Brentano on the spirituality of the self

1.) Minimally, the self requires the unity of conscious experience, meaning the unity of some being that performs some action, not just the unity of the action.

2.) If the unity of the self is non-spiritual, then it is in the brain.

3.) But the brain is a collection of specialized modules and organelles: this part taking care of memory; that part taking care of focus; another part taking care of releasing dopamine, etc.

4.) A collection of modules would suffice to explain a unity of an action, but not the unity of a being performing an action.

5.) So the brain can’t suffice to explain what is requisite for the self.


Notice that the inability to locate the unity of the self in the nervous system affects our ability even to say its action is unified: actions are done by something. Conversely, this unity of consciousness is within the specialized modules or organelles.



  1. Matthew McCormack said,

    May 12, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Could the unity of consciousness be one of the specialized modules of the nervous system?

    • May 13, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      As an action? Probably. But the unity of consciousness is more than an apparent or operational unity – it’s a real one.

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