Anthony Collins on the Status of Consciousness

in Vivarium
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


Anthony Collins (1676-1729) maintains that consciousness might be a material process or result from material processes. On the one hand, Collins accepts Locke’s view that from consciousness, i.e., the activity of thinking, we acquire no knowledge about the nature of the thinking substance. On the other, he takes seriously Samuel Clarke’s challenge that the thinking substance must be suitably unified because consciousness is unified. In this paper, I argue that, throughout his correspondence with Clarke, Collins maintains that consciousness signifies actual thinking and does not refer to the capacity of thinking. His main materialist thesis is that the powers of parts of material systems can bring about unified powers and that the power of thinking may be such a power. Collins attempts to satisfy the unity requirement by arguing that a unity correspondence can obtain between consciousness and the power of thinking that is realized in a material composite.


A Journal for Medieval and Early-Modern Philosophy and Intellectual Life




See J.-P. Schachter, ‘Locke and the Achilles Argument’ in The Achilles of Rationalist Psychology, 115-131, for an informative discussion.


Locke, journal note, 20 February 1682, in An Early Draft of Locke’s Essay together with Excerpts from his Journals, ed. R.I. Aaron and J. Gibb (Oxford, 1936), 121-122.


Rozemond, ‘Achilles’, 166-168.


W. Uzgalis, ‘Anthony Collins on the Emergence of Consciousness and Personal Identity’, Philosophy Compass 4.2 (2009), 363-379, at 367.


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 4 4 3
Full Text Views 0 0 0
PDF Downloads 0 0 0
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0