Animals, Persons and Bioethics
Hershenov (David)
Source: Earlier versions published in The American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Medicine, 8:1, 2008, 8-11 and Proceedings of the Creighton Society: The Philosophical Association of New York. October 2008.
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. My contention is that considering a person to be co-located with an animal, or one of its spatial or temporal parts, gives rise to a host of problems as a result of there then being too many thinkers1. These problems, which Olson (1997, 2007) has emphasized, can be mitigated (somewhat) by a Noonan-style pronoun revisionism (2003, 2009). But doing so will have very unwelcome consequences for bioethics as autonomy, informed consent, advance directives and substituted judgment will be impossible for the human animal2.
  2. I count it as a point in favor of Olson’s answer to the metaphysical question “What are we3?” that it avoids such ethical quandaries. But his animalism4 - with its Parfit-inspired5 claim that it is not identity that matters in survival but the continuation of our psychology even if someone else is its subject - appears to be at odds with our self-conception and practical concerns.
  3. And if the only argument for this thesis is the fission scenario, then the thesis is further undermined as Parfit’s6 account of fission runs afoul of the rationale behind Wiggins’s Only a and b rule.
  4. What I will very tentatively suggest is that we explore an alternative account of animalism7 which denies that being identical to a future being is only of derivative importance to us.


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