The Elimination Argument
Bailey (Andrew M.)
Source: Philosophical Studies 168 (2014): 475-482
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Animalism is the view that we are animals: living, breathing, wholly material beings. Despite its considerable appeal, animalism has come under fire.
  2. Other philosophers have had much to say about objections to animalism that stem from reflection on personal identity over time. But one promising objection (the ‘Elimination Argument’) has been overlooked.
  3. In this paper, I remedy this situation and examine the Elimination Argument in some detail. I contend that the Elimination Argument is both unsound and unmotivated.

Author’s Introduction
  1. Materialism about human persons, let us say, is the thesis that we are wholly material beings. Interesting though it is, materialism is not a complete answer to the question of what we are. For materialism does not conclusively settle the question of whether we are simple or composite; and if composite, whether we are organisms or brains or cerebral hemispheres, or nervous systems, or proper temporal parts of such or things constituting but not identical to such — and so on. Materialism rules out some forms of dualism, but it doesn’t do much more than that.
  2. I think materialism is true. I also think animalism (the thesis that we are animals — living, wholly material beings) is the most plausible version of materialism on offer. If I’m right about this, arguments against animalism are of double interest. For if sound, they provide evidence, not just against animalism, but against materialism as well. Despite its considerable appeal, animalism is a minority view amongst contemporary philosophers. It’s not entirely clear why this is so. Eric Olson offers this charitable explanation: there are just too many plausible-sounding arguments against the view1! Olson has done much to rebut arguments against animalism (especially those stemming from reflection about personal identity over time). But new objections keep on coming. In this paper, I will examine an objection (the ‘Elimination Argument’) to animalism recently offered by Hud Hudson. I shall contend that the Elimination Argument is both unsound and unmotivated.

  1. Introduction
  2. The elimination argument
    • Elimination Principle (EP). If x and y are both human person candidates and at most one of x and y is a human person, but y has superfluous parts whereas x doesn’t, then x is the better candidate for the office2.
    • Conflict. If the Elimination Principle is true, animalism is false.
    • Therefore, animalism is false (from EP and Conflict).
  3. Against the elimination principle
  4. Conclusion
Author’s Conclusion
  1. Animalism is, in my view, the most plausible form of materialism. Like many plausible views, it has come under fire.
  2. I haven’t answered all of the objections to the view, but in this paper, I have shown that one recent objection by Hudson is unmotivated and unsound.
  3. I conclude that animalism — and materialism — are not so badly off after all.


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In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • ‘I imagine that most philosophers could easily rattle off half a dozen arguments against ‘‘Animalism’’, as the view that you and I are animals is sometimes called. Here are a few favourites:
    1. If you were an animal, you would be identical with your body (or at any rate with some human body). But no human body can think or feel or act, as you can.
    2. Persons and animals have different persistence conditions: the organism that is your body could outlive you (if you lapsed into a persistent vegetative state), or you could outlive it (if your brain were transplanted and the rest of you destroyed). But a thing cannot outlive itself.
    3. Persons and animals have different criteria of synchronic identity: any human animal could be associated with two different persons at once (as cases of split personality). Thus, no person is an animal.
    4. These experiences – the ones I am having now – are essentially mine. But they are only contingently associated with any particular animal. Hence, I have a property that no animal has”.
  • "Olson (Eric) - Human Atoms", 1998, pp. 396–397
Footnote 2: "Hudson (Hud) - I am Not an Animal!", 2007 p. 218.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2017
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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