When do parts form wholes? Integrated information as the restriction on mereological composition

Neuroscience of Consciousness (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Under what conditions are material objects, such as particles, parts of a whole object? This is the composition question and is a longstanding open question in philosophy. Existing attempts to specify a non-trivial restriction on composition tend to be vague and face serious counterexamples. Consequently, two extreme answers have become mainstream: composition (the forming of a whole by its parts) happens under no or all conditions. In this paper, we provide a self-contained introduction to the integrated information theory of consciousness (IIT). We show that IIT specifies a non-trivial restriction on composition: composition happens when integrated information is maximized. We compare the IIT-restriction to existing proposals and argue that the IIT-restriction has significant advantages, especially in response to the problems of vagueness and counterexamples. An appendix provides an introduction to calculating parts and wholes with a simple system.

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Author Profiles

Kelvin J. McQueen
Chapman University
Naotsugu Tsuchiya
Monash University

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References found in this work

On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Objects and Persons.Trenton Merricks - 2001 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Four Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time.Theodore Sider - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (3):642-647.
Degrees of Consciousness.Andrew Y. Lee - 2023 - Noûs 57 (3):553-575.

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