Murphy, Richard W.

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This mercifully brief excursion into philosophy of (congressional) mind starts with the premise that, although it is common to speak of legislative intent, an entity cannot form an intent without a mind to generate it. For those of a speculative bent who find themselves in work-voidance mode, this observation may spark questions concerning the mind/legislative-body problem. These questions apply broadly to all legislative bodies, but, without loss of generality and for ease of reference, one can focus them on Congress. Could Congress have a mind of its own? If it does, what is the qualitative nature of its mental experience - i.e., with due apologies to Professor Nagel, what is it like to be Congress? And what can reflection on the nature of such experience teach us about congressional intent?

Some short answers: Given how little we know about why some bits of organized matter generate consciousness, we cannot exclude the logical possibility that Congress does lead some sort of mental life. But, alas, we will never be able to determine with any clarity what it is like to be Congress - the nature of its intents, sense impressions, or feelings will remain forever obscure. That said, there is no good reason to think that being Congress is like being Albert Einstein, John Malkovich, or any particular congressperson. And, in the cheap-shot department, there is a tempting argument to be made that Congress's intents are about as rich and complex as a roundworm's.



legislative intent, neurons, Panpsychism, cry for help, unpublishable


Richard W. Murphy, NeuroCongress, 37 Seton Hall L. Rev. 221 (2006-2007).