Materialism with a Human Face
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
Source: Corcoran - Soul, Body and Survival, Chapter 10
Paper - Abstract

Paper StatisticsBooks / Papers Citing this PaperNotes Citing this PaperLink to Latest Write-Up Note


Write-up1 (as at 19/09/2023 10:43:41): Baker - Materialism with a Human Face

  1. A relatively new view to appear in the philosophical literature is one according to which human persons are wholly physical, non-simple entities that are neither identical with nor reducible to physical organisms.
  2. The view's most eloquent defender, Lynne Baker, argues in "Materialism with a Human Face" that what makes an entity a human person is its possessing a "first-person perspective4." What makes an entity a human person is its being "constituted by5" a human organism6,7.
  3. Baker argues that a thing x "constitutes" a thing y just in case x and y are co-located and stand in a genuine relation of unity.
  4. Persons8 and bodies9, Baker argues, stand in the constitution relation.
  5. What is perhaps most interesting is that according to Baker's constitution view10 a person could start out as a human person and survive through changes which would render him or her nonhuman. Although this last claim appears to make way for the possibility of a human person surviving the death11 of his or her body it also entails that human persons are not essentially human.
  6. Many will regard that as a high price to pay for the view. Moreover, the view seems to leave such a cleavage between human persons12 and the human bodies that "constitute" them that it warrants the charge12 of being a version of dualism14 after all.

Philosophers Index Abstract14
  1. This is a succinct statement and defense of the constitution view16 of persons.
  2. Persons are constituted by bodies with which they are not identical.
  3. The metaphysical difference between persons and their bodies is that persons have first-person perspectives17 essentially.
  4. I reply to some objections and give reasons to accept the constitution view18.

  1. Introduction
  2. The First-Person Perspective
  3. Constitution
  4. Persons and Bodies
  5. Replies to Some Objections
  6. Why Accept the Constitution View?

  1. Introduction
    1. Baker wants to understand the common world we all inhabit, where we have our social relationships and emotions.
    2. This world contains material objects, both natural and artefactual. Importantly, it contains persons such as ourselves.
    3. Baker assumes commonsense materialism: every concrete thing is ultimately constituted by aggregates of fundamental particles.
    4. But Baker’s understanding of Constitution is not as an identity relation. Ordinary material things are not identical to – or reducible to – these aggregates.
    5. That’s because things fall under different primary kinds, with different persistence conditions.
    6. A human person is a material object in the same way a statue is.
    7. If a piece of marble constitutes a statue to which it is not identical, the piece of marble could exist in a world without artists or art-institutions but the statue could not.
    8. A human person is constituted by a member of the species homo sapiens but is not identical to that organism. The human organism could exist in a world without psychological properties being exemplified, but the person could not.
    9. The Constitution View is that a human organism that develops a first-person perspective comes to constitute a new thing – a person.
    10. Just as statues can be constituted by different kinds of things – pieces of19 marble, bronze … so persons can (or may, possibly) be constituted by different kinds of things (human organisms, pieces of plastic, Martian matter).
    11. So, what makes something a person – whatever it is made of – is a first-person perspective. Just as what makes something a statue – whatever it is made of – is a relation to an art-world.
    12. What makes a person a human person is constitution by a human organism. A person can start off as a human person, but by gradual replacement of organic parts by synthetic parts could cease to be a human person. But, provided she retained the same20 first-person perspective she continues to exist, but not as a human, though she would cease to do so without the FPP.
    13. According to the CV the human animal and the human person have different persistence conditions despite there being no intrinsic physical difference between them. All animals have biological persistence conditions but those of persons are not21
    14. Baker doesn’t distinguish between human organisms and human bodies. She claims that ‘my body is identical to a human organism’, but she is only constituted by one.
    15. Her two key notions – Constitution and the First-Person Perspective – now need explication.
  2. The First-Person Perspective
    1. The FPP22 is the defining characteristic of persons, human or not.
    2. From a first-person point of view you can think of yourself as yourself and of your thoughts as your own.
    3. In English23, the ability to conceive of oneself as oneself is marked grammatically by a sentence with a first-person subject of a psychological or linguistic verb and an embedded first-person reference.
    4. When – for example – I wonder whether I'll be happy in 10 years time, I am wondering about myself as myself; from a first-person perspective, I do not need to pick myself out as one object among many.
    5. Baker claims that the first-person perspective – the ability to consider oneself as oneself in this way – is the basis of all forms of self-consciousness.
    6. A being can be conscious without having a first-person perspective. Dogs have beliefs and desires and can engage in practical reasoning based thereon. They have a point of view, but they don’t have a conception of themselves as themselves.
    7. For example, a dog (if it could talk) might say ‘I am hungry’ but could not say ‘I wonder if I am hungry’. Bertrand Russell and Peter Geach argued that the ‘I’ in ‘I am hungry’ is eliminable24.
    8. If a dog developed a FPP it would be a canine person, and if a gorilla was taught a language sufficiently close to English so it could recognise embedded first-person references it would become an ape person. Anything with a FPP is a person.
    9. So, what distinguishes human persons from animals is not consciousness nor intentional states – these are necessary but not sufficient for being a person.
    10. Our FPPs may well be a product of natural selection but – whether this is so or not – the arrival of an FPP makes an ontological difference in the world. As far as we know, human animals are unique in constituting persons despite otherwise being continuous with the other animals. If biologists don’t recognise the FPP as being biologically significant, so much the worse for them. ‘Ontology doesn’t recapitulate biology’.
  3. Constitution
    1. Human persons are distinguished by other persons with a FPP by being constituted by human bodies.
    2. The relation of constitution is perfectly general. Examples25: dollar bills are constituted by pieces of paper; genes are constituted by DNA molecules.
    3. Constitution is explicable in terms of ordinary logical and modal ideas. The presentation here will be informal as she has covered the matter elsewhere26.
    4. Constitution makes an ontological difference. When certain kinds of things are in certain kinds of circumstances, things of new kinds, with new causal powers come into existence.
      • Example: the right chemicals in the right environment result in a new kind – an organism. A world without organisms, even with the right chemicals in the wrong environment, would be ontologically impoverished.
    5. x’s ‘primary kind’ is what x most fundamentally is. When x constitutes y, x & y are of different primary kinds, and each has its primary kind essentially.
      • Example: Michaelangelo’s David is of primary kind statue. The ‘circumstances’ are those background conditions necessary but not sufficient for something to be of a certain primary kind. So, statue-favourable circumstances include the existence of an art-world. Gene-favourable circumstances include processes of reproduction of organisms.
    6. Definition of Constitution: Now, let F be x’s primary-kind property and G be y’s primary-kind property. Then, x constitutes y at t if and only if
      1. x and y are spatially coincident at t.
      2. x is in G-favourable circumstances at t.
      3. Necessarily, if anything that has F as its primary-kind property is in G-favourable circumstances at t, then there exists some spatially-coincident thing at t that has G as its primary-kind property.
      4. Possibly, x exists at t and there is no spatially-coincident thing at t that has G as its primary-kind property.
      5. If y is immaterial, then x is also immaterial.
    7. The point of the last clause is allegedly27 to ensure that materiality is not lost by constitution. Baker claims these five conditions establish the coherence of constitution.
    8. Constitution is not strict Leibnizian identity but is nevertheless a genuine relation of unity. It is not just spatial co-location but is as intimate a relation as can be, short of identity.
    9. When x constitutes y, x and y inherit28 many of one another’s properties.
      • Example 1: A driver’s license is constituted by a piece of plastic. The piece of plastic borrows the property of airport check-in from the driver’s licence it constitutes. The driver’s license borrows the property of acting as a bookmark from the piece of plastic.
      • Example 2: Sam is constituted by a human body. Sam borrows the property of reaching a lightbulb from his body’s being 6-foot tall. Sam’s body borrows the property of being able to sit on the plane from Sam’s purchase of a ticket.
    10. There are two ways for an object to have a property: derivatively and non-derivatively. Having a property non-derivatively is to have it independently of the constitution relationship. Having a property derivatively is having it in virtue of being in a constituting relationship with something that has the property independently of the constitution relationship.
      • Example 1: Flags get their property of rectangularity derivatively from the pieces of cloth that constitute them. The pieces of cloth have their ‘rectangular’ property non-derivatively since they could exist without constituting anything. The flag has the property of being respected non-derivatively, whereas the piece of cloth has it derivatively.
      • Example 2: The definitions have the odd consequence that your body has the property of being able to survive the loss of the FPP non-derivatively, because the person cannot survive loss of the FPP. Baker could tamper with the definitions to disallow this, but she considers the oddity benign. But, she does add the epicycle in the next footnote29!
    11. ‘Ordinary’ properties – that do not involve the existence of things at other times or world – may be had derivatively.
    12. So, if x has a property F derivatively, there is some y that has F non-derivatively and which is constitutionally related to x.
    13. At this point, Baker has a complicated footnote that adds further epicycles to her definition, making the above account of ‘having properties derivatively’ a sufficient as well as a necessary condition. So:-
      • We first introduce a new term: x has F supernonderivatively iff
        1. x has F non-derivatively, and
        2. x’s having F does not entail instantiation of any property such that x has it derivatively.
        Then, x has F derivatively iff x is constitutionally related to y and y has F supernonderivatively.
      • In general, x has property F iff there is some y such that
        1. Either x = y or x is constitutionally related to y, and
        2. y has F non-derivatively, and
        3. y’s having F non-derivatively does not entail instantiation of any property such that y has it derivatively.
        Clause (c) is added to address the ‘oddity’ in the previous footnote30. Both (c) and that footnote are attributed to Thomas Senor, a philosopher of religion I’d not heard of.
    14. The concept of having properties derivatively explains why x and y can have so many properties in common when x constitute y.
    15. In summary, constitution is a relation of unity intermediate between identity and separate existence. It differs from identity in being a relation between objects of different primary kinds with different persistence conditions. It is similar to identity in that objects in a constitution relationship inherit lots of properties from one another (size, location, …).
  4. Persons and Bodies
    1. Baker claims that human persons are necessarily embodied. They are constituted by bodies which are the objects of first-person reference. You don’t need to refer to your body with a demonstrative pronoun or in the third person. Wondering about the state of your body is wondering about yourself. We think of our bodies ‘from the inside’. Our bodies express our emotional and intentional states and respond to our decisions. I have a first-person relation to my body and no other. And a replica of me would have a first relation to her body, not mine (says Baker).
    2. Baker now applies the definition of constitution-without-identity given above32 to persons and their bodies32: in particular to a person, Jones, and his body, named Body. So:-
      • x = Body,
      • y = Jones
      • F = Primary Kind of ‘Human Body’
      • G = Primary Kind of ‘Person’
      • G-favourable circumstances are: ‘Organismic and Environmental conditions favourable to the development of a First-Person Perspective.
    3. Baker has three comments on the above:-
      1. The ‘organismic and environmental conditions’ are:-
        • Organismic: The organism – in particular the brain – is developed to the extent of a normal human baby at birth.
        • Environmental: conditions are such that the infant develops a sense of self, as described by developmental psychologists33. Baker thinks her concept of the FPP fits well in this context.
      2. Body can exist but not be conducive to the FPP. Baker’s example is if the body is dead.
      3. The immateriality rider (e) has it that ‘If Jones is immaterial, then Body is immaterial’. Given that Body is not immaterial, then Jones is not immaterial (by modus tollens). This clause is needed to rule out Body constituting a Cartesian person with an immaterial soul.
    4. Baker now compares human animals with dogs, for whom she seems to have an antipathy34.
    5. Dogs and other higher animals a subjects of mental states, are conscious, have beliefs are desires (‘in a severely limited range’) and have a point of view35.
    6. But – says Baker – none of this amounts to them having a First-Person Perspective. For this they would need Second-order beliefs and Desires36
    7. Of course, Baker admits that dogs have – in a sense – a first-person relation to their bodies. They – like us – can move their bodies without moving anything else.
    8. But, a FPP requires us to think of ourselves in a uniquely first personal way. The example Baker gives is the rather odd ability to wonder if your body is shrinking.
    9. When I wonder about my body, I wonder about myself – but I can also wonder in ways not involving my body – whether I’ll be happy next year, for instance.
    10. So, Baker claims, while I am not identical to my body the constitution relation is one of unity: I myself am derivatively and animal without being identical to one.
    11. While I am presently constituted by a body that is essentially an animal, this doesn’t mean that I am essentially an animal. But because constitution is a unity relation, I inherit many of my body’s properties – in particular its physical and biological ones.
      So, the body that constitute me now is essentially – and non-derivatively – an animal but contingently – and derivatively – a person; whereas, I am contingently, and derivatively an animal.
    12. Baker has a footnote to the effect that she’s no claiming that all essential properties are non-derivative. She considers a statue which arguably has its shape essentially even though37 it is derived from something of that shape that constitutes it.
    13. We now move on to mental properties and things get more complicated – and more debateable, it seems to me. As we’ve seen, Baker doesn’t deny that animals can think, only that they can’t think specifically ‘person thoughts’. So, I thank Olson is sometimes off-target. Animals which are not persons can – we may suppose – desire food; so, when I desire food, I do so derivatively. Any of my thoughts that a dog might have are had derivatively. If a dog could have such a thought, then so could a human animal that did not constitute a person. Thoughts that a dog couldn’t have – like worrying about being in debt next year – I have non-derivatively. The human animals that constitutes me therefore has such thoughts derivatively38 – by virtue of constituting a person.
    14. Baker concludes by rehearsing her claim that ‘having thoughts derivatively’ means that there are not two thoughts39 going on.
  5. Replies to Some Objections
    1. Baker claims that Constitution without identity has been caricatured by those who cannot imagine a relation of unity intermediate between identity and separate existence. She has a footnote claiming that an orthodox Christian cannot deny coherence to such an intermediate relation (apart from proper parthood) on account of the doctrine of the Trinity.
    2. Baker has dealt with objections in detail elsewhere40, so she focuses here on six objections she takes to be her critics’ main worries.
      1. Likeness of Microstructure41:
        • Michael Burke asks what could make the statue and the clay – given that they are qualitatively identical and consist on the very same atoms – of different sorts?
        • Baker’s response is to question the assumption that the nature and identity of a thing is determined solely by its intrinsic physical properties.
        • She gives examples: a statue wouldn’t be a statue in the absence of an art-world42.
        • Baker has argued elsewhere43 that some extrinsic properties can be essential, which she thinks solves the problem.
        • Once we admit this, then we can have x and y differing in primary kind despite sharing all their intrinsic properties.
        • Hence, we can see44 – she says – how an animal can have certain biological properties essentially, while a person has them contingently.
        • Primary kind and essentiality of properties go together – whether these properties are intrinsic or relational.
        • She suggests that asking why something has the essential properties it has is nonsensical – like asking why the number 4 is even, or animals have cells.
      2. Linguistic Ambiguities:
        • Baker claims that some critics misunderstand her position, suggesting that her use of ‘is’ is ambiguous. As far as I can see from the ensuing discussion, they are right, though Baker thinks the ambiguity is always clear – that is, that it’s always clear which sense of ‘is’ is intended. .
        • The situation is muddled by a mistake on Olson’s part45 – repeated whenever he discusses Baker’s views – were he claims that Baker thinks that human animals aren’t sentient in the same way as they are primates. Barker thinks both are true in the same way because – for her – sentience isn’t the point of divide between persons and non-persons. She admits that dogs, human animals and human persons are sentient in exactly the same way46. They are conscious in the same way. It’s the FPP – that persons have but dogs lack – that sets us apart.
        • Baker then claims that ‘x is an H47’ is univocal – but only because she cashes out the ‘is’ in a disjunctive way as either ‘is constitutionally related to’ or ‘is identical to’.
        • When she claims that ‘is sentient’ is univocal, she’s referring to the sentience. The sentience of dogs is the same sort of sentience as of human animals and of human persons. But while – I would claim – the sentience is the same, the having of it isn’t the same for human persons and human animals, because human animals have it non-derivatively whereas human persons do not. She explicitly says this.
      3. The Personal Pronoun ‘I’:
        • This objection is attributed to Paul Snowdon48.
        • According to Baker, Snowdon says firstly that we – Baker says ‘animals’ – have evolved to use the personal pronoun ‘I’ (presumably to refer to themselves). So, if we are not identical to animals, when we say ‘I am identical to an animal’ there are in fact two statements uttered: a true one uttered by the constituting animal and a false one uttered by the person. This is absurd, so we are identical to animals.
        • Baker agrees that (human) animals evolved to use ‘I’, but claims that when they evolved to the point of having a FPP they came to constitute persons. According to the CV, when a person says ‘I’ they refer non-derivatively to the person that is constituted by the animal. So, when the animal utters the statement ‘I am identical to an animal’, it is false because it is the person, constituted by that animal, that says it. If I had simply said ‘I am an animal’, that would be true because I have the property of being an animal derivatively by virtue of being constituted by one.
        • Baker asserts that – according to the CV – there are not two statements but one. The truth-value depends on what is said:-
          1. ‘I am identical to an animal’ is said non-derivatively by the person – even though it issues from the animal’s mouth.
          2. ‘The thing that constitutes me is identical to an animal’ – said likewise – would be true.
        • For revision, and useful clarification, Baker repeats her claims.
          1. There are not two referents of ‘I’, which always refers non-derivatively to the person using it.
          2. If I say ‘I am hungry’, I refer to the person, but I – the person – have the property of being hungry derivatively in virtue of being constituted by an animal, which is hungry.
          3. Referring to yourself does not fail to refer to the constituting animal: you refer to an embodied being (yourself) constituted by that animal.
          4. Saying ‘I generally have good digestion’ isn’t referring to two beings or two digestive systems. There’s one digestive system that you have derivatively and the animal has non-derivatively.
        • Consequently – Baker claims – the CV is free from linguistic incoherence.
      4. Why is an Animal not a Person?:
        • … to be supplied.
      5. Duplication of Persons:
        • … to be supplied.
      6. The Constitution View is Dualist49?:
        • I repeat the argument Baker considers:-
          1. If a human person x is a material being, then there is some material object to which x is identical.
          2. x is not identical to x’s body (or any part of it). [the Constitution View]
          3. If x is not identical to x’s body (or any part of it), there then is no material object to which x is identical.
          4. There is no material object to which x is identical. ((ii) & (iii), modus ponens)
          5. Human person x is not a material thing. ((i) & (iv), modus tollens)
        • According to the CV, premise (iii) is false, so to assume it is to beg the question50.
        • Trivially, I am identical to myself; but, whether the only way I’m a material being is to be identical to my body or a part thereof is the point at issue. I am a material thing because I’m identical to myself and Baker thinks it nonsensical51 to ask if I’m identical to something else.
        • She claims it would beg the question against the CV to deny that Human Person is a material-object category any more than denying that marble statue52 is.
        • … to be completed.
    3. In summary, neither the linguistic nor metaphysical objections have any traction. Baker claims that there are two key errors:-
      1. Attributing to the CV some consequence it doesn’t have: eg. claiming that the CV denies that we are animals.
      2. Begs the question against the CV by including a premise it denies: eg. ‘If I am a material object, then I must be identical to my body or some part of it’.
  6. Why Accept the Constitution View?
    1. Baker summarises progress: she’s set out the CV of persons in some detail, deflected objections and shown that Constitution without Identity is coherent. But what are its positive advantages?
    2. For Baker, the CV locates persons in the material world without reducing them to something non-personal. She says that the CV of human persons shows how human persons are like – and unlike – other material things – ‘from genes to statues to passports53’. Additionally, the CV gives a general account54 of material beings.
    3. She gives two examples of the supposed benefits of the CV over its main rivals, Substance Dualism and Animalism:-
      1. Substance Dualism55:
        • Basically, the CV gives us everything we might want that’s distinctive of Substance Dualism without the need for positing immaterial substances with the well-known problems this raises. In particular, the CV agrees with Substance Dualism that:-
          1. A human person is not identical to her body and can survive a complete change thereof.
          2. Not all truths about human persons are truths about bodies.
          3. A person has causal powers that a body would not have if it failed to constitute a person.
          4. Persons have ontological significance: personhood is not just a contingent and temporary property of some fundamentally impersonal thing.
      2. Animalism56:
        • Animalism has two consequences that Baker thinks discredit it:-
          1. It implies that replacement of body – or bodily transfer – is metaphysically impossible, as is my having had a body other than the one I do have.
          2. Being a person is irrelevant to the kind of individual one fundamentally is. Since – as "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology" (p. 17) argues – an individual in a PVS may no longer be a Person, one can continue to exist without being a person, just as you could continue to exist without being a philosopher … or a fancier of fast cars … which are metaphysically on a par with being a person.
        • Since she has already argued against animalism in "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View", she contents herself here with posing what she sees as a dilemma for the animalist: are human animals continuous with the rest of the animal kingdom or do they differ in some fundamental way from – say – apes? She agrees that biologists see only a difference of degree, not of kind, between human and nonhuman animals.
        • If this is so, how can animalists account for the vast differences between nonhuman animals and those human animals that are – or constitute – persons? She cites:-
          1. The cultural achievements of mankind: art, science, religion, literature, government and the like;
          2. Our understanding of evolution and our interference in its processes to achieve medical advances;
          3. Our ability to assess and modify our goals, to own up to what we do and take responsibility for our actions, to be moral agents, to wonder what kind of beings we are.
        • So, the animalist’s dilemma is either to posit a biologically unmotivated gap between human and nonhuman animals or deny the ontological significance of what is distinctive about human persons.
        • The fact that the FPP may have arisen naturally does not – for Baker – reduce its ontological significance. Beings with the capacity for a FPP are – she says – fundamentally different from other beings.
        • Baker closes her rebuttal of animalism with – what seems to me to be – a bit of a rant. If we were not persons57, there would be no ‘us’; there would be no ‘me’ to consider my own persistence conditions. The CV states that our FPP indicates what we are: beings able to ask ‘what am I’, to make life plans and consider how we’ll die.
    4. Baker concludes by reiterating three features of the Constitution View that she takes to recommend it over both Substance Dualism and the Animalist View:
      1. The Constitution View situates human persons firmly in the material world, without reducing them to something nonpersonal.
      2. The Constitution View allows for the possibility that a human person could have a different body from the one that she actually has.
      3. The Constitution View ties what is distinctive about us and what we care most deeply about — our ideals, values, life plans; our status as rational and moral agents — to what we are most fundamentally: persons. The existence of persons makes an ontological difference in the world.

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 (19/09/2023 10:43:41).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
Footnote 2: Footnote 12:
  • I imagine that Baker would have been amazed at this claim!
  • She actually has a section rebutting it!
Footnote 14:
  • This seems to be by Baker herself.
  • I’ve added the bullets and links to my own Notes.
Footnote 18:
  • What follows is (or will be) an abbreviated summary of Baker’s text.
  • My own comments will appear – at least in the first instance – as footnotes.
  • My current intention is to summarise the text first and only make the comments that I’m likely to forget!
Footnote 19:
  • I think ‘pieces of’ is critical here. The piece of marble is ‘composed of’ marble but the statue is not ‘composed of’ anything – it is ‘constituted by’ the piece.
Footnote 20:
  • Baker doesn’t cover persistence of the FPP at this point, other than that it either exists or it doesn’t.
Footnote 21: Footnote 22: Footnote 23: Footnote 24: Footnote 25: Footnote 26: Footnote 27:
  • I don’t understand this. How can two immaterial things be spatially coincident (as in (a))? Shouldn’t clause (e) say ‘material’ (twice)? Even so, it’s superfluous.
Footnote 28:
  • Baker has spelled out this ‘borrowing’ or holding of properties derivatively in:-
    "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View", Chapter 2 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Very Idea of Constitution").
  • Baker lists 4 categories of property that cannot be had derivatively, the meanings being elucidated – not very helpfully – in a later footnote that I’ve combined with this one:
    1. Alethic properties: expressed in English by ‘essentially, ‘necessarily’ or ‘primary kind’.
    2. ‘Identity / constitution / existence’ properties: expressed in English by ‘is identical to’, ‘constitutes’ or ‘exists’.
    3. Properties rooted in times other than those in which they are had: if necessarily x has the property at t only because it exists at some time other than t. Apparently, this is Roderick Chisholm’s idea. He was Baker’s PhD supervisor, I think.
    4. Hybrid properties: properties that are conjunctions of two or more properties that either entail or are entailed by two or more primary-kind properties.
  • I’ll need to check with the above reference even to see what they mean, via examples, and to see whether there is gerrymandering going on.
  • My suspicion is that – with all these epicycles being added – that constitution – as developed by Baker – is a construct rather than a discovery.
Footnotes 29, 30:
  • I’ve not ‘footnoted’ these footnotes in my abstract!
Footnote 32: Footnote 33:
  • Baker gives a couple of references from the 1980s which I have no intention of acquiring, though I probably need to get a handle on Developmental Psychology.
  • Baker’s choice of birth might seem rather arbitrary and counterfactual if she claimed that the FPP was there at birth, but I think all she needs is that the new-born has a normal brain and a suitable environment for it to develop an FPP and hence become a person in the normal course of psychological development.
Footnote 34:
  • When admitting that a dog with a FPP would be a ‘canine person’, she added the rider ‘per impossibile
Footnote 35: Footnote 36:
  • Baker doesn’t use these terms, but gives examples, though this is what she means.
  • As such, Baker claims that dogs are Wantons, as described in "Frankfurt (Harry) - Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person", or in fact, worse than wantons. Not only do they in practise not care what their beliefs and desires are, nor reflect on them – as might be the case with human wantons – but they are not capable of doing so.
  • I’m not sure how Baker thinks she knows all this, but she’s probably right. It’s certainly popular wisdom to think so.
  • However, most humans are very unreflective. True, they are capable of reflecting but in practise they spend most of their lives not doing so. As Bertrand Russell (and many others, according to Quote Investigator: Most People Would Die Sooner Than Think — In Fact, They Do So) said ‘most people would die sooner than think – in fact, they do so’. Also, they don’t spend much time thinking about their mortality. Indeed it has been claimed that we don’t really believe we’ll die: see Ivan Ilych.
  • So, what Baker takes to be definitive of Persons is not something that most people are comfortable with. Are they not then Persons? Frankfurt thought that Wantons – in his terms – weren’t.
  • Before I forget, I think that Baker is unduly influenced by her Christian beliefs that the Self, and its perfection, is the essence of personhood, though I might add that New Testament Christianity isn’t univocal on this. But Buddhists and Parfit think that the Self and our focus on it is pretty much the root of all evil.
  • All this may suggest that Baker’s prescriptions for what counts as a person are somewhat idiosyncratic.
Footnote 37:
  • I need to consider this very carefully. Baker makes lots of analogies – or what seem like analogies. She claims that a human person can be constituted by different bodies, but can a statue really be constituted by different lumps? OK, a broken statue might be repaired and thereby be constituted by a different lump (strictly-speaking, it’s constituted by a different lump from one second to the next as the lump loses atoms). But could a statue – having its shape essentially – really be constituted by different material? Could the Venus de Milo – that very statue – be made of bronze? Saul Kripke asked such questions: could this lectern have been made of ice?
Footnote 38:
  • This is where Olson gets exasperated, I think, and I have to agree with him.
  • Irrespective of whether there are ‘too many thinkers’ – surely the worrying is done by the human animal? True, it can only worry because it has the mental capacity that makes it a person, but it has this capacity ‘because it does’(it is intrinsic to it) and is a person ‘because it has this capacity’ (and others).
  • For example, Baker is qualified to give her lecture because she’s a professor. But her professorship is based on her mental capacities combined with the existence of academia. She’s not a professor ‘constituted by’ the human animal. She couldn’t be a professor in the absence of academia, but this doesn’t mean that she (the human animal) and the professor are different individuals in some sort of close unity relation.
Footnote 39:
  • I can just about buy this, but I don’t see any reason to accept Baker’s theory in the first place. There’s a clever human animal that thinks its thoughts – some shared with lower animals, others unique to human animals (or some human animals). We give it the epithet ‘person’ as a reward for its abilities, like we give it the epithet ‘professor’. The first-person perspective is important, but it’s something the human animal just has. That’s all there is to it.
Footnote 40: Footnote 41: Footnote 42:
  • Certainly, what counts as an artwork can depend on the art-world. Take the famous Wikipedia: Fountain (Duchamp). This is only an artwork – rather than a signed urinal – because the art-world says it is. But it’s just a urinal for all that. A new thing didn’t come into existence just because of the intention of Duchamp and the acquiescence of elements of an art-world.
  • This is a general question for artifacts. There’s a discussion in "Olson (Eric) - What Are We? Constitution" about the use of an anvil as a doorstop. Also, conch shells as currency.
  • Generally, this is a difficult question. I remember a discussion – I think at a London ‘Philosophy Now’ gathering – about what aliens would make of our artifacts. There’s also William Paley’s ‘watch on the beach’ argument. Presumably aliens would recognise an artifact as such, even if they didn’t know what it was for. I suppose there’s a distinction between what an artifact is ‘intended as’ and what it is ‘used for’.
Footnote 43: Footnote 44:
  • I currently fail to see the analogy between statues and clay – on the one hand – and persons and their bodies – on the other.
Footnote 45: Footnote 46:
  • This is all very muddled. I’d thought that dogs and human animals are sentient non-derivatively (because they would be sentient even if they didn’t constitute a person) but that human persons are sentient derivatively – in virtue of being constituted by a human animal. But is this so?
Footnote 47:
  • There’s the footnote here that I referred to above in the definition of Constitution.
Footnote 48: Footnote 49: Footnote 50:
  • I’m never quite sure when there really is ‘question begging’ going on and when it’s an argument against the CV. But I think Baker is right to object to this premise.
Footnote 51:
  • She’s strictly correct, of course, as the identity relation is an equivalence relation. So, and two things to which I’m identical would be identical to one another.
Footnote 52:
  • This may be so on the CV; the animalist would agree.
  • However, I think any analogies with artifacts are mistaken. Because a urinal can be an artwork and a conch shell a piece of currency – despite being identical throughout their existence (there can be no modal differences due to squishing; though I suppose a very battered conch shell would be little use as currency). Best to treat them like ‘students’ – they have a temporary property that they can lose without the substance-term ceasing to exist.
Footnote 53:
  • I find these analogies hard to follow. The two artifacts listed require something external to give them their meaning and use. Genes require something external both for them to achieve their ‘aim’ and to enable them to survive and replicate. Human Persons require their constituting animals to be in a situation where they can flourish and develop into persons. So does the ‘property’ view of persons given by animalism. Are these analogies really parallel?
  • The CV is really a bundle of views – in particular, Baker’s ‘distinctive’ views of what a person is, what a FPP is and recognising an ‘ontological change’ once certain psychological capacities – those she herself happens to find particularly important – have developed.
Footnotes 54, 55: Footnote 56:
  • Baker describes Animalism as the view that persons are identical to human animals, whose persistence conditions they have.
  • She has a footnote on David Wiggins, claiming that – while he is well known for developing a theory of constitution-without-identity – he doesn’t apply it to persons and animals. She says he takes persons to be identical to animals, but that animals are not identical to their bodies. The CV takes the opposite stance on both these claims.
  • I imagine there’s a lot of misunderstanding of Wiggins’s views, which are never very clear.
Footnote 57:
  • The fact of our being persons isn’t in question. The issue is whether we are essentially persons. We human animals can still engage in the thoughts Baker thinks so important – even if rather rarely – during the times we qualify as persons without our being persons essentially.
  • I suppose those extra special qualities of persons aren’t really the properties of individuals but of communities that develop and pass on ideas and culture through language.
  • So, there are biological differences between ourselves and other apes: our bipedalism, opposable thumbs, greatly expanded cerebral cortex and a larynx capable of the vocal modulations that ultimately enable speech. That’s where the ontological difference lies – firmly in our animal nature. It’s just that we are rather special animals.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2023
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - Sept 2023. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page