The essence of the mental

European Journal of Philosophy 31 (4):1061-1072 (2023)
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Your belief that Obama is a Democrat would not be the belief that it is if it did not represent Obama, nor would the pain in your ankle be the state that it is if, say, it felt like an itch. Accordingly, it is tempting to hold that phenomenal and representational properties are essential to the mental states that have them. But, as several theorists have forcefully argued (including Kripke (1980) and Burge (1979, 1982)) this attractive idea is seemingly in tension with another equally attractive thesis, namely, the token-identity thesis; the thesis according to which every mental state token is identical with some or other token physical state. In this paper, we show that these seemingly incontrovertible essentialist intuitions are in fact compatible with “token physicalism” regarding the mental. Given a suitably plentitudinous ontology of objects, we argue that there are physical things with which our token mental states can be identified. This is preferable to existing views that give up the essentiality claims or simply reject the token-identity thesis.

Author Profiles

Ray Buchanan
University of Texas at Austin
Alex Grzankowski
Birkbeck, University of London


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