Introduction (Full Text)
- The metaphysics of personal identity is rarely approached in a systematic way. The usual practice is to start with a question such as what our identity over time consists in, and canvass our opinions about a range of fictional “test cases” (is it the same person?). The view that does best by those opinions is then taken to answer the question. Whether that view fits into any wider metaphysical picture is left open.
- Hudson is more conscientious. He begins by developing a general ontology of material objects in response to a broad range of metaphysical considerations, most of which have nothing to do with people in particular. He then asks which of the things in this ontology we are. Our identity conditions and other properties of philosophical interest, he concludes, are the ones that the general metaphysic assigns to those objects. In this way he arrives at a view of personal identity that not only gives plausible accounts of who is who in science-fiction stories, but also is compatible with what he takes to be the best metaphysical principles all things considered.
- If more philosophers adopted this strategy, debates on personal identity would be a good deal more fruitful. I recommend Hudson’s book as an example of how metaphysics ought to be done. I can recommend it on other grounds too. It is beautifully written and very clear. It is packed with insightful arguments. And it is refreshingly honest. Most authors leave it to the reader to work out the implausible consequences of their views. Hudson openly concedes them. He merely argues that they are not as bad as they seem. I would happily buy a used car from him — though it may not be the car he recommends.
Review of "Hudson (Hud) - A Materialist Metaphysics of the Human Person"; Link, 2002
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