Or maybe it’s an argument for a Kantian view on which we have a noumenal self that is beyond space and time as the physicists conceive of them.


Walter Van den Acker said...


How would you argue for (1) without begging the question?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't know. Apart from the line about Kant, my main point is to criticize the argument.