Consciousness and Topology

Journal of Philosophical Research 45:189-195 (2020)
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Most philosophers of the self would take what David Barnett calls ‘The Datum’—that “pairs of people themselves are incapable of experience”—to merit its name. Barnett argues abductively from The Datum to Simplicity, the view that conscious beings must be simple. The truth of Simplicity would upend almost all materialist accounts of what we are, so Barnett’s argument and attempted rebuttals of it merit scrutiny. Rory Madden charges Barnett with overlooking a rival, better explanation, deriving from Integrity: the thesis that our naïve conception of a conscious subject demands that conscious beings be topologically integrated. The content of this naïve conception is supposed to be superior to Simplicity in explaining The Datum. I argue here that Madden is mistaken: the requirement of topological integration cannot explain The Datum, and Barnett’s argument survives Madden’s challenge.



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Eugene Mills
Virginia Commonwealth University

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