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

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Animalism1 is the view that we are animals: living, breathing, wholly material beings. Despite its considerable appeal, animalism2 has come under fire.
  2. Other philosophers have had much to say about objections to animalism3 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. Materialism4 about human persons, let us say, is the thesis that we are wholly material beings. Interesting though it is, materialism5 is not a complete answer to the question of what we are6. For materialism7 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. Materialism8 rules out some forms of dualism, but it doesn’t do much more than that.
  2. I think materialism9 is true. I also think animalism10 (the thesis that we are animals — living, wholly material beings) is the most plausible version of materialism11 on offer. If I’m right about this, arguments against animalism12 are of double interest. For if sound, they provide evidence, not just against animalism13, but against materialism14 as well. Despite its considerable appeal, animalism15 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 view16! Olson has done much to rebut arguments against animalism17 (especially those stemming from reflection about personal identity over time). But new objections keep on coming. In this paper, I will examine an objection18 (the ‘Elimination Argument’) to animalism19 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 y20 are both human person candidates and at most one of x and y21 is a human person, but y has superfluous parts whereas x doesn’t, then x is the better candidate for the office22.
    • Conflict. If the Elimination Principle is true, animalism23 is false.
    • Therefore, animalism is false24 (from EP and Conflict).
  3. Against the elimination principle
  4. Conclusion
Author’s Conclusion
  1. Animalism25 is, in my view, the most plausible form of materialism26. 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 animalism27 — and materialism28 — are not so badly off after all.


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 16:
  • ‘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 22:

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
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