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 animal and body. (For the purposes of this paper, the human animal will be identified with the organic body.)
  2. If the person can think, then it would appear that the human animal 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 supervenience1 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 animal or the person.
  4. The dilemma that both the person and the human animal can think has been labeled by Sydney Shoemaker “The Problem of Too Many Minds.” I prefer to call it the problem of too many thinkers since it could be that two thinkers share one mind much as conjoined twins could share one bruise.


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