Review of Minds, Brains and People by T. E. Wilkerson
Strawson (Peter)
Source: Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Dec., 1974), pp. 360-361
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  1. The descriptivist and revisionist (physicalist) metaphysical accounts of persons are in apparent competition and conflict. Wilkerson analyzes both approaches to show the extent to which each account can be adequately applied. The basic advantage of the descriptivist view is that it clarifies the way we usually talk of persons, thus giving full attention to the status of first person knowledge claims. The physical or reductive1 picture explains much of the nature of persons in empirical terms.
  2. The main weakness of the descriptivist account, according to Wilkerson, is that when the concept of persons is taken as primitive, in the sense of not being reducible2 to minds or bodies or some combination of these, we have no sufficient criteria for reduplication3 of experience and identity of persons. "Criteria of personal identity do not work in a vacuum; . . . they must . . . have distinctive empirical materials." The revisionist physical account fails on its own because it does not make way in its ontology for "purposes," "intentions" and "judgment." "To account for our intentional and rational manipulation of 'the world as conceived by scientific theory' we must employ categories which are quite independent of the scientific image . ... "
  3. Wilkerson concludes, with the use of a clever "category map" notion, that the descriptivist and physicalist are looking at the same world with different conceptual frameworks and these accounts conflict when the attempt is made to use either of them exclusively for explaining all the problems entailed in the notion of a person. "The philosopher is concerned to give an analytic account of all kinds of individuals and properties of individuals which can coherently be postulated; the scientist on the other hand has the rather more restricted task of trying to predict any given event and explaining it as a function of certain other events."

Comment:

Review of "Wilkerson (T.E.) - Minds, Brains and People". The reviewer is simply styled "P.S.".

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