It is common to hold that our conscious experiences at a single moment are often unified. But when consciousness is unified, what are the fundamental facts in virtue of which it is unified? On some accounts of the unity of consciousness, the most fundamental fact that grounds unity is a form of singularity or oneness. These accounts are similar to Newtonian views of space according to which the most fundamental fact that grounds relations of co-spatiality between various points (...) (or regions) of a space is the fact that these points (or regions) are parts of the same single space. In this paper, I sketch and defend an alternative account of unity of consciousness. Very roughly, the view holds that experiences are unified when they are connected in the right way. In this respect, the view is analogous to Leibnizian views of space according to which the oneness of space emerges from certain conditions over spatial relations. The Leibnizian alternative has significant implications for our understanding of the metaphysics of conscious experience, the cognitive architecture of the mind and our assessment of the conditions under which unity of consciousness breaks. (shrink)
Consciousness has a number of puzzling features. One such feature is its unity: the experiences and other conscious states that one has at a particular time seem to occur together in a certain way. I am currently enjoying visual experiences of my computer screen, auditory experiences of bird-song, olfactory experiences of coffee, and tactile experiences of feeling the ground beneath my feet. Conjoined with these perceptual experiences are proprioceptive experiences, experiences of agency, affective and emotional experiences, and conscious thoughts (...) of various kinds. These experiences are unified in a variety of ways, but the kind of unity that I’m interested in here concerns their phenomenal character. Take just two of these experiences: the sound of bird-song and the smell of coffee. There is something it is like to have the auditory experience, there is something it is like to have the olfactory experience, and there is something it is like to have both the auditory and olfactory experiences together. These two experiences occur as parts or components or aspects of a larger, more complex experience. And what holds of these two experiences seems to hold – at least in normal contexts – of all of one’s simultaneous experiences: they seem to be subsumed by a single, maximal experience.2 We could think of this maximal experience as an experiential perspective on the world. What it is like to be me right now is (or involves) an extremely complex conscious state that subsumes the various simpler experiences that I outlined above (seeing my computer screen, hearing bird-song, smelling coffee, and so on). I will follow recent literature in using the term “co-consciousness” for the relation that a set of conscious states bear to each other when they have a complex phenomenology (Bayne and Chalmers 2003; Dainton 2000; Hurley 1998; Lockwood 1989). (shrink)
In his critical works of the 1780's, Kant claims, seemingly inconsistently, that (1) theoretical and practical reason are one and the same reason, applied differently, (2) that he still needs to show that they are, and (3) that theoretical and practical reason are united. I first argue that current interpretations of Kant's doctrine of the unity of reason are insufficient. But rather than concluding that Kant’s doctrine becomes coherent only in the Critique of Judgment, I show that the three (...) statements are compatible, providing a new and more coherent account of Kant's 1780's doctrine of the unity of reason. (shrink)
This report highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011: 1. What is the relationship between the unity of consciousness and sensory integration? 2. Are some of the basic units of consciousness multimodal? 3. How should we model the unity of consciousness? 4. Is the mechanism of sensory integration spatio-temporal? 5. How Should We Study Experience, Given Unity Relations?
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: What is the relationship between the unity of consciousness and sensory integration?
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: Is the mechanism of sensory integration spatio-temporal?
In "The Disunity of Consciousness," Gerard O'Brien and Jon Opie argue that human consciousness is not synchronically unified. They suggest that the orthodox conception of the unity of consciousness admits of two readings, neither of which they find persuasive. According to them, "a conscious individual does not have a single consciousness, but several distinct phenomenal consciousnesses, at least one for each of the senses, running in parallel." They call this conception of consciousness the _multi-track account. I make three points (...) in reply: (1) O'Brien and Opie's characterization of the orthodox conception of the unity of consciousness is problematic; (2) their arguments in support of the multitrack account are unpersuasive; and (3) the phenomenon of intersensory integration suggests that O'Brien and Opie are wrong to claim that "the only sense in which it is correct to talk of a 'unified' consciousness (...) is that in which the representational contents of the various components coincide.". (shrink)
Both Kant and Davidson view the existence of mental states, and so the possibility of mental content, as dependent on the obtaining of a certain unity among such states. And the unity at issue seems also to be tied, in the case of both thinkers, to a form of self-reflexivity. No appeal to self-reflexivity, however, can be adequate to explain the unity of consciousness that is necessary for the possibility of content- it merely shifts the focus of (...) the question from the unity of consciousness in general to the unity of self-reflexivity in particular. Through a comparison of the views of Kant and Davidson on these matters, the nature of the unity of consciousness is explored, in relation to both the idea of the unity of the self and the unity that would seem to be required for the possibility of content. These forms of unity are seen to be indeed connected, and to be grounded, in Davidson and perhaps also in Kant, in organized, oriented, embodied activity. (shrink)
At least since Russell’s influential discussion in The Principles of Mathematics, many philosophers have held there is a problem that they call the problem of the unity of the proposition. In a recent paper, I argued that there is no single problem that alone deserves the epithet the problem of the unity of the proposition. I there distinguished three problems or questions, each of which had some right to be called a problem regarding the unity of the (...) proposition; and I showed how the account of propositions formulated in my book The Nature and Structure of Content [2007 Oxford University Press] solves each of these problems. In the present paper, I take up two of these problems/questions yet again. For I want to consider other accounts of propositions and compare their solutions to these problems, or lack thereof, to mine. I argue that my account provides the best solutions to the unity problems. (shrink)
This paper addresses a number of closely related questions concerning Kant's model of intentionality, and his conceptions of unity and of magnitude [Gröβe]. These questions are important because they shed light on three issues which are central to the Critical system, and which connect directly to the recent analytic literature on perception: the issues are conceptualism, the status of the imagination, and perceptual atomism. In Section 1, I provide a sketch of the exegetical and philosophical problems raised by Kant's (...) views on these issues. I then develop, in Section 2, a detailed analysis of Kant's theory of perception as elaborated in both the Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Judgment; I show how this analysis provides a preliminary framework for resolving the difficulties raised in Section 1. In Section 3, I extend my analysis of Kant's position by considering a specific test case: the Axioms of Intuition. I contend that one way to make sense of Kant's argument is by juxtaposing it with Russell's response to Bradley's regress; I focus in particular on the concept of ‘unity’. Finally, I offer, in Section 4, a philosophical assessment of the position attributed to Kant in Sections 2 and 3. I argue that, while Kant's account has significant strengths, a number of key areas remain underdeveloped; I suggest that the phenomenological tradition may be read as attempting to fill precisely those gaps. (shrink)
The problem of the unity of the proposition asks what binds together the constituents of a proposition into a fully formed proposition that provides truth conditions for the assertoric sentence that expresses it, rather than merely a set of objects. Hanks’ solution is to reject the traditional distinction between content and force. If his theory is successful, then there is a plausible extension of it that readily solves the Frege–Geach problem for normative propositions. Unfortunately Hanks’ theory isn’t successful, but (...) it does point to significant connections between expressivism, unity, and embedding. (shrink)
This paper concerns the role that reference to subjects of experience can play in individuating streams of consciousness, and the relationship between the subjective and the objective structure of consciousness. A critique of Tim Bayne’s recent book indicates certain crucial choices that works on the unity of consciousness must make. If one identifies the subject of experience with something whose consciousness is necessarily unified, then one cannot offer an account of the objective structure of consciousness. Alternatively, identifying the subject (...) of experience with an animal means forgoing the conceptual connection between being a subject of experience and having a single phenomenal perspective. (shrink)
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: Are some of the basic units of consciousness multimodal?
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: How should we study experience, given unity relations?
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: How should we model the unity of consciousness?
As part of his case for emergent dualism, William Hasker proffers a _unity-of-_ _consciousness_ (UOC) argument against materialism. I formalize the argument and show how the warrant for two of its premises accrues from the warrant one assigns to two distinct theses about unified conscious experience. I then argue that though both unity theses are plausible, the materialist has little to fear from Hasker.
There are researchers in cognitive science who use clinical and experimental evidence to draw some rather skeptical conclusions about a central feature of our conscious experience, its unity. They maintain that the examination of clinical phenomena reveals that human consciousness has a much more fragmentary character than the one we normally attribute to it. In the article, these claims are questioned by examining some of the clinical studies on the deficit of anosognosia. I try to show that these studies (...) support a moderate sense of the unity of reflexive consciousness. (shrink)
The Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic of Kant's first Critique is notorious for two reasons. First, it appears to contradict itself in saying that the idea of the systematic unity of nature is and is not transcendental. Second, in the passages in which Kant appears to espouse the former alternative, he appears to be making a significant amendment to his account of the conditions of the possibility of experience in the Transcendental Analytic. I propose a solution to both of (...) these difficulties. With regard to the first, I argue that Kant does not contradict himself. With regard to the second, I argue that Kant is not making any change to his view of the conditions of the possibility of experience espoused in the Transcendental Analytic. The underlying cause of these apparent problems is also their solution: the transcendental illusion that nature is necessarily systematic. (shrink)
Effective agency, according to contemporary Kantians, requires a unity of purpose both at a time, in order that we may eliminate conflict among our motives, and over time, because many of the things we do form part of longer-term projects and make sense only in the light of these projects and life plans. Call this the unity of agency thesis. This thesis can be regarded as a normative constraint on accounts of personal identity and indeed on accounts of (...) what it is to have the life of a person in the broad, rather than narrowly biological sense. It is also a fundamental condition of social life that persons within society fulfill a range of longitudinal roles: parenthood is one such obvious example, as are teachers, health professionals, engineers, artists, and many others. The fulfillment of these and other valuable social roles requires that agents have the capacity to rationally conceive of themselves as engaged in these roles and subject to the demands of them. To be unable to fulfill any such longitudinal social roles is to have a life deficient in value. The unity of agency is thus, we argue, something we rationally strive for, and something to be morally promoted. Psychiatric states that undermine the unity of agency are morally and rationally disvaluable. Using the example of dissociation, we explain how one such state may have this undermining or disruptive effect on the unity of agency. The therapeutic ends for psychiatry in conditions involving such states are thus seen more globally as the restoration of effective agency, that is, unified agency. (shrink)
Recent findings in neuroscience strongly suggest that an object’s features (e.g., its color, texture, shape, etc.) are represented in separate areas of the visual cortex. Although represented in separate neuronal areas, somehow the feature representations are brought together as a single, unified object of visual consciousness. This raises a question of binding: how do neural activities in separate areas of the visual cortex function to produce a feature-unified object of visual consciousness? Several prominent neuroscientists have adopted neural synchrony and attention-based (...) approaches to explain object feature binding. I argue that although neural synchrony and attentional mechanisms might function to disambiguate an object’s features, it is difficult to see how either of these mechanisms could fully explain the unity of an object’s features at the level of visual consciousness. After presenting a detailed critique of neural synchrony and attention-based approaches to object feature binding, I propose interactive hierarchical structuralism (IHS). This view suggests that a unified percept (i.e., a feature-unified object of visual consciousness) is not reducible to the activity of any cognitive capacity or to any localized neural area, but emerges out of the interaction of visual information organized by spatial structuring capacities correlated with lower, higher, and intermediate levels of the visual hierarchy. After clarifying different notions of emergence and elaborating evidence for IHS, I discuss how IHS can be tested through transcranial magnetic stimulation and backward masking. In the final section I present some further implications and advantages of IHS. (shrink)
In his recent book, Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit propounds a version of the psychological criterion of personal identity.1 According to the variant he adopts, the numerical identity through time of persons consists in non-branching psychological continuity no matter how it is caused. One traditional objection to a view of this sort is that it is circular, since psychological continuity presupposes personal identity. Although Parfit frequently denies the importance of personal identity, he considers his own psychological account of identity important (...) enough to attempt to defend it against the charge of circularity. The aim of this paper is to argue that Parfit's attempted defence is unsuccessful because it ultimately rests on an analysis of the unity of consciousness that is itself either circular or otherwise inadequate. (shrink)
Thomas Aquinas is often thought to present a compositionalist model of the incarnation, according to which Christ is a composite of a divine nature and a human nature, understood as concrete particulars. But he sometimes seems to hedge away from this model when insisting on the unity of Christ. I argue that if we interpret some of his texts on the assumption of straightforward compositionalism, we can construct a defence of Christ’s unity within that context. This defence involves (...) the claim that the divine unity is so great, and the relation between Christ’s two natures so unusual, that the divine unity can be transferred to the composite Christ as a “borrowed property”. (shrink)
The paradox of the concept horse has often been taken to be devastating for Frege’s ontological distinction between objects and concepts. I argue that if we consider how the concept-object distinction is supposed to account for the unity of linguistic meaning, it transpires that the paradox is in fact not paradoxical.
There are two different varieties of question concerning the unity of consciousness: questions about unity at a time, and unity over time. A recent trend in the debate about unity has been to attempt to provide a ‘generalized’ account that purports to solve both problems in the same way. This attempt can be seen in the accounts of Barry Dainton and Michael Tye. In this paper, I argue that there are crucial differences between unity over (...) time and unity at a time that make it impossible to provide a generalized account of unity. The source of these crucial differences is the phenomenon of the ‘continuity of consciousness’. I argue that accounts of unity over time have to provide an account of this continuity, and that there is no phenomenon analogous to continuity in the case of unity at a time. Attention to the continuity of consciousness reveals crucial structural differences between the two varieties of unity. These structural differences make it impossible to provide a generalized account of unity. I show that the problems faced by Dainton’s and Tye’s accounts in the light of the structural differences make their accounts of unity appear far less appealing than they might initially have looked. I conclude by noting that, in the light of the important differences between the two varieties of unity, it is a mistake to attempt to model accounts of unity over time on accounts of unity at a time. (shrink)
In The Impossibility of Perfection, Michael Slote tries to show that the traditional Aristotelian doctrine of the unity of the virtues is mistaken. His argumentative strategy is to provide counterexamples to this doctrine, by showing that there are what he calls “partial virtues”—pairs of virtues that conflict with one another but both of which are ethically indispensible. Slote offers two lines of argument for the existence of partial virtues. The first is an argument for the partiality of a particular (...) pair of virtues: frankness and tact. The second is a kind of feminist critique. I argue that both of these lines of argument fail. In both cases, Slote fails to ask whether the apparent conflict between putatively partial virtues has arisen from a misunderstanding of the demands of those virtues. From this error I suggest we can learn an important lesson: whether in our studies thinking about the virtues or in our everyday lives trying to practice them, it is a serious mistake to focus on the relationships among virtues without considering precisely what each of these virtues demands. (shrink)
Different interpretations of Bradley’s regress argument are considered. On the basis of textual evidences, it is argued that the most persuasive is the one that sees the argument as primarily addressing the general issue of unity or connectedness.
Sengzhao (374?−414 CE), a leading Chinese Mādhyamika philosopher, holds that the myriad things are empty, and that they are, at bottom, the same as emptiness qua the way things truly are. In this paper, I distinguish the level of the myriad things from that of the way things truly are and call them, respectively, the ontic and the ontological levels. For Sengzhao, the myriad things at the ontic level are indeterminate and empty, and he equates the way things truly are (...) at the ontological level with emptiness. This paper explicates the ontic status of the myriad things and the ontological notion of emptiness and elucidates the relationship between them. I read Sengzhao as dismissing the idea that reality has a mind-independent structure that comprises discrete entities waiting to be captured by concepts. I show that his notion of emptiness points to a subject-object unity wherein both the subject and the myriad objects are conceptually undifferentiated. It will be seen that Sengzhao’s overall theory of emptiness is philosophically interesting in terms of its relevance for ontology and the relationship between language and reality. It provides a refreshing and challenging perspective on how we may perceive the world and understand our relationship to it. (shrink)
Richard Gaskin’s work on the problem of the unity of the proposition (“the problem”, henceforth) has sometimes been called magisterial due to its vast historical and conceptual scope. Indeed, the author engages in lengthy discussions of the conceptions of propositions that have been overlooked by most previous investigations on the problem. Not only aspects of Frege’s and Russell’s theories of propositions that appear most problematic are subject to Gaskin’s investigation, it also includes Prabhākara semantics, the approach of Gregory of (...) Rimini and various parts of Abelard’s thought just to name a few. Furthermore, the purpose of this work is manifold. It is not solely a historical account of the importance of the problem, nor is it only a critique of the views explored. Gaskin ventures to provide his own original solution to the problem of the unity of the proposition. The solution and the arguments in its favour, however, are deeply embedded in the structure of the extensive historical treatment of the problem and, hence, cannot be precisely depicted due to limited space. In what follows I shall hope to provide a general idea of how Gaskin approaches the topic historically and what is his endorsement towards it. Lastly, I discuss the proposed solution to the problem. (shrink)
The paper argues that empirical work on Buddhist meditation has an impact on Buddhist epistemology, in particular their account of unity of consciousness. I explain the Buddhist account of unity of consciousness and show how it relates to contemporary philosophical accounts of unity of consciousness. The contemporary accounts of unity of consciousness are closely integrated with the discussion of neural correlates of consciousness. The conclusion of the paper suggests a new direction in the search for neural (...) correlates of state consciousness or creature consciousness. (shrink)
Henry Eyring's absolute rate theory explains the size of chemical reaction rate constants in terms of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and quantum chemistry. In addition it uses a number of unique concepts such as the 'transition state'. A key feature of the theory is that the explanation it provides relies on the comparison of reaction rate constant expressions derived from these individual theories. In this paper, the example is used to develop a naturalized notion of reduction and the unity of (...) science. This characterization provides the necessary clues to the sort of inter-theoretic linkages that are present in the theory of reaction rates. The overall theory is then further characterized as a theory network, establishing connections between non-reductive notions of inter-theory connections. This characterization also sheds new light on the unity of science. (shrink)
This article compares the accounts of psychical unity in Freud and Lonergan. Following a detailed account of Freud’s understanding of psychical structure andhis deterministic psycho-biological presuppositions, Lonergan’s understanding of psychical structure in relation to patterns of experience is discussed. As opposed to Freud’s theory, which is based on an imaginative synthesis of the classical laws of natural science, Lonergan considers psychical and organic function as concretely integrated in human functionality according to probabilistic schemes of recurrence. Consequently, Lonergan offers a (...) theory of the psychological problems of repression and inhibition not primarily as functions of subverted organic desires, but more properly according to the functioning of intellectual bias. Lonergan thereby provides a more comprehensive understanding of the unity of the human self at the psychical level. (shrink)
In this paper, I want to discuss the relation between ambivalence and the unity of the self. I will raise the question whether a person can be both ambivalent about his own will and nevertheless be wholehearted. Since Harry Frankfurt’s theory is my main point of reference, I briefly introduce his account of the will and the reasons for his opposition towards ambivalence in the first section. In the second section, I analyse different interpretations of ambivalence. In the third (...) section, I provide a narrative account of a diachronic integration of the self that allows for the integration of volitional ambivalence. Finally, I scrutinise different meanings of the unity of the self, since disintegration, not ambivalence, seems to be bad for us. I conclude that persons can indeed be wholeheartedly ambivalent. (shrink)
Suárez held that the vital faculties of the soul are really distinct from the soul itself and each other and that they cannot causally interact. This means that he needed to account for the connections between the activities of the faculties: they both interfere with and contribute to each other’s activities. Suárez does so by giving the soul a direct causal role in these activities. This role requires the unity of the soul of a living being and Suárez used (...) it to argue against the view that a living being, in particular a human being, has more than one soul. This line of thought displays some affinity with arguments for the simplicity of the soul from the unity of consciousness. One important difference is that Suárez was talking not just about mental activities but about all vital activities. (shrink)
We seem to suffer from a case of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, we seem to have almost unanimously rejected as hopeless or incoherent the aim of a unified science. On the other, we passionately debate about the prospects of research programs which, if successful, would considerably enhance the prospects of unification: from particle physics to cognitive neuroscience, from evolutionary theory to logical modeling or dynamic systems, a common motivation seems to be the quest for unity1. The purpose of (...) this paper is to relieve the dissonance. I will defend a moderate form of unity, one which is compatible with the diversity and open-endedness of science, for which I can think of no better name than federalism, as it combines plurality and the construction of a common epistemic area. This view is not original: Otto Neurath himself espoused it, albeit in a context which is in certain respects quite unlike ours2. (shrink)