[P & not-A] Cases: An Introduction
Snowdon (Paul)
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 9
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. According to the logic which constitutes the framework of this discussion it is assumed that if a = b then it is not possible for any sequence to end up with a but not with b, or vice versa. Given that a = b then either after a period of time and development the thing which is a and b exists or it does not. Further, if a = b then not only must a and b jointly exist or not exist at any particular time, they must have the same properties at any time they exist. It cannot, therefore, be that a and b come apart. It follows that if it is possible for a to exist without b existing, or vice versa, then a is not (nor ever has been) identical to b. These informal remarks spell out what might be thought are commitments of the formal modal1 claim; (x) (y) (x = y → □(x = y)). If, therefore, we consider the suggested identity proposition that you are identical with animal A it cannot be true if there are possible circumstances in which you exist without the thing which is animal A existing. To suppose that there is such a possibility is, in my terminology, to endorse a [P&~A] possibility.
  2. Now, I believe that the dominant ground for resistance to the animalist2's identity' claim derives from a general conviction amongst philosophers who have thought about the issue that there really are possible [P&~A] cases. There is, I want to suggest, something paradoxical about this situation. The real world at least provides, as we have seen, scenarios which are candidates for being regarded as [A&~P] cases, whereas the envisaged scenarios regarded as [P&~A] cases, such as brain transplants3 and teletransportation4, are quite unreal. To accept them one has to be persuaded first that they represent real possibilities and then that they constitute [P&~A] cases. Yet it is these second sorts of cases which strike people as the most persuasive grounds to reject (A). This status reflects such people's convictions that certain developments involving highly unusual and vestigial groundings for continued mental states, so vestigial that they involve the removal of the animal, definitely contain enough to ensure they, the person, remain in existence. However, although there is something paradoxical about quite unreal [P&~A] cases, as opposed to the much closer to reality [A&~P] cases, being the ones that really move opponents of (A), there is also something that is understandable about it. The problem with [A&~P] cases is, according to the analysis of them argued for here, that it is highly implausible to regard them as [~P] cases at all. Once we recognize what is involved in them and what types of real cases they resemble and what our attitude to them is, it becomes hard not to feel that we should think of them as genuinely [P] cases. Our very familiarity with them means we have a well-grounded and agreed conception of them, so long as we can remain in contact with it, with, as one might say, reality, while doing philosophy. In contrast, with supposed [P&~A] cases that is not so. Their unreality means that it is harder to latch on to a shared and established conception of them. This does not, indeed, explain why these cases strike us so powerfully and, at least in some cases, in a uniform direction, but it explains why there is not the same weight against them. My aim in the next three chapters is to oppose the conviction that [P&~A] cases are genuinely possible. The most influential type of case is what I earlier called 'shrinkage cases', the sort that has been most convincing being the famous brain transplants5. It will take two chapters to present the grounds that I am able to offer against the idea that cases of that sort are genuinely possible [P&~A] cases. In this chapter, though, I wish to comment on the other categories of [P&~A] cases that I distinguished in Chapter 1.
  3. There are, roughly, two very general grounds for opposing the claim that there are possible [P&~A] cases. One is that, with some of them, on proper reflection the candidates are not really [P] cases at all. That is to say, they are not cases in which the person actually survives. The impression that they are [P] cases is, I shall argue, quite simply an illusion. How can it be shown that the impression is an illusion? The amount of work required to do that varies from case to case, but one recurring and essential element is that if we can be persuaded to formulate the cases in terms of people that are significant to us, say our children or parents, they simply cease to even seem like [P] cases. If this is correct, then it can be said that the temptation to judge that the cases are [P] cases is the result of a lack of attention, focus, or proper engagement with what is given. It results, that is, as one might say, from faulty philosophical technique. The second, general, ground is that, however on immediate reflection the cases strike us, and even if we imagine them with people playing the roles who matter to us, we should acknowledge that the intuitive reactions are not properly regarded as reliable. We should, rather, acknowledge that we do not really know what the scenario generates. The verdict about them should itself be based on the best theory about what we are6, rather than guide our adoption of a theory about that.

  1. Pure Person Transfers
  2. Non-Substantial Transfers
  3. Animal Replacement Cases
  4. Conclusion:
    • I have tried to argue in this chapter that three of the leading examples of [P&~A] examples are not convincingly counted as [P] examples at all, as well as suffering from other defects. The examples are deployed as ones where what we might call the 'prediction' of animalism7, that there cannot be the person without the animal, is regarded as being refuted.
    • The fundamental point is that they do not refute it, because the person does not even seem to be there. I have also argued that the dialectical relevance of some of these examples, which rest on some less than certain assumptions about animals, can be grounded by presenting them as [A&~P] cases.
    • We must next focus on the absolutely crucial case of SCs8.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 8:

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