Brain Transplants, Animals, and Us
Snowdon (Paul)
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 10
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Author’s Introduction

  1. If the general direction of the argument in this book is persuasive then we should arrive at this point in the discussion accepting, amongst other things, that there are no plausible examples of [A&~P] dissociations, and that most suggested categories of [P&~A] dissociations are also implausible. In both cases the implausibility derives from problems with the judgements regarding ourselves, either that we are absent from or are present in the imagined scenarios. However, the candidate dissociations which have had most influence on the philosophical imagination belong to what I have called shrinkage cases. Although the overall category is broader, the specific version that has seemed plausible to many people is that of brain transplants1. I think that anyone who has reflected about the issues raised by the question of the relation between us and animals (or about our identity and nature more generally) must have a sense of the strength of the anti-animalist judgements elicited by such imagined cases. There is, I believe, no easy way to uproot these judgements and a proper engagement with them has to take time. What I shall do is first focus on the standard brain transplant2 story and argue, in this chapter and the next, that on second (and subsequent) thoughts in relation to this sort of shrinkage case the normal judgements are not in fact as plausible as they at first sight seem. My claim is that they do not provide a solid ground for rejecting (A). Then I shall finally and briefly, at the end of the next chapter, consider some other, and also plausible, shrinkage cases.
  2. I hope there is, also, a second opinion with which a reader arrives at this point, and that is that there are significant intellectual costs involved in abandoning (A), costs which should encourage us to look very hard for ways to avoid its abandonment. The structure, or balance, of the present discussion might have, to some extent, dimmed a sense of this element of the message. Much more space has been devoted to counteracting problems for (A) than emphasizing problems raised by (A)'s rejection. But a theme within these primarily critical discussions, and also central to Chapter 43, has been that it is hard to avoid assenting to (A). I hope that those discussions will stimulate a sense that making a real effort to oppose these arguments has considerable attraction. Defending (A) represents a research programme which should not be lightly dismissed.

  1. The Brain Transplant4 Argument and Some Clarifications
  2. The ‘Possibility’ of Brain Transplants5
  3. The First Reply to BTA
  4. One Revised Version of BTA
  5. Conclusion:
    • I have argued that Johnston's alternative formulation of BTA, in which the fourth premise is regarded as following from M, lacks cogency. No reason has been provided for supposing we can legitimately infer it from any plausible version of M. The initial reply, then, to BTA is not overturned by Johnston. That leaves me, so far, with responding to BTA by pointing out that the fourth premise, which corresponds merely to an intuition, is not something that we are obliged to accept, and which we have reason to abandon given the severe theoretical inconvenience generated by adopting the conclusion of BTA.
    • I hope that this has achieved some weakening of BTA, but in the next chapter I want to explore some other criticisms of the argument.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 3: See "Snowdon (Paul) - Animals and Us".

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
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