The Priority Principle
Bailey (Andrew M.)
Source: Journal of the American Philosophical Association (2014) 1–12
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Some philosophers say that you do not think in the primary or non-derivative sense. Rather, they say some item distinct from you (perhaps one of your parts or something of which you are a part) does your thinking for you; you inherit your mental life from that item.
  2. In this paper, I argue that this is a mistake. We do not inherit our thoughts in this way.

Author’s Introduction
  1. Some philosophers say that you do not think in the primary or non-derivative sense. Rather, they say some item distinct from you (perhaps one of your parts or something of which you are a part) does your thinking for you; you inherit your mental life from that item. In this paper, I argue that this is a mistake. We do not inherit our thoughts in this way.
  2. I proceed as follows.
    1. First, I identify a Priority Principle according to which we exhibit certain of our properties in the primary or non-derivative sense. I motivate the principle with an argument and then demonstrate its consequences in the metaphysics of human persons. As it turns out, the principle is inconsistent with certain views in the metaphysics and philosophy of mind.
    2. Along the way, I will identify certain philosophers who endorse views at odds with the Priority Principle. One lesson from this exercise is simple; those philosophers are wrong (at least, they have endorsed views with implausible consequences).
    3. But my overall aim is more general. I wish to show not just that a few philosophers have been wrong, but to pave the way for progress in the metaphysics of human persons by showing that all views like theirs come at a substantial theoretical price. For those unwilling to pay that price, such views are dead ends.

Sections
  1. Introduction
  2. The Priority Principle
    • We human persons have mental properties (like hoping for rain) in the primary and non-derivative sense. We think our thoughts in the primary and non-derivative sense.
  3. An Argument for the Priority Principle
  4. The Principle Applied
    • 4.1 Thinking Material Parts
    • 4.2 Union Dualism
    • 4.3 Hylomorphism
    • 4.4 Constitutionalism
  5. Endgame

Author’s Conclusion
  1. … Can we use what we have learned here to make headway in the metaphysics of human persons and perhaps in metaphysics more generally? I believe we can. For there are a number of views that do not conflict with the Priority Principle. These views deserve our attention. I will quickly point to two such views (I favor the first):
    1. Animalism1: We are human animals2, and as such we are living, breathing, wholly material beings. But it is not our brains (or any other items distinct from us) that think for us. Rather, we human animals3 think in the primary and non-derivative sense.
    2. Cartesian dualism: We are wholly immaterial, thinking beings — souls. Our souls are not — contra union dualism — parts of us. Rather, we are our souls. And we souls think in the primary and Non-derivative sense.
  2. Animalism4 and Cartesian dualism respect the Priority Principle; they pass one important hurdle. This counts in their favor, at least over the other views I’ve considered in this paper. We would do well to consider them carefully, for one of them may well be the sober truth.

Comment:

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