CFP: Special Issue Plant Sentience/Consciousness (Journal of Consciousness Studies)

Submission deadline: June 1, 2020

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Call for Papers

Special Issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies

Plant Sentience: Theoretical and Empirical Issues

Guest Editors:
Vicente Raja (Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Western University)
Miguel Segundo-Ortin (School of Liberal Arts, University of Wollongong)

Recently, scientists have started paying attention to a series of organisms that have traditionally deemed cognitively un-interesting. Plants are among these organisms. The current scientific evidence seems to show that plants are not merely reactive organisms and that the way they interact with the environment is far more complex than we initially assumed. We know, for example, that plants do not react to the environmental impingements on a one-by-one basis. Rather, they seem to be able to integrate information from multiple vectors, eliciting sophisticated responses (at the level of physiology, morphology, and phenotype) to maximize fitness (Trewavas, 2014). Plants seem to also be able to anticipate upcoming events (Novoplansky, 2016) and to show some communicative skills (Falik et al., 2012). Likewise, the empirical evidence suggests that they are able to memorize and learn from previous experiences, having found evidence of associative and non-associative learning in Mimosa pudica and garden pea (Gagliano et al., 2014; 2016). This scientific evidence has called the attention of philosophers, initiating the debate about whether plants can be considered intelligent in a proper, non-metaphorical way (Adams, 2018; Segundo-Ortin & Calvo, 2019).

A much less explored issue is, however, whether plants are conscious (whether they have subjective, phenomenal experience of the world). In 2017, Calvo [this journal] defended the possibility that plants could be subjectively aware or conscious of the world. Calvo argues that plants lack none of the functional structures supposedly needed to have phenomenal consciousness, and, then, that there is no solid reason to neglect, before serious engagement and investigation, such a possibility (see also Calvo et al., 2017). This idea has recently been further explored and challenged (see, e.g., Maher, 2018; Taiz et al., 2019), which shows that the topic of plant sentience/consciousness is currently a matter of controversy.

In this special issue, we seek to address the issue of plant sentience/consciousness from different disciplines that combine both theoretical and empirical perspectives. Some of the questions to be addressed in the special issue include the following: 

·      Plants exhibit interesting behaviors; does it entail they are conscious to some extent? 

·      What are the requirements for a living organism to be conscious? Do plants meet these requirements? 

·      What does the possibility of plant sentience/consciousness entail for the studies of the evolution of consciousness? 

·      It is just a categorical mistake to attribute consciousness to plants?

·      Can we talk about different levels or degrees of consciousness?

Several authors have already confirmed their contribution to this special issue: Paco CalvoEva Jablonka & Simona GinsburgMonica Gagliano & Pamela Lyon, and Chauncey Maher

How to submit?

Deadline: June 1st, 2020

Please submit your papers (max. 9000 words including footnotes, references, abstract, etc.) to [email protected] with subject “Paper Special Issue JCS”. 

For more information, including bibliography and more detailed descriptions of the topics and questions to be addressed in the papers submitted to the special issue, please contact the guest editors at [email protected] (Vicente) or [email protected] (Miguel).


Adams, F. (2018). Cognition wars. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 68, 20-30.

Calvo, P. (2017). What is it like to be a plant? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 24(9-10), 205-227.

Calvo, P., Sahi, V. P., & Trewavas, A. (2017). Are plant sentient? Plant. Cell & Environment, 40(11), 2858-2869.

Falik, O., Mordoch, Y., Ben-Natan, D., …, & Novoplansky, A. (2012). Plant responsiveness to root-root communication of stress cues. Annals of Botany, 110, 271-280.

Gagliano, M., Renton, M., Depczynski, M., & Mancuso, S. (2014). Experience teaches plants to learn faster and forget slower in environments where it matters. Oecologia, 175(1), 63-72.

Gagliano, M., Vyazovskiy, V. V., Borbély, A. A., Grimonprez, M., & Depczynski, M. (2016). Learning by association in plants. Scientific Reports, 6, 38427.

Maher, C. (2018). Plant minds: A philosophical defense. New York: Routledge.

Novoplansky, A. (2016). Future perception in plants. In N. Mihai (Ed.), Anticipation Across Disciplines (pp. 57-70). New York: Springer.

Segundo-Ortin, M. & Calvo, P. (2019). Are plants cognitive? A reply to Adams. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 73, 64-71.

Trewavas, A. (2014). Plant behaviour and intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Taiz, L., Alkon, D., Draguhn, A., …, & Robinson, D. G. (2019). Plants neither possess nor require consciousness. Trends in Plant Science, 24(8), 677-687

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