On the Possibility of Plant Sentience

Paco Calvo, Minimal Intelligence Lab, University of Murcia


Subjectivity may be traced at various phylogenetic stages, with evolutionary biology putting the focus on the explosion of land vertebrate life. But the degree of sophistication of the perceptual apparatuses found in members of other biological kingdoms licenses the quest for the origins of mind beyond Animalia. Plants lack none of the functional structures allegedly needed, provided that the issue boils down in part to biomechanics, endogenous control, and navigation. The vascular system of plants forms a complex information-processing network that allows plants to coordinate and integrate information signaling from root to shoot, and to take appropriate action as the need arises. My talk suggests that consciousness can be studied from an ecological perspective by focusing on how different species perceive the affordances the environment offers. Considering that consciousness appears to play a role in prioritizing the order of an organism’s responses, this talk explores the very possibility of plant sentience.


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

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

Reber, A. S. (2018). The first minds: Caterpillars, ’karyotes, and consciousness. New York: Oxford University Press.