• Neil H. Kessler
Part of the AESS Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and Sciences Series book series (AESS)


The capacity for thought underpins relational closeness, yet theorists swayed by human/nature dualisms tend to deny thoughts to most beings. They do so based on the assumption that minds are exclusively the product of material structures that only human-like animals have. But, with human/nature dualisms eliminated, one doesn’t need a human-like neurophysiology or even any particular physiology to have a mind. In exploring the Theory of Mind and the “mind-brain problem,” critiques of the origin of the mind in supervenience, multiple realizability, and especially emergence theories reveal materialist fault lines. For example, emergence is ultimately an undefinable term used to cover the gap between human/nature dualist suggestions that minds are qualitatively different from brains yet are materially rooted in human-like ones. When such dualist explanations are removed, and being-neutral criteria applied, it’s not only possible for plants to have minds, but to entertain the same possibility in “inanimate” beings.


Theory of Mind Mind-brain problem Emergence Plant intelligence Plant neurobiology More-than-human cognition More-than-human consciousness Plant minds Criteria for more-than-human minds Criteria for more-than-human intelligence 


  1. Adams, D. K. (1928). The inference of mind. Psychological Review, 35(3), 235–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adler, R. W. (2007). Restoring Colorado river ecosystems: A troubled sense of immensity. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  3. Alexander, S. (1920). Space, time, and deity: The Gifford lectures at Glasgow, 1916–1918. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  4. Automaton. (2018, June). Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from
  5. Backster, C. (1968). Evidence of a primary perception in plant life. International Journal of Parapsychology, 10(4), 329–348.Google Scholar
  6. Baluška, F., Mancuso, S., & Volkmann, D. (2005). Communication in plants. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  7. Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bennett, J. (2010). A vitalist stopover on the way to a new materialism. In D. Coole & S. Frost (Eds.), New materialisms: Ontology, agency, and politics (pp. 47–69). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berry, D. L. (2012). Mutuality: The vision of Martin Buber. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bickle, J. (2013). Multiple realizability. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition). Retrieved from
  11. Buber, M. (1970). I and thou. (W. Kaufmann, Trans.). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. (Original work published 1923).Google Scholar
  12. Buber, M. (2003). Between man and man. (R. Gregor-Smith Trans.). London: Routledge. (Original work published 1947).Google Scholar
  13. Callaway, R. M., Pennings, S. C., & Richards, C. L. (2003). Phenotypic plasticity and interactions among plants. Ecology, 84(5), 1115–1128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Calvo Garzón, F. (2007). The quest for cognition in plant neurobiology. Plant Signaling & Behavior, 2(4), 208–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Calvo Garzón, P., & Keijzer, F. (2011). Plants: Adaptive behavior, root-brains, and minimal cognition. Adaptive Behavior, 19(3), 155–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carello, C., Vaz, D., Blau, J. J., & Petrusz, S. (2012). Unnerving intelligence. Ecological Psychology, 24(3), 241–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carruthers, P. (2004). On being simple minded. American Philosophical Quarterly, 41(3), 205–220.Google Scholar
  18. Casacuberta, D., Ayala, S., & Vallverdú, J. (2010). Embodying cognition: A morphological perspective. In J. Vallverdú (Ed.), Thinking machines and the philosophy of computer science: Concepts and principles (pp. 344–366). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chapin, F. S., Walker, L. R., Fastie, C. L., & Sharman, L. C. (1994). Mechanisms of primary succession following deglaciation at Glacier Bay, Alaska. Ecological Monographs, 64(2), 149–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Chen, B. J., During, H. J., & Anten, N. P. (2012). Detect thy neighbor: Identity recognition at the root level in plants. Plant Science, 195, 157–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Collins, N. L., & Feeney, B. C. (2000). A safe haven: An attachment theory perspective on support seeking and caregiving in intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(6), 1053–1073.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cruse, H., & Wehner, R. (2011). No need for a cognitive map: Decentralized memory for insect navigation. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(3), e1002009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cudworth, E., & Hobden, S. (2015). Liberation for Straw Dogs? Old materialism, new materialism, and the challenge of an emancipatory posthumanism. Globalizations, 12(1), 134–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Cunningham, S. (2000). What is a mind?: An integrative introduction to the philosophy of mind. Cambridge, MA: Hackett Publishing.Google Scholar
  25. Griffin, D. R. (1981). The question of animal awareness: Evolutionary continuity of mental experience. New York: Rockefeller University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Griffin, D. R. (2013). Animal minds: Beyond cognition to consciousness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Gruntman, M., & Novoplansky, A. (2004). Physiologically mediated self/non-self discrimination in roots. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(11), 3863–3867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hasker, W. (2001). The emergent self. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Keller, E. F. (1983). A feeling for the organism, 10th anniversary edition: The life and work of Barbara McClintock. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company.Google Scholar
  30. Kessler, N. (2012). Chaos or Relationalism? A Pragmatist Metaphysical Foundation for Human-Nature Relationships. The Trumpeter, 28(1), 43–75.Google Scholar
  31. Kim, J. (1997). The mind-body problem: Taking stock after forty years. Noûs, 31(s11), 185–207.Google Scholar
  32. Kim, J. (2000). Mind in a physical world: An essay on the mind-body problem and mental causation. Cambridge, MA: MIT press.Google Scholar
  33. Likens, G. E., Bormann, F. H., Johnson, N. M., Fisher, D., & Pierce, R. S. (1970). Effects of forest cutting and herbicide treatment on nutrient budgets in the Hubbard Brook watershed-ecosystem. Ecological Monographs, 40(1), 23–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lisci, M., Monte, M., & Pacini, E. (2003). Lichens and higher plants on stone: A review. International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation, 51(1), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marder, M. (2012). Plant intentionality and the phenomenological framework of plant intelligence. Plant Signaling & Behavior, 7(11), 1365–1372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McGinn, C. (2005). Can we solve the mind-body problem? In T. O'Connor & D. Robb (Eds.), Philosophy of mind: Contemporary readings (pp. 438–457). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Nagel, A. H. (1997). Are plants conscious? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 4(3), 215–230.Google Scholar
  38. Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics & moral education. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  39. Nollman, J. (1987). Animal dreaming: (The art and science of interspecies communication). New York: Bantam.Google Scholar
  40. O’Connor, T. (1994). Emergent properties. American Philosophical Quarterly, 31(2), 91–104.Google Scholar
  41. Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Peirce, C. S. (1960). Collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (C. Hartshorne, P. Weiss, & A. W. Burks, Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Popper, K. R. (1977). Part I. In K. R. Popper & J. C. Eccles (Eds.), The self and its brain (pp. 3–224). Berlin: Springer International.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Robb, D., & Heil, J. (2013). Mental causation. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition). Retrieved from
  45. Rowlands, M. (2010). The new science of the mind: From extended mind to embodied phenomenology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sanders, C. R. (2003). Actions speak louder than words: Close relationships between humans and nonhuman animals. Symbolic Interaction, 26(3), 405–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Scientific Method. (2018, June). Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from
  48. Sperry, R. W. (1969). A modified concept of consciousness. Psychological Review, 76(6), 532–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sperry, R. W. (1980). Mind-brain interaction: Mentalism, yes; dualism, no. Neuroscience, 5(2), 195–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sperry, R. W. (1987). Structure and significance of the consciousness revolution. The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 8(1), 37–65.Google Scholar
  51. Thomas, L. (1971). The lives of a cell: Notes of a biology watcher. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  52. Trewavas, A. (1999). Le calcium, C’est la vie: Calcium makes waves. Plant Physiology, 120(1), 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Trewavas, A. (2002). Plant intelligence: Mindless mastery. Nature, 415(6874), 841–841.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Trewavas, A. (2003). Aspects of plant intelligence. Annals of Botany, 92(1), 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Trewavas, A. (2005). Plant intelligence. Naturwissenschaften, 92(9), 401–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Uttal, W. R. (2005). Neural theories of mind: Why the mind-brain problem may never be solved. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil H. Kessler
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and the EnvironmentUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations