Content individuation and evolutionary content emergence

Yujian ZHENG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This short paper addresses two connected issues which were brought to some focused light by Searle’s comments on my contributed article to the anthology Searle’s philosophy and Chinese Philosophy: Constructive Engagement. The first issue concerns the claim that animals cannot have observer-independent intentional content of the same type as that of human beings. The second is my denial that mental content can be merely caused in specific brain states, given its holistic and normative character. I defend my position on the second issue by distinguishing content individuation from content realization while I elaborate my relatively more sophisticated argument for the first claim by clarifying two related senses or levels of ‘content’ and ‘self’, respectively associated with certain quasi-rational capacities from a third-person perspective and the subjective holistic consciousness from a firstperson perspective with the explicit social-discursive dimension. Searle’s Connection Principle is briefly drawn on in this context, with an eye to showing its potential significance when it is extended into the evolutionary settings. In short, it is the fullblown rationality of human holistic discursive practice that ultimately grounds the content talk, which then becomes meaningfully ascribable to certain natural forms of animal existence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-132
Number of pages4
JournalComparative Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2017


  • content individuation
  • content realization
  • extended Connection Principle
  • holistic discursive practice


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