The Spread Mind: A Mind-Object identity theory

Currently, it is often held that the mind is either secreted by the brain or identical to the properties of neural activity.. So far, though, neuroscience has not been able to show any convincing motivations as to why consciousness should pop out of neural firings.

I pursue a different approach. I believe that the whole mind-body problem has been stubbornly ill-posed. We have never been able to find the mind inside the brain because the mind is not inside the body.

Consider a different approach - the mind is identical with the external object rather than with the body. Consciousness is thus physical but not neural. In this view, the neural activity is necessary but it is not the basis for the mind.

Therefore, I consider a radical hypothesis – namely that what is usually held to be inside our brain, our inner world, is rather the external world. According to this view, my experience is not an internal world secreted by neural activity, but rather the physical world surrounding our body (or a part of it). Thus I am literally spread around my body. This theory is called The Spread Mind.

The mind is like a rainbow.
The rainbow is outside of our body, but it is a piece of our mind.
Like a stream of water or a rainbow, the mind is physical but it is not neural.

Consider this example. I look at a red apple. What is my consciousness of the red apple? According to neuroscience, my conscious experience is the properties of the neural activity taking place inside my skull.

According to the Spread Mind, it is the red apple that is in front of my body. Thus, my experience is not inside my head, but rather it is in front of my eyes.

Riccardo Manzotti: The Spread Mind, How to Locate Consciousness in the Physical World from EMPAC @ Rensselaer on Vimeo.

Riccardo Manzotti, 19 May 2016


A few recent activities

In 2015, I have addressed the issue of negative afterimages underlying that 1) they do not conform to the traditional Herring's opponent color model, 2) they do not require any illusory mental image, 3) they are simply a case of locally filtered perception in the RGB space.

An almost complete overview of the Spread Mind at EMPAC(4 dec 2014).

A recent talk at MIT (7 dec 2014), "Hallucinations as perception of spatiotemporally gerrymandered objects", MP4 (117Mb)

A recent talk at MIT,"Appearance is Reality. The Spread Mind", LLAMM, Department of Linguistic and Philosophy, MIT, Cambridge (MA), MP3, PDF

My recent talk at the Dept. Literature, Philosophy, and the Arts (LPA), University of Michigan, Dearborn, MP3

A small program to generate color illusions here.

A recent talk at Palazzo Greppi (Milan, 2013), in Italian, on"Lo spazio politico della bellezza
A recent talk at the Cagliari University (Cagliari, 2013), in Italia, on machine consciousness.

These are two recent articles on the Spread Mind:
- Tim Parks' article on the New York Review of Books Blog
- ContraInfo's article in Spanish on the Spread Mind (la Conciencia Esparcida).

A talk (in Italian) I gave at the University of Cagliari on Machine Consciousness (pictures, audio (68 Mb)).

A recent overview of my view (in Italian) as part of a talk I gave in Trento (2012)
- Ontologia della mente cosciente (audio, 58 Mb)
- Ontologia della mente cosciente (video, 200 Mb)

This is my tutorial on machine consciousness at SMC2012, Seoul, October 2012
- Machine Consciousness A
- Machine Consciousness B

Here you can find a talk (2011) I gave in Jerusalem at the PsychoOntology Conference in Jerusalem on the"Physical foundations of the conscious mind", Youtube version
This is a new interview on the Spread Mind in three parts I gave in Munich in 2011: Spread Mind A, Spread Mind B,Spread Mind C
The podcast (MP3, 32 Mb) of my Tucson 2010 talk about the spread mind.
I have been working to the BICAIK, a bilateral Italian-Korean project aiming at designing and implementing conscious agents (BICAIK).

A few videos with some lectures on various topics are available here
- Shangai Lecture 2010
- Internalism vs. Externalism 2010
- Varieties of Externalism 2010
- The Spread Mind 2010
- Madrid Lecture on relational ontology 2008

A few cartoons about my standpoint are available here.

Since 2008 I've been teaching two courses each year:
- Neuroscienze della cognizione e della percezione at the University of Genova
- Psicologia della Percezione Artistica at the IULM University.

I am contributing with a journal on philosophy of Mind, AI, robotics, cognitive science:
The International Journal of Machine Consciousness.

In 2009, I chaired an ESF Exploratory Workhop on Neuroesthetics.

During 2008, among the other things, I attended to a Workshop on Machine Consciousness at Nokia; I've been invited to give a talk at the Winter APA Meeting in Philadelphia. In Italy I had the pleasure to participate to the Infinita...mente Festival in Verona.

In 2008 I co-authored with Vincenzo Tagliasco the book "L'esperienza. Perché i neuroni non spiegano tutto" (The experience. Why neurons do not explain everything). As you can imagine, we look for an explanation of consciousness which goes beyond the sometime limited scope of neuroscience.

During 2007, I co-chaired a symposium on the relation between consciousness and artificial intelligence at the AAAI Fall Symposia, Washington DC. Together with Antonio Chella, I am one of the editors of the book Artificial Consciousness (Imprint Academic, 2007).

In 2006, I published two papers on Journal of Consciousness Studies and on Mind and Matter. They both presents a new view on consciousness from two slightly different perspectives.

In 2005 I coorganized the International Workshop on Artificial Consciousness held in Agrigento. In the same year, I've been co-editor of a special Networks issue on consciousness. I also took part to the TSC2005 Copenhagen where a special special plenary session was devoted to externalism (Ted Honderich, Francois Tonneau and myself were the key speaker). If you want to know more click here.

Here you can find an interview of mine on the website of the Hybrid organization.

If you want to see a few pictures of mine, as well as a few personal details you can click here. And some old drawings of mine too.

What's up

in 2014 I spent a year at the MIT, Dept of Linguistic and Philosophy as a Fulbright Scholar working on "A radical externalist view of consciousness"

Currently, I am assistant professor of Psychology at the IULM University (Milan).



  • 28-29-20 July, "Approcci fisicalisti alla coscienza. Teorie dell'identità", at Scuola di filosofia Praxis, Forlì, Tecnica e Vita, 2016
  • 30-31 May, "Where and what is conscious experience? A mind-object identity approach", at "Inside out: Assessing the extended mind. Mind, language and material culture”, University of Catania May 30-31 2016
  • 14 April, "Verso una teoria dell'identità mente-oggetto" Dipartimento di Filosofia, Genova
  • 23 March, "Verso una teoria dell'identità mente-oggetto" Dipartimento di Filosofia, Pavia
  • 3 March, "Che cos'è l'esperienza? Verso una teoria dell'identità mente-oggetto" Dipartimento di Scienze Umane dell'Università degli Studi dell'Aquila, Aquila
  • 2 March, "La mente cosciente tra filogenesi e ontogenesi: specie, ambiente, corpo e cervello" ", Darwin Day, Università degli Studi dell'Aquila, Aquila




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