Four-Dimensional Animalism
Hershenov (David)
Source: Blatti & Snowdon - Animalism: New Essays on Persons, Animals, and Identity, 2016: Part II, Chapter 10, pp. 208-226
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Conclusion

  1. So once readers see that thinkers are best individuated by life processes, it becomes arbitrary to claim only part of the animal is a person. One can still, on the basis of unrestricted composition, claim that the person consists of only scattered thinking stages of organisms before and after the stroke-induced coma and injury. But the stages of the animal don’t have the right causal connections.
  2. Such a ‘person’ is an artificial, gerrymandered product of the principle of unrestricted composition, not an entity possessing either a natural biological or psychological unity1 between its stages. Calling such an entity a person would be as suspect as claiming the first half of my life and the second half of your life would compose a person. There is no immanent mental causation2 between the thoughts of the person who suffers the stroke-induced brain damage and temporary coma, and the later pains and pleasures. Likewise for the other scenarios discussed.
  3. If immanent causation3 is needed, then it would be in the form of life processes unifying sleeping4 and waking Socrates, the senile general and the young thief, the later stroke victim and the earlier rational self, the merely sentient newborn and the later reflective child, or the divided and then reunified mind studying for Parfit’s5 physics exam.
  4. So we see that our prudential intuitions, our belief that we are persons if any entities are, and the maximality principle all serve to indicate that the human animal6 is the least arbitrary candidate for the persistence of the person in the above cases.

  1. Introduction
  2. Why Four-Dimensional Human Animals7 Don’t Appear to be Persons
  3. The Components of a Person
    1. Natural Development
    2. Contribution Determines Composition
  4. The Human Animal8 is the Only Person
    1. The Collapse of Psychological Continuity9 into Biological Continuity
    2. The Collapse of Brain-Based Psychological Identity into Biological Identity

Editors’ Introduction10
  1. In Chapter 10, David B. Hershenov engages with a very important question about animalism11, which can be expressed in these words; How does animalism12 stand within a four-dimensionalist approach to ontology? Most supporters of animalism13 work in a non-four-dimensionalist framework, and perhaps, as one might put it, simply hope that the view's status is not affected by the choice of a different basic metaphysics. Hershenov’s discussion aims to make a case for the truth of this claim or hope by critically examining the arguments of Hud Hudson, whom Hershenov describes, as having 'thought longer and harder about this topic' than anyone else he knows.
  2. Hershenov proceeds by picking out two lines of thought that Hudson proposes and trying to counter them.
    1. The first is, roughly, that according to the animalist14 the person has early stages which are mindless, but since according to the dominant type of four-dimensionalism there will be countless objects with early stages that are mindless, this will mean that there are 'an infinite number of entities that are persons', which is absurd.
    2. The second argument that Hudson proposes is that stages of animals contain elements that are not involved in thinking, whereas it is less arbitrary to restrict person stages to bits that are directly relevant to the production of thought.
  3. To the first argument Hershenov replies, roughly, that it is not at all arbitrary to have a view according to which persons have stages which are 'unminded', since these early stages have a crucial causal role in the final generation of the minded stages, when what we have is a developing animal.
  4. To the second argument Hershenov replies that it is far less easy than philosophers assume to restrict the generation of mindfulness to the brain. This is bold, and is clearly not a point the significance of which solely concerns the particular purposes of Hershenov's chapter.
  5. In the final two sections, Hershenov argues with considerable forcefulness that our judgements (or intuitions) about our persistence — as revealed, for example, in our attitude of prudential concern — indicate that what we are best regarded as tracking are the human animals15 we are (according to animalism)16. This part of his argument links to and contrasts with Johansson's treatment of prudence17. It is clear that Hershenov has, in this chapter, contributed in a major way to two debates.
    1. The first debate is the one mentioned earlier about the status of animalism18 within a four-dimensionalist ontology.
    2. The second debate is, of course, the general assessment of the arguments which are critical of animalism19 and which can be presented within other more standard ontologies. Of particular importance here is his attempt to oppose some of the pressures to shrink the person to something more or less like the brain.


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 10: Taken from "Blatti (Stephan) & Snowdon (Paul), Eds - Animalism: Introduction".

Footnote 17: In "Johansson (Jens) - Animal Ethics".

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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