The Stony Metaphysical Heart of Animalism
Shoemaker (David)
Source: Blatti & Snowdon - Animalism: New Essays on Persons, Animals, and Identity, 2016: Part III, Chapter 15, pp. 303-327
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Animalism1, by the forthright acknowledgment of many of its own adherents, does poorly at accounting for our identity-related practical concerns. The reason is straightforward: whereas our practical concerns seem to track the identity of psychological creatures — persons — animalism2 focuses on the identity of human organisms who are not essentially persons. This lack of fit between our practical concerns and animalism3 may thus be taken to pose the following serious Challenge to animalism4:
    1. Animalism5 lacks the proper fit with the set of our practical concerns;
    2. If a theory of personal identity lacks the proper fit with the set of our practical concerns, it suffers a loss in plausibility; thus,
    3. Animalism6 suffers a loss in plausibility (in particular to psychological criteria7 of identity).
  2. There are two very general replies to Challenge.
    • First, one might deny (i), showing that animalism8 doesn't in fact lack the proper fit with our practical concerns. One might tack this response in one of two directions: either
      1. Appeal to the fact that animal continuity is at least a necessary condition for instantiation of the relevant (psychologically grounded) practical concerns (and so is sufficient for delivering a "proper fit"),
      2. Show that our understanding of the relevant practical concerns is overly narrow and that our person-related practical concerns may actually define the "persons" to whom they apply in much broader — humanesque — terms, such that the theory of identity that fits best with them in the end is actually, surprisingly, animalism9.
    • The second general response to Challenge is to deny (ii), showing instead how a lack of fit with our practical concerns is not a plausibility condition for theories of personal identity.
  3. What we have, then, are actually three attempted responses to Challenge, and these may be drawn from the work of, respectively,
    David DeGrazia,
    Marya Schechtman, and
    Eric Olson.
  4. It is my first aim in this chapter to explain and evaluate them.
    1. I will find the first two responses problematic and the third, while on the right track, to be significantly incomplete.
    2. I will then attempt to fill in the gaps of the third response to render it viable.
    3. In doing so, I will show that and how our practical concerns do not consist in a monolithic set; rather, there are distinctly different types of practical concerns, and while some are clearly grounded on psychological relations, some are actually grounded on others, including animalistic10 and humanistic relations; furthermore, their actual connection to identity is tenuous at best.
    4. What these concerns are, how they divide up, and what they are grounded on in each instance — these are the issues it is my second aim in this chapter to take up.
  5. I begin with a more thorough explication of Challenge.

  1. Introduction
  2. Challenge
  3. Accounting for our Practical Concerns, 1.0: DeGrazia’s Realism
  4. Accounting for our Practical Concerns, 2.0: Schechtman’s Expanded Persons
  5. Divorcing Animalism11 from Our Practical Concerns: Olson and Transplants12
  6. The Pluralism of the Practical

Editors’ Introduction13
  1. Like "Johansson (Jens) - Animal Ethics", David Shoemaker is also concerned with animalism14's normative import. In Chapter 15, he addresses animalism15's apparent inability to account for the practical concerns of human persons. Shoemaker formulates this objection as an argument against the plausibility of animalism16, as follows:
    1. 'Animalism17 lacks the proper fit with the set of our practical concerns;
    2. If a theory of personal identity lacks the proper fit with the set of our practical concerns, it suffers a loss in plausibility; thus,
    3. Animalism18 suffers a loss in plausibility (in particular to psychological criteria19 of identity)'
  2. In response to this objection — which he labels 'Challenge' — Shoemaker considers three possible replies, each of which is extrapolated from recent work by
    "DeGrazia (David) - Human Identity and Bioethics", 2005,
    Marya Schechtman, 201020, and
    "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology", 1997.
  3. According to Shoemaker, both DeGrazia and Schechtman would reply to Challenge denying (i).
    1. In DeGrazia's case, (i) is rejected on the grounds that, as far as what is known about the actual world, the persistence of human animals21 is at least a necessary condition for the possession of those psychological characteristics which, in turn, ground such practical concerns as moral responsibility, prudential concern, and the like. By DeGrazia's lights, this fact is enough to block the inference to (iii) — i.e. to present animalism22 from suffering any loss in plausibility.
    2. Schechtman too would contend animalism23 is perfectly capable of accounting for the practical concerns of human persons. But on her view, the route to (i)'s rejection is more ambitious, involving appeal to an expansive notion of personhood — what she calls a 'person-life' — which 'incorporate[s] the metaphysical insights of animalism24 in a way that allows that theory to produce the desired practical implications'.
  4. Ultimately, however, Shoemaker finds that neither DeGrazia's nor Schechtman's denials of (i) result in what an adequate response to Challenge really demands, which is an explanation of the justificatory role played by identity qua necessary condition for our practical concerns, where that explanation is both robust and informative (in senses that Shoemaker describes).
  5. More promising, Shoemaker argues, is Olson's reply to Challenge, which involves denying not (i), but (ii). According to Olson, the intuition many of us report concerning familiar brain-transplant25 scenarios — i.e. that persons go where their psychological-continuity-preserving organs go — may not track any particular theory of personal identity, but only our practical concerns. And in that case, animalism26 may be true regardless of its failure to explain adequately our practical concerns.
  6. But as Shoemaker points out, even if Olson is correct that the transplant27 intuition may reflect only our practical concerns and thus can be divorced from any particular account of personal identity, it does not follow that the plausibility of a theory of personal identity is not impacted by the degree to which it jibes with our practical concerns. As a result, Olson’s attack on (ii) is not sufficiently strong. On Shoemaker’s view, what is required in order to undermine (ii) — and, thereby, to block the inference to (iii) — is a defence of the claim that 'none of the relations or elements in which numerical identity28 consists matter, so that the correct theory of personal identity will contain nothing of relevance to our practical concerns'. This is precisely the claim that Shoemaker proceeds to defend in the concluding section of the chapter — what he calls the 'Identity Really Really Doesn't Matter View.'

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 13: Taken from "Blatti (Stephan) & Snowdon (Paul), Eds - Animalism: Introduction".

Footnote 20:

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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