The Theseans

In Greek myth, Theseus was an Athenian hero who sailed to Crete to slay the Minotaur, a half-man half-bull monster, who lived in the depths of an elaborate maze called the Labyrinth. King Minos of Crete had compelled the Athenians to send a regular tribute of young people to be fed to the Minotaur, but with guidance from Minos’ daughter Ariadne, Theseus navigated the maze and killed the beast.

The Theseans are a group of modern philosophers co-founded by Keith Frankish and Daniel Dennett in 2022. Theseans are fascinated by the maze of consciousness and determined to navigate it and slay the Phenotaur — the notion of qualia, to which many philosophical careers have been needlessly sacrificed. And, like Theseus, they have travelled to Crete in pursuit of this aim.

Theseans are anti-foundationalists, and they repair their ship (which resembles Neurath’s boat) while at sea.


To become a Thesean, you must meet the following two conditions:

  1. Be committed to the rejection of qualia realism, and, hence, to illusionism or an allied position. (As a rough guide, if you think that philosophical zombies are not clearly conceivable and that Mary would gain no new knowledge on leaving her room, then you meet this requirement.)
  2. Have either discussed consciousness in Crete or discussed consciousness in one-to-one zoom session with someone in Crete. Those who haven’t visited Crete in person should be committed to doing so if and when circumstances permit.

If you are broadly sympathetic to (1) but have reservations, you can become a Firm Friend of the Theseans and supply them with thread. Firm Friends must still meet condition (2).

Details of the Theseans’ activities will be posted on my blog. As you will have gathered, the group doesn’t take itself too seriously, though it is firmly committed to its philosophical project.

Contact me if you wish to join. Please attach a photo of yourself either (a) in Crete, (b) zooming with someone in Crete, or (c) with some Crete-related object (e.g., a Crete guidebook or a ball of thread).

The Theseans

Founding members

Keith Frankish (Sheffield), Daniel Dennett (Tufts).


Sean Crawford (Manchester), Adrien Doerig (Lausanne), François Kammerer (Bochum), Maria Kasmirli (Sheffield), Tarik LaCour (Texas A&M)*, Skye Longworth (Bristol), Pete Mandik (William Paterson)*, Matthias Michel (New York), Katarína Sklutová (Bratislava)*, David Vanegas-Moreno (Antioquia)*

* virtual member, who has yet to visit Crete in person.

Firm Friends (and suppliers of thread)

Tim Crane (CEU), Nicholas Humphrey (LSE), Stathis Psillos (Athens).


Daniel and Susan Dennett with Keith Frankish in Crete,
June 2018
Daniel Dennett and Keith Frankish at Arkadi, Crete, June 2018
François Kammerer (right) and Keith Frankish in Agios Myronas, Crete, in January 2019
Matthias Michel and Keith Frankish in Heraklion, Crete, February 2020
Nicholas Humphrey speaking at the ‘Phenomenality and Intentionality’ conference held in in Heraklion, Crete, in June 2012
Stathis Psillos and Keith Frankish in Platania, Crete, August 2019
Pete Mandik (right) in a zoom session with Keith in Crete in April 2022
Maria Kasmirli speaking on Crete TV in 2014
Sean Crawford with the ancient olive tree of Vouves, Crete, June 2019
Tim Crane (right) and Keith Frankish in Lassithi, Crete, 2009
Adrien Doerig at Kato Zakros in Eastern Crete
Katarína Sklutová at the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, where Theseus’s father waited for his return
David Vanegas-Moreno with an illustration of Theseus and the Minotaur and the Spanish version of Dennett’s Consciousness Explained.

Fan art

“A photograph of a minotaur whose lower half is the body is a man with legs but has a bull’s head wearing rainbow armor. He is throwing rainbows at qualia Sony a7r quality” Created by Ben Schulz using DALL·E, an AI system by OpenAI

The Labyrinth of the Mind.
Cartoon by Twitter user @Xanaxides