In addition to consciousness, we also experience intention and purpose. We experience these within ourselves, and we can effectively interpret the actions of others by presuming that they too embody the same qualities. Philosopher Bryan Magee gives an example. If the human body sitting across the room from me raises itself out of its chair into an erect position, transports itself across the room to a table, locates a silver box, removes acigarette, and places it into its mouth, I know that these events are occurring because the embodied object that I call a person wants a cigarette. I know what the other person is doing even if I have never smoked a cigarette in my life. Magee observes that if we were to try to give a purely scientific account of this event in terms of atomic motion and molecular transactions, it would be totally incomprehensible.” We simply cannot understand other people as consisting of matter alone. Pinker admits that “human behavior makes the most sense when it is explained in terms of beliefs and desires, not in terms of volts and grams.”

The materialist or “objective” understanding of human experience seems inadequate because we experience our lives as a unity. I have a multitude of different feelings and thoughts and experiences, but I experience them all within a single unified field, what Kant somewhat grandiosely calls the “transcendental unity of apperception.” The matter that makes up my body changes constantly, and yet I remain the same person. First I was young, now I am middle-aged, and one day I will be old, but through all these transformations I remain “Dinesh.” If I meet my college roommate, whom I haven’t seen for twenty-five years, at the airport, I might be surprised to see that he now has gray hair and weighs a lot more than he used to, but I don’t react to this by saying, “Who on earth are you?” I recognize that he is still my old roommate, no matter how much his physical constitution may have deteriorated over the years.