Personal Identity and Immortality
Shoemaker (David)
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 1
Paper - Abstract

Paper SummaryBooks / Papers Citing this PaperNotes Citing this Paper


For the meaning of any abbreviations in what follows Click here for Note

  1. Motivating Introduction: The impending death of Gretchen Weirob – the case from "Perry (John) - A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality". A pastor and a former philosophy student of hers fail to convince her (a life-long atheist) that it is rational for her to anticipate post-mortem survival1 (taken to be “surviving the death of her body”).
  2. Background:
    • What she requires (but does not get) is:-
      … the rational anticipation of
      … the mere metaphysical possibility of continued post-mortem experiences
      … “from the inside”.
    • She does not require survival to be probable, just metaphysically possible, but this seems too weak a requirement, as some gerrymandered solutions to the problem are prima facie too improbable to be worthy of any rational credence.
    • Note: Just what does “probable” mean in this context? Click here for Note.
    • But, personal identity is key – it is essential for any surviving being to be her. And, in particular, not someone exactly similar to her.
    • The burden of proof is on the person proposing that post-mortem survival2 is possible. On the standard materialist conception of “I” – the default view – just how is post-mortem survival3 possible if my body has been cremated?
    • The Body Criterion (of personal identity) (BC): X at t1 is the same person as Y at t2 iff X’s body is the same as Y’s body.
    • Note: The Body Criterion (BC – Click here for Note) as stated doesn’t mention that either X or Y are persons. It’s usually assumed that both are, but Olson (in "Olson (Eric) - Persistence" and elsewhere) has it that only X need be (or alternatively only Y need be). We discuss the BC later in this Chapter.
    • If the body is destroyed at death, and the BC is true, then it is impossible to survive.
    • Note: Shoemaker references "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection", but doesn’t consider whether a body can be an intermittent object, re-constituted post-mortem. This seems to have been the mediaeval view, with all the concomitant worries about the resurrection of those consumed by cannibals. Note, however, that such views don’t take seriously the difference between an organism, which continuously exchanges matter with its environment, and a body, which – considered as a mass of matter – as a corpse – arguably does not.
    • Pending a Note of my own on Van Inwagen’s strange idea in the above paper, the summary offered by Shoemaker is that God “whisks away” the body of the soon-to-be-deceased at the point of death, and replaces it with a simulacrum, which is then dealt with as expected. The point of this is that Weirob’s knock-down objection to the metaphysical possibility of resurrection (the destruction of the body) is undermined. A body is destroyed, but it’s not your body. Your body – even though it will die “off scene” (this death is required for theological reasons) – is salted away for future resurrection. Shoemaker sees the following objections:-
      (a) without clarifying the “whisking”, how are we to know whether bodily identity is preserved?
      (b) doesn’t this process make God a deceiver?
    • My thoughts on the above are that:-
      (a) The whisking and salting must be within the power of an omnipotent being, so aren’t problematical as such – though we do need to know the identity-preserving mechanisms.
      (b) Allowing God to be a deceiver may simply be redefining the concept “God”. Deception may be impossible for the traditional concept of God “who cannot lie”, but maybe there are other coherent concepts of the divine that don’t require this attribute. Also, one could say that – on the traditional conception of “God” – if it’s logically necessary for God to act in a certain way to keep his promises, then he doesn’t need to point this out, and so isn’t strictly deceiving anyone, since we can work out what must be going on (if we’re as smart as Van Inwagen, or have him to enlighten us).
    • However, I don’t accept this weaselling. As noted above – “mere metaphysical possibility” isn’t enough for rational expectation. We’ve no reason to believe in this whisking, especially since God hasn’t told us anything about it.
    • On the presumption that the Body Criterion is insufficient to provide for rational anticipation of resurrection (whatever its merits as a criterion of Personal Identity), we move on to look for alternative criteria that meet the following requirements:-
      (a) Provide a mechanism whereby pre- and post-mortem identification is seen as rational.
      (b) Is possible – ie. isn’t absurd or incoherent.
  3. The Soul Criterion (SC): X at t1 is the same person as Y at t2 iff X’s soul is the same as Y’s soul.
    • Shoemaker describes the soul as being “your essence”, that might survive the destruction of your body, but goes on to give Plato and Aristotle’s accounts:-
    • Plato: The soul is what the person really is, a non-physical thing that is the prisoner of the body. For Plato (and more or less similarly, Descartes) the soul is a substance, and is the sort of thing that persists.
    • Aristotle: The soul is the organising principle of the (in fact, any) body. All persons have a common form (the soul), but different physical manifestations. This is not a substance-concept, so Aristotelian souls don’t persist. This is why Aquinas, who adopted Aristotle’s concept of the soul, insisted on the resurrection of the body.
    • So, only Plato’s conception of the soul is even prima facie grounds for rational anticipation of post-mortem survival4 thereby. What are the objections?
    • Firstly, more detail is required of the concept. Is a soul :-
      (a) A purely psychological substance, whose essence is to think (as Descartes maintained)?
      (b) A substance whose psychology is separable from it?
      (c) Something I have or something I am (or something else)?
    • Shoemaker makes the assumption that “we can directly and reliably know about the existence and nature of only those substances we can perceive with our senses”. If this foundation of empiricism (not here challenged by Shoemaker) is true, then:-
    • How can we determine whether souls exist or what they are like, given that they are immaterial substances?
    • Shoemaker notes that there are many and various objections to the existence (or coherence) of Platonic souls as such, but he (and Weirob) allow their existence for the sake of the argument. Their objection is that they don’t even do the work they are conceived of to do. This leads to Weirob’s Reductio:-
    • (1) If the Soul Criterion were true, we could never have the grounds to judge if X is the same person as Y,
      (2) But we do this all the time,
      So,
      (3) The Soul Criterion is false.
    • The point of the objection is an epistemological one. If the Soul Criterion is the correct account of Personal Identity, then – because we can’t see souls – we can’t individuate them, and so we can never tell whether an individual is the same person from one moment to the next.
    • Shoemaker notes that this isn’t the same as the problem of misidentification – where an exactly similar individual (an identical twin, say) is mistaken for another. Here, the problem is one of principle rather than practice. We can put in controls to prevent misidentification, but we can’t do this if the Soul Criterion is correct, as no identification of Souls is possible.
    • Note: I need to review the various conceptions of the soul, as I suspect some of this may have more force against Platonic souls than Cartesian ones. Is a Platonic soul supposed by Shoemaker to be a bare particular? Click here for Note (eventually) for a general note on Souls. Are both Platonic and Cartesian souls supposed all to, have certain standard attributes (lack of extension, the ability to think) but no qualities that distinguish them one from another other haecceity? Click here for Note; some of the references from this Note will consider such matters.
    • Possible response – use a proxy for soul-identification, either
      (a) The Body, or
      (b) Psychology.
    • The body as proxy for the soul: this is alleged not to work for another epistemological reason – because we could never determine that there was a “same body, same soul” relation.
      … Weirob’s “Chocolate Centre” analogy.
      Note - all these arguments are considered by Locke in "Locke (John) - Of Identity and Diversity" (Click here for Note).
    • Psychology as proxy for the soul: this takes the body as a normally reliable indicator of sameness of person, but what really establishes identity is sameness of psychology. Radical personality changes indicate a different person, even in the presence of identity of body. But psychology is what souls do, so sameness of psychology is a much better indicator of sameness of soul than sameness of body. The objection to this defence is that it confuses similarity with identity. We can tag the body, so can tell if it’s the very same one, but we can’t do this with the soul – all we can see are similar states of mind, which might or might not belong to the very same soul.
      … Weirob’s “River / River Water” analogy.
    • Response to objections: Weirob’s arguments seem to confuse epistemology with metaphysics. She admits that there might be souls, but denies that they meet her requirement that they can help with practical questions of re-identification. But, we can reject this requirement. Metaphysically, the Soul Criterion might be the right account of Personal Identity, even if it is of no help in answering our epistemological questions.
    • But, Shoemaker suggests that – since the Soul Criterion, if correct, would undermine all our practical concerns that involve matters of Personal Identity – we should reject it on these grounds alone (if there aren’t more compelling metaphysical grounds for the rejection of souls). Shoemaker leaves the question whether this is correct to the final Chapter ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics - Conclusion: Notes on Method").
    • But for now, Shoemaker claims that the issue is that – whether or not it is the correct metaphysical account of Personal Identity – the Soul Criterion can never satisfy Weirob’s request for rational anticipation of post-mortem survival5.
    • Whether this is so is a very deep question. The claim is that as a soul is separable from both body and psychology, there’s no guarantee that we’d see the post-mortem world “from the inside”. But is this so? Take the worst case – or is it the best case? – the soul is associated with a new resurrection body distinct from my pre-mortem one, and a new, improved psychology, free of propensities to sin – but would this be me? This situation is somewhat similar to the traditional Christian hope of resurrection, and it has some force even there. The difference is that in the “worst case”, I don’t have any physical or psychological continuity6 with my past – while, presumably, in Christian resurrection I do, at least psychologically, and even physically for those that are “changed” (ie. metamorphosed7 at Christ’s return). Now, in the “worst case”, would there be anything of me that persists? Would I have anything to look forward to (or – if I went to the other place – to fear)? Would I still have my window on the world, but one in which I’ve utterly lost my context – say like a severe stroke victim? Is there, in such cases, a continuity – maybe in virtue of the soul’s haecceity – that’s more than that non-existent continuity between two unconnected individuals (which is the case as Shoemaker describes it)?
  4. The Memory Criteria (MC):
    • Shoemaker considers what we do when we wake up and “re-identify ourselves”. This is a first-person perspective, rather than the third-person considered hitherto. The idea is that re-identification is undertaken indexically – “I have awoken”, not “Theo has awoken”. It’s clear (says Shoemaker) that we don’t check we are (or have) the same soul, but he also claims that we don’t check we’ve the same body either. This is not just because we don’t expect it to have changed (though it might have changed radically, say, if we’d been in a 50-year coma). But even if it had changed, this wouldn’t persuade us that we were a different person.
    • The reason is that there’s a long history of TEs that claim to show that we might wake up in an entirely different body – "Kafka (Franz), Pasley (Malcolm) - Metamorphosis and Other Stories" being the classic case (though Locke’s Prince and Cobbler is older; see my BA Finals paper on this topic, converted to Note form (Click here for Note)).
    • Combined, these thoughts – in particular that persons are neither bodies nor souls – imply that Persons aren’t substances. If not, what are they? Shoemaker introduces a discussion of games, not that persons are games, but that they might be a whole made up of parts in accord with certain rules, much as games are.
    • Maybe a better attempt is a life, for which see "Wollheim (Richard) - Living".
    • The portfolio of alternative memory criteria is the obvious first choice, as this is what is said to make the awakened bug think it is the man that slept. Memories connect our various stages.
    • There are many objections to the coherence of these TEs, and they seem to beg the question of what it is that enables this first-person perspective in the first place. If it was the soul, then body changing might be coherent. But if it is the brain, or the body as a whole, then it isn’t.
    • Memory Criterion 1 – MC1: X at t1 is the same person as Y at t2 iff Y remembers the thoughts and experiences of X.
      Objections to MC1
      1. Butler’s 1736 Objection: Intermittent existence caused by amnesia. Click here for Note (section “Problems with Locke’s Account of Personal Identity”, item 3 (“Amnesia”), admittedly not quite covering this issue). Shoemaker has a footnote on MC1 being a sufficient but not necessary condition for personal identity. It might satisfy the metaphysical requirement for immortality if remembering a past life was sufficient for survival. But Shoemaker has higher aims.
      2. Reid’s 1785 Objection: The Brave Officer. Failure of transitivity. This is a much more serious objection, as it implies a contradiction – since identity is a transitive relation. Click here for Note (section “Problems with Locke’s Account of Personal Identity”, item 4 (“Transitivity”)).
    • Memory Criterion 1a – MC1a: X at t1 is the same person as Y at t2 iff
      (a) Y directly remembers the thoughts and experiences of X, OR
      (b) Y directly remembers the thoughts and experiences of some Z, who …Q, who … R, …, who directly remembers the thoughts and experiences of X.
      … ie. the ancestral of the “remembers” relation.
      Objections to MC1a
      1. False memories: being deluded into thinking I remember commanding at Waterloo doesn’t make me Napoleon. But we can’t patch this up by saying that only genuine memories count, as this makes MC1a circular. Click here for Note (section “Problems with Locke’s Account of Personal Identity”, item 1 (“Priority”)).
      2. Circularity: if for memories to be genuine I need identity, I cannot use memory as a criterion of identity. (David) Shoemaker claims that (Sydney) Shoemaker and Derek Parfit claim that I can have genuine memories of experiences other than my own. Scientists “copy a memory trace” into my brain. I “seem to remember”, but am not deluded because I’m in on the act and know the experience wasn’t mine. The issue is one of causality8. Delusions (of course) have some cause, but it’s not of the right sort, with no connection to the original experience. (David) Shoemaker seems to think that the transplanted9 (though he says “copied”) memory-trace example is a case of genuine memory not presupposing identity.
    • Is this “Quasi-memory”? Click here for Note. This isn’t genuine memory (which is why it’s called Quasi-). There’s a causal relation between two events of experiencing, but the present experience isn’t one of remembering but of experiencing for the first time. It’s not re-lived but first-lived for the person who has the Q-M. But we’ll let this pass, and move on to …
    • Memory Criterion 2 – MC2: X at t1 is the same person as Y at t2 iff
      (a) Y seems to remember the thoughts and experiences of X, either directly of ancestrally AND
      (b) Y’s seeming to remember is caused in the right way.
      Motivation
      1. The “causal” clause is to circumvent the “delusion” objection.
      2. The claim is that the “copying” of the memory trace does provide a cause of the right sort, because the actual memory trace is a record of an experience, and not a record of an experience that never happened to anyone.
      Objections to MC2
      1. Copying: “Copying” memory traces seems all wrong – for surely this will fall foul of reduplication objections (see later). “Transplanting”10” memory traces might have more going for it, but is the sort of thing that (because of the distributed and intertwined realisation of “memory traces”) may be either forever practically impossible or even metaphysically impossible.
      2. Brains: However, it may be the case that my brain makes backup copies of its own memory traces, to provide fault-tolerance. So, we need to be careful about copying – some copyings may be of the right causal form, while others aren’t. It looks to me as though the copyings must involve the same brain, so that copyings from one brain to another are of the wrong sort. To be a memory, the memory-trace must have got into my brain (or indeed, any brain) by the right sort of causal process. This is – please note – in order to be a memory at all, not just my memory.
      3. Reliable Storage Mechanisms: It seems at first sight that what we want is “any old” reliable storage mechanism. So, the thought is that we might download the memories from one body (the pre-mortem one) and upload11 them to another (the resurrection one). The fact that this is not the usual causal mechanism is not relevant if it is reliable. The trouble is, that it isn’t …
      4. Reduplication: the problem with the download/upload12 proposal is that we need to stop multiple uploads13 – which Shoemaker takes to be equivalent to fission. (More on which later. Click here for Note). The reason for the reduplication problem is that identity is transitive. So if the pre-mortem person is identical to two resurrection persons, then those “two” persons have to be identical to one another. Shoemaker does briefly consider the possibility of “distributed persons” whereby the two resurrected bodies do house one person apparently living two lives, but rules that this stretches the concept of personhood too far.
      5. Real-Life Reduplication: Note, however, that there are well known issues here that apply to real-life situations, not just TEs – Multiple Personality Disorder (Click here for Note) and Commissurotomy (Click here for Note).
      6. Lewis: Note also that Lewis’s perdurantist (Click here for Note) approach to fission (Click here for Note) is a possible answer to the reduplication objection.
      7. Quick Fix: So, to avoid the reductio of reduplication, we could make a “no competitors” stipulation …
    • Memory Criterion 3 – MC3: As for MC2, but with an additional “No competitors” clause.
      Objections to MC3
      1. Absurdity: Shoemaker’s view is that while MC3 isn’t self-contradictory, it is “deeply absurd”, which is almost as bad. It’s like the “Branch-Line” case in Teletransportation (Click here for Note); one copy is made and is you, then another copy is made and what was you is no longer you. There are questions of priority here, and a better case for non-absurdity can be made than Shoemaker attempts. But there are cases where there’s no principled choice. See the discussions under “Closest Continuer” (Click here for Note).
      2. Your Experience: Shoemaker seems to assume that if we had the right sort of causality14, you would wake up in the resurrection body. And he may be right – but he also seems to assume that even without the right sort of causality15, there would still be continuity of experience, even without identity. Again, he may be right, but this takes me to my forward versus backward continuity theme (Click here for Note). While someone would wake up, this waking-up would not be something you experience, even if the waker-up would claim to be you. This has something (though I don’t know what) to do with how conscious states propagate. Resurrection to a new body is too much of a hop, though resurrection of the same body doesn’t seem so problematical (it seems analogous to resuscitation from a coma).
      3. Identity and Experience: Can one imagine continuity of experience in the case of fission? It seems difficult to do so, whether or not identity is preserved. We might, for instance, say that whatever we might think, because fission involves loss of identity, whatever we might imagine we would experience, we couldn’t in fact experience. We’re just deluded by the TE. However, what if we adopt a perdurantist (Click here for Note) approach to fission, so that prior to fission there were two co-habiting individuals whose stages just happened to be spatially coincident. Then we cannot use non-identity as a knock-down proof of inconceivability, as identity is preserved for both fission products. In that case continuous (if intermittent) conscious experience out to be possible, whether we can conceive of it or not.
      4. Christ: So, St. Paul’s claim that if the dead don’t rise, then Christ is not risen doesn’t quite work. As a generality the dead might not rise (if their bodies have been destroyed). But Christ may be a special case. Jesus Christ (is said to have) risen in his own body, somewhat “glorified”, but still so that there is a continuity that is lacking for the generality of mankind.
  5. The Body Criterion (BC): Shoemaker starts off with an awkward case – the fusion of X’s body with Y’s brain, to make F. Who is F? Note that the example is taken from Barbara Harris’s Who is Julia?.
    • Olson (and Weirob here) claims that F=X, taking the brain to be just another organ, but …
    • Most would say that the brain is special, and either that in consequence F=Y, or that the TE is underspecified or incoherent.
    • Methodological Aside: Shoemaker notes that the standard practice in this area is to test TEs against our Intuitions, which he equates to “pre-philosophical common-sense judgements”. This is supposed to be analogous to scientific investigation (as would be indicated by TEs being Thought Experiments), where theories are checked against “the facts”. However, Shoemakers account of our Intuitions makes them sound like prejudices, and not at all like the data with which science deals. A (philosophical) theory is judged successful in accord with how many of our intuitions it can account for. But how reliable are these intuitions, especially in unusual situations? This is a standard objection to TEs generally (Click here for Note).
  6. Three objections to the BC
    • The Brain is Special: The argument goes that while we can transplant16 livers and such-like, the brain is not just another organ (Click here for Note). The reasons given may seem to presuppose the PV, and lead on to the Brain-Based PC (see later). The reasons are that the brain preserves my memories and psychology, and while my liver might keep me alive – I could make do with “any old” set of vital organs (even mechanical ones) – the same isn’t true of “my” brain. The psychology in the brain is the “me” that’s being preserved by vital organs.
      Response
      1. Maybe this is a case of survival without what matters17. Ie. the body that survives with the transplanted brain18 (F) is X, but X doesn’t have what matters19 to her in survival; she lacks the psychological factors just rehearsed.
      2. But, we still need to consider the status of Y’s brain and its psychology. It continues to exist (lodged in X’s body) and (we suppose) continues to experience a first person perspective as Y (if out of context). Is it supposed to be part of X? Would the FPP really be continuous? All the usual questions.
      3. Sometime I need to look through "Popper (Karl) & Eccles (John) - The Self and Its Brain" (and "Eccles (John) - Evolution of the Brain, Creation of the Self"), however wearying, in case Popper or Eccles had anything useful to say on the possibility of a particular brain being important (but not essential) to the maintenance of self.
    • Dicephalus: Shoemaker quotes the familiar case of Abigail and Brittany Hensel, conjoined twins that share all organs below the waist, but not above, and (while having two spinal cords) have “nervous systems that are interconnected and partially shared” which “allows them to coordinate their activities fairly well”, including being able to play the piano. Shoemaker thinks that it’s obvious that there is only one body, but two persons. This is taken as a knock-down argument against the BC, though not, it seems, against the Biological View20, which is discussed in the next chapter (see "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern").
      Response
      1. For other discussions on this topic, Click here for Note (and see "Blatti (Stephan) - Animalism, Dicephalus, and Borderline Cases"). Shoemaker gives Link - which is still there, though the photo isn’t. There are multiple references on the web – eg. Link.
      2. I agree with Shoemaker that there are two persons. However, I disagree that there is one body. There are two bodies that share parts. Not sure if there are “normal” examples of this – maybe plants that share a root system?
    • Parfit’s Vagueness Objections: just how much body is required for identity-preservation? Shoemaker imagines a body being “pared down” bit by bit, and asks precisely how much has to remain before identity ceases. He says there has to be a limit, but thinks it ludicrous that “a few cells” could make the difference between identity and non-identity, life and death.
      Response
      1. This is an objection to the real existence of bodies as such, and not just as a criterion of (personal) identity. Also, presumably Shoemaker’s suggestion of percentages presuppose all parts of the body are equally important, and that we can start paring away at any place we feel like.
      2. There have been arguments along Sorites-lines21 against the existence of bodies (and many other things) – for instance "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings" and "Unger (Peter) - I Do Not Exist".
      3. But things like organisms may have a more principled set of existence-criteria (ie. they either work or they don’t); but there are other problems. For instance, organisms on life-support are still organisms … aren’t they – Olson may deny this?
      4. Can’t the same argument be fired at any criterion of identity? For instance to the PC – just how much of my psychology can I lose before I’m no longer me.
      5. Maybe we just don’t have identity, but the ancestral of a similarity relation? I think this is suggested by some philosophers – but I can’t remember who.
      6. Shoemaker equates identity / non-identity with life / death, but these are very different concepts. Only organisms can live or die; the concept is applied to non-organisms only by analogy.
      7. The Sorites22 argument – when applied to both body and psychology – seems to apply to the process of senescence that most of us will go through, and raises the question of whether we go out of existence before we die. We don’t assume this.
      8. Shoemaker seems to muddle together epistemological and metaphysical objections – he complains that the BC (in the paring-down case) would mean that we’d never know whether a person had survived or not, because (given they might be deluded) we can’t take their work for it. But, this (a) applies to all criteria and (b) doesn’t affect what is actually the case. This has come up before, and reflects the practical concerns driving this project.
      9. In all, I think that objections to BC (even if not Shoemaker’s) are sound. Most current Animalists23 reject the BC.
    • What does "Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities" have to say on the BC? Note that bodies are not the same things as animals, or organisms.
  7. Brain-based Memory Criterion - BBMC: This is effectively MC2, but with the stipulation that the “right” cause is sameness of brain. It is also (as Shoemaker points out) the “hardware” analogue of MC1-3, which are “software” based.
    • Advantages: Shoemaker correctly notes that the BBMC has the following advantages:-
      1. It gives an answer in accord with our intuitions in the Julia case. F=Y.
      2. It avoids the duplication objections (subject to my amendment below), though at the cost of making resurrection impossible.
      3. It gives the right answer in the Dicephalus case.
    • Shoemaker’s Objections: However, Shoemaker finds the BBMC objectionable for the following reasons:-
      1. Teletransportation (TT): Shoemaker gives a brief account of the “information transfer” rather than “disassembly and re-assembly” variant. His point is just that if we take TT as a fast way of travel rather than death and duplication, then we don’t accept the BBMC. True, but so what? Can we really trust our intuitions in a TE as far from our normal experience as TT?
      2. Brain Rejuvenation: This is another TE, which Shoemaker recognises as a terrestrial equivalent of the “Divine Duplication” case. The situation is that you have an ailing brain, and an organic, but repaired, exact copy of your brain is manufactured and substituted for your own brain (the ailment is described as vascular, with no explicit psychological impact). According to Shoemaker, there is a dilemma: either you admit that you survive with the new brain or you don’t. If you admit to survival, you’ve given up the BBMC. But if you deny that you’ve survived, then you’ve effectively given up on the memory-based identity that motivated the BBMC in the first place. The reason is that there was an “insight” that (allegedly) moved us away from a substance-based criterion of personal identity to a relational criterion: that when you awake, you don’t need to check a substance (body or soul) to re-identify yourself – you “just know” based on your memories, and these over-ride evidence to the contrary (as in the Kafka Metamorphosis24 case). By insisting on identity of a particular brain, you’re choosing a substance, when (it is said) you already have everything you want, psychologically. Shoemaker adds a further TE to this one: your brain is supposed to have been duplicated, and your brain is removed and sat next to the clone. But then an accident happens – both brains fall on the floor and get muddled up, so no-one knows which is which. And there can never be enlightenment on the matter – whichever brain is implanted, the recipient will feel the same, though in one case (according to BBMC) identity is preserved, with genuine memories, while in the other it isn’t and the memories are delusions. This is said to be “mysterious” and to detract from the “lustre” of the BBMC.
    • Responses
      1. Duplication: Given that the BBMC is motivated by reduplication objections, we probably need a non-branching condition as in MC3, given the well-known TE of fission by idempotent half-brain transplants25. Shoemaker doesn’t mention this possibility. Follow up under Fission (Click here for Note), and my general thoughts on Brains and Transplants.
      2. Brain Rejuvenation: This doesn’t seem to take seriously the reason we posited the BBMC in the first place – which was to get round the “Divine Duplication” objection. This raises a question about the dialectic at this point in Shoemaker’s argument. He’s introduced the BBMC as a way round reduplication, but then introduced reduplication himself. The idea is presumably that the BBMC is no defence to the reduplication objections, because, he thinks, the duplicate brain, given that we hold a MC at all, would have such a strong claim to be me that we’d have to admit the dilemma that Shoemaker introduced above.
      3. Resurrection: The BBMC is said to rule out resurrection – but why more so than any other form of PID? I think the issue is that resurrection can be viewed (as in the New Testament itself) as something like a change of clothes. Identity is grounded in some non-corporeal way, and that incorporeal thing “has” a body. The BBMC is no more in difficulties in this respect than the BC, but is still in trouble, as it doesn’t seem possible that the resurrection-body’s brain is identical to the pre-mortem body’s brain. So, if it’s the physical brain that grounds identity, then we don’t have it in the case of resurrection. Now, there are a couple of wheezes on offer that try to get round this issue. One is Van Inwagen’s divine body-snatching suggestion, previously remarked upon (see "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection"). Then there is "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from 'Is There a Mind-Body Problem?'" (Click here for Note). Neither of them seems promising.
      4. Teletransportation: I have written extensively on this topic elsewhere (Click here for Note). Enough to say here that TT is – at least in the information transfer variant – a case of death and replication. From Shoemaker’s perspective, it just seems a more fanciful version of the Brain Rejuvenation TE, but with the deliverances of Intuition somewhat less certain.
  8. The Possibility of Immortality
    • Conditions
      Three conditions are assumed – not for the possibility of immortality as such, but for its rational anticipation (= RA). In what follows, HP = “Heavenly Person” and “EP” = “Earthly Person” (= me). I pass over the assumption that the home for the blessed is heaven and not (a reconstituted) Earth:-
      1. Personal Identity – ie. HP = EP – is a necessary condition for RA.
      2. The criterion of PID that accounts for HP = EP must be free from absurdities.
      3. Suitable Mechanisms are critical for RI.
    • Denying the Conditions
      Any of these three assumptions can be denied, and Shoemaker considers doing so, though not in the order below:-
      1. Identity: Can we do without it? It fails for BC, BBMC and for non-substance MC. SC fails condition 3. Are there alternatives? Shoemaker rehearses the Brain Transplant26 TE (as discussed under the head of the BC) and for the sake of the argument, assumes that F=X, ie. I don’t “go with my brain”. Even if I accept this premise, should I still go ahead with the brain transplant27 in the hypothetical circumstances envisaged? There are two variants:-
      (a) You (and everyone else) are ignorant of the metaphysics. It looks like you’ve “gone with your brain”, you thought you’d “be transplanted28”, the brain recipient thinks she’s you, as does everyone else. Everyone’s happy … so what’s the problem?
      (b) You know what’s going on metaphysically-speaking, and you know you don’t survive – but do you have any reason to care less for the survivor (F) than for yourself? Can we anticipate the experience of HP in the same way we anticipate our future self (with non-identity?). Shoemaker thinks this suggestion is too radical to accept until we have exhausted the alternatives (ie. the Psychological Criterion and the Biological criterion)29 in the next Chapter ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern"). He will return to the question in Chapter 3 ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches").
      2. Absurdities: Can we live with these? Shoemaker notes that MC2 & MC3, while improving on MC1 in (it is said) providing for genuine memories, are still open to the Divine Duplication objection. Shoemaker thinks that we cannot just ignore this difficulty. If we insist on condition 1 (identity) then we cannot have absurdities – two “non-identical” things supposedly identical because of the transitivity condition.
      3. Mechanisms: Do we need one? Even though the SC metaphysically-speaking provides a mechanism for survival, it doesn’t provide for RA, because there’s no way we can know that we have the same soul, as we can’t track them. But we could give up this condition and adopt the SC anyway. But, Shoemaker thinks, this would involve abandoning all our usual forensic uses of identity. Because we need re-identification for pronouncements of guilt, ownership and such-like, and we can’t have re-identification on the SC account of PID, the SC is no use to us.
    • Responses
      1. Identity: Are there any options with non-standard identity logics? Maybe - Click here for Note for a discussion of the Logic of Identity, but we need to beware that we don’t stray off topic into Exact Similarity (Click here for Note). Otherwise, we have to hold fire until completing Chapter 3 ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches").
      2. Absurdities:
      (a) If we’re talking about physical things (BC, BBMC), we might fall back on Perdurantism (Click here for Note) to avoid absurdity. But, for MCs, is there a perdurantist analogue? For instance, multiple co-located personalities? But, what would this mean? Just what are “personalities” – are they universals30 or particulars? If the former, are they located anywhere?
      (b) Shoemaker rejects out of hand bodily resurrection as identity-preserving, but doesn’t consider the suggestions of Chisholm or Van Inwagen. Are these ideas absurd, or just silly – and so not really providing for RA? Does "Nagel (Thomas) - The Absurd" have anything to say on these distinctions?
      3. Mechanisms: I think we might have RA under the SC of PID – say if God had explicitly told us this is how it works. So, while we couldn’t do the tracking, we could trust him to do it. Also, Shoemaker makes two assumptions here (it seems to me). Firstly, that Ethics is prior to Metaphysics (when it should be the other way round). If the SC is correct, then we need to adjust our ethics to suit. Secondly, maybe things aren’t that bad in any event. Maybe we can’t be sure of identity of soul – but we could make the simplifying assumption that souls don’t hop around capriciously, and act on this basis. This is what Locke does when he has to admit that by his criterion we might be inappropriately punishing the genuinely amnesiac drunk. We have to punish, lest he be dissimulating. We have to act that way as no other practice is open to us. Yet we trust God to sort out the mess in eternity (see "Locke (John) - Of Identity and Diversity" - Click here for Note, section on Amnesia).
      Note
      I may be unfair to Shoemaker in alleging that he holds Ethics to be prior to Metaphysics. He seems to deny this (in his final Chapter - "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics - Conclusion: Notes on Method" - though there he says that Personal Identity is prior to Ethics, which may not be quite the same thing), but doesn’t seem (to me) to stick rigidly to his own guidelines.
  9. Works Cited:-
  10. Outstanding Tasks: (Click here for Note)

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018



© Theo Todman, June 2007 - June 2018. Please address any comments on this page to theo@theotodman.com. 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