Formal causation in integrated information theory: an answer to the intrinsicality problem
Integrated Information Theory (IIT) stands out as one of the most promising theories for dealing with the hard problem of consciousness. Founded on five axioms derived from phenomenology, IIT seeks for the physical substrate of consciousness that complies with such axioms according to the criterion of maximally integrated information (phi). Eventually, IIT identifies phenomenal consciousness with maximal phi or, what is the same thing, with the strongest cause-effect power in the system. Among the scholars critical of this theory, some point to the so-called Intrinsicality Problem (IP), namely that consciousness cannot be an intrinsic property of the system because maximal phi crucially depends on the possible existence of bigger values of phi if the initial system is appropriately linked to or embedded in larger systems. Although proposals in the recent literature aim to solve the IP by going beyond reductionism and physicalism, none of them tackle the real issue, i.e., the insufficiency of IIT's causal-metaphysical structure. This papers endeavors to provide a solution to the IP in IIT within a hylomorphist ontology that includes formal causation. Complementing IIT with formal causation provides the theory with a criterion of individuation that solves the IP and, by relaxing identification between maximal phi and consciousness, it lends a more robust metaphysical structure. To wit, maximal phi is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the existence of consciousness.