Persons, Animals and Human Beings (2010)
Noonan (Harold)
Source: Campbell, O'Rourke & Silverstein - Time and Identity, III - The Self, Chapter 9
Paper - Abstract

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  1. Harold Noonan leans on an intriguing view of first-person reference to further articulate his approach to personal identity and personhood.
  2. We might ask very generally, "What changes can a person survive? What changes will terminate a person's existence?" Noonan argues that the indexical formulation of the problem is more basic: "Our interest in personal identity is fundamentally an interest in our own identity." On this view, persons are just the objects of first-person reference.
  3. Armed with this simple conception of persons, Noonan suggests that defenders of the psychological approach to personal identity can rebut Olson's "too many minds2 objection," also known as the "thinking animal3" problem.
  4. Perhaps we should admit that each of us "is" an animal "in the sense of coinciding with one and being constituted of the same matter as one — but this 'is' is the 'is' of constitution, not identity" (195).
  5. But even if persons and human animals4 coincide in this manner and both think "'I'-thoughts," it does not follow that their thoughts are about different thinkers.
  6. Noonan thus dissolves the skeptical difficulties associated with the too many minds5 objection — "Both the person and the animal can know that their utterance of 'I am a person' is true" (198) — for 'I'-thoughts always refer to the person thinking them. His essay concludes with an extended defense of this approach from "Olson (Eric) - Thinking Animals and the Reference of 'I'" (2002) objections.


This is an update of "Noonan (Harold) - Persons, Animals and Human Beings", Chapter 11 of "Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity".

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Taken from p. 16 of "Slater (Matthew H.) - Framing the Problems of Time and Identity", footnotes removed (for now).

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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