- A great deal of work in the contemporary personal identity debate is driven by the assumption that the following theses are incompatible:
- We are fundamentally biological organisms of a certain kind
- We would go with the cerebrum1
- Each is attractive. Thesis (A) seems to be little more than a commonplace of our postDarwinian worldview. Thesis (B) receives strong intuitive support from reflection on counterfactual cases of a sort familiar to analytic philosophy since the mid 20th Century, cases which make it compelling to judge that psychological continuity2 secured by the isolation or transplantation of a cerebrum3 is sufficient for our persistence.
- But it is usual to find those who adhere to the ‘animalist4’ thesis (A) trying to explain away, or discredit, the highly intuitive thesis (B). Conversely, those who take (B) as bedrock in their theorizing usually regard it as a primary motivation for rejecting (A) and for developing anti-animalist, principally Lockean, views of our fundamental nature.
- The aim of this paper is to argue that these endeavors rest upon a mistake. On the basis of a plausible general framework for theorizing about the nature and persistence of macroscopic continuants it can be shown that, far from being incompatible, thesis (A) in fact strongly supports thesis (B). A settled and coherent view of our nature and persistence can incorporate both theses.
- Once the general framework is set out, the positive argument for the compatibility claim will be fairly straightforward. Its key point is that the cerebrum5 preserves a high density of capacities for activity characteristic of the relevant kind of organism. A greater part of the paper will be given over to defensive and diagnostic tasks, to rebut objections, and to try to make some sense of the prevalence of the mistaken assumption that the theses are incompatible.
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