Q&A on the Mind Object Identity hypothesis

I recently did a post on Riccardo Manzotti’s interesting IAI article: There is no problem of consciousness (warning: possible paywall). In that article, Manzotti described his Mind Object Identity hypothesis. He also published a paper on this idea in 2019, which goes into much more detail.

A quick recap. We make a mistake, he argues, in trying to situate conscious experience inside the brain. Instead, we should view our conscious experience of an object, like an apple, as the object itself in relation to our body. And our memory, imagination, or hallucinations of the object as that object in the past in relation to our body. In other words, we shouldn’t look for the redness of the apple in our head, but at the apple itself. It’s an argument for revising our way of thinking about consciousness.

After that post, Dr. Manzotti contacted me and offered to engage in a brief dialog. Below are answers he had to a few questions I sent. I’m posting them with his permission, and opening this up for wider discussion.

1. With MOI, is there anything special in the relationship between objects and brains (or similar information processing systems)? Or is there conscious experience in any collection of objects in relation to each other?

First and foremost, MOI is not panpsychism. MOI is the identity between one’s consciousness of objects in the world and those objects. For example, what is the physical thing that is Jane’s consciousness of an apple? It is the apple as it happens relative to Jane’s body. The emphasis on the relative nature of external objects is important because it explains why there can be physical features that do not belong to Jane’s apple. For example, Jane is oblivious to any neutrino’s related features of the apple. So the apple that is consistent with Jane’s experience is a subset of the physical properties that make up the apple as an absolute. Yet they are all physical and taken together they make Jane’s apple. It can also be expressed as Jane’s body carving out a subset of the physical world, which we usually refer to as Jane’s consciousness. This is MOI! The remarkable thing is that this is a real explanation, because it explains what consciousness is in the physical world without appealing to specific phenomena and without leaving anything to be explained.

So, please according to MOI there is no consciousness experience spread in the world. This is a crazy idea of panpsychists that does not really explain anything.

Each brain carves out a different subset of the world. Such subsets are carved out because they are able to produce effects using those brains – the subsets exist relative to those brains. No emergence. No panpsychism. No special properties.

2. If the answer to 1 is that brains matter, what distinguishes MOI from a view that sees all those external objects and their interactions as causal precursors to experience in the brain? Is there a fact of the matter on where the experiences actually happen?

As I said above, there is no experience qua experience. There is no magic place where experience happens. There is no conscious apple flashing out somewhere. There is just the apple. MOI states the identity between consciousness and existence, between one’s experience and the objects in one’s existence. It’s a form of reductionism if you like.

For MOI, brains matter insofar as they provide the circumstances where an object can produce an effect and thus can exist.

Let me provide you with an analogy: relative velocity. Take a body in space. Does it have any velocity by itself? No it doesn’t. It has a velocity only relative to other objects that provides a reference frame. The reference frame which is another body provides the circumstances that allow the first object to have a given relative velocity.

Many believe that the brain causes consciousness like, say, the heart causes blood pressure. No! It’s the other way round. The brain carves out external objects like, say, a lock carves out its key, which would just be a scrap of metal if there were no lock.

The idea of relative existence is that: Brains offer objects the opportunity to cause effects. The mind is identical with such objects, rather than with the brain. As regards the traditional idea that the brain causes consciousness, it’s the other way round. The brain has a role but it does not cause consciousness. External objects causes effects in the brain (is it not what happens in everyday experience?) Such objects are what has been called consciousness and has been mistakenly taken to be some mysterious activity in the brain.

3. If brains aren’t required for simpler versions of conscious experience, then since objects in relation to each other is a universal condition, why wouldn’t this be a naturalistic form of panpsychism?

Because panpsychism is committed to the idea that phenomenal experience is something over and above the standard physical world. For panpsychism, consciousness is liberally spread everywhere rather than being associated only with human brains (as the dualists do). In a sense, panpsychism is dualism on steroids.

MOI is totally different. MOI states that there isn’t such a thing as consciousness as something different from the world. Nobody has ever experienced a mental apple next to a physical apple. We have always found apples. And MOI tells us there were physical apples. In this view, there are just objects. When you are made of an object that object is part of your existence. If I asked you to describe what you find in your experience, you would describe an apple, not an image of the apple.

4. You mentioned in a comment that MOI is an empirical hypothesis rather than a philosophical one. What could falsify it?

MOI puts forward all kinds of testable consequences and predictions – a very strong one is there cannot be an experience made of something that a subject never met in the physical world. In short it means that, no matter to what extent one’s brain is internally stimulated, either by means of drugs or other physical means, one cannot perceive or imagine something that is not physical.

So falsify MOI is super easy: just show me one case where a subject has an elementary experience of something she has never met in their life. Show me a congenitally blind subjects who dreams of colors, for instance. Or show me a virtual reality color that does not exist. Or one case where a subject is able to conceive and imagine an impossible color (as for instance an intermediary hue between blue and yellow which is different from green). Such a case has never happened.

As it happens our dreams and imagination, hallucinations even, are totally constrained by the physical world. At most, as René Descartes himself claimed, we can imagine combinations of such physical properties and particulars, as when we imagine a chimera.

A warning. There are a few very rare anecdotal cases of allegedly miraculous experiences (such as the infamous anophthalmic Turkish painter who claimed to “see” colors in his mind). All such cases have been debunked.

5. How do valences and affects factor into MOI? Where would MOI consider them to occur?

Valences and affects are relatively easy. They are a combination of the body plus the external circumstances. For instance, fear is then the body tries to avoid something and, at the same time, gets in a very stereotypical state /heart pressure, heart rate, etc.

6. You note in the IAI article that MOI has no room for ideas, yet it seems as a species capable of symbolic thought that ideas play a crucial role in our experiences. Is this view mistaken?

Look at what’s happening with LLM (Large Language Models) such as ChatGPT and the like. They seem quite good at producing text and content that, if it were produced by humans, would require the notions of idea. Yet, nobody thinks that LLMs have ideas in addition to their code and data. Ideas are fictionary entities no one has ever seen. They have no causal role. They do not exist. Rather than ideas it is enough to refer to what those ideas are about.

Any other questions for Dr. Manzotti?

Featured image source

109 thoughts on “Q&A on the Mind Object Identity hypothesis

  1. Hi Dr. Manzotti,
    Some follow up questions.

    I’m wondering how you see your hypothesis in relation to direct/naive realism?

    In your answer to my second question, you note that brains offer the opportunity for external objects to cause effects. But these are effects in the brain. I’m wondering why it doesn’t make sense to equate these effects with the experience. This seems particularly tempting since different brains may have very different effects from the same object, and it’s brains that are able to hold such effects from objects encountered years ago.

    Regarding your answer to 4, the example that first came to mind when reading it were Platonic solids. These seem like idealizations no one ever encounters in the world, or to be precise, idealizations the first people to come up with them couldn’t have encountered. I know we’re able to imagine objects and their attributes in novel combinations, but at some point it might seem arbitrary to insist these aren’t completely new concepts.

    Under your hypothesis, what would your response be for the Mary’s Room thought experiment? Given your response to 4, it seems like we’d have to say Mary learns something new because she hadn’t interacted yet with the relevant objects. But if she did have complete knowledge of the effects of those objects, would that still be true?

    Ok, I’ll stop there and let you respond and others weigh in.


    1. Continuing with Mary, what if instead of showing her something red, we electronically trigger her red color receptors? Won’t she have an experience of red without having interacted with any physical red?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We have an empirical answer to that: congenitally blind subjects have no visual experience if their brains are electrically stimulated.

        But what if we stimulated the receptors? Unless you think receptors have “mental colors” inside, there is no reasons anything should happen. In fact, color receptors are such if we put them in the right circumstances to work as such. Otherwise they are cells with the capability to release opsin if stimulated by various means (among which surely light rays but not exclusively).

        We describe them as color receptors, but they are such only in the right circumstances.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “We have an empirical answer to that: congenitally blind subjects have no visual experience if their brains are electrically stimulated.”

          Can you cite a study about that?

          I do know that congenitally blind do not dream in color (or even dream visually, I think). In fact, I think color in dreams goes away if vision is lost before two years old. Congenitally blind people who have had their sight restored need to learn to see.

          This tells us that learning is involved in vision. The congenitally blind usually lack a connection between the eye and brain or have damage or lesions in the visual cortex. So that wouldn’t tell us what happened if Mary’s red color receptors were triggered. When they modified green light cones in the eyes of male squirrel monkeys so they would be sensitive to red, the monkeys after time learned to see red. So red must be product of receptors and the brain. Does whatever study you are thinking address the learning requirement?


          1. Just a random quote from the first of such studies “It is currently claimed that congenitally blind do not have visual imagery and are therefore unable to present visual contents in their dreams. ”

            Bértolo, H., et al. (2003). “Visual dream content, graphical representation and EEG alpha activity in congenitally blind subjects.” Cognitive Brain Research 15: 277-284.
            Christensen, J. A. E., et al. (2019). “Rapid eye movements are reduced in blind individuals.” J Sleep Res 28(6): e12866.
            Hurovitz, C. S., et al. (1999). “The Dreams of Blind Men and Women: A Replication and Extension of Previous Findings.” Dreaming 9: 183-193.
            Kennedy, J. M. (1993). Drawing and the blind. London, Yale University Press.
            Kennedy, J. M. and N. Fox (1977). Pictures to See and Pictures to Touch. The Arts and Cognition. D. Perkins and B. Leondar. London, John Hopkins University Press: 118-135.
            Kennedy, J. M. and I. Juricevic (2006). Esref Armagan and perspective in tactile pictures. Report.
            Kupers, R., et al. (2006). “Transcranial magnetic stimulation of the visual cortex induces somatotopically organized qualia in blind subjects ” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103: 13256-13260.
            Kupers, R., et al. (2011). “The Nature of Consciousness in the Visually Deprived Brain.” Frontiers in Psychology 2: 1-14.
            Meaidi, A., et al. (2014). “The sensory construction of dreams and nightmare frequency in congenitally blind and late blind individuals.” Sleep Med 15(5): 586-595.
            Penfield, W. (1972). “The electrode, the brain and the mind.” Zeitschrift für Neurologie 201: 297-309.
            Penfield, W. and P. Perot (1963). “The Brain’s Record of Auditory and Visual Experience: a Final Summary and Discussion.” Brain 86: 595-696.
            Ptito, M., et al. (2008). “TMS of the occipital cortex induces tactile sensations in the fingers of blind Braille readers.” Experimental Brain Research 184: 193-200.

            in all such papers if you peruse the material and methods you will find out the totally and congenitally blind subjects have no visual imagery neitehr in dreams nor when triggered.

            As to the experiment with Mary, it’s our intuitions against mine about what would happen.


        2. Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, you’ve stepped out of the confines of the thought experiment. In actual fact, if Mary were raised in a black and white environment, she would be unable to see any colors, as those parts of her brain would have been repurposed, as happens in the congenitally blind.

          But if we accept that Mary is in a state that she would see the redness of the strawberry if she were exposed to it, i.e., all the neural machinery is there and functional, then it should be possible to activate that machinery in the absence of something red, yes?



          1. For me, Mary would see a color, because Mary would be a color (a relative property in the external world).
            For you, Mary would see a color, because Mary’s receptor have the secret juice to trasnform rodopsin in colors and the pumping them up to the control center in the brain where a homunculus sees “phenomenal colors” or “values” or “colors in a model” (quoting from other threads here), which are totally invisible to any scientific enquiry. Or, maybe after some “learning” which is basically some time you give neurons to learn the recipe to cook mental colors out of neural signals.



        3. Just to let you know, for me, Mary would see a color for reasons a lot closer to your reasons than you think.

          For me, Mary would see a color because the mechanism that gets triggered is correlated with seeing the color, because it was naturally selected for that correlation. This correlation, sometimes referred to as mutual information, is not a physical property. It’s an informational property. And as you say, the correlations are relations between (parts of) the brain and physical things in the environment.

          I read your Mind Object Identity theory as simply redefining “you” as the set of these correlations, which is fine. But I think it stretches the common understanding of identity too far, unless there is some practical purpose that it serves, which purpose i haven’t seen yet.



          1. What is mutual information? (I know what it is of course). yet, does it have color?
            Of course it has not. You postulate information must, nobody has a clue as to why and how, become colors or, since such a woring looks too dumb, “to be interpreted as colors”? “to create a model of colors”? “to ????” What? Why should the appeal to mutual information? or integrated information? or magic information be of any help?

            Is the problem of going from information to colors any better than going from neural signals to colors? No it is not. If anything it is worse. At least neural signals are physical entities. Mutual information are abstracts, descriptive fictionary entities.

            Once again, I don’t care about the common understanding which is clearly failing here. We need simply to start from scratch and ask ourselves, given the physical world, what is the better match with what we call “conscious experience of the world”? I propose the identity with the most logical option, namely the world itself. You keep looking for mysterious invisible unphysical entities … mutual information is just another ghost.


    2. Thanks for your comments. Let me reply orderly.

      1. “But these are effects in the brain. I’m wondering why it doesn’t make sense to equate these effects with the experience. This seems particularly tempting since different brains may have very different effects from the same object”

      The effects in the brain do not have any of the properties we find in our experience, thus they are not our experience. How many times will I have to stress this elementary fact? Since they do not have the properties of out experience, it follows that they are not our experience. There is no way to escape from this conclusion.

      Moreover, you say that equating effects inside brain with experience is very tempting since brains have differente effect from the same object. Well, this is the opposite of what happens. In fact, to the best of our everyday life, our experiences are very much identical no matter the neural differences. We all see yellow bananas and red strawberris and we all continue to perceive them remarkably in the same way, no matter the differences in our brains. Morevoer, during our own life, neural representations keep changing (the well known phenomenon of representational drift), yet our experience of, say, a yellow banana, stays remarkable identical during all our life?

      You say there is something that is different between your perception and mine of the yellow banana. Such a residual change is due to the relative nature of physical properties, rather than to a subjective experience inside our brain.

      2. Concepts are not something we perceive. We can conceive of N-Dimensional spaces, yet we do not experience them. Platonic solids or abstracta are not consciously perceived.

      3. The Knowledge Argument, as famous as it was, lumps together knowledge and experience. Mistakenly in my opinion. Mary knows everything but she has not experienced everything. The two things are different. Today, with AI we are facing examples where AI systems have knowledge without having experience. I belive the knowledge argument made sense in the 70’s when Frank Jackson was developing his ideas but it does not long hold its grip on the debate.

      Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. With thanks to you and to Dr. Manzotti for this rare opportunity, I’d like to follow up on your question 3. Is a human brain or body necessary for consciousness? For example, a worm eating its way through an apple could be said to have a relationship to that apple not dissimilar from that of a human who eats it, or touches it, or looks at it. Does this mean the worm is conscious?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent question.
      Based on my hypothesis there is no magic threshold above which a system becomes magically consciousness. There is just the world taking place as a bundle of events/objects. Each objects brings into existence other relative objects. Some of such objects are just quantitatively more articulate. So, say, a table does not bring much into existence. Only weights. Its relative world is rather dull.
      A worm’s body brings into existence many more relative properties.
      A human being’s body brings into existence more and more complex properties. This is its world, which is a physical world.
      A big difference between human beings and worm is likely in the time span of their world. A worm is mostly reacting to events that have taken place in temporal proximity. A human beings (and many mammals) actions are conditioned by events that took place anywhere in their lifespan (decades or more).

      Yet, and this the crux of the matter. Nowhere there is the need of adding something like phenomenal character to what’s going on. There are just objects and their properties. It’s all we need.

      Phenomenal character has been invented to justify a “miniworld without matter” inside the body. Once we accept that the apple we perceive is one with the apple on the table, there is no longer any need for a phenomenal apple.


      1. Thanks for your response. It sounds as if even a table could have experiences, of a very limited sort. So could a rock. But to speak of a rock having an experience sounds like a type of panpsychism, a philosophy you reject. Is this a matter of how we define “panpsychism”? It’s often confused with animism or Cartesian dualism.


        1. As I said this is the crux of the matter.
          I never said the table can have experiences. In fact, I don’t think your brain has any experience either. Actually, my points is that there are no experience qua experiences. There are just objects.

          Panpsychism continues to frame the problem in terms of experiences vs world and liberally gives experience to everything. This is not what I say.

          My point is, what we’ve been calling experience is just existence. We do not experience objects. Objects exists and they are what we are. There is just existence.

          Logically speaking, MOI goes in the opposite direction of panpsychism. MOI is a, if you like, a panphysicalism (or panexistentialism).


          1. Thanks. I don’t want to tax your patience. I may have misunderstood when you said that a table’s “relative world is rather dull.” I think you are drawing a distinction between experience as primitive and experience as transactional or relational. But since in this sense the apple and I are in a mutual tangle of existence, is the apple also engaged in consciousness?


          2. I love to reply.

            The apple is not in relation with me. The apple is in relation with my body. As the apple standing on top of the table is in relation with the table.
            All objects are in relation with other objects. Being in relation with a given object brings into existence given relative properties. A different object would have brought into existence different properties.

            There is no consciousness as something over and the above existence. There is just the existence of objects as they are. A bundle of relative objects is my existence. Another bundle of relative objects is your existence. That’s the idea. There is no consciousness, just existence.

            We’ve been mistaken into believe there is consciousness in addition to consciousness. Why did we do so? Because we assumed that the experience of objects had to be ontologically distinct from the objects and placed inside an object (the brain) with none of the properties of the things we are one with. Thus we invented a ghost, called consciousness or experience, conveniently placed either inside the head or “inside us” (which is a meaningless expression) or inside our interiority (another meaningless expression).


          3. Thanks for the conversation. I understand your ideas better now, and I find them interesting. But I don’t want to monopolize you, and I need to think about this, so I’ll sign off for now.


          4. Dr. Manzotti, I’ve given some thought to your explanation, and I hope I can tempt you back for a follow-up response.

            I won’t try to find certain sorts of objects that are problematic for your account, as seems customary, because I believe your account can survive such counter-examples—if only because the nature of an “object” is equally flexible for both sides.

            Rather, I want to explore the choice you made after you noticed quite correctly how we have “assumed that the experience of objects had to be ontologically distinct from objects and placed inside an object (the brain) with none of the properties of the things we are one with.” At this point we are reconsidering the idea that there is a “subject,” which has experiences, and an “object,” which is experienced. You find it metaphysically parsimonious to collapse the two, so that there are only objects, which exist in relationships, such as “this apple” for “this body.”

            Why, at this juncture, did you choose to build your explanation on objects? This threatens to point outside the relationship you are trying to convey, back toward an older Cartesian concept.

            It might have been equally possible to rest your discussion of relationships on “subjects.” Of course, this would be to take the other side of the Cartesian dichotomy in an attempt to overturn it. Perhaps we had better be done with both terms altogether, and go with something like “process” or “occasion”!

            But as a starting point, the supposition that the apple and I are both subjects seems equally compatible with your innovative approach, and for nodes of existence such as ourselves, it might be more approachable. Had you given thought to this option?


          5. I must make a belated addition to my question about awarding ontological significance to “objects.” You explained at the very start of our exchange that “There is just the world taking place as a bundle of events/objects.” Here you used “events” as if it were interchangeable with “objects.” To me this suggests it might make equal sense to talk about “mind-event identity.” But since we tend to associate objects with passivity and the possibility of an independent or isolated existence, while on the other hand we associate events with activity arising from relationships, the latter word seems more promising for a post-Cartesian view.


          6. Hi AJOwnes again,

            You made two excellent points (why not go for a subject-only ontology and why not consider mind-event ontology). The two points are apparently different but share a common root. Let me address them orderly.

            1. If everything is an object, why should everyting not be a subject? Are idealism and materialism not symmetrical? My answer is a definitive no. The reason is that the world of appearance (experience/ideas/etc) is defined parasitically on the word of matter (substance/whatever).
            Moreover, experience requires an experiences. So if we want to have a flat ontology, we need an ontology made of something that exists by itself, i.e. substance or matter. Experience is not a substance. this is in a nutshell, but I am sure you can get the gist of the argument.

            2. Why not a mind-event ontology rather than a mind-object ontology? For me it’s fine. It might also be an mind-actual occasions ontology. I use the word object for a series of reasons. But my objects are not naive objects, they are relative objects in act. So I agree with you.

            Finally, the common ground is that by adopting a relative actual objects ontology, there is no need of experience, appearance, relations, etc.


          7. Thank you, Dr. Manzotti, for an informative reply.

            When you say “we need an ontology made of something that exists by itself, i.e. substance or matter,” I think of this “by itself” thing as existing, as it were, in itself as well as for another. Whether we call it “substance or matter,” or whatever, its existence for another is what explains consciousness, but its raw existence in its own right is the prerequisite for consciousness.

            This differs from relational theories, such as that of Rovelli, where the relationship itself constitutes the raw existence of the thing. But if I understand you, it doesn’t necessarily assert an ontology of “naive” objects in their own right, as with Object-Oriented Ontology. Rather, it asserts an ontology of some almost ether-like medium, required for relationships, or patterns of information, to be expressed or instantiated as “relative objects.” As we move beyond the explanation of consciousness and into an underlying ontology itself, is this what you have in mind?

            You seem to agree that we could talk about objects as events instead, but “for a series of reasons,” you prefer the word “object.” It’s these reasons that interest me. Personally I prefer the word “event,” as suggestive of a different kind of relationship more suited to the concerns of the 21st century than the “objects” dear to instrumentalist modernity.


          8. I do think your criticism of representationalism or indirect realism, namely the issue that brain properties and experiential properties are radically unalike, can be solved however.

            1) Panspsychism yes or no? I insist that it is a no. Panpsychism is the view that holds that
            i) there are mental properties (or properties with a phenomenal character) and ii) such properties are different from the physical properties and iii) such properties rather than being just in the brain are spread everywhere.
            In MOI there are only physical properties.
            To make it clear the difference between panpsychism and MOI consider this. For a panpsychism god could snap out of existence all mental properties and the world would continue to go on as usual. It would be a zombie world, but everything will continue to take place as usual.
            In MOI, god couldn’t do that because there are just the physical relative properties.

            2) “ n allowing for arbitrarily large amounts of spatial and temporal “drift” in object-object correspondence, we have now opened up a can of worms.” Which is? I don’t see any. In perception we have space-time differences.
            You say that “My criticism in my first point was that basically any physical system of objects will instantiate human-quality “experiences” (if we wish to call it that).” There is nothing human-like in the properties (let’s stop calling them qualities) that is humanish. Of course they are relative to human bodies, but there is nothing particularly human like in, say, 650 nm light wave or 6 foots. Yes, they are the kind of properties that have the right scale to be causally relevant relative to a human body. But so what?

            3) Wholes, “the problem seems much more severe. If me dreaming up Harry Potter is actually a super complex system of existing spatiotemporally scattered physical parts that happen to coincide in the form of a physical system (which we call my dream), then the matter of object-object relation seems totally arbitrary.” In a sense, it is arbitrary since there is no reason as to why a certain combination of spatiotemporally scattered set of objects should not be a whole (in the right circumstances). As it happens, say, with molecules. Any aggregate of molecules might, sooner or later, takes place.
            At the same time, though, it is not arbitrary at all. It takes a precise set of physical circumstances to occur. And that is why we dream something and not something else.

            4) why do philosopher take their lack of imagination as evidence for lack of a rule? “That’s profligacy to an extreme in my view. Any restriction on object-object relation that might attempt to alleviate this issue, on the other hand, is in danger of coming off as completely arbitrary.” First and foremost, we empirically verify that there is no infinite regress in perception, and neither is there in dreams. We do not dream of the big bang. So there seem to be a very definite and stable boundary that prevents profligacy. The reasonable approach, in my view, would be to look for it. At least for a while. Have we not been looking for the very mysterious possibility of the emergence of mental properties for decades? But no, you immediately rule out the possibility of the existence of a law. Why? How much time did you spend thinking of it? Ten minutes? Half a day? A weekend? How could you so quickly dismiss the possibility of a very neat way to set the boundary as it seems indeed the case given the stability of our dreams and perceptions?
            As a matter of fact, I believe there is a very neat way to define the boundary. Which I will do soon (and it is already partially outline in my book “Consciousness and object”. I can send you the pdf of the relevant chapters. But, regardless of my solution, how can you so quickly rule out the possibility of a neat and not arbitrary causal structure defining the position of the relevant cluster of objects in space and time?

            5) “But I (meaning my body) don’t seem to experience a veritable infinity of object-object relations. Furthermore, my dreams (and my experiences more generally) only happen in very specific conditions, according to mechanical regularities that seem unrelated to the kind of object-object relations that you describe, but which seem very relevant to the operation of my brain.” See the above! Your own considertaions point to the existence of a stable and not arbitrary set of conditions that single out the right object (or collection of objects) in spacetime. Let’s find such a set of conditions then!

            6) you’re right about emotions, pains and pleasures. I don’t talk much about them, if any. However, 1) I believe that once we have shown where standard perception (and dreams) are, we will be in a much clearer position and 2) I also believe that emotions, pains and pleasure are identical with what our body does and thus that they are bodily objects. This last reply of mine is very unsatisfactory but it is the direction where I would like to proceed.

            I apologize if any of my comments sounded rude, I don’t want to, so I apologize in advance if anything went lost in translation. I highly appreciated your comments!


            Liked by 1 person

          9. Hi, Dr. Manzotti. WordPress has tagged this as a reply to my comment of March 26th, but from the quotes in it, I infer that it’s a reply to Alex Popsecu’s comment of March 25th. You might want to alert him..

            The confusion is understandable, since both of us have suggested that MOI may have something in common with panpsychism. Although I can’t comment on the details of your exchange with Alex, I do think that your understanding of panpsychism may need revising. If God, or some hypothetical demon, were to erase “mental properties,” the world would not continue to go on as usual, because according to panpsychism, what we call “the world” is, at least in part, the manifestation of “mental properties” interacting (in quotes because this is a clumsy phrase, as if there were something “mental” which possessed “properties”). What you are criticizing sounds more like garden-varierty dualism, or perhaps animism.


          10. yes, sorry for swapping the replies.
            However, I totally disagree with your notion of panpsychism. The reason is simple, if mental properties are different from physical properties, then they cannot have any causal and/or functional role. If they had, they would be physical properties. That’s the curse of both panpsychism and dualism — they are doomed to epiphenomenalism. If this is the case, phenomenal/mental properties can be removed without influencing the flow of events. That’s the meaning of my previous considerations.


          11. I had asked earlier, ” As we move beyond the explanation of consciousness and into an underlying ontology itself, is this what you have in mind?” If you have answered this somewhere else in these comments, I can’t find it.

            Your concern with causality is something I encounter often. In physics, should we say that mass “causes” the warping of space and time, or that the warping of space and time is what effectively appears as “mass”? It is the same question with process. If we expect it to have an effect on some prior existent, the “physical world,” perhaps we have the wrong end of the stick. Process, what you call “mental properties,” may instead be the source of what appears as the physical world. Expecting some strange non-material substance to affect matter is of course confused; I hope we’re all past that. Speculating that matter itself, and its properties, are the manifestation of interactions of process seems reasonable to me, in the light of our new quantum puzzles about what matter “is” and how it works.

            Since this is related to my original question about ontology, I hope you can find time to address the earlier comment.

            Liked by 1 person

          12. Hi Dr. Manzotti,

            Thanks for the detailed response. I assume you got my recent email, and that was what notified you to my comment? The post you responded to was based on my most immediate impressions of your theory, but I’ve since thought about the matter a bit more deeply and have formed new thoughts. I’ll leave the panpsychism discussion to the side since it seems unimportant (I agree that MOI qualifies as physicalist). Also, thanks for the pdf offer, I would love to take a look at the chapter solution-if you have the time of course.

            Back to my objection:

            The crux of the problem seems to me to be related to the unity of our experiences. As I see it, MOI proposes to account for the unity and regularity of human experience by positing that our experience is just a system of gerrymandered objects which are causally and spatiotemporally unified. Our experience of visual objects seems unified because the collection of physical objects actually are unified in some causal sense. To be clear, I have no objection to the notion that we can neatly define a system of objects, which exist relative to each other in time and space, and which form the equivalents of our experience. As I wrote in my email to you, my concern is with the mismatch between:
            A) the spatiotemporal unity of the objects of our experience
            B) the spatiotemporal unity of the actual system of physical objects
            On MOI, A should be equivalent to B.

            You write- “But, regardless of my solution, how can you so quickly rule out the possibility of a neat and not arbitrary causal structure defining the position of the relevant cluster of objects in space and time?”

            It’s not that I object to the possibility of our being able to *define* the appropriate physcial system which corresponds to our experience, it’s just that there don’t seem to be physical circumstances which disallow object spatiotemporal unity beyond the limits of our awareness. As I previously noted, virtually every object within a given light cone will have some sort of causal interaction with each other. Maybe this wouldn’t entail absurdities like an infinite regress, but it would still entail the existence of a humongous physical system of (spatiotemporally scattered) objects, which goes way beyond the limits of our experience.

            Indeed, if A=B, then there really should only be one ‘experience’, consisting of the vast collection of objects which form up the relative system that is our universe. Here’s the argument:
            1. On MOI- (the objects of our experience seem to be spatiotemporally unified) = (the objects of our experience are actually spatiotemporally unified)
            2. The entire observable universe within the event horizon achieves some degree of spatiotemporal unification
            3. The objects of our experience seem to form a spatiotemporal whole corresponding to the entire observable universe
            *I should note that when I speak of experience, I just mean the physical objects which comprise our ‘awareness’

            Since 3 is false, and 2 seems to be a blatant physical fact, 1 must also be false. In your comment, you mention the possibility that there might be a ‘law’ which explains why experience has a definite boundary. I am curious what you mean by this. Do you mean that there might be a lawlike relation which explains why certain systems of spatiotemporally unified parts form experiences, and why other spatiotemporally unified physical systems do not? Or do you mean that there might be a law which only allows (physical) spatiotemporal unity between parts in a way which exactly corresponds to experience?

            If the former, then that seems to me to contradict the thesis that an experience of unified objects is identical to the actual physical system of unified objects. For it doesn’t make sense (to me) to say that there would be a law which establishes when the existence of the latter gives rise to the former, if they were not identical things. It is coherent to speak of psycho-physical laws on dualism, for example, because mind states and brain states are supposed to be two different things. But if A and B are the same thing, then the existence of the actual physical system would automatically instantiate the appropriate ‘experience’.

            If you meant the latter interpretation, on the other hand, then I agree that might be the best approach. However, it seems very difficult to come up with a rule which doesn’t violate the laws of physics as we know it. As far as physics tells us, basically every object within the causal horizon of the universe will be spatiotemporally unified, meaning that they have (or will have) participated in some spatially and temporally relative causal interaction. One possibility (which I also suggested in my email) would be to opt for some kind of weird quantum collapse theory.

            If, for example, wavefunction collapse only happened in very particular circumstances, then we might maintain that actual systems of spatiotemporally unified physical objects are quite rare. Most of the universe would consist of quantum entangled object-parts which possess no definite properties. To instantiate actual physical systems that behave like classical objects (e.g. the objects of our experience) you would need to achieve wavefunction collapse. I suggested Penrose-Hameroff’s Orch OR theory as an example of how this might work. For instance, maybe microtubules in my brain are necessary to achieve some kind of collapse which might bring the appropriate system of gerrymandered parts into existence (that is, in the classical sense).

            The analogy only goes so far though; Orch OR won’t actually work on Penrose’s particular theory, since he thinks gravity is what causes wavefunction collapse. So, we’d need some kind of idiosyncratic theory, and I can’t think of any. The closest analogue would be conscious collapse theories, but of course that’s of no help here since that would just be begging the question by assuming consciousness exists.

            Alternatively, we might argue that 1 is false because it falsely equates *our* experience with *an* experience. So maybe there really does exist a self-aware system which corresponds to the unity among the whole universe, but that’s simply not our experience. However, I don’t think this response can work either. We can arbitrarily define our experience of objects to be some subset among some greater experience, but that doesn’t change the fact that objects within the system of our experience are still causally unified to outside systems. So we should still expect to be aware of those outside systems.

            “I apologize if any of my comments sounded rude, I don’t want to, so I apologize in advance if anything went lost in translation. I highly appreciated your comments!”

            Not at all. I do in turn apologize for the length of my comment. I find your theory really fascinating. If you think you have some way to solve this particular line of criticism (or if you think I’ve simply misunderstood MOI), I’d love to hear it.



  3. From the posts here, Mind Object Identity seems to be highly focused on ontology, and more specifically objects. Properties and perceived properties only seem to come up for discussion when humans imagine novel combinations such as a chimera. I wonder how Manzotti would react to experiences like the hot hand / cold hand experiment I discussed on my blog. It seems to me that MOI needs to add (or clarify) that an experience can be an object as relating to a specific part of a body, not always the whole body.

    I find a lot to like about MOI. I’ve thought for a long time that redness is a property of apples and other relevantly structured surfaces, for example. It doesn’t hurt that I have a very permissive ontology of objects, events, processes, properties, and relations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you! When I refer to the relative nature of objects, using the body as a whole is an oversimplification. Of course, different parts of the body act as as many bodies.

      About the cold/hot hand experiment: if the state of a part of the body changes, the relative properties of objects change too. Thus the same object may have a relative temperature for on hand and another relative temperature for another objects.

      The advantage of placing relative properties in the world is that we do not have to invent invisibile subjective properties inside the brain.


  4. I’ll pose this as a question to Dr. Manzotti.

    Suppose I am listening to somebody telling a story. As an example, suppose the narrator is presenting “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” I have a rich experience of this, as if it were really happening.

    If the experience is the object, does that imply that the story itself is a physical object? And if the story is a physical object, doesn’t this make physics seem mystical?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Suppose I was reading you Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”, do you really get anything in terms of experience?
      The story you listen to is a physical objects and it allows you to allow previous objects in your life to concoct together. Let me make an example. Suppose you read Ariosto’s renaissance poem “Orlando furioso” and you read of the mytical beast called hippogrif (the head and the wings of an eagle and the body of a horse). You get what it means because in your life you encountered eagles and horses and the poem pushes you to allow eagles and horses to produce an effect together.
      What is a story then? It is a physical objects that allows other physical objects in people’s lives to produce effects together in novel combinations and thus it is a physical object that allows to new objects to come into existence.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If a story is a physical object, why aren’t physicists studying stories? That was my point about this making physics mystical.

        The problem of consciousness is “solved” by a relabeling that pushes it into being a problem of physics.


        1. Why aren’t physicists studying architecture? or forniture? or a gazillions of other things that are obsviosly physical and yet are not at the center of phycisists interests? Becuase physicists studies the most elementary components and forces rather than their aggregates and combinations. That’s why.

          Do you want a proof that a story is a physical objects? Because it does produce physical effects and, in turn, it is caused by physical causes. So everything that takes place in the middel cannot help but being a physical thing.

          I understand what you mean when you object that “MOI is just a relabeling that pushes consciousness into physics”. Because at heart you are a dualist. You like the idea that consciousness has to be different from the physical world. This is what Freud’s called the narcissism of man, namely our desidere of being different.

          But let me ask you: how is the “apple in your mind” different from the physical apple as it takes place relative to your body? If you can’t find any difference, as I challenge you, then you must admit they are the same. And MOI wins.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. What’s physical is mostly a matter of convention. And our current conventions do not include stories as physical. Manzotti has not made a persuasive case to change that.

            And no, architecture is not physical, although buildings are physical.

            By the way, I am not a dualist, and I don’t see consciousness as an actual problem.


          2. what do you mean “our conventions do not include stories as physical objects”? What kind of reply is that? In any epoch the “current conventions” did not include what people were discovering at that very time! You would have stopped any new theory by applying the “current conventions”. This is ridiculous!


    1. I know very well that paper. That is not a falsification, but rather a question-begging thought experiment. It is not based on empirical evidence, it is a though experiment based on the belief of philosophers that things must be so. Like all the literature it quotes.

      Of course, MOI admits the possibility that different subjects sees colors differently, because colors are relative to ONE’S BODY (but not to him/her). If bodies are different, for instance because one is tetrachromat, then relative colors – still physical – would be different too.

      As in the case of relative velocity. If you move at different speed, the relative velocity of other objects will change accordingly.


      1. I believe the cited Ramachandran et al., 2003 SciAm article contained an factual report of an individual who in his dreams experienced colours which he could not actually see, due to being congenitally colour blind. If true, this would appear to falsify MOI according to your own criteria, as reporterted by Mike.


        1. yes, I asked personally to Vilanyur about that case in 2004 at a conference. First of all, please note that we are talking about one anedoctical case (another one in a life time is the case of the Turkish blind painter, debunked).

          Anyway, Vilanyur admitted that he had no actual reference about that case but it was just something he heard once from a colleague of him and since it seems right (given his mentalistic view of colors) he took for granted. Moreover, it was even more farfetched than that. In that paper, if I remember well, Ramachandran claimed that a synesthetic congenitally blind subject claimed to have chromatic synesthesia. I hope you see that we’re talking about myths here …

          When pressed about the cases he personally knew, he admitted that in all his practice he never encountered a congenitally blind subject claiming to dreams of colors.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. “There is no magic place where experience happens”.

    If we crush your brain, does experience still happen?

    If it is not the “place”, it still seems to be a serious requirement for experience.

    The tree in my backyard, it could be said, is where and how my brain projects the object of the tree to be. The tree of my brain is where my experience of the tree is located but that is not the same place where the external object(s) we compose into a tree is located.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If y is a condition for x’s existence does not imply that x is either located in y or that x is a property of y.
      y being the brain and x being consciousness.

      Consider this. Relative velocity. Take a body O in space. And now take another body B approaching O at a given speed. Does O have a relative velocity C to B now? Yes it has! Where and what has C? O of course. It’s O’s relative velocity to B. Now crush B. Does O still have the velocity C? No, it hasn’t.

      Now, take O to be the external object, C to be any relative physical property of O, and B to be one’s body-brain.

      And now you will see that the fact that there is no need to place the subject where the brain is. Nor to give the brain mystical superpower such as “projecting objects where they ought to be”. What does it mean that the experience of the tree is located where the tree is not? In which mental space is the experience located? I would like people to become aware that postulating a mental dimension does not do any good and it has no real explanatory powet. It only adds more metaphysical baggage.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I never have seen a need to place the subject in the brain. The subject is simply another part of the model of reality the brain has created. The brain in conception is, of course, another part of that model. The idea that it might be where the model exists is a hypothesis of that model which works well for most purposes – we might monitor brain waves to determine if a person is conscious, for example.

        Locating the subject outside the model isn’t possible because the foundation of the model is differentiation of physical body (of the model) from the external world (of the model) in order to be able to act in the world; hence, the evolutionary purpose.


        1. when you say ” amodel of reality the brain has created” what do you think are you saying? It’s as though nowaday people believe they are free to make ontological statements for free. Don’t take me wrong and forgive me if my tone sounds rude, I don’t mean to.
          But a brain causes chemical reactions, sends neural signals, trigger muscle fibers, and so forth.
          When people say something like “the brain creates a model of reality” they are saying BS (in the sense of Harry G. Frankfurt, no offense intended).
          “the brain creates a model of reality” is not a scientific statement. It is not an empirical statement. It is not an explanation of anything.

          The very notion of “model” is empty. In fact you fall in a sort of modern version of idealism, which we might call “modelism”. But you don’t explain what a model is … You give it as something certain, but on which basis.

          Morevoer I’ve never stumbled upon a model.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. When I say “a model of reality the brain has created”, I am also saying the “brain” is a part of that model. It’s a hypothesis, as I said, useful for most purposes.

            I go a good deal more into models in one of my own posts. What the model consists of, how it works, is important to distinguish from how the word is frequently used in AI research and computational neuroscience. Those are abstract mathematical models. The sort of model I am talking about is more closely related to how models are used in wind tunnels. It is a concrete physical model that mimics reality by creating an analogue or simulation reality where all the objects interact.

            I like “modelism.” If I want to keep, can I use it? Or, is it a known term I’m unaware of?
            Yes, it is a sort of idealism.


          2. It seems hasty to me to dismiss models. A scientific theory is a model. Your hypothesis is a model that you’re arguing for. My knowledge of where my fridge is, and what I think is currently in it, is also a model. Even my knowledge of my own body is a model.

            And I’d argue that my ability to remember an elephant, even though there isn’t one in front of me right now, utilizes a model. Yes we can see that as a relation between my body and an elephant I once encountered, but the fact that the elephant can still affect me requires something in the brain to preserve those effects. I think the right name for that something is a “model”.

            Of course, the physical manifestation of these models in brains is far from obvious. They seem like a disparate network of associations, dispositions triggered on certain stimuli, pattern completions. We could also regard them as complex decision trees with crosstalk between them. You could say all of that isn’t a model, but then I think we need another word to describe those dynamics.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. “Of course, the physical manifestation of these models in brains is far from obvious”.

            You said that right.

            I am beginning to think of the brain is a sort of super intelligent Jell-O to use an analogy. It jiggles, jumps, and moves in waves in response to external and internal stimuli. Somehow these patterns appear as reality to us.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. yes feel free to use “modelism”. I just invented it.

            But you’re not free to speak of models as an ontological building block of reality. Because if you do so, you swap together the epistemic and the ontological. It would be like saying that the model of gravity pulls the planets. It does not. If consciousness is real, consciousness must be equated with something physical. Not with a model… unless you are an idealist but idealism requires an ontological base, which you don’t have.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. I’m not into ontological building blocks. I’m more into figuring out how it works. The model is physical; the model is consciousness. Hence, consciousness is physical. The model creates a simulated world to provide an interface, or hook so to speak, for action in it. The imitation may not be accurate. It is based on limited sensory input and our biological, genetic inheritance but the model is an analogue of world, changing and reacting to internal and external conditions, to take actions.


          6. When I read a sentence like that I am sorry for the damage that bad science has done to perfectly decent people
            “The model is physical; the model is consciousness. Hence, consciousness is physical. The model creates a simulated world to provide an interface, or hook so to speak, for action in it. ”
            You must prove that a model is physical! not assuming it. That’s not a argument. It’s a statement.
            Moreover the notion of simulated world is yeat another ghost.

            I don’t see any simulation around me. I see complex machinery (which is physical) that we use as simulation of other physical circumstances. But there are no simulations.

            However, I understand that I won’t be able to address such topic too.


          7. “You must prove that a model is physical! not assuming it. That’s not a argument. It’s a statement”.

            My understanding is you are a physicalist, so I think you may be objecting more to “model” than “physical”.

            What I call “model” is what you may be simply calling “reality”. The tree outside my window as I write now is a part of my model of reality at this time. It exists or is my consciousness.

            The problem with calling it “reality” is that leads to contradictions. Imagine you and I are walking up my driveway late at night and see a coiled object in the front yard. I see a garden hose. You see a snake. We can’t both be entirely right. Both realities can’t exist. As we move closer, you might modify your model to see a garden hose. Or, I will modify mine to see a snake. Or, we both might be wrong. It could be a rope, or maybe a snake on a garden hose, and we both modify our models. In any case, someone’s “reality” wasn’t real.


          8. Let me quote something I wrote a few years ago:

            “The brain, of course, is all about seeing relationships, identifying differences and similarities. It does this with learning and memory. What our senses present to us may not be veridical but the relationships in what is presented must be veridical or we could not interact consistently with the world. When people are fitted with prism glasses that turn everything upside down, they learn in a few weeks how to interact with the world using completely upside-down input. This is possible because the relationships between the objects are relatively the same. Regularity and consistency in the world still exists and the brain can learn about the regularity and how to operate with it.

            “Perceptions are not exactly veridical, but our understanding of the world still is to a degree veridical because we learn about relationships between the objects of the world. Evolution selected for perceptions, which are not veridical, and a general-purpose brain that can detect relationships in those perceptions. I think perhaps part of the so-called hard problem of consciousness comes exactly from this disparity between nonveridical, somewhat arbitrary, perceptions and the more veridical understanding of relationships. When we look at the world, we do not really see it, but we do see relationships in it. That makes the world sometimes seem like a simulation and it makes us wonder where the simulation comes from”.


          9. to JamesCross,

            you attribute to the brain all kinds of mentalistics powers (thinking, interpreting, seeing, building models), which is the dominant explanatory attitude nowadays. However, it does not really explains anything. You’re just dealing with the brain as a XVII century philosopher was dealing with souls and immaterial subjects.
            But in the physical world there aren’t any of such powers. There are only objects/events and causes.


  6. If I’m not mistaken here, Manzotti’s MOI is a highly complex extended version of Rovelli’s RQM. Correct me if I’m wrong Riccardo.

    RQM extended would mean that there is an interaction between one object, the brain and another object, the apple. The variables of these two systems take value only at the interactions and the values they take are only relative to the other system affected by the interaction and the system that is affected by that interaction is the brain and the affect of that interaction is what is known as consciousness.

    Where Manzotti’s model breaks down is that he does not recognize that consciousness is “now” an emergent system as a result of that interaction just like H2O is an emergent system as a result of taking on the values of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms.

    There is a great deal of obfuscation occurring within his explication of the subject material, and I think this muddy water is an artifact of conflating the brain with mind. Can there be a full accounting of mind and/or consciousness in a physical framework? Absolutely!!! Ideas are physical structures, the only question that remains unanswered with MOI is what is the physics of that physical structure. The only physics that is tenable is quantum.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are a few analogies but MOI and RQM are not overlapping.

      MOI is much simpler than that. Besides in MOI there is just one building block: the relative object. There aren’t even relations.

      Each object exists relative to other objects. We can make the case going from velocity to colors, from shape to lenght, from being a face to being a story.

      Objects are a collection of properties or tropes if you like.

      Once you move from such a simple physical model (which is 100% compatibel with QM but not with RQM) you have all you need. Objects taking place and what we have called consciousness being identical with them.


      1. The reason MOI and RQM are not overlapping, (among other reasons) is because your model is dealing explicitly with a stand alone subject concept, and that subject concept is mind/object/identity.

        “Objects are a collection of properties or tropes if you like.” I don’t find metaphors or analogies useful when it comes to mind theory. Objects being a collection of properties is acceptable but properties are values and according to my metaphysics value is fundamental reality, not a metaphor.

        I reject the standard QM model with its infamous wave function. Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff are on the right track because at the very least, they recognize that mind is a separate and distinct system, one that emerges from the brain.

        We will have to agree to disagree and I applaud your effort Riccardo…….


        1. so you’re an idealist too. You too reject reality in favor of “values”. Which are likely to end up into being some convenient abstract entity physicist can place in their equations. They forget they got their equations from reality and not the other way round.
          Is it not an irony that science is ending up in a form of trascendental platonic idealism?

          But don’t you see that you self contradict yourself when you, in a desperate attempt to regain some empirical ground, plaude Hameroff and Penrose for claiming that “MIND EMERGES FROM BRAIN”? Have you not said that value comes first? and value is mind in your model?

          And why should you not cut the knot of your circular metaphysics and just accept reality for being reality? Why do you need to escape from reality?


          1. Wrong assessment Riccardo, I’m not an idealist I’m a pragmatic physicalist just like Roger Penrose. But unlike you, I choose not to jump into a metaphorical river at an isolated point along its journey to the sea and claim that my understanding of that river is now a global world view.

            Sorry, your model does not stand up under the scrutiny of synthetic a priori analysis, whereas my model does. And please, do not judge my model of reality based upon information that I have not provided.



          2. you cannot have the cake and eat it too. And, btw, Roger Penrose is the most unabashed platonist I know, like most physicist.

            Anyway, if you’re not an idealist, what’s wrong with MOI? If you’re not an idealist, world and consciousness must be made of stuff. What stuff? I propose relative objects. What’s wrong with them?

            Instead of making big claims about you and I, which sounds a bit silly, stick to the issue.


          3. Rest at ease Riccardo because I’m no a platonist either. So why do we disagree? Let’s start with this: in your world view, is the quantum realm made up of relative objects or, do you buy into the notion that the quantum realm is a wave function?

            This might be where we diverge…..


          4. Alright, if this is the case you should have no problem envisioning that mind could be an emergent quantum system, one that is separate and distinct from the classical brain from which it emerges. And, as a quantum system made of objects, mind itself is an object, a system that is sovereign with its own causal power to build and craft intellectual and/or quantum structures which we refer to as “ideas” from the information that is stored in the classical substrate we call the brain.


          5. there is an ontological problem here. Several actually. They are not your fault but it’s the state of the debate these days.

            People use “emergence” as an ontological scapegoat to have something unexpected popping out. First and foremost, the notion of emergence is faulty. It does not explain anything. As long something is truly emergent, it’s nothing short of a miracle (brute emergence is akin to dualism). A truly emergent level is just like the immaterial mind. It’s something alien to the underlying level of reality.
            On the other hand, it is not brute emergence, it is no longer different from the underlying level of reality, and thus it wont’ do what emergentists hope it will.
            Either way, the notion of emergence is a recipe for disaster.

            Secondarily, you want to use emergece as a magic wand and the appeal to quantum magic is just alike. You do not have any sound argument based on real QM formulas. Please don’t take personally, but it’s ages that I hear these vague declarations about QM as the solution. But we simply have NOT ONE REASON EITHER EMPIRICAL OR THEORETICAL (pace Penrose and Hameroff) as to why a quantum level should be any closer to what we know as our existence (or experience).

            It’s just a vague appeal to something that people perceive as very scientific and promising these days. Compare with expressions such “quantum leap” “quantum revolution” “quantum computing” and my favourite “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”! such is the power of a word.


          6. “You do not have any sound argument based on real QM formulas.”

            This is an outdated straw-man argument because any and all QM formulas are probability equations that have nothing to do with the quantum realm nor do they reflect the true nature of the quantum world.

            “People use “emergence” as an ontological scapegoat to have something unexpected popping out.”

            To my way of reasoning it is not at all unexpected; in fact, based upon the empirical evidence that mind is a subjective system and not veridical, one would expect mind to be separate and distinct from the brain. That is of course unless you believe that a single system such as the brain can be both objective and subjective at the same time. And if so, then we truly do have a miracle taking place because its the only system in the known universe that is capable of being both objective and subjective at the same time.

            Talk about a contradiction; but I’m not in the mind-changing business Riccardo so I wish you all of the best with your career……..


          7. “then we truly do have a miracle taking place because its the only system in the known universe that is capable of being both objective and subjective at the same time.”

            I don’t believe in miracles though.

            Moreover, it is a miracle only because people are fond of their beliefs. My point is asking people to reconsider whether they are identical with an object that does not have any of the properties they find in their life, or whether they are identical with a relative physical world that has all the right properties. Quite interestingly, most of the people prefers the former option. This is astonishing to me.


  7. What if anything does MOI predict about the following variant on Hume’s “missing shade of blue”? Suppose a paint company produces various sample cards, 36 of which are fully saturated colors evenly spanning the standard human trichromat color wheel. The paint company uses the 0-360 hue numbering system where red is 0 (and 360), green is 120 and blue is 240. We find a person who has never experienced any hue between 260 and 280, and show him a deck of 35 cards, from which we have surreptitiously removed the 270 card provided by the paint company. We ask if these cards seem to be evenly spaced in hue.


    1. I’m having some problems with this example.

      How, do we mix colors anyway in our brain? Maybe there’s research but I’ve assumed we mix based on intensities of the reflected wavelengths in some processing that goes on somewhere.

      But the other problem: isn’t there a hue between 120 and 121? Would somebody notice that missing? We are relying on the wheel being evenly spaced. Again there would have to be research but small differences are often overlooked. What if we presented the missing color(s) to the person and asked her to place it at the proper place in the wheel? I think most likely she could because her brain already knows how to “mix” colors.


      1. she would now based on the structures of the color space in the outside world.

        by the way, are you aware that by dealing with the brain as though it was a subject (“the brain knows”) you’re shifting the burden of eplanation without explanin anything?


      2. Well that’s exactly what I’m worried about, the brain (or retina) knowing how to mix colors. Mix colors, to use your words, or crudely measure colors, to suggest my own words.

        If the visual system can do such a thing, MOI would not predict it – which is not necessarily a problem. I mean, MOI doesn’t predict mathematical proficiency either, but mathematical proficiency is not entirely based on conscious experience, so no problem. But, at least some philosophers are going to claim that color “mixing” abilities are part of “the structure of experience” or some such thing.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Rather than mixing colors, let’s see things differently:

          The visual system allows certain properties in the world to have causal powers. because of the vagaries of our biology, such a process is neither linear nor identical. thus a world of relative objects is brought into existence.


    2. why do we have to resort to such rigmarole when the actual perception of colors is based on how colors are in the external world? According with MOI whenever you see a hue it’s because there is a hue like that. So it always works.


  8. ” the actual perception of colors is based on how colors are in the external world”

    I’m struggling to imagine how a particular wavelength of light reflected in the external world becomes red before it hits an eye or brain.


    1. what do you not struggle to imagine how it could become red?

      For instance, what’s your alternative? neural activity? Does it look easier for you to imagine how a particular neural activity becomes a color?
      What about information (which is not even a physical entity)? Does it look easire for you to imagine how bits become colors?

      What is the most natural candidate for colors in the physical world? Well, I dare to say: colors! the thing that objects have!


      1. I actually tend to think neural activity is the easier sell here. But it requires considering the adaptive function of that activity.

        Consider the following spectrum map.

        There’s nothing in those specific wavelengths that determine when we transition from blue to green to yellow to orange to red. The wavelengths we receive from an object are due to the reflective properties of its surface, but nothing about those properties mandate any specific hue.

        That’s because color isn’t a property of the object. It’s a conclusion our brain reaches about the object based on those wavelengths (and other factors). The things we see as red or yellow, and the things we see as blue or green, are due to the evolutionary affordances those objects provided our primate ancestors. The sharpest distinctions are for common foreground objects, and the least distinct ones are for hues commonly in the background. (At least for a land animal concerned about ripe fruit.) And the most striking colors are for items with the highest saliency.

        Seeing color as a conclusion makes it easier to account for things like “the dress”, or a host of color illusions.

        And it allows for the fact that color blind individuals can’t distinguish as many colors. Or that different species of animals have widely varying capabilities when it comes to color discrimination.

        I don’t really see any of this as necessarily a problem for your overall hypothesis. Except that simply considering color to be at the object seems too simple.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. totally right about everything (actually it was Newton himself who first noticed that the velocity of photons – which was later redefined as frequency – could not account for the wheel of colors as well as for the discontinuity in the spectrum).

          but …

          first of all I keep talking of RELATIVE properties and I’m not a NAIVE phycalist. This is paramount.

          what do I mean?

          The naive physicalist believes that properties are absolute. So the property is the wavelength. Which is, say, varying continuosuly from 380A to 750 A. And so, how can a such a simple value explain the color bands, the color wheel, the primaries, and so forth? It cannot of course.

          yet this is naive physicalism.

          But, starting with Galileo and velocity, physicalism is not committed to such a naivety. We can step forward to what I call contemporary physicalism where all properties are relative. Sometimes the relation is easy to be expressed with a simple formula (as is the case with mass, lenght, size, velocity, frequency, etc.), sometimes it requires to take into consideration a complex interaction with an object that might be as complex as the human visual system.

          The human visual system, as complex as it is, is only a physical object though. It does not interpret. It does not create colors. It does not process information in terms of colors. And all of that. What does it do? It allows hues to produce effects. That’s all. As it happens, our visual system, due to its evolutionary history and biological constraints, does not react equally to all changes in the visual spectrum. So, as regards to the effects that a HUE produces RELATIVE to a human visual system, it might well be that HUE 480 and HUE 485 are more different than HUE 600 and HUE 605. Why? Because they are different RELATIVE to their effects, not in an ABSOLUTE and NAIVE way.

          Having said that, I insist: neural activity does not have any of the property of colors! How could it be the underpinning of colors? Where are colors in the brain? I don’t see any!


          1. You also won’t see any color in the PNG files I link to above if you look at them in a data viewer. And yet they contain part of the causes of the colors we do see.

            And if I ask you to think of a yellow bear, the yellow you experience right then doesn’t come from 570 nm wavelength photons hitting your retina in that moment. Which means the brain has to have something somewhere in it necessary to imagine the yellowness of the bear. We can say that yellowness comes from previous effects of experiencing yellow, but those effects can now be invoked without their original external cause.

            It seems like we’re stuck having to explain color in the brain. I think the answer is that we can’t divorce color from all its causal effects and associations. Color is the stimuli and those effects. We only have a great mystery of we insist on looking at the stimuli by itself.

            Thanks for the clarification on direct / naive realism.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. “You also won’t see any color in the PNG files I link to above if you look at them in a data viewer. And yet they contain part of the causes of the colors we do see.”

            Of course not. That’s because when I watch the data viewer the relevant external color is not the original color, but the screen of a computers. Because the relative object (relative to the visual system) is the external relative object that is impinging with light on the retina. Why should you see the historical causes? MOI is very precise about the causal circummstances that allows you to be identical with previous causes. Not all causes do.

            “And if I ask you to think of a yellow bear, the yellow you experience right then doesn’t come from 570 nm wavelength photons hitting your retina in that moment. Which means the brain has to have something somewhere in it necessary to imagine the yellowness of the bear. We can say that yellowness comes from previous effects of experiencing yellow, but those effects can now be invoked without their original external cause.”

            So what? Do you really believe to see a yellowness generated inside the brain? The yellowness does not have to come and go anywhere. The yellowness sticks with the yellow objects.

            You may ask: why is that in memory the historical cause seems to be available and with the data viewer it does not? Simply because the causal structure of neurons is different from that of the data viewer. The colors do not stand in the same causal relation with your brain if there is a data viewer in beween.

            “It seems like we’re stuck having to explain color in the brain. I think the answer is that we can’t divorce color from all its causal effects and associations. Color is the stimuli and those effects. We only have a great mystery of we insist on looking at the stimuli by itself.”

            We aren’t stuck at all. We are stuck if we continue to recruite the brain and the effects in the brain.
            The external object has all we need.


          3. “So what? Do you really believe to see a yellowness generated inside the brain?”

            In this case (of the imagined yellow bear), it certainly seems so. We could say it’s just a cached effect from previous relations with yellow things, but the ability of the brain to preserve and manipulate that cached effect still seems significant, at least to me. Or the fact that different types of brains discriminate colors differently. I think MOI’s best option is to deal with colors similarly to how it deals with affects. But this may be something we’ll have to just agree to disagree on.

            Thanks again for taking the time to engage with us! MOI remains a fascinating hypothesis for me.


        2. I could also add that color based optical illusions frequently illustrate that the actual wavelengths coming from objects can be perceived as different colors based on motion and other nearby colors. Clear indication that the brain is using a relatively small amount of information coming from the environment through senses and augmenting it with its own learning to produce a perception.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. that is the standard Helmolt’s interepretation model. However it does not work.
            What if illusions were just the real thing outside that being relative can take place in many different ways?


          2. Right on Cross, and the quote you posted from your blog adds some specificity to this also. The natural world is in the business of building structures across the entire spectrum of the universe and it makes perfect sense that as another emergent highly complex system one would expect the mind to build structures as well. Here we have a continuity and universality within the natural world that can be observed.


  9. Seriously – Apples and worms? Rather, are babies human? (see Alison Jolly’s book) Ya all are just jostling for positions on some infinite imagined ladder. Self Aware? Barely. Some more than others.
    Anyway, I love it.
    But then … priorities. Seriously?


  10. In summary:

    MOI is not a scientific theory or even a scientific statement regardless of Manzotti’s assertion to tout it as the “ultimate physical model of reality”. MOI is an ideology plain and simple, just like any other ideology. And the predicate concept of that ideology is straightforward; there is only existence as an object relative to another object. There is no consciousness, there is no experience, there are no relationships, there is only existence.

    “POOF”… just like that, the hard problem of consciousness disappears because THERE IS ONLY “EXISTENCE” AS AN OBJECT IN RELATION TO ANOTHER OBJECT. Cool huh……

    A few other ideologies come to mind like Rupert Spira’s claim to fame: “I am the nature of being” or, an idealist’s declaration: “Consciousness, it is all there is” or, the christian evangelical’s assertion: “Jesus, it’s all there is”.

    I mean, after I smoked a couple of bowls of ganja last night I was able to really groove on the profoundness of the MOI model. No, wait…… maybe I grooved on “I am the nature of being”. No… wait; now I can’t seem to remember, maybe it was Kastrup’s mind-at-large. Maybe I need another bowl…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see MOI as valid description of an internal spacetime matrix that the brain generates. When we see the tree, the tree is part of our consciousness in this internal matrix. What I like about this is that this doesn’t require us to imagine some internal abstract computational model that then must manifest in conscious experience. The conscious experience is the model.


      1. Right on Cross, and the quote you posted from your blog adds some specificity to this also. The natural world is in the business of building structures across the entire spectrum of the universe and it makes perfect sense that as another emergent highly complex system one would expect the mind to build structures as well. Here we have a continuity and universality within the natural world that can be observed.

        I originally posted this in the wrong spot……. my bad.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s not just the mind building structures. At least part of my “modelism” involves the existence of physical structures in space and time in the brain. From an outside observer these patterns would appear to take various forms which apparently AI can decipher to some limited degree and map to perceived experience. Modelism means those physical structures simultaneously are the elements that structure conscious experience. They are two sides of the same coin. I think how this works might eventually be explained by some combination of electromagnetism, QM, and possibly other physical dimensions.


          1. “… my ‘modelism’ involves the existence of physical structures in space and time in the brain.”

            Right on Jim, I think this fits very well. And if one is going to avoid the label of idealism on this model, then these physical structures would have to be quantum in order to fit within the confines of the limited space that a brain provides. This makes a lot of sense…..👍

            Liked by 1 person

    2. I am stunned by the poverty of the comments and the rudeness of the way they are presented. Making everything into a joke is only proof that you are attached to your prejudices and anything that doesn’t satisfy them must be denigrated. That’s too bad for you.

      But, out of generosity, I will add a few more words. MOI is a scientific theory because it is consistent with physicalism, it does not add mysterious explanations, it is verifiable and falsifiable, it is ontologically parsimonious (Ockham), and it makes predictions.

      Instead, you babble hypotheses and phrases that are metaphysically inconsistent and that seem better to you only because you have repeated them so many times that you have become accustomed to considering them true. You don’t even realize, like fundamentalists, that you are no longer capable of reasoning.

      But it is significant that you say that MOI is an ideology. The only reason you say this is because you are conditioned by your own ideologies, and therefore a cure for your ideologies is perceived as an ideology that is contrary to your ideas. MOI is not an ideology; it is the cure for all ideologies.


      1. Riccardo,

        I’m very impressed with your pseudo telepathic powers, your savoir faire to assess my cognitive skills and keen ability to refute my metaphysics based upon information that I have not provided.



  11. I’m late to this discussion but it’s an old one that in my experience always leans heavily toward human experience. I skimmed the material above and don’t see any discussion of how it’s possible for bees in the same hive to be attracted to the same flower. There are reflected wavelengths that relate to crystals and other aspects of physical reality. The human concept of color is our interpretation of these sensations.

    An excellent book that covers a much broader cross section of brain phenomena than the “dress” visual conundrum shown above is Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing by Margaret Livingstone. She explains how a lot of optical illusions result from the different “what” vs “where” interpretations in the brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Certainly our color perception is calibrated for our own evolutionary affordances. The bees’ will be calibrated toward theirs. Dan Dennett in his 1991 book described how the colors of flowers and insect perception co-evolved, with the flowers signaling to the animals they have a symbiotic relationship with for cross pollination. Fruits have a similar relationship, advertising their readiness to be consumed (and their seeds spread) by their partner species like primates.

      Thanks for the book recommendation! Looks pretty interesting. Something I’ll have to keep in mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. One big piece of evidence for co-evolution is specificity of wavelengths, such as bees able perceive patterns in flowers that only appear if you can see into the ultraviolet range.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Cannot use your unsubscribe link because TOO MANY REDIRECTS which means you are selling data to other people who sell data, etc.



          2. Thanks. I appreciate your discussions and I’m grateful you liked my blog, but I only wanted to get email notification of any responses to my post.

            I used the link and did UNFOLLOW. I can check your blog directly anytime I want to read a discussion. Fascinating posts, but many lean heavily to theory.

            When I said “you” are selling data, I meant WordPress, whose link I was trying to use. They have begun to glom other aspects of the web — for example, my web site’s host now uses their software, replete with tons of options but also including forced changes to “skin” without due notification or choices.



            Liked by 1 person

      2. Quick question. Have you read anything to suggest that the range of wavelengths available to all organisms might be limited by the requirement that detection in a wavelength requires a suitable chemical that can be manufactured by a living organism and is able to react to the wavelength?

        Actually before I posted this comment I found a Quora answer that seems to address this:

        Why did all animals evolve to see around the visible light part of the spectrum?

        This is the range of wavelengths that the laws of physics and chemistry dictate will react with the types of molecules that biology is made of, enable detection mechanisms to evolve.

        Anything much shorter, into the UV range, and the energy levels rises rapidly to the point where the incoming photons start smashing biomolecules apart, and anything much lower, into the infrared and the energy drops too low to trigger reacts in biological molecules at all.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It makes sense that ultraviolet and shorter wavelengths are problematic because it’s ionizing radiation. Although it’s worth noting that many insects see into the ultraviolet. Their short lives might make them less vulnerable to the effects.

          But in terms of the upper bound, I think I read somewhere that biology focuses on the range it does because that’s where most of the radiation is in our environment (under our star and within our atmosphere) and so most of the easily available information.
          If we had evolved under a red dwarf, we might see more into the infrared. There are Earth animals who can see at least some infrared. Vampire bats is an example that comes to mind.

          All that said, I haven’t studied this carefully.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Both ultraviolet and infrared begin just at the edge of the visible human spectrum so it might be that the range for other species is just a tad broader than the human range. It’s amazing, however, how little of the EM spectrum is visible to humans. It would be interesting to see what the magnetic field looks like to the birds who can see it. Does it look like a weird color or black lines or what?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. This is interesting.


            Apparently humans don’t see UV because UV rays don’t pass through the cornea whereas in some animals they do. Some humans who have had their lenses surgically replaced are actually able to see UV. My guess is that the pigments picking up blue/violet must also react to UV. It is just that it never reaches the retina in normal human vision. Also, the UV that a cat sees, for example, is just slightly shorter in wavelength that what humans see.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. what is an interpretation in a physical world? it is a different way for different systems to react to the same circumstance.
      You can’t say that colors are interepretation because interpretations aren’t colored.


  12. Hello Riccardo,

    Apologies for the late comment in the Q & A, and I am sorry if any commenters came off as rude or abrasive. I read your paper in full, and it seems to me that the chief difference between your account and standard direct realism is the relativity hypothesis. It’s this criterion which is key, and which helps avoid the need for disjunctivism. I do think your criticism of representationalism or indirect realism, namely the issue that brain properties and experiential properties are radically unalike, can be solved however. But before I get into that, I have some comments/concerns about the mind-object identity theory:

    1. My first thought is that while technically your theory isn’t panpsychist, in the sense that it does not suppose that mental properties are fundamental (or even real), it is still profligate in its attribution of classical experiential properties (aka phenomenal character) which you attribute to object-object relations. If what we traditionally call phenomenal experience is just a matter of being in the right physical relation to an object, then any physical system will have the kind of qualities that we traditionally hold exclusive to the human mind. From my table’s point of view, it too “sees” the chair in front of it etc… This isn’t necessarily a critique of your theory, however.

    2. The first point is further exacerbated when we take into account hallucinations, dreams and other non-sensory experiences. You claim that this can be accounted for by incorporating temporal and spatial extension into our account of object-object relation. However, in allowing for arbitrarily large amounts of spatial and temporal “drift” in object-object correspondence, we have now opened up a can of worms. My criticism in my first point was that basically any physical system of objects will instantiate human-quality “experiences” (if we wish to call it that). But now the problem seems much more severe. If me dreaming up Harry Potter is actually a super complex system of existing spatiotemporally scattered physical parts that happen to coincide in the form of a physical system (which we call my dream), then the matter of object-object relation seems totally arbitrary.

    Basically, every object within a certain light cone is in some kind of causal contact with another kind of property, object, or object-part. So if you allow the kind of object-object correspondence that would have to take place in a dream, then it would seem that any physical object would instantiate a veritable infinity of possible object correspondences (which we traditionally call experiences). That’s profligacy to an extreme in my view. Any restriction on object-object relation that might attempt to alleviate this issue, on the other hand, is in danger of coming off as completely arbitrary.

    I think there are additional issues which 2 evinces that go beyond profligacy as well, for example issues having to do with the specificity and regularity of human experience (or at least what we call experience). If 2 is correct, then basically any conceivable system of object relations is being instantiated in our universe. But the system of object relations that we are acquainted with is highly irregular, specific, unified, and not at all arbitrary in that sense. As the objection in 2 notes, my body was, is, or will be in causal contact with virtually every object in my light cone. The problem is that this kind of extreme kind of distant causal contact seems to be sufficient to account for object-object relational correspondences on your view (in order to explain dreams and hallucinations). And this would lead to a veritable infinity of “experienced” object-object relations relative to my body.

    But I (meaning my body) don’t seem to experience a veritable infinity of object-object relations. Furthermore, my dreams (and my experiences more generally) only happen in very specific conditions, according to mechanical regularities that seem unrelated to the kind of object-object relations that you describe, but which seem very relevant to the operation of my brain.

    3. What about the existence of “phenomenal character” that goes beyond perception? For example, stuff life emotions, pain and pleasure? These don’t appear to be accounted for in your theory. So at the least we would have to say that your solution is incomplete, unless there’s something that I’m missing of course.

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss!



    Liked by 1 person

    1. (For anyone following this discussion, Dr. Manzotti replied to Alex, but inadvertently under a different thread started by me. His post was on Apr 5, and begins, “I do think your criticism of representationalism . . .”)

      Liked by 2 people

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.