|Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern|
|Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 2|
|Paper - Abstract|
|Paper Summary||Books / Papers Citing this Paper||Notes Citing this Paper|
For the meaning of any abbreviations in what follows Click here for Note. My comments in general appear as footnotes at the bottom of the page. Criterion … Psychological Biological Pro 1. “Intuition pump” science fiction cases 1. Our Essence Con 1. Method of Cases problem 1. Dicephalus
(1) Present-past: Y’s memories of the acts and experiences of X.
(2) Present-future: X has an intention that Y carries out.
(3) Persistence: X’s beliefs, desires and goals are had by Y.
(4) Resemblance: X and Y have similar characters.
1. On the Narrow Criterion, we require the normal (brain-based) cause.
2. On the Wide Criterion, any psychology-preserving cause will do, provided the psychological continuity is unique5.
(a) doesn’t it make sense to say – looking at an old sonogram – “that’s me”?
(b) if you had fetal alcohol syndrome, wouldn’t it make sense to say that you had been damaged in utero?. So,
(c) “just as … I existed prior to being an adult, so … I existed prior to being a person13.”.
(a) On the assumption that there’s only one substance present at a time, what happens to the non-person at the temporal termini of the person? Shoemaker (for good reason) denies that it dies or disappears when the person arises, or that it’s born or pops into existence when the person ceases. Birth and death don’t work that way (they are biological terms) and things just don’t pop in and out of existence (as far as we know).
(b) The alternative is that there are two partially temporally and spatially overlapping substances. Then, during the period of existence of the person, there are two co-located things present. Shoemaker contents himself with saying that this seems a little odd14.
(1) It is what we can feel and directly move.
(2) It is that to which any of your temporal or spatial attributes really apply.
Both of these proposals are open to objections and counter-examples:-
(1) At least three objections:-
… Paralysed people have bodies;
… We cannot move internal organs, which are still body-parts;
… We directly move implements and prosthetics.
(2). The objection is that this proposal assumes (says Shoemaker) what is in question – that I am my body – because it assigns all my physical and spatio-temporal attributes to my body. But (says Shoemaker) some deny that I am my body – in which case we have two possessors of these attributes – me and my body. By denying this, the second attempt to clarify what is meant by “body” fails as well.
Shoemaker presses this thought by considering (hypothetical) cases even more conjoined than the Hensel twins, eg.
1. Where there is one body and two heads: in this case, taking separate cardio-pulmonary systems as individuative of organisms (which works for the Hensels) would fail and
2. Shared body and brain-stem, but two cerebra and faces: there would be a single autonomic control centre, but two streams of consciousness.
Shoemaker says that DeGrazia – an animalist – claims this latter case (2) is an analogue of MPD – ie. there is a single organism but two streams of consciousness. Shoemaker rejects this response, on the grounds that in MPD (Click here for Note) the streams of consciousness are cut off from one another. But whatever our view on this score, his main objection is that the motivation for saying that the Hensel twins are two individuals – that they disagree about things and are otherwise independent – would (ex hypothesi) be true in the case of case (2); so, if DeGrazia is willing to agree that the Hensel twins are two persons and two individuals (human animals) he should have the same view in case (2) – but it is hard to argue that the extreme case of conjoint twins really does represent two almost overlapping animals (which is why DeGrazia tries to wriggle out of the problem by introducing the MPD analogy).
1. I will be that corpse: Shoemaker thinks this “wildly implausible” – though admits that some have held this view. His reason is that, at death, the presumption is that “we are no more”, and that this is what mourning is all about. He sees incoherence25 if we were still there, as a corpse.
2. My “corpse-to-be” has existed all the while alongside me: Shoemaker thinks this is both “creepy” and that it undermines the main motivation for animalism – on not having two things of different kinds co-located (ie. persons and animals – or in this case, animals and “corpses-to-be”). So, does Baker – and Olson, though Olson gets out of the bind by denying that this is a sensible option, instead preferring …
3. My corpse comes into existence at my death: This is Shoemaker’s “best bet” (and rightly so) – because the persistence conditions of a human animal and a corpse are so different, why are they not different things? But he’s worried by the vagueness of death – just when do I cease to exist and my corpse start to exist? He’s worried26 by this for two reasons: (1) it’s worrying that we can’t tell the demarcation between two such distinct entities and (2) if we’re reduced to a stipulation, how can this have an ontological impact?
/ Considerations …
3. Rational Anticipation
2. Third-person identification
3. Identity conditions of human non-persons
2. The Essence Problem:-
2. Corpse Problem
3. Transplant Intuition
4. Rational Anticipation
1. Look in detail at the defences each side provides to counter the objections. Since each side has lots of smart advocates, we can’t expect a reolution any time soon30.
2. See how the rival theories perform when stressed by various moral concerns, such as abortion, advance directives, moral responsibility and compensation – a job for Part 2 of the book.
3. See if there are radical alternatives – the job of the next chapter ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches").
Footnote 1: Why is Shoemaker focused on connectedness? I suppose “overlapping chains of strong psychological connections” just is a definition of psychological continuity, so continuity has to be cashed out in terms of connectedness. So, … isn’t continuity just the ancestral of connectedness, so we have the full psychological analogue of MC1a … and then of the other MC tweaks to circumvent duplication?
Footnote 2: And it’s not even clear what it means, in my view.
Footnote 3: This seems to me to be related to Baker’s FPP (Click here for Note), sameness of which she takes to be constitutive of PI.
Footnote 4: In the text on which the above comment is based, Shoemaker says “connected” – which might be intended, but then makes the PC false in the non-transitivity cases where connectedness fails.
Footnote 5: This uniqueness condition is a symptom of the problem with the PC, at least in its wide form. Since there’s nothing to stop duplication – and only the logical possibility of duplication is required – then identity can never be preserved (if we insist that one thing’s existence cannot be affected by the mere existence of another thing: see, eg., "Noonan (Harold) - The Only X and Y Principle").
Footnote 6: Shoemaker’s rejection of the objections to TEs is all a bit quick and glib, given the extensive literature on the subject. I need to follow up on this (Click here for Note).
Footnote 7: Only the self-reidentification factor, as far as I could see, though maybe also it motivates rational concern for the future).
Footnote 10: Shoemaker has a footnote to the effect that the assumption that each “concrete object” that exists belongs most fundamentally to one and only one fundamental kind that provides the object’s diachronic identity conditions can be challenged. He asks us to bear in mind that (maybe)
Footnote 12: For the Fetus Problem, Click here for Note.
Footnote 13: This final comment from Shoemaker motivates my thought that persons are phase sortals of human beings (or of other appropriately psychologically-endowed beings). Click here for Note.
Footnote 14: Shoemaker doesn’t explain the oddness. The explanation would presumably develop into Olson’s TA argument (Click here for Note) for animalism (Click here for Note). There are too many thinkers present (as both the animal and the person think).
Footnote 16: If neither X nor Y was a person, then the question of personal identity would not arise, though it is, of course (assuming the psychological requirements of personhood) possible that a human animal – with its admitted biological identity criteria – might never be a person.
Footnote 17: See "Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities".
Footnote 19: Another advantage not owned by Shoemaker is that it makes our PCs more in line with those of the higher mammals, and the great apes in particular (on the assumption that the latter aren’t quite persons).
Footnote 20: This seems to ignore the counter-examples such as “X isn’t the same person any more” (though this reflects only a change of personality the animalist will counter).
Footnote 21: In "Penrose (Roger) - The Emperor's New Mind" (Where is the seat of consciousness? – p. 492), Penrose claims that it’s the reticular formation at the top of the brain-stem that is the seat of consciousness. No doubt there are more authoritative sources. At least Wikipedia (Link) agrees that it’s “one of the phylogenetically oldest portions of the brain” (Penrose seems to think he’s being radical by supposing that animals might be conscious – though he has doubts about fish). It also states that “The reticular formation has projections to the thalamus and cerebral cortex that allow it to exert some control over which sensory signals reach the cerebrum and come to our conscious attention. It plays a central role in states of consciousness like alertness and sleep. Injury to the reticular formation can result in irreversible coma.” From this it’s unclear whether the RF is the seat of consciousness, or the gateway to it.
Footnote 22: See "Blatti (Stephan) - Animalism, Dicephalus, and Borderline Cases" for a thorough discussion of this issue. Blatti’s paper is a response to "McMahan (Jeff) - The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life" (eg. "McMahan (Jeff) - Identity", p. 35), and his view is that the dicephalus is a borderline case of human animal, where it is far from obvious either that there is one animal or two of us.
Footnote 23: Because of their linked circulatory systems, Eng died soon after Chang (though he could have undertaken emergency surgery and been separated and maybe survived, but refused).
Footnote 24: I still don’t see why the “overlapping” idea won’t work – especially if we’re attracted to Lewis’s idea of completely overlapping temporal stages belonging to future-fissioning or past-fused organisms. Also, it’s not certain that case (2) would have two centres of consciousness (and thereby be two persons) – though presumably this is an empirical matter.
Footnote 25: While there are good reasons to think that I am not my corpse, Shoemaker’s reasons are not they. Firstly, mourning takes place even amongst people who think the dead still exist – as disembodied spirits, say – though only the Carthusians sincerely rejoice at a funeral. And the issue is not presence or absence, but loss of interaction – corpses don’t interact much, and don’t even have the remote possibility of revival, as have those in a PVS.
Footnote 26: What’s the answer to this? Is it a pseudo-problem? And, just what is the impact on animalism?
Footnote 27: I need to consider this case under TEs (Click here for Note), and Transplants (Click here for Note), and in particular Brain Transplants (Click here for Note). Currently, my view is that the intuition should be denied. It may be a similar situation to the “forward psychological continuity” problem (Click here for Note) – where it is the graft-recipient whose consciousness continues, though in a confused state. But it’s an empirical matter, though one that would be forever undecided (since even the first-person perspective cannot be trusted – and if the transplantor’s consciousness doesn’t persist, no-one can tell us).
Footnote 28: But if I deny the sufficiency condition, why should I be convinced by this analogy? The point seems to be that we’re looking for a criterion of personal identity that (amongst other things) allows for anticipation of future states, and animalism fails the latter test. Shoemaker is right that something “extra” of a psychological nature is required for anticipation – so we need both identity and an appropriate psychology. What’s wrong with that? I think the situation is muddled somewhat by calling animalism a theory of personal identity (in deference to the history of the philosophical problem) when in fact it’s a theory of our identity.
Footnote 29: In my view, I am (rationally) required to do so, because we share the same FPP (Click here for Note). I dare say the limits of my rational concern will be for the physical well-being of that person, not for his particular likes and dislikes, which I may not be able to anticipate. Also, I may rationally discount – in the sense of give less weight to – my concern on the grounds that that person may not exist (ie. if I die young).
Footnote 30: But surely we might as well give up on philosophy if we adopt this attitude? This “digging deeper” approach is, in any case, the route I intend to take with my Thesis (Click here for Note), in arbitrating between Olson and Baker.
1. “Intuition pump” science fiction cases
1. Our Essence
1. Method of Cases problem
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
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