Shoemaker's Problem of Too Many Thinkers
Hershenov (David)
Source: Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 80, 2007, 225-36
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Psychological approaches to personal identity are distinguished from body and biological accounts of identity by the former’s insistence that some kind of mind is essential for our persistence. A problem arises for those psychological approaches that are committed to the person being spatially coincident with, but distinct from the human animal1 and body. (For the purposes of this paper, the human animal2 will be identified with the organic body.)
  2. If the person can think, then it would appear that the human animal3 can also. The person and the animal share the same brain as well as every other atom of every other organ. Given this physical identity and the fact that they both have the same causal relations to the environment and linguistic community, why then should only one of the two beings have the ability to think?
  3. Such mental duplication appears inevitable on pain of violating the supervenience4 of the mental on the physical, construing the latter to include causal ties to the environment as well as the physical properties of the animal. And if both can think then there arises what Olson called the “epistemic problem” of being unable to know whether one is the human animal5 or the person.
  4. The dilemma that both the person and the human animal6 can think has been labeled by Sydney Shoemaker “The Problem of Too Many Minds7.” I prefer to call it the problem of too many thinkers8 since it could be that two thinkers share one mind much as conjoined twins could share one bruise.

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