Date of Award

Summer 8-13-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Eddy Nahmias

Second Advisor

Neil Van Leeuwen

Third Advisor

Daniel Weiskopf


Many well-known arguments in the philosophy of mind use thought experiments to elicit intuitions about consciousness. Often, these thought experiments include mechanistic explanations of a systems’ behavior. I argue that when we understand a system as a mechanism, we are not likely to understand it as an agent. According to Arico, Fiala, Goldberg, and Nichols’ (2011) AGENCY Model, understanding a system as an agent is necessary for generating the intuition that it is conscious. Thus, if we are presented with a mechanistic description of a system, we will be very unlikely to understand that system as conscious. Many of the thought experiments in the philosophy of mind describe systems mechanistically. I argue that my account of consciousness attributions is preferable to the “Simplicity Intuition” account proposed by David Barnett (2008) because it is more explanatory and more consistent with our intuitions. Still, the same conclusion follows from Barnett’s “Simplicity” account and from my own account: we should reassess the conclusions that have been drawn from many famous thought experiments.