Precis of "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
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  1. Persons and Bodies develops and defends an account of persons and of the relation between human persons and their bodies. According to the Constitution View of human persons, as I call it, a human person is a person in virtue of having a first-person perspective, and is a human person in virtue of being constituted by a human body (or human animal).
  2. Thus, the Constitution View aims to give our animal natures their due, while recognizing what makes human persons ontologically distinctive. The Constitution View contrasts with two other leading accounts of human persons: Animalism and Immaterialism. Like Animalism but unlike Immaterialism, the Constitution View holds that human persons are material beings; like Immaterialism but unlike Animalism, the Constitution View holds that we are not identical to the animals that constitute us. This, of course involves self-reference, but it is self-reference of a distinctive kind.
  3. On the one hand, human persons are constituted by human animals, and hence cannot escape their animal natures; on the other hand, there is more to human persons than their animal natures. What sets human persons apart from other animals has nothing to do with anything immaterial; rather what sets us apart is the ability that underlies our asking, “What am I?” That ability is a first-person perspective. First-person perspectives may well be the result of natural selection; but what is relevant here is not where they came from, but what they are and the difference that they make in what there is.
  4. So, there are two theoretical ideas needed for the Constitution View of human persons: the idea of a first-person perspective, the property in virtue of which a being (human or not) is a person, and the idea of constitution, the relation between a human person and her body.
Contents AnalysisDetailed Contents Analysis

Now turn to Persons and Bodies in greater detail.
  1. Chapter 1
    • Sets out the task. Persons and Bodies will answer three questions: What I am most fundamentally? What is a person? How are human persons related to their bodies?
  2. Chapter 2
    • Provides a technical account of the idea of constitution. The basic idea of constitution is this: when certain kinds of things are in certain kinds of circumstances, things of new kinds, with new kinds of causal powers, come into existence. For example, when a certain combination of chemicals is in a certain environments, a thing of a new kind—an organism—comes into existence. A world without organisms, even if it contained the “right” combination of chemicals but in the “wrong” environment, would not have the same things in it as a world with organisms. So, constitution makes an ontological difference. It guarantees ontological plurality.
    • The relationship of constitution is ubiquitous. It is not peculiar to human persons and their bodies. It holds between rivers and aggregates of water molecules, between statues and pieces of marble, between genes and groups of DNA molecules, between stop signs and octagonal pieces of metal. If x constitutes y at t, then x and y are spatially coincident at t, but they not identical. If x constitutes y at t, then x and y have different persistence conditions. Identity is a necessary relation; constitution is contingent. (Indeed, I use the notion of constitution to solve problems that others try to solve by notions of contingent identity, temporal identity, relative identity and so on. The idea of constitution has an advantage over these other views in that the idea of constitution does not compromise the classical notion of identity in its strict Leibnizian form.) I provide a definition of ‘x constitutes y at t’ in order to show that the idea of constitution-without-identity does not suffer from obvious incoherence.
    • If x constitutes y at t, then x and y share many of their properties: x weighs 100 lbs. at t if and only if y weighs 100 lbs. at t; x is worth $10,000 at t if and only if y is worth $12,000 at t. Each of these properties has its source in either x or y. If a piece of bronze constitutes a statue at t, then what exists at t is a statue-constituted-by-a-piece-of-bronze, whose weight has its source in its being (constituted by) a piece of bronze, and whose value (usually) has its source in its being a statue. This observation leads to the notion of ‘having properties derivatively.’ The piece of bronze has its weight nonderivatively; the statue has its weight derivatively. The statue has its value nonderivatively; the piece of bronze has its weight derivatively. To have a property derivatively is to constitute, or be constituted by, something that has the property independently of its constitution-relations. Only some properties are subject to being had derivatively. All this is spelled out in two definitions. The notion of having a property derivatively explains why if x and y both weigh 100 lbs. at t, and x and y are not identical, it does not follow that there is an object that weighs 200 lbs. where x is at t.
    • The idea of constitution is decidedly nonreductive. As long as x constitutes y, x has no independent existence. If x continues to exist after the demise of y, then x comes into its own, existing independently. But during the period that x constitutes y, “what the thing really is”—y, constituted by x—is determined by the identity of y. So, what is in front of you when you go to a museum is a statue (constituted, perhaps, by a piece of bronze). What the thing most fundamentally is a statue; but it is constituted by a piece of bronze.
  3. Chapter 3
    • Develops the notion of a first-person perspective. A first-person perspective is the ability to think of—to conceive of—oneself in the first-person without recourse to any name or description or demonstrative. A first-person perspective is necessary for any form of self-consciousness, and is sufficient for some forms of self-consciousness. Evidence that a being has a first-person perspective comes from the person’s ability to think a thought expressible as, e.g., “I wonder how I shall die.” The second occurrence of ‘I’ in a first-person sentence, with a psychological or linguistic verb and an embedded first-person sentence indicates that the being has a first-person perspective.
    • Nonhuman animals are conscious (some chimpanzees may even be able to refer to themselves), but as far as we can tell, they do not have first-person perspectives in this sense. They don’t wonder how they will die, or hope that they have a painless death or any other such thing. I argue for the irreducibility of the first-person perspective, and argue that other views of self-consciousness (e.g., Rosenthal’s, Armstrong’s, Dennett’s) are inadequate.
  4. Chapter 4
    • Applies the notions of constitution and of a first-person perspective to the issue of human persons. A person is a being with first-person perspective; a human person (at t) is a person constituted by a human body (at t). Human persons are essentially embodied; they can never exist without some body or other, but they do not necessarily have the bodies that in fact constitute them. E.g., it is possible that parts of a person’s human body are replaced by bionic parts until the person is no longer human; still the same person would continue to exist (now constituted by a bionic body) as long as the first-person perspective stayed intact.
    • So, although a human person cannot exist unembodied, she may come to be constituted by a different body from the one that actually constitutes her. If she came to be constituted by a bionic body, she would no longer be a human person. But she would still be a person as long as she existed. A human person is most fundamentally a person, not an animal—just as a bronze statue is most fundamentally a statue, not a piece of bronze. Two separate human persons that exist at the same time are individuated by their bodies. A human person’s body at a time distinguishes her from all other separate persons at that time.
    • A human person and the body that constitutes her are a unity, in the same way that a bronze statue and the piece of bronze that constitutes it are a unity. Unlike the statue, however, I have a first-person relation to my body. Properties that my body has nonderivatively are my properties derivatively. E.g., I have the property of being left-handed and of having brown eyes derivatively; the nonderivative bearer of these properties is my body. When I attribute to myself such properties, I am thinking of myself-as-my-body. On the other hand, .I have the property of being employed or of having asked a question nonderivatively; my body is the derivative bearer of these properties. When I attribute to my body properties that I have nonderivatively, I am thinking of my-body-as-myself.
  5. Chapter 5
    • Discusses the vexing problem of personal identity over time. In virtue of what is a person P1 at t1 the same person as a person P2 at t2? I canvass candidate answers to this question, and show that each fails:
      … 1) sameness of person consists in sameness of body,
      … 2) sameness of person consists in sameness of living organism (Animalism),
      … 3) sameness of person consists in sameness of brain,
      … 4) sameness of person consists in psychological continuity,
      … 5) sameness of person consists in sameness of immaterial soul.
    • Then, I discuss my own view: sameness of person consists in sameness of first-person perspective. Alas, my own view does not provide an informative criterion either. Although I can characterize noncircularly what it is to have a first-person perspective at a time, I know of no noncircular characterization of sameness of first-person perspective over time. Since nobody has an adequate and informative criterion of personal identity over time, I conclude that there is no adequate and informative criterion of personal identity over time: Sameness of person is not reducible to sameness of anything nonpersonal.
    • Nevertheless, construing personal identity in terms of sameness of first-person perspective has its advantages. First, it avoids problems besetting the other views (e.g., species chauvinism, the duplication problem). Second, it accords well with our self-understanding: there is a fact of the matter whether some future individual is I, and that fact of the matter does not depend on the nonexistence of someone else. Finally, the idea of sameness of first-person perspective ties what it is to be a person over time with what it is to be a person in the first place.
  6. Chapter 6
    • Discusses the importance of personhood. Only persons can be moral agents or rational agents. Persons have many cognitive and practical abilities that beings lacking first-person perspectives lack. Only beings with first-person perspectives can know that they are going to die; only such beings can envisage alternative possibilities for their own futures, or seek self-understanding. Only beings with first-person perspectives can have ideals or can try to change themselves to conform better to their ideals. Human persons are not only the products of evolution, but (unlike any other finite beings) only human persons can deliberately change the course of evolution—not only by artificial breeding, but more directly by genetic engineering.
  7. Chapter 7
    • Defends the coherence of the general idea of constitution (without identity) from a number of published criticisms. Here are two examples. First is the criticism that two things consisting of the same atoms (e.g., a statue and a piece of bronze) cannot differ in kind; this criticism is answered by a discussion of essential properties. Second is the criticism from counting: that if x is spatially coincident with y, and x not = y, and x is a statue and y is a statue, then where x is there are two statues. The second criticism is answered by a discussion of the distinction between having a property derivatively and having a property nonderivatively. Also, Chapter 7 discusses criticisms stemming from mereology and supervenience.
  8. Chapter 8
    • Defends the coherence of the application of the idea of constitution to human persons. I discuss the misleading conception of constitution (which I have spelled out in detail) as mere coincidence of two different things, another version of the “how many” problem, a charge of linguistic incoherence stemming from the reference of ‘I’. I show at length that the Constitution View has a coherent account of the relation between an early-term fetus and the person that it comes to constitute later. Finally, I reply to a counterexample concerning ghosts made of ectoplasm.
  9. Chapter 9
    • Concludes the book with reasons to accept the Constitution View. It really is a materialistic view. It can accomplish almost everything that a dualist wants without the burden of dualism. It takes persons seriously in a specified sense: Being a person is relevant to the fundamental kind of individual that one is; elimination of any person would be elimination of an individual; having mental states is relevant to what a person is. No other materialist view takes persons seriously in all three of these respects.
    • The Constitution View explains how it is that, although we are set apart by our first-person perspectives, we are still animals. Hence, the Constitution View locates human persons in the material world. The general idea of constitution (without identity) allows for a metaphysics that is both materialistic and nonreductive. This general conception of constitution supports an ontological pluralism that honors the genuine variety of kinds of individuals in the world.

Comment:


Write-up1 (as at 04/07/2014 22:46:34): Baker - Persons and Bodies - Precis

This Note reviews a full and well-structured précis by Baker of her Book ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Precis of "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View""), submitted to initiate an e-Symposium (see Web Link; logged as a pseudo-book – "Baker (Lynne Rudder), Etc. - E-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View""), convened in 2001 to review "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View". I’ve included below the full text, with annotations as bullets below the numbered sections of Baker’s text. For standard abbreviations2, follow the link.
  1. Persons and Bodies develops and defends an account of persons and of the relation between human persons and their bodies. According to the Constitution View of human persons, as I call it, a human person is a person in virtue of having a first-person perspective, and is a human person in virtue of being constituted by a human body (or human animal).
    TT Notes
    • Note that Baker seems to think it a small matter whether it’s the animal or the body that constitutes the human person. Yet these would seem to have different persistence conditions, so are not the same sort. This distinction is important to Olson.
    • I’m tempted to equate organism and animal here, though others might not. This is what drives a wedge between bodies and animals, because animals are organisms, whereas bodies are not.
    • Baker’s book has “Bodies” in its title, rather than “Animals” or “Organisms”. How important is this (for Baker)?
  2. Thus, the Constitution View aims to give our animal natures their due, while recognizing what makes human persons ontologically distinctive. The Constitution View contrasts with two other leading accounts of human persons: Animalism and Immaterialism. Like Animalism but unlike Immaterialism, the Constitution View holds that human persons are material beings; like Immaterialism but unlike Animalism, the Constitution View holds that we are not identical to the animals that constitute us.
    TT Notes
    • The text terminated with a fragment here: “of course involve self-reference, but it is self-reference of a distinctive kind”. I’m not sure3 where, if anywhere, this was supposed to go. Presumably it should start with “This”.
    • As usual with Baker, “our animal natures” has a pejorative note. She doesn’t really accept that we are really special animals, so that what is ontologically distinctive is the animal, with its special properties, and not some other thing.
    • Does Baker define what she means by animalism? I take it that it’s the view that we are (identical to) animals, and may (at stages of our lives) be persons – a quality or property rather than an ontological kind. As such, we may at times have a first-person perspective (FPP).
    • Does Baker hold that human persons are essentially material beings, and essentially human?
    • What does Baker mean by immaterialism? Is it the psychological view (almost certainly not, as this can be materialist), dualist (pseudo-Cartesian?) or idealist? Or, since Baker doesn’t hold any of these views, does it not matter which?
  3. On the one hand, human persons are constituted by human animals, and hence cannot escape their animal natures; on the other hand, there is more to human persons than their animal natures. What sets human persons apart from other animals has nothing to do with anything immaterial; rather what sets us apart is the ability that underlies our asking, “What am I?” That ability is a first-person perspective. First-person perspectives may well be the result of natural selection; but what is relevant here is not where they came from, but what they are and the difference that they make in what there is.
    TT Notes
    • Just what are the animal natures we can’t escape? Has this to do with sin?
    • Baker doesn’t take seriously the view that animals differ. Both slugs and elephants are animals, and it seems that elephants understand death – because they mourn (as do primates) – so how do we know they don’t anticipate their own deaths? Would baker be happy with non-human animal persons? If so, the contrast isn’t really with animals, but with non-persons; and this might just reduce – as previously noted – to personhood as a special property of animals (and maybe other beings).
    • Why is asking the question “What am I?” so very (ontologically) distinctive? Do all (normal) human beings ask this question? What about feral children? Is it cultural? How do we know?
    • I agree that origins aren’t the issue; but it’s about whether we’re talking of a thing, or a property of a thing, however it came about.
  4. So, there are two theoretical ideas needed for the Constitution View of human persons: the idea of a first-person perspective, the property in virtue of which a being (human or not) is a person, and the idea of constitution, the relation between a human person and her body.
    TT Notes
    • So, Baker admits the FPP is a property of a (human) being.
    • Baker insists that the constitution relation is between a human person and her body, rather than animal.
    • Constitution is covered later, but it looks as though human persons have (according to Baker) lots of animal properties (derivatively). Are these aspects of their (human) personhood, or just of their animality?
    • Might I not accept all this – the ontological pretensions aside? Is a student constituted by anything; the animal or the person? Yet the whole view seems to give ontological priority to “something that’s not a thing at all”. The thing is the human being, which has the property of being a student.
    • Note that the “student” counter-example is raised by Olson, and rejected by Baker.
  5. Part I, “The Metaphysical Background” (Chapters 1-3), explores and defends the two theoretical ideas. Part II, “The Constitution View Explained” (Chapters 4-6), uses these two ideas to give an account of human persons. Part III, “The Constitution View Defended” (Chapters 7-9), argues for the coherence of the general idea of constitution-without-identity and the coherence of the application of that idea to the notion of human persons; finally, it argues directly for the Constitution View by contrasting it with its competitors, Animalism and Immaterialism. Now turn to Persons and Bodies in greater detail.
    TT Notes
  6. Chapter 1 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons in the Material World") sets out the task. Persons and Bodies will answer three questions: What I am most fundamentally? What is a person? How are human persons related to their bodies?
    TT Notes
    • Olson doesn’t like the “most fundamentally” rider. Is this question simply asking what is my primary kind? I think Baker uses this expression. So, Baker is saying that PERSON is a kind – but if so, wouldn’t all persons have the same persistence conditions? Maybe (for Baker) they do. Olson notes that gods and animals have different PCs, but this is qua gods and animals. Qua person, according to Baker, they persist as long as they maintain the same FPP. Of course, it’s obscure just what this sameness of FPP consists in.
  7. Chapter 2 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Very Idea of Constitution") provides a technical account of the idea of constitution. The basic idea of constitution is this: when certain kinds of things are in certain kinds of circumstances, things of new kinds, with new kinds of causal powers, come into existence. For example, when a certain combination of chemicals is in a certain environments, a thing of a new kind – an organism – comes into existence. A world without organisms, even if it contained the “right” combination of chemicals but in the “wrong” environment, would not have the same things in it as a world with organisms. So, constitution makes an ontological difference. It guarantees ontological plurality.
    TT Notes
    • So – according to Baker – an organism is “constituted by” its chemicals? It’s true that an organism is not identical to its chemicals – because it can lose or gain matter. So, while it is constituted by chemicals, it is not constituted by any bunch of chemicals in particular (though it is constituted by certain types of chemicals).
    • While “new causal powers” is important to constitution, it’s a thorny issue. I suspect that there are different forms of causation that are confused. For instance:-
    • What causal powers do (human) persons have over and above those of the (human) animals that constitute them.
    • Do statues have any causal powers over and above the matter that constitutes them. No doubt Baker thinks that they “cause” people to steal them, on account of their relation to an art-world. But are the causative powers really in them, or in the world in which they are embedded? It certainly seems to be different from the causative powers of an animal, which does things using its own resources. Tied in with agency / patiency and the philosophy of action generally?
    • Note that "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons" denies existence to proposed entities without (extra) causal powers; statues being one kind rejected.
  8. The relationship of constitution is ubiquitous. It is not peculiar to human persons and their bodies. It holds between rivers and aggregates of water molecules, between statues and pieces of marble, between genes and groups of DNA molecules, between stop signs and octagonal pieces of metal. If x constitutes y at t, then x and y are spatially coincident at t, but they not identical. If x constitutes y at t, then x and y have different persistence conditions. Identity is a necessary relation; constitution is contingent. (Indeed, I use the notion of constitution to solve problems that others try to solve by notions of contingent identity, temporal identity, relative identity and so on. The idea of constitution has an advantage over these other views in that the idea of constitution does not compromise the classical notion of identity in its strict Leibnizian form.) I provide a definition of ‘x constitutes y at t’ in order to show that the idea of constitution-without-identity does not suffer from obvious incoherence.
    TT Notes
    • I suspect that there are lots of different meanings that can be given to constitution, some less objectionable than others.
    • Just what is supposed to be going on? Is this some sort of emergence of properties? Is constitution “matter plus organisation” or “thing plus further organisation”?
    • Rivers are not constituted by their water molecules, but additionally by their sediments, not to mention their banks, beds and locations. Also, as they are vague objects, there may be conventional elements (just where does the Nile start?). I’m not sure how pervasive these issues are.
    • Note (as usual) that the constitution relation between statues and marble can involve pieces or portions – portions have their parts essentially, while pieces don’t. Can statues be said to be constituted by either?
  9. If x constitutes y at t, then x and y share many of their properties: x weighs 100 lbs. at t if and only if y weighs 100 lbs. at t; x is worth $10,000 at t if and only if y is worth $12,000 at t. Each of these properties has its source in either x or y. If a piece of bronze constitutes a statue at t, then what exists at t is a statue-constituted-by-a-piece-of-bronze, whose weight has its source in its being (constituted by) a piece of bronze, and whose value (usually) has its source in its being a statue. This observation leads to the notion of ‘having properties derivatively.’ The piece of bronze has its weight nonderivatively; the statue has its weight derivatively. The statue has its value nonderivatively; the piece of bronze has its weight derivatively. To have a property derivatively is to constitute, or be constituted by, something that has the property independently of its constitution-relations. Only some properties are subject to being had derivatively. All this is spelled out in two definitions. The notion of having a property derivatively explains why if x and y both weigh 100 lbs. at t, and x and y are not identical, it does not follow that there is an object that weighs 200 lbs. where x is at t.
    TT Notes
    • There appear to be a couple of textual corruptions in the above paragraph. Most obviously the trailing “where x is at t”. And Baker wants to say that “The statue has its value nonderivatively; the piece of bronze has its value derivatively” (not weight).
    • Does the piece of bronze have its value derivatively in two senses?
      1. Because the piece is made of bronze (if it was made of something slightly different, or if the bottom dropped out of the market for bronze, its value would differ).
      2. In virtue of constituting a statue.
    • But surely, the bronze isn’t worth the value of the statue, derivatively or not? It’s worth its scrap value, considered as a piece of bronze – ie. in the absence of an art-market that values this statue. It’s true (I think) that what is constituted inherits some of its properties from whatever constitutes it, but it’s not clear to me that the converse is true, and hence that the “iff” in Baker’s claim is incorrect. However, maybe Baker has to insist on this claim to avoid the charge that there are really two things present. She wants her constitution relation to be almost identity, but not quite.
    • The whole issue of value is thorny. Value is a relational rather than intrinsic property. The value of a statue can change without any change to the statue itself. But the properties of persons seem to be intrinsic (though they may also be valued). Isn’t the first-person perspective intrinsic to the person (and to the animal)?
    • Note, however, that Baker’s definition only claims sharing of “many” properties, not all – so if she wants she can exclude values.
  10. The idea of constitution is decidedly nonreductive. As long as x constitutes y, x has no independent existence. If x continues to exist after the demise of y, then x comes into its own, existing independently. But during the period that x constitutes y, “what the thing really is” – y, constituted by x – is determined by the identity of y. So, what is in front of you when you go to a museum is a statue (constituted, perhaps, by a piece of bronze). What the thing most fundamentally is a statue; but it is constituted by a piece of bronze.
    TT Notes
    • What does Baker mean by “nonreductive”? That the constituting thing is not more important than the constituted? It’s as though the constituted thing “takes over” the constituting thing. This is reductive in the wrong direction (maybe). It seems to be the wrong way round. Surely the piece of bronze still exists when it constitutes the statue – and independently of the statue. The statue only exists because people appreciate it as such.
    • It’s not clear to me how good a model artefacts are for Baker’s other candidates – particularly persons.
    • Can we really take seriously the idea that as an animal (in the normal course of maturation) develops a first-person perspective, it cease to be primarily an animal and becomes primarily a person?
    • There seem to be two levels of constitution in the case of the bronze. It is constituted mereologically and structurally by an ordered collection of atoms – a different collection at different times. This is what is normally meant by “constitution”. Then there’s Baker’s sense, where the piece of bronze constitutes a statue (she says), but all of a piece. The only real difference between the statue and the bronze piece is evaluative. That is, if the piece (qua piece) can have any shape you like. In Gibbard’s TE, we’re allowed to mould Lump1 into a ball, and it still exists, though Goliath doesn’t. See "Gibbard (Allan) - Contingent Identity".
    • How does constitution work if we don’t know what the thing is. Is Baker a universalist (or whatever the term is) with respect to things? Ie. does the contents of any disconnected agglomeration of spacetime segments constitute a thing?
  11. Chapter 3 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The First-Person Perspective") develops the notion of a first-person perspective. A first-person perspective is the ability to think of – to conceive of – oneself in the first-person without recourse to any name or description or demonstrative. A first-person perspective is necessary for any form of self-consciousness, and is sufficient for some forms of self-consciousness. Evidence that a being has a first-person perspective comes from the person’s ability to think a thought expressible as, e.g., “I wonder how I shall die.” The second occurrence of ‘I’ in a first-person sentence, with a psychological or linguistic verb and an embedded first-person sentence indicates that the being has a first-person perspective.
    TT Notes
    • Note the importance of “I” rather than a name. Is there (at most) a single FPP per human animal? Is “multiple occupancy” a problem for Baker – can a human animal constitute more than one person at a time (or – a different question – serially)?
  12. Nonhuman animals are conscious (some chimpanzees may even be able to refer to themselves), but as far as we can tell, they do not have first-person perspectives in the sense. They don’t wonder how they will die, or hope that they have a painless death or any other such thing. I argue for the irreducibility of the first-person perspective, and argue that other views of self-consciousness (e.g., Rosenthal’s, Armstrong’s, Dennett’s) are inadequate.
    TT Notes
  13. Chapter 4 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Constitution View of Human Persons") applies the notions of constitution and of a first-person perspective to the issue of human persons. A person is a being with first-person perspective; a human person (at t) is a person constituted by a human body (at t). Human persons are essentially embodied; they can never exist without some body or other, but they do not necessarily have the bodies that in fact constitute them. E.g., it is possible that parts of a person’s human body are replaced by bionic parts until the person is no longer human; still the same person would continue to exist (now constituted by a bionic body) as long as the first-person perspective stayed intact.
    TT Notes
    • I think this is all wrong; there’s no mention of the brain here, nor of “paring down” a human organism until we’re left with a brain. Just where does the FPP arise? Mostly in the brain, even though this might be disputed. How much of an animal can be replaced before it ceases to be an animal? Is the brain more important than other bits? If the brain were siliconized (for instance) would it retain a FPP? In particular, would it remain phenomenally conscious, or would be have a zombie? Is this an empirical or conceptual question? Could we ever know the answer, other than from the inside, and how could that person convince anyone else, given that a zombie would be as persuasive?
    • What’s the motivation for human persons being essentially embodied? Are human persons essentially human? Baker allows for a human person to be bionicised – and says (in the next paragraph) that while such a being remains a person, it would no longer be a human person. HUMAN PESON is some form of compound kind for Baker, I think5. What makes having a body essential to a human person, if it’s not essential that they have a human body? Bodies aren’t essential to persons as such, by Baker’s lights.
    • Baker’s view about persistence is that it’s sameness of FPP that individuates a person, so why is bodily continuity necessary – Baker’s examples involve gradual change of one body into another. Is this critical, or does Baker allow for immaterial gaps in the same person?
  14. So, although a human person cannot exist unembodied, she may come to be constituted by a different body from the one that actually constitutes her. If she came to be constituted by a bionic body, she would no longer be a human person. But she would still be a person as long as she existed. A human person is most fundamentally a person, not an animal—just as a bronze statue is most fundamentally a statue, not a piece of bronze. Two separate human persons that exist at the same time are individuated by their bodies. A human person’s body at a time distinguishes her from all other separate persons at that time.
    TT Notes
    • Baker says that a human person is most fundamentally a person and not an animal (ie. “a human”). So is it only human persons that are essentially embodied – is it the case (for Baker) that the person that is currently a human person might ultimately be incorporeal? As a Christian, she would no doubt allow the human person to become a spiritual person, with a spiritual body (whatever that is). What about a spirit? Persons as such don’t need to be embodied – God is a person and is not embodied – so could the same FPP that once belonged to a human person be exemplified by a being that is not embodied? If not, why not? And what would then constitute that person? Is constitution something that only matter can do?
    • Bodies individuate human persons – OK. So, Baker is committed to denying the existence of MPD – at least if this implies a multiplicity (as is claimed) of FPPs? And what individuates the person that is currently a human person, when later she may be a person of some other kind? Again, the body; some other body? Is that why it is essentially embodied? What individuates spirits?
    • What maintains the FPP of a human person? If the brain, what would make that very same FPP hop from one brain to another?
    • Isn’t the statue most fundamentally a piece of bronze? The disappearance of the art-world is a mere Cambridge-change from the perspective of the piece of bronze. Are we to suppose that the statue – that very same statue – could come to be constituted by something else? Maybe – if the changes are gradual enough? Though surely what is valuable about an art-work is not its form, but its body? Monetary value, that is. We value the fact that it’s the very object that some great artist produced. If it’s gradually repaired over time so that none of it is the work of the master, isn’t its value diminished? Cf. Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
  15. A human person and the body that constitutes her are a unity, in the same way that a bronze statue and the piece of bronze that constitutes it are a unity. Unlike the statue, however, I have a first-person relation to my body. Properties that my body has nonderivatively are my properties derivatively. E.g., I have the property of being left-handed and of having brown eyes derivatively; the nonderivative bearer of these properties is my body. When I attribute to myself such properties, I am thinking of myself-as-my-body. On the other hand, I have the property of being employed or of having asked a question nonderivatively; my body is the derivative bearer of these properties. When I attribute to my body properties that I have nonderivatively, I am thinking of my-body-as-myself.
    TT Notes
    • Is the unity-relation between statues and their pieces of bronze really the same as that between the person and her body – given that the persistence conditions of artefacts and organisms – and the factors that make for a statue or a person – are so different? Is this a fair analogy? Statues are statues in virtue of something else external to themselves. Are persons such in virtue of something external?
    • What is a “first person relation” in this context? I have a first person relation to my statue, if I own it, but it’s not the same as the relation I bear to my body (in Baker’s – or most people’s – opinion). What does Baker mean?
    • This paragraph is important for indicating what Baker means by the having of properties derivatively and non-derivatively. But we need to press the examples.
    • We can understand, I think, that a person – if personhood is taken to be fundamentally a psychological concept – is left-handed in virtue of her body. But is it right to define persons in virtue of FPPs and psychology? Isn’t a ballet-dancer the person she is partly in virtue of her body, and isn’t she diminished as a person if maimed? Has her FPP changed? I think it has, but has remained the same FPP, so Baker can accommodate this.
    • Eventually, maybe, I will not have any of the corporeal properties I now have – nor most of the mental ones. The question is how best to account for this within the context of a single persistent entity. The FPP is (I think) under-described by Baker, and its persistence conditions are not made clear. Baker has it that it is irreducible (see above). Does this mean it’s an all-or-nothing thing? Identity is, indeed, all or nothing. But, as I’ve said before, the persistent thing with psychological properties is the brain – the Cheshire Cat – and not the FPP, which is simply the Cheshire Cat’s smile.
    • Just who or what is employed? If I’m employed in some role that doesn’t demand a FPP, or worries about immanent death, isn’t it the human animal that’s employed. If I employ a washer-up, do I care whether she has a FPP? And if that FPP somehow migrates away, do I then employ what then constitutes it, even if it’s not then fit for purpose? Aren’t our legal commitments motivated by the human predicament? So, do employment laws apply to non-humans – immortals with no bodily worries, for instance?
    • Can the distinction between myself-as-my-body and my-body-as-myself really be maintained without relative identity?
  16. Chapter 5 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Personal Identity Over Time") discusses the vexing problem of personal identity over time. In virtue of what is a person P1 at t1 the same person as a person P2 at t2? I canvass candidate answers to this question, and show that each fails:
    (1) Sameness of person consists in sameness of body,
    (2) Sameness of person consists in sameness of living organism (Animalism),
    (3) Sameness of person consists in sameness of brain,
    (4) Sameness of person consists in psychological continuity,
    (5) Sameness of person consists in sameness of immaterial soul.
    TT Notes
    • Well, each of these proposals needs to be taken on its merits, and Baker’s objections reviewed. Then, the best candidate needs to be compared with Baker’s alternative. The pros and cons as understood by Baker can only be considered by detailed consideration6 of her arguments in the book, which are not summarised here.
    • It is interesting, though, that Baker here correctly distinguishes between bodies and organisms. Why then – given that she appreciates the distinction – does she focus on bodies elsewhere in this discussion (and in the title of her book) when her target (Animalism) insists that we are organisms?
    • Note that, by Olson’s lights, she begs the question by insisting that the entity at the t1/t2 termini is in both cases a person.
    • That is, is (as Olson insists and Markosian7 agrees) the question of personal identity distinct from that of our identity?
  17. Then, I discuss my own view: sameness of person consists in sameness of first-person perspective. Alas, my own view does not provide an informative criterion either. Although I can characterize noncircularly what it is to have a first-person perspective at a time, I know of no noncircular characterization of sameness of first-person perspective over time. Since nobody has an adequate and informative criterion of personal identity over time, I conclude that there is no adequate and informative criterion of personal identity over time: Sameness of person is not reducible to sameness of anything nonpersonal.
    TT Notes
    • I see this as the main weakness in Baker’s position (apart from the ontological rants). She admits that she can provide no informative criterion. She adds “either”. But, surely, at least some of these alternative accounts can provide at least some sort of criterion of identity – though it may run into difficulties with vagueness.
    • So, I might agree that psychological criteria, and immaterial souls, are no better off than Baker’s proposals. But what’s wrong with the physical ones? Brains, bodies or organisms.
    • Bodies are a little bit problematical – because the persistence criteria of live ones seem to differ from those of dead ones, and if considered as mere localised hunks of matter, it doesn’t seem that they persist at all. It may be significant that Baker focuses on bodies as the main alternative to her view – choosing a view that’s obviously distinct, yet not very sound?
    • Lots of philosophers are convinced they have principled reasons for thinking that organisms exist, even when they deny the existence of bodies, or undetached proper parts of organisms – brains, for instance.
    • There is room for debate as to just when an organism becomes so mutilated or adulterated as to no longer exist (as an organism) but to have ceased to be and been replaced by something else. While we might admit that we are not brains, if a brain on life support is all that’s left of one of us, we can argue whether it is still an organism; I would say that it is, but one that is “maximally mutilated”.
    • What does "Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities" have to say?
    • I need to read "Olson (Eric) - Review of Jack Wilson's "Biological Individuality: The Identity and Persistence of Living Entities"" to get Olson’s views.
    • "Wilson (Jack) - Personal Identity Naturalized: Our Bodies, Our Selves" is particularly interesting as a contrast to Baker’s view, though Wilson’s ideas on the persistence conditions of organisms are developed earlier in the book – "Wilson (Jack) - Individuality and Equivocation" might be best.
    • Olson does admit that he has no watertight account of the persistence conditions of animals, but is happy to accommodate8 any suggestions as friendly improvements to his theory of personal identity.
  18. Nevertheless, construing personal identity in terms of sameness of first-person perspective has its advantages. First, it avoids problems besetting the other views (e.g., species chauvinism, the duplication problem). Second, it accords well with our self-understanding: there is a fact of the matter whether some future individual is I, and that fact of the matter does not depend on the nonexistence of someone else. Finally, the idea of sameness of first-person perspective ties what it is to be a person over time with what it is to be a person in the first place.
    TT Notes
    • Species Chauvinism: I cannot see what necessary connection the other views have to this stance. However, as a matter of fact, some proponents of the “immaterial soul” view have denied souls to animals; and Wiggins has taken “person” and “human being” as synonyms (Olson points this out somewhere9).
    • Duplication Problem: just why is the CV view immune to this – or indeed not more exposed to the problem than some other views? Just what sort of thing is a FPP that prevents its duplication? If there are two qualitatively identical human bodies, won’t the FPPs be qualitatively identical. Or, even logically identical, depending on what a FPP is? Baker insists (above) that human persons are individuated by their bodies - but their FPPs are what really matter. How does she deal with idempotent half-brain transplant TEs? Won’t she have the same problem as brain-theorists? Won’t both halves equally support a FPP? And which one was me – or was I two all along, or did I bud a twin in the process of creating the idempotency? There may be answers to these questions, but the CV seems no better off than the brain view.
    • Facts of the Matter: crumbs. Without saying a lot more about how FPPs are individuated, how can this alleged fact be established? How can it be known? If Baker’s point about reduplication is unsound, then first person evidence is insufficient, as it is in any reduplication TE. It can seem to you that you are the same person, but you are deceived.
    • “Only x or y” : this is the principle opponents of closest-continuer theories adopt – so Baker’s view is not unique.
    • What it is to be the same x is what it is to be an x in the first place: this, again, isn’t unique to Baker’s view, but is the standard reason why criteria of identity are useful for helping to define what sort a thing falls under.
  19. Chapter 6 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Importance Of Being a Person") discusses the importance of personhood. Only persons can be moral agents or rational agents. Persons have many cognitive and practical abilities that beings lacking first-person perspectives lack. Only beings with first-person perspectives can know that they are going to die; only such beings can envisage alternative possibilities for their own futures, or seek self-understanding. Only beings with first-person perspectives can have ideals or can try to change themselves to conform better to their ideals. Human persons are not only the products of evolution, but (unlike any other finite beings) only human persons can deliberately change the course of evolution—not only by artificial breeding, but more directly by genetic engineering.
    TT Notes
    • There seems to be a sudden slide in the above from persons to human persons.
    • I need to look at Baker’s arguments for her assertion that “Only persons can be moral agents or rational agents”. Are there any – or is it just “obvious”?
    • What is said of persons is analytic/tautological – as this is just how Baker defines a person in the first place. No-one doubts that personhood is important – at least to those who qualify as persons.
    • In what sense of “know” is it that only those with a FPP can know they are going to die? Do sci-fi robots without phenomenal consciousness know such things? How do they obey Asimov’s Laws otherwise? All sorts of feedback loops are possible for self-improvement without a sense of self. All that’s required is that one be a self, not tat one knows that you are one.
    • What has rationality got to do with a FPP? Isn’t a chess-playing machine rational? Aren’t lots of persons highly irrational?
    • Why – as a matter of logic rather than fact – are human persons the only beings that could – rather than have – affect the course of evolution – and why does this matter in this context? In any case, is it the human person or the human animal that has done this. Couldn’t the Matrix’s Sentinels do it? I agree that how FPPs arose is irrelevant.
  20. Chapter 7 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Coherence Of the Idea of Material Constitution") defends the coherence of the general idea of constitution (without identity) from a number of published criticisms. Here are two examples:-
    • 1. First is the criticism that two things consisting of the same atoms (e.g., a statue and a piece of bronze) cannot differ in kind; this criticism is answered by a discussion of essential properties.
    • 2. Second is the criticism from counting: that if x is spatially coincident with y, and x not= y, and x is a statue and y is a statue, then where x is there are two statues. The second criticism is answered by a discussion of the distinction between having a property derivatively and having a property nonderivatively.
    Also, Chapter 7 discusses criticisms stemming from mereology and supervenience.
    TT Notes
  21. Chapter 8 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Coherence Of the Constitution View of Human Persons") defends the coherence of the application of the idea of constitution to human persons. I discuss the misleading conception of constitution (which I have spelled out in detail) as mere coincidence of two different thing, another version of the “how many” problem, a charge of linguistic incoherence stemming from the reference of ‘I’. I show at length that the Constitution View has a coherent account of the relation between an early-term fetus and the person that it comes to constitute later. Finally, I reply to a counterexample concerning ghosts made of ectoplasm.
    TT Notes
    • Olson merely ignores Baker’s arguments against “mere coincidence” and insists on double-counting. I need to check carefully whether Baker’s arguments really are persuasive.
    • Baker claims not to have a “fetus problem” – another of Olson’s complaints against her. I think it is right that Baker doesn’t have the problem in the way that other psychological views might. Baker just claims that the fetus doesn’t constitute a person, so she doesn’t need it to suddenly pop out of existence to be replaced by something else. The animal continues from conception (or maybe implantation) to death, but the person is only constituted by that animal for a temporal segment (or, possibly a collection thereof).
    • What is the ghost/ectoplasm objection? It sounds like a misunderstanding of anything Baker might hold.
  22. Chapter 9 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - In Favour Of the Constitution View") concludes the book with reasons to accept the Constitution View. It really is a materialistic view. It can accomplish almost everything that a dualist wants without the burden of dualism. It takes persons seriously in a specified sense: Being a person is relevant to the fundamental kind of individual that one is; elimination of any person would be elimination of an individual; having mental states is relevant to what a person is. No other materialist view takes persons seriously in all three of these respects.
    TT Notes
  23. The Constitution View explains how it is that, although we are set apart by our first-person perspectives, we are still animals. Hence, the Constitution View locates human persons in the material world. The general idea of constitution (without identity) allows for a metaphysics that is both materialistic and nonreductive. This general conception of constitution supports an ontological pluralism that honors the genuine variety of kinds of individuals in the world.
    TT Notes
    • Nothing much to add here, except to repeat that all the benefits of the CV would seem to be available if we say that human persons are human animals, distinguished from other animals by having the special, though temporary, property of being a person.
    • Of course, this doesn’t satisfy Baker’s hidden agenda, of wanting an account of human persons that allows for resurrection or some other form of eternal existence.



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (04/07/2014 22:46:34).
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