This is a summary of Stephan Blatti’s PhD Thesis (from 2005). It is especially important from my perspective as it covers much of the ground I wish to cover, so I need to ensure I’ve something original to say.
- Precis: In a series of six, interrelated but self-standing chapters, I argue for and explore some consequences of the view known as 'animalism1'. Animalism2 is the view that each of us is identical to a particular animal and that our persistence conditions3 are biological. Its main rivals include various Lockean proposals, according to which, since each of us is identical to a particular person, our persistence conditions4 are psychological. Since the early 1990s, there has emerged a literature surrounding the debate between animalism5 and Lockeanism. And while their topics are varied, each chapter of this dissertation is intended as a contribution to that debate.
- Chapter 1: Animalism6 Unburdened: Two theories - animalism7 and Lockeanism - compete for favour in contemporary discussions of personal identity. In this chapter, I educe and criticize a previously unacknowledged Lockean bias, viz. the claim that their capacity for self-consciousness8 renders persons radically discontinuous from other animals. The philosophical untenability and empirical implausibility of this uniqueness claim necessitates a reassessment of the debate between animalism9 and Lockeanism. The burden now rests with the latter to disprove the former.
- Chapter 2: Varieties of Animalism10: As much as neo-Lockean theories, anti-Lockean theories of personal identity begin from - if only to repudiate - the conceptual framework bequeathed by Locke. In this chapter, I show how distinct formulations of animalism11 emerge from different strategies for rejecting Locke's view. Whereas the first, Somatic Animalism12, holds that the fundamental nature of (human) animals is physical, the alternative, Organic Animalism13, maintains that the fundamental nature of (human) animals is biological. In defence of Organicism, I introduce an account of animal persistence that avoids the problems which render Somaticism untenable.
- Chapter 3: Objections to Animalism14: The purpose of this chapter is to answer five key objections to animalism15. The first objection that I consider derives from Ted Sider's argument that talk of personal identity is semantically indeterminate as between the bodily criterion and the psychological criterion16. Contra Sider, I argue that Organic Animalism17 fares at least as well as, if not better than, its bodily and psychological rivals. The next two objections are what I call duplication objections. An example of this kind of objection takes its cue from cases of dicephalus18 – an actual condition that occurs when (prior to implantation) a human zygote19 fails to divide completely, resulting in a two-headed human being, each of whose brains supports a distinct mental life. The anti-animalist objects that, because they instance two persons but only one organism, dicephalic20 twins21 provide a counter-example to the animalist’s22 claim that each of us is numerically identical with a single human animal23. Two more objections fall under the heading of transfer objections. A familiar example of this type of objection is the imaginary case of a cerebrum transplant24, in which your cerebrum25 is transferred into a cerebrum-less26 body. Against the animalist27, it is objected that such an operation would have the effect of transferring you to a new body. If this intuition is correct, the anti-animalist concludes, you were not identical to the human animal28 in which you formerly resided. My reply to these transfer objections is largely methodological.
- Chapter 4: Essentialism, Taxonomy, and Homo Sapiens: In this chapter, I consider how animalism29 might be rendered compatible with two (related) views which enjoy great popularity amongst evolutionary biologists, systematists, and philosophers of biology. The first view is simply anti-essentialism about species. According to the second view, a species (like Homo sapiens) is not a natural kind30, but a natural individual: not a class whose members instantiate certain essential properties, but a historical entity whose parts are genealogically-related organisms.
- Chapter 5: Constitution, Art Objects, and Self-Reference: In this chapter, I attack the so-called 'constitution view31' from a rather oblique perspective. Those who defend the constitution view32 make much of an analogy with art objects. Their thought is that, just as (for instance) the statue33 is non-identically constituted by the piece of marble, so too the person you are is non-identically constituted by an animal. I exploit this analogy, argue (on purely aesthetic grounds) for the falsity of the claim about art objects, and then apply that moral to our case. Along the way, I explore what the animalist34 should say about self-reference.
- Chapter 6: Animalism35, Vegetarianism, and Potentiality: In this final chapter, I consider some of the possible ethical implications of the animalist36 position - arguing that, in the case of vegetarianism, there aren't any, and that with respect to the so-called 'potentiality problem' (in the debate about abortion)37, there are.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)