Michael Tye (philosopher)

Michael Tye (born 1950) is a British philosopher who is currently Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. He has made significant contributions to the philosophy of mind.

Michael Tye
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolAnalytic philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of mind, consciousness, metaphysics

Education and career

Tye completed his undergraduate education at Oxford University in England, studying first physics and then physics and philosophy. He went on to complete a PhD in philosophy at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.[1] Before moving to Texas, Tye taught at Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia and Temple University in Philadelphia proper. He was also a visiting professor at King's College, London for some ten consecutive years while at Temple and briefly took up a chair at the University of St. Andrews. Besides philosophy of mind, Tye has interests in cognitive science, metaphysics, and philosophical logic, especially problems relating to vagueness.

Tye's third book, Ten Problems of Consciousness (1995), was an alternate selection of the Library of Science Book Club.

Philosophical work

Along with Fred Dretske and William Lycan, Tye defends the representationalist view of consciousness, more precisely what has been called the "strong" representationalist view, according to which "representation of a certain kind suffices for a sensory quality, where the kind can be specified in functionalist or other familiar materialist terms, without recourse to properties of any ontologically 'new' sort."[2]

Animal consciousness

Tye has authored papers on animal consciousness and pain in animals. He is the author of the book, Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs: Are Animals Conscious?, published in 2016. The book defends the hypothesis that consciousness extends a considerable way down the phylogenetic scale, focusing mainly on felt pain as criteria.[3][4][5] He states that we should attribute pain to animals if they behave similarly to humans in context where we know that humans feel pain.[6] He has reviewed scientific studies and concludes that arthropods, birds, mammals, reptiles and some fish are conscious.[4]

According to Tye, teleost fish feel pain but elasmobranchs and insects do not. Tye has commented that "insects do not react to treatment that would undoubtedly cause severe pain in mammals. So, there is reason to doubt that generally insects feel pain."[7] In Chapter 11 of Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs: Are Animals Conscious?, Tye argues in favour of vegetarianism.[5]

Tye's book has been reviewed in Metascience and PsycCRITIQUES.[4][8]


  • The Metaphysics of Mind (1989)
  • The Imagery Debate (1991)
  • Ten Problems of Consciousness (1995)
  • Consciousness, Color, and Content (2000)
  • Consciousness and Persons (2003)
  • Consciousness Revisited: Materialism without Phenomenal Concepts (2009)
  • Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs: Are Animals Conscious? (2016)

See also


  1. http://www.michaeltye.us/
  2. "Representational Theories of Consciousness". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. 2019.
  3. "Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs: Are Animals Conscious?". Oxford Scholarship Online. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  4. Boisvert, M. J. (2017). Befuddled by the question of animal consciousness (Review of the book Tense bees and shell-Shocked crabs: Are animals conscious?, by M. Tye). PsycCRITIQUES 62 (12). https://doi.org/10.1037/a0040777
  5. Klein, Colin. (2017). "Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs: Are Animals Conscious?". Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  6. Andrews, Kristin; Beck, Jacob. (2018). The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds. Routledge. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-138-82288-7
  7. "Are insects sentient? Commentary on Klein & Barron on Insect Experience". Animal Sentience 2016. 111.
  8. Monsó, Susana. (2017). To be rational, or not to be rational—that is the question. Metascience 26 (3): 487–491.
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