Nothing-But Materialism
Corcoran (Kevin)
Source: Corcoran (Kevin) - Rethinking Human Nature, Chapter 2
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract1

  1. In chapter 2 I examine the claim that we human persons are identical with our bodies. I consider two views people may mean to express with that claim and argue that neither view is true.
  2. One of the views discussed in this chapter is the view known as animalism2. This view identifies human persons with human animals3. According to this view, you and I are essentially animals and only contingently persons, which is to say that while we could not exist and fail to be animals, we could exist (and in fact at one time did) without being persons.
  3. In other words, according to animalism4, the property of being a person is like the property of being married or single. During some stages of our existence, we may be married, while during other stages of our existence, we may be single. During our fetal lives, we were not persons; now we are. If things should go badly for us, we may end up once again as nonpersons. For example, according to animalism5, if the upper part of my brain should suffer traumatic damage, such that I completely lack all capacity for a psychological life, but the lower part of my brain remains intact, such that the biological functions necessary for biological life continue, then I should continue to exist (as an animal) but cease to be a person.
  4. I will argue that there is an important sense in which it is true to say that we are human animals6. Nevertheless, I argue that there is an equally important but different sense in which it is true to say that we are not human animals7. The sense in which it is true to say that we are not animals is the sense in which it is true to say that we are not identical to our biological bodies. So, in this chapter I show why it is a mistake to identify human persons with human animals8 and, therefore, why I believe that animalism9 is false.
  5. At the end of chapter 2, we find ourselves in a puzzling situation. For while I do not identify myself with an immaterial soul or a compound of soul and body, neither do I believe I am identical with the physical object that is my biological body. But how can that be? If I am not an immaterial soul or a compound of soul and body, how could I possibly be a material object if I am not the material object that is my body?

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Taken from "Corcoran (Kevin) - Rethinking Human Nature: Introduction - What Kind of Things Are We?".

Footnote 3: See "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology" (1997); and "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons" (2001).

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