Was I Ever a Fetus?
Olson (Eric)
Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Mar97, Vol. 57 Issue 1, p95, 18p;
Paper - Abstract

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Philosopher’s Index Abstract

  1. Discusses the Standard View of personal identity where no person was ever a fetus1.
  2. Continuity of mental contents or capacities to exist now or in the future;
  3. Comparison to the popular assumption on the potential of a fetus2 to become a person;
  4. Comparison to the Biological View3.

Author’s Abstract
  1. The Standard View of personal identity says that someone who exists now can exist at another time only if there is continuity of her mental contents or capacities.
  2. But no person is psychologically continuous with a fetus4, for a fetus5, at least early in its career, has no mental features at all. So the Standard View entails that no person was ever a fetus6 – contrary to the popular assumption that an unthinking fetus7 is a potential person.
  3. It is also mysterious what does ordinarily happen to a human fetus8, if it does not come to be a person.
  4. Although an extremely complex variant of the Standard View may allow one to persist without psychological continuity9 before one becomes a person but not afterwards, a far simpler solution is to accept a radically non-psychological account of our identity.


See also "Olson (Eric) - Was I Ever a Fetus? (Human Animal)" and "Olson (Eric) - Was I Ever a Fetus? ('New Version')".

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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