- This pseudo-Paper is intended as the mechanism to record time spent on the Note 'Artifacts1' during my Thesis research, as from 2011.
- For the actual time recorded, click on "Paper Statistics" above.
Write-up2 (as at 25/05/2020 23:47:02): Artifacts
- My main research interest is in Personal Identity, so identifying the persistence conditions for artefacts4 isn’t central to my concerns. However, they crop up all over the place in the Identity and Persistence literature, so it is important to have a considered view.
- Since artefacts are human inventions, they do not fall under natural kind5 concepts, and so their persistence conditions may be to some degree a matter of convention6. Since human beings are (at least) organisms7, analogies with artefacts may be moot, to say the least.
- An interesting notion – I think due to Trenton Merricks (in "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons") and others – is nihilism8 with respect to artefacts. This is the view that there are no statues, but only atoms arranged statuewise.
- If this is a correct account, then this would undermine the prime support of the Constitution View9.
- The reason being that statues, and the like, are prime examples and motivators of the CV, whereby you can have two things (of different sorts10) in the same place at the same time, one of which constitutes11 the other.
- If there are no such statues, then all this falls apart.
- Yet of course there are statues, but in what sense?
- An idea I intend to play with (this may be Merricks’s, for all I know) is that artefacts are shared ideas (memes12) projected onto the physical objects (which are indeed collections of atoms arranged X-wise, and the form of the X-wise structure is deliberately chosen to enable it to perform its function).
- This agrees with, say, Baker’s notion that statues exist only in relation to an art-world. But they are ideas rather than things.
- See also Ship of Theseus13 under this head. It is the standard conundrum concerning the persistence conditions of artefacts, which are also the clearest contenders for the existence of intermittent objects14. Some philosophers (sensibly) claim that a bicycle can survive being disassembled and then re-assembled, with the (rash) assumption that the bicycle doesn't exist in its disassembled state. Well, my view is that the bicycle does exist in the disassembled state. I'd be miffed if someone returned my bicycle in a disassembled state, but my miffedness wouldn't be because I thought I'd not received my bike back, but because it would be a pain to re-assemble it.
- The intermittent existence of objects is relevant to the issue of resurrection15 for physicalists. But the artefact model isn’t appropriate here. A bike can't survive its parts being mulched up and re-manufactured. In any case, we can't logically get our original atoms back (as organisms16 exchange atoms with their environment all the time, so there's no such things as "my atoms", since any such things would (over time) be shared with other organisms).
- There’s a disagreement – it seems – between Western and Eastern traditions as to whether material continuity and connectedness17 are required for the persistence of artifacts – in particular, for buildings. Japanese Shinto temples can be rebuilt next to one another and swapped over on a 20-year cycle while remaining “the same temple” (or temple complex). It’s the form that’s important, not the matter, and it’s deemed essential to keep the matter in good condition – using traditional crafts to replace it. See "Han (Byung-Chul) - Shanzhai: Deconstruction in Chinese". This is something of a problem even in the Western tradition, as the reductio of “Trigger’s Broom” exemplifies.
- There is the claim that adopting a functional approach to personal identity is effectively treating persons as artefacts (which are defined by their functions – eg. a corkscrew – though there can be broken exemplars that can no longer perform the function). Presumably this is intended as a reductio ad absurdum of the functionalist18 account of personhood.
- Wiggins touches on the subject of persons as artefacts in "Wiggins (David) - Personal Identity" (in "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance Renewed"). From a quick look, it seems to me that Wiggins is saying that if we tinker around with human beings enough (whether genetically or by heroic surgical intervention), we have effectively turned them into artefacts of our own devising, and so there is no longer a natural-kind19-constrained answer to questions of their persistence conditions20. Since Wiggins seems to equate persons21 and human beings22, the thought experiments23 if carried out in a world would lead to persons that are artefacts. But maybe he’s saying something deeper.
- While artefacts aren’t mentioned in "Wiggins (David) - Reply to Snowdon (Persons and Personal Identity)" (in "Lovibond (Sabina) & Williams (S.G.) - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins"), maybe Wiggins is talking about the same sort of thing.
- For a page of Links24 to this Note, Click here.
- Works on this topic that I’ve actually read25 include the following:-
- "Carter (William) - Artifacts of Theseus: Fact and Fission", Carter
- "Chandler (Hugh S.) - Theseus' Clothes-Pin", Chandler
- "Hazlett (Allan) - Disassembly and Destruction", Hazlett
- "Lowenthal ( David) - Material Preservation and Its Alternatives", Lowenthal
- "Matthes (Erich Hatala) - Palmyra’s ruins can rebuild our relationship with history", Matthes
- "Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death", Olson
- "Wiggins (David) - Reply to Snowdon (Persons and Personal Identity)", Wiggins
- A reading list (where not covered elsewhere26) might start with:-
- "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Artifacts", Baker
- "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Metaphysics of Malfunction", Baker
- "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Ontological Significance of Artefacts", Baker
- "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Ontology of Artifacts", Baker
- "Bloom (Paul) - Artifacts", Bloom
- "Carter (William) - Salmon on Artifact Origins and Lost Possibilities", Carter
- "Denkel (Arda) - Artifacts and Constituents", Denkel
- "Dennett (Daniel) - Artifactual Selves: a Response to Lynne Rudder Baker", Dennett
- "Dennett (Daniel) - The Self as a Responding - and Responsible - Artifact", Dennett
- "Elder (Crawford) - Artifacts and Other Copied Kinds", Elder
- "Han (Byung-Chul) - Shanzhai: Deconstruction in Chinese", Han
- "Hershenov (David) - Organisms, Artifacts, and Eliminativism", Hershenov
- "Hershenov (David) - Scattered Artifacts", Hershenov
- "Houkes (Wybo) & Vermaas (Pieter) - Actions Versus Functions: A Plea For An Alternative Metaphysics Of Artifacts", Houkes & Vermaas
→ "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - On the Twofold Nature of Artefacts: A Response to Wybo Houkes and Anthonie Meijers", Baker
→ "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Shrinking Difference - Response to Replies", Baker
- "Katayama (Errol) - Aristotle on Artifacts: A Metaphysical Puzzle", Katayama
- "Lowe (E.J.) - On the Identity of Artifacts", Lowe
- "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons", Merricks … especially …
→ "Merricks (Trenton) - Explaining Eliminativism", and
→ "Merricks (Trenton) - Belief and Practice"
- "Puccetti (Roland) - Person-Artifacts", Puccetti
- "Putman (Daniel) - Natural Kinds and Human Artifacts", Putman
- "Richmond (Alasdair) - Time Travel, Parahistory and the Past Artefact Dilemma", Richmond
- "Symons (John) - The Individuality of Artifacts and Organisms", Symons
- "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Artifacts", Van Inwagen
- "Wiggins (David) - Personal Identity", Wiggins
- This is mostly a place-holder27.
- This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (25/05/2020 23:47:02).
- Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
- Rather irritatingly, “artefact” is the British English spelling, but most papers on the topic use the American English spelling “artifact”.
- I doubt I’ve been consistent in my usage.
- There’s an extensive literature on this topic, stemming from Richard Dawkins, which I’ll not pursue here.
- There’s a claim in "Harari (Yuval Noah) - Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" that the cohesive power of human societies and hence the rise of homo sapiens as a species is down to our shared belief in “fictions”.
- Yuval Noah Harari’s use of “fiction” is pejorative and non-standard, as he uses it for anything from religious beliefs to limited companies.
- Even those philosophers of religion who use the term “myths” for religious beliefs are keen to assert that “myth” does not men “fiction”, even though some myths are fictions as well.
- Eg. under Ship of Theseus.
- The categorised reading list is rather long, so I’ve had to be selective.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020