The Indeterminacy of Plant Consciousness

Journal of Consciousness Studies 28 (1-2):136-154 (2021)
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Are plants conscious? Most knowledgeable people say they aren't. A small minority say they are. Others say we don't know. Virtually all assume the predicate '– is conscious' is fully determinate; plants are or aren't in its extension. Appealing to Mark Wilson's work on predicates and concepts, I challenge that assumption, proposing that the predicate isn't determinate for plants. I offer the start of an explanation for why this is so. We tacitly rely on many empirical correlations when we correctly characterize creatures as conscious, but we have limited knowledge of those facts, and plants differ significantly from animals, while also being substantively similar to them. We don't yet know what it would be for them to be conscious.

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Chauncey Maher
Dickinson College


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