If Materialism Is True, the United States Is Probably ConsciousEric Schwitzgebel
Philosophical Studies (2015) 172, 1697-1721
Abstract: If you’re a materialist, you probably think that rabbits are conscious. And you ought to think that. After all, rabbits are a lot like us, biologically and neurophysiologically. If you’re a materialist, you probably also think that conscious experience would be present in a wide range of alien beings behaviorally very similar to us even if they are physiologically very different. And you ought to think that. After all, to deny it seems insupportable Earthly chauvinism. But a materialist who accepts consciousness in weirdly formed aliens ought also to accept consciousness in spatially distributed group entities. If she then also accepts rabbit consciousness, she ought to accept the possibility of consciousness even in rather dumb group entities. Finally, the United States would seem to be a rather dumb group entity of the relevant sort. If we set aside our morphological prejudices against spatially distributed group entities, we can see that the United States has all the types of properties that materialists tend to regard as characteristic of conscious beings.
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