Thesis - Chapter 02 (What Are We?)
Todman (Theo)
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Write-up2 (as at 27/01/2022 09:41:46): Thesis - Chapter 02 (What are We?)

  • The topic “personal identity” has historically presupposed that we are (in the sense of “identical to”, or “most fundamentally”) persons, whereas I (along with other animalists) claim that we are identical to human animals.
  • “We” requires explanation.
  • This chapter will sort out the topic of discussion for the Thesis as a whole.

Research Methodology
  • Follow this Link3 for a generic statement of how I intend to pursue each Chapter.
  • The method is broken down into 16, possibly iterative, stages, some of which have sub-stages.
  • Follow this Link4 for my progress dashboard on these tasks.
  • Progress on this Chapter is unusual in that it was the sample Chapter on which I was working with my Supervisor when registered for the PhD at Birkbeck.

Chapter Introduction
  1. This Chapter has a plethora of supporting Notes discussing the sort of thing that I think we are NOT. Like the preceding Chapter, this one could run and run, so can only provide a superficial summary.
  2. Discussion of our being Persons5 is reserved for Chapter 36, the next Chapter.
  3. Discussion of our being Human Animals7 is reserved for Chapter 68.
  4. The first obvious candidate is that we are Human Beings9, but this is – or has become – a rather obscure term of art in philosophy, not that it’s any clearer in general parlance, where it can mean many things that have their carefully demarcated terms in philosophy.
  5. It was once an up-and-coming idea, in reaction to the PV10, that we might be Bodies11, but with has been replaced by Animalism12. The Body Criterion13, despite having the advantage of Bodily Continuity14, is more difficult to define than the persistence of Organisms15.
  6. No-one would think that we are Brains16 unless forced into that corner by various TEs17 and this leads on to the further possibility that we might be individual Cerebra18. Nevertheless, the Brain Criterion19 should be taken seriously, particularly as the criterion of Brain Death20 for our demise seems to at least incline towards the view that that is what we really are. I’ve got my Note on Brains in Vats21 in this section, as it covers a number of cases including that we might be living in a Computer-Simulated world.
  7. I need to address the concept of a Soul22 as souls were once the major counter-claim to the persisting entity being an animal; or at least popularly so. However – scientific objections aside – the Soul Criterion23 is difficult to make out.
  8. Then, there’s the suggestion that we might be Selves24. This is a highly complex topic, with lots of associated Notes, which might be segregated in three groups:-
    1. Candidates for what the self might be – the I25, or Cartesian Ego26. The latter leads on to Dualism27 (though both the latter might be better covered under Souls28).
    2. The connection of the Self with Narrative Identity29; the sort of thing people mean when they say Bloggs is not the same person as he used to be. Because the concept of Race30 is so topical, I’m including a discussion in this section.
    3. The reason people think they might be Selves is because they are Self-Conscious31 (ie. conscious of being selves, rather than being shy). Thinking about this requires brief forays into Consciousness32 studies, including Supervenience33, Functionalism34 and philosophical Zombies35.
  9. An intuition I do not share is that we might be “Patterns in Information Space36”. This is the sort of intuition that Transhumanists37 have, and will be considered in detail in Chapter 1038.
  10. There are Bundle Theories39, at one time espoused by Hume40, which seem to put the cart before the horse, in saying that we are nothing but bundles of “perceptions”, when – it seems to me – these “perceptions” have to be had by something, and this something – whatever it might be – is what we are.
  11. There may be Hybrid Theories41 which try to get the best bits out of more than one of the main-line theories, usually in response to awkward TEs or unusual circumstances.
  12. Finally, there are Nihilists42 who pretend to deny that we exist at all, or at least – as Buddhists43 committed to Reincarnation44– claim that our aim should be not to exist.

Links to Notes
  1. What are We?45
  2. Candidates for what we are, considered in this Chapter
    1. Human Beings46
    2. Bodies47
    3. Brains50
    4. Souls55
    5. Selves57
    6. Patterns in Information Space68
    7. Bundle Theories69
    8. Hybrid Theories71
    9. Nihilism72
  3. Candidates for what we are, considered in later Chapters
    1. Animals74. Excluded75
    2. Organisms76. Excluded77
    3. Persons78. Excluded79

Main Text: What are We?
  1. What are We?80
    1. This Chapter has the title “What Are We?”. The “We” is of some significance, as we will see in the course of this Thesis when we consider the social and reciprocal aspects of what it is to be a person. Nonetheless, should we not start with the singular, maybe even solipsist, question “What Am I?”, and expand out from there into the collective question? How we phrase our initial question has an impact on the course of our investigations, and may reflect our deepest presuppositions. The first-person question adopts the Cartesian stance of looking from the inside out, whereas the third-person question considers “us” collectively. The first-person question may presuppose that the answer to the question is that I am primarily a psychological being, whereas the third-person question may assume or expect the answer that I am fundamentally physical.
    2. Some of the potential answers to the question will be the same whether we phrase the question in the singular or the plural.
    3. Taking it in the plural for now, we need to distinguish, as candidates for what we might be on the physical side, (prefixing “human-” passim):-
      • Animals,
      • Organisms,
      • Bodies,
      • Beings, and
      • Brains.
    4. On the psychological side, I might be a self or, more popularly, a person. I might even be a non-essentially-embodied entity like a soul.
    5. I will consider all these options in due course; with the exception of a detailed discussion of the concept PERSON (which is reserved for the next Chapter81), I will do so later in this chapter.
    6. Olson82 also considers whether we might be Humean bundles83 of mental states and events, and even the nihilist view that we don’t exist at all. I’m not sure I’ll have space for these, but need to remain aware of the possibilities and motivations for these positions.
    7. However, for the moment I want to consider some themes connecting the possible answers to our question. Firstly, does there have to be a single answer? I know that I, and presume that my readers also, fall happily under the concepts HUMAN ANIMAL, HUMAN ORGANISM and HUMAN BEING. I at least have a human body and a human brain, though I would initially feel reluctant to say that I am one of either of these things. I would certainly claim to be a SELF, and also a PERSON, as no doubt would my reader. So, cannot all these answers be correct?
    8. This raises the question of what I mean by saying what I am (or we are) something. In saying that I am any of these things, what sort of relation is the “am”? Am I using am in the sense of an identity relation, a constitution relation, ascribing a predicate, or have some other sense in mind?
    9. There are two kinds of questions I want to ask. Firstly, what sort of being am I identical to? Secondly, what sort of properties do I have; both metaphysically essential properties (those without which I would cease to exist), and those I merely consider essential (that is, “very important”, though I would continue to exist without them)?
    10. Any “is” that does duty for the identity relation inherits the formal properties of an equivalence relation; in particular, it is a transitive relation. Additionally, the “two” identical entities either side of the copula must satisfy Leibniz’s law; “they” share (at a time) all their properties; actual and modal, intrinsic and relational. So, if I am identical to a human animal, and also identical to a human person, then that human animal must be identical to that human person. This would mean that these “two” entities are really one. They co-exist at all times in all possible worlds where either of “them” exists, and share all their properties and relations, at any time and world. Everything that happens to “one” at a world and time happens to the “other” at those coordinates. This places strong logical constraints on how much cake I can have and eat. I may want to say that I am identical both to a human animal, and to a human person, yet claim that a human person has certain mental properties essentially, but deny that a human animal does. However, I am then claiming what is logically impossible, at least for the classical logic of identity84 that denies that such notions as relative identity are coherent. As we will see, this point is essential to the animalist case that we are not identical to human persons (given the claim that we are identical to human animals).
    11. My thesis addresses the topic of personal identity, but we might claim that what we’re really interested in is in our identity. Not that we have doubts as individuals as to which particular individual we are (as though I, as Bill Clinton, don’t know whether I am Bill Clinton or George W. Bush), but what sort of individual we are, together with worries about our persistence (how long we are going to last, and in what form). Historically, it has been a standard presupposition that what we are most fundamentally is persons, or at least that’s all we care about. So, concern about our identity has been elided with concern for personal identity, almost as though we thought that the two questions are the same. Animalists argue that the two questions are indeed different, but for convenience, and the historical continuity of the general topic under discussion, still say they are talking about personal identity.
  2. Candidates for what we are, considered in this Chapter
    1. Human Beings85
    2. Bodies86
    3. Brains89
    4. Souls94
    5. Selves96
    6. Patterns in Information Space107
    7. Bundle Theories108
    8. Hybrid Theories110
    9. Nihilism111
  3. Further text to be supplied113.

Concluding Remarks
  1. In our next Chapter114, we consider just what a Person is.
  2. This is work in progress115.

Links to Books / Papers to be Addressed116
  1. This section attempts to derive the readings lists automatically from those of the underlying Notes, but removing duplicated references. The list is divided into:-
  2. For this Chapter I have already worked on the various papers or book chapters under supervisory control. Where this is the case, for ease of reference, the analytical Note for each reference is hyperlinked directly.
  3. Additionally, I may need to consider other papers or book chapters in the following lists (together with some others referenced by these). There are doubtless many more that are relevant and which will be addressed in the course of the thesis, but these are probably sufficient to get us going. Some that I have considered have been culled or reserved for later.
  4. The list on Selves list is rather long, and contains many whole books. I may have to cull several of these further down the line. However, the Self is important, as it’s the root of Baker’s FPP119, and the motivator for all psychological theories of PI, so understanding just what it is supposed to be is central to my concerns.
  5. The comment about the prolixity of the reading list applies even more to Souls than Selves, without the positive connection my primary thesis. However, if we were to be souls, this would solve the resurrection problem; so I need to thoroughly understand the reasons why we might be – but most likely are not – souls.
  6. Many aspects of these papers will need to be left for later chapters.

Works on this topic that I’ve actually read120, include the following:-
  1. What are We?121
  2. Candidates for what we are, considered in this Chapter
    1. Human Beings139
    2. Bodies
    3. Brains
    4. Souls
    5. Selves
    6. Patterns in Information Space177
    7. Bundle Theories
    8. Hybrid Theories181
    9. Nihilism

A further reading list might start with:-
  1. What are We?186
  2. Candidates for what we are, considered in this Chapter
    1. Human Beings195
    2. Bodies
    3. Brains
    4. Souls
    5. Selves
    6. Patterns in Information Space226
    7. Bundle Theories
    8. Hybrid Theories230
    9. Nihilism

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 2:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (27/01/2022 09:41:46).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
Footnotes 75, 77:
  • This Note will be excluded from the Reading List for this Chapter.
  • It is included in the Reading List for Chapter 6.
Footnote 79:
  • This Note will be excluded from the Reading List for this Chapter.
  • It is included in the Reading List for Chapter 3.
Footnote 82: In "Olson (Eric) - What are We? A Study of Personal Ontology"

Footnote 116:
  • See the section on Research Methodology for what is to be done with these.
Footnote 123: Footnote 129: Footnote 131: Footnote 133: Footnote 136: Footnote 147:
  • I’ve read this book, but it’s insufficiently philosophical for its arguments – such as they are – to be worth considering as a priority.
Footnote 152:
  • This maybe ought to be categorised as an “anti-soul” view.
Footnote 163:
  • This is getting a bit off the track, but India is important in this context.
  • The author’s contention is that Persian culture united the Hindu and Muslim elements of Indian society until the British “divide and rule” policy mucked things up.
  • This is probably an oversimplification, as the British introduced their own unifying culture.
  • It’s not as though the Subcontinent was at peace before the British imposed it. But the author is probably correct that these regional wars were just “business as usual” and had nothing to do with religion.
Footnote 178:
  • See Chapter 11: “High Surprisal”.
Footnote 185:
  • This account seems to be updated periodically.
Footnote 188:
  • This looks interesting, but is somewhat off-topic for a priority reading-list.
Footnote 190:
  • See sections I:1-3.
  • See Draft Note, Review Comments.
  • This excerpt from Brandom raises some questions about the community we call “we”.
Footnote 193:
  • Probably the most important source for this Chapter of my Thesis.
  • There are hosts of papers by Olson that touch on this topic, but this book, and the paper of the same name, are enough in this context.
Footnote 196:
  • I’ve not listed the essays appearing in this collection.
Footnote 206:
  • Useful historical background, maybe!
Footnote 208:
  • This looks like a really rich paper that's worth giving a lot of attention.
Footnote 210:
  • Alexander thinks that we are Selves, and that Selves are tropes – abstract particulars – which by my lights is about as far from the truth as you can get, so I need to consider his arguments carefully.
Footnote 215: Footnote 217:
  • Individual papers in this collection are not separately identified.
Footnote 219: Footnote 220: Footnote 223:
  • This article is about Functionalism in the philosophy of mind, but might provide good background.
Footnote 229:
  • “Hume’s claim that identity is a fiction”.

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