Animals and Us
Snowdon (Paul)
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 4
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. I have attempted, in the previous chapter, to decide what role the term 'person', and the notion(s) it expresses, have in this debate. The conclusion, expressed in an abbreviated way, was that our task is not to explore the concept of a person. However, shall, in this chapter, sometimes, express claim (A1) using the term 'person'. I shall express it as: the person is the human animal2. One advantage of speaking this way is that it avoids excessive use of the first-person pronoun (singular or plural). It does not distort the discussion, either, because it is hardly controversial that each of us is a person. There is, therefore, no threat of a change of reference or subject matter. (When there are argumentative moves where the employment of the term 'person' might seem inconsistent with the previous conclusion I shall explicitly discuss the problem.) It is, also, not, in any obvious way, a retreat from the conclusions of the previous chapter. It is clearly legitimate to employ a term even though the primary task is not considered to be the analysis of the concept it expresses.
  2. I want, now, to consider the fundamental question whether there are good reasons to accept (A). It is not, of course, to be expected that we can demonstratively prove that (A) is true. It might be, though, that there are aspects in its favour, and costs to rejecting it, which mean that we should abandon it only if there are very powerful arguments against it.
  3. It is interesting to consider why the types of arguments that I shall scrutinize are being discussed currently. The reason is that two propositions which were overlooked in the discussion of personal identity between the 1950s and the late 1970s have been rediscovered. The first is the proposition that there is an animal (a thing of that sort) where the person is. (I shall call the person 'P', and the animal 'H' (for Human).) The second proposition is that the animal H itself has psychological and mental properties. Once these propositions are articulated it is clear that there must be something to be said in favour of identifying ourselves with such creatures; it is also clear that if we are not to identify ourselves with them then their relation to us needs to be explained very carefully. When these propositions were first noticed it seemed to some people that there is no remotely plausible way to avoid accepting (A). One task, amongst others, of this chapter is to determine what the right weight is ascribe to the arguments that lead them (or perhaps I should say 'us') to think this.
  4. I have claimed that two propositions were overlooked. It might be asked why they were overlooked. The answer it seems to me is that philosophers were dazzled by the thought that the problem which they were considering is the problem of personal identity. They thought that it is unnecessary to consider what other objects there. So, the presence of the animal was overlooked. One illustration of how invisible the idea of animals has been to philosophers is Strawson's classic discussion of persons in Individuals3. His theme there is that persons are thought of as single two-sided entities, not as complexes of two single-sided entities. The two sides are of course, the physical (including features such as weight and shape and so on) and the mental (including such features as perceiving and acting and having sensations). But this general characterization of a single two-sided thing fits animals in general and not just persons4. So why not think of the category of animals as being the fundamental category an analysis of which is being offered? There are two observations to add. The first is that in the recent classic period of discussion of personal identity, although the presence of an animal where the person is, was largely ignored, it was, standardly, accepted that there is a body there. This, however, did not seem to the participants to create the same kind of problem, because the standard assumption was that the body was not mentally endowed. It could not, therefore, be a candidate for being the person. It rather featured in questions as to whether the person was essentially tied to the body or not. But the second point is that although the question of the relation between the person and the animal simply did not occur to people in the recent debate, that certainly does not apply to the discussion which can be ranked as creating the framework which permitted the neglect, namely that of Locke himself. What is outstanding about Locke is that a major theme in his discussion is the nature of animals and animal identity. He himself certainly did not sustain the animal/person contrast by ignoring the presence of animals.

  1. Two Background Assumptions
  2. Arguments for Identities
  3. Ockham’s Razor
  4. An Argument from Linked Unique Identities
  5. An Additional Argument in Favour of (A) as the Default View
  6. Human Beings
  7. Other Responses Considered
  8. A Remark on Dualism as Our Naïve Conception
  9. Some Other Questions
  10. Some Other Types of Arguments
  11. Two Sorts of Arguments
  12. The Objection Based on the Uniqueness Thesis
  13. The Psychological Objections
  14. Some Ways to Avoid These Arguments
    • 14.1 The Extreme Denial
    • 14.2 Psychological Cut-Off Strategy
  15. Responses That Accept the Psychological Premise
  16. Explanatory Arguments
  17. From Biology to Animalism5
  18. Conclusion:
    • I have argued that the animalist6 thesis is the default option, and moreover, it is paradoxical to deny it, and it, further, is implied by certain explanations we accept and for which we, and the scientific community engaged in looking for explanations, have no alternatives.
    • I need to consider the reasons that have been offered for denying animalism7, but before that more (though by no means everything) must be said about animals.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Each of us is identical with, is one and the same thing as, an animal.

Footnote 3: "Strawson (Peter) - Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics".

Footnote 4:

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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