- This pseudo-Paper is intended as the mechanism to record time spent on the Note 'Brain Criterion1' during my Thesis research, as from 2011.
- For the actual time recorded, click on "Paper Summary" above.
Write-up2 (as at 14/03/2018 10:07:41): Brain Criterion
- There will naturally be some overlap on this topic with the topics of
→ Brains4 and
→ Criteria of Identity5.
- The question is whether the brain is the be-all and end-all of the matter of personal identity for human persons6.
- It is acknowledged by most that – conceptually at least – there can be persons7 that are not humans (ie. not members of the species homo sapiens) – whether these persons be non-human animals, computers, God, angels, aliens or whatever. Non-animals presumably have no brains, though aliens presumably have a brain-analogue, so brains cannot be identity-criteria for personhood as such (indeed, we might argue that there are no criteria for persons as such8). But for animal-persons (human or otherwise), the brain seems to occupy a central place, both as the seat of psychology (in the absence of an immaterial soul9) and as the regulator of the body.
- So, the story would go, X is the same person as Y iff10 X has the same brain as Y.
- The trouble is – even if this claim is along the right lines – we can press matters further, and ask whether the whole brain is strictly necessary. If what impresses us is a brain-based psychological view, when what we imagine is “really the minimal me” is the pair of psychology-bearing cerebral hemispheres, then we might imagine (as some philosophers have) a case of fission11, where – after equalising the hemispheres in psychological potency, we transplant12 one into another body lacking both hemispheres. Or, without needing anything so radical, we sever the corpus callosum in a commissurotomy13, thereby (on this view) creating two persons in one body.
- However, if we are animalists14,15 wondering what the “minimal animal” is, and it’s the command-and-control functions of the brain that impress us, then the paring-down process might16 be able to do without the cerebral hemispheres (or at least the psychology-bearing parts) altogether. So, brain-based views from different perspectives might come to different conclusions about the importance of the cerebral hemispheres – one view might make them essential, the other irrelevant to questions of identity (if not to “what matters17”). It is an empirical question whether the brain-stem can be divided, and hence whether a brain-based animalist approach is also subject to worries18 about fission.
- Anyway, the appropriateness of the Brain criterion of personal identity depends on what we are19– in particular whether we are (most fundamentally, or in the sense of numerical identity, which is not the same thing) human animals or persons constituted by20 them (or various other things).
- Only if21 we believe that we are (identical to) brains22 will we adopt the brain criterion.
- Works on this topic that I’ve actually read23, include24 the following:-
- "Garrett (Brian) - Criteria of Personal Identity", Garrett
- "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings", Johnston25
- "Manninen (Tuomas) - Review of Alva Noe's 'Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain'", Manninen
- "Noonan (Harold) - An Initial Survey", Noonan
- "Parfit (Derek) - Nagel's Brain", Parfit
- "Snowdon (Paul) - The Self and Personal Identity", Snowdon
- "Thomas (Janice L.) - The bodily criterion", Thomas
- A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
- "Noe (Alva) - Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness", Noe
- "Olson (Eric) - What Are We? Brains", Olson
- This is mostly a place-holder26.
- This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (14/03/2018 10:07:41).
- Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
Footnote 8: Footnote 10:
- A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
- I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
- As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
- The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
- And, of course, “X and Y are both persons”, to cover the case where the brain is insufficient to support the property of personhood.
- Much of this discussion has empirical aspects to it, and depends on the capabilities of real brains – though we might get into the choppy waters of more intricate TEs, and wonder what might be the case if the biology went differently – but then we would most likely not be talking about our identity criteria, but of some other being.
- These worries about fission are essentially set to rest by adopting a perdurantist account of persistence.
- But, some consider the costs (mainly semantic, I think) of adopting this approach are too great.
- But see the Note on Johnston below!
- Frequently I’ll have made copious marginal annotations, and sometimes have written up a review-note.
- In the former case, I intend to transfer the annotations into electronic form as soon as I can find the time.
- In the latter case, I will have remarked on the fact against the citation, and will integrate the comments into this Note in due course.
- My intention is to incorporate into these Notes comments on material I’ve already read rather than engage with unread material at this stage.
- I may have read others in between updates of this Note – in which case they will be marked as such in the “References and Reading List” below.
- Papers or Books partially read have a rough %age based on the time spent versus the time expected.
- Johnston thinks we are human beings, but – when push comes to shove – we would survive as brains, so the criteria of our identity are – for Johnston – brain based.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018