- Is the mammalian embryo/fetus a part of the organism that gestates it?
- According to the containment view, the fetus is not a part of, but merely contained within or surrounded by, the gestating organism. According to the parthood view, the fetus is a part of the gestating organism.
- This paper proceeds in two stages.
- First, I argue that the containment view is the received view; that it is generally assumed without good reason; and that it needs substantial support if it is to be taken seriously.
- Second, I argue that the parthood view derives considerable support from a range of biological and physiological considerations.
- I tentatively conclude in favour of the parthood view, and end by identifying some of the interesting further questions it raises.
- This is no doubt an important paper from the perspective of personal identity, and is something I intend to write on extensively once I can get hold of a copy.
- For now, I note that "Finn (Suki) - Bun or bump?" says it is “forthcoming” in Mind, while Kingma - Were you a part of your mother? gives the expected publication date as 18 December 2019, so I won’t see it for years.
- It will, however, be worth viewing two YouTube lectures, which presumably cover the same ground. See:-
→ RIP: YouTube - Elselijn Kingma: The Metaphysics of Pregnancy (RIP). 25th November 2016. London. Follow this Link for comments below.
→ KCL: YouTube - Elselijn Kingma: The Metaphysics of Pregnancy (KCL). Published on-line 25th October 2016. Follow this Link for comments below.
- I attended the following lecture in person:-
→ Birkbeck: 15th March 2019. Follow this Link for comments below.
- My intention is to pay close attention to – and write up – these lectures. I’ve completed this for the first; the others are minor variants of the first, so won’t get the full treatment.
- Kingma1 has also written two other papers on the same topic:-
→ "Kingma (Elselijn) - Lady Parts: The Metaphysics of Pregnancy", and
→ "Kingma (Elselijn) - Nine months"
- There’s also a (successful) request for funding for a 5-year research project, which is documented in both a longer and shorter form:-
→ "Kingma (Elselijn) - BUMP: Better Understanding the Metaphysics of Pregnancy (B1)", and
→ "Kingma (Elselijn) - BUMP: Better Understanding the Metaphysics of Pregnancy (B2)".
RIP Lecture Abstract2
- What is the metaphysical relationship between the gestating organism and its embryo3 / fetus4? I compare two views:
- The fetal container model: the fetus5 is not part of but merely contained within or surrounded by the gestating organism;
- The Part-Whole model: the fetus6 is part of its gestator.
- The fetal container model appears to be the received view. It is widely assumed but, I argue, without good argument; this model needs substantial support if it is to be taken seriously.
- The Part-Whole model is not presently defended7, but I argue that it derives considerable support from a range of biological and physiological considerations.
- I conclude that the Part-Whole model has the upper hand and that, if true, this has important consequences for the metaphysics of persons and organisms and, perhaps, ethics and law.
RIP Lecture Notes8
- Two options for the relation between the Gravida (Maternal Organism) and the Foster (Fetus):-
- The Foster is part of the Gravida
- The Container Model
- Audience Straw poll – a couple of votes either way, but most sat on the fence!
- Marsupials are excluded from discussion – so don’t ask “what about kangaroos9?” – but all placental mammals are implicitly considered.
- Distinguish persons10 from organisms11. Here we’re talking about organisms.
- The Foster is vague, both as to:-
→ when it comes into existence
→ what its spatial boundaries are – does it include the placenta and other apparatus?
- The Container Model
- The Container Model is culturally dominant.
- Ultrasound scans are routinely described as “baby’s first picture”.
- Progress of pregnancy – “at two weeks your baby is a little ball of cells”.
- Photos of the fetus – as in Life Magazine – are of the “astronaut in space” format, with the gravida airbrushed out of the picture.
- The fetus is actually purple, but is photoshopped as white.
- Philosophers: Widely assume the Container Model:-
- “Like a Tub of Yogurt in the Fridge”
→ "Smith (Barry) & Brogaard (Berit) - Sixteen Days", p. 74
- “An organizational unity12 that is not a part of its host”
→ "Oderberg (David) - The Metaphysical Status of the Embryo: Some Arguments Revisited", p. 266
- “Not merely a part of some other thing”
→ "Howsepian (Avak Albert) - Four queries concerning the metaphysics of early human embryogenesis", p. 152
- Animalists13: believe we are organisms and were once foetuses, without considering whether there are any interesting questions about having an animal inside another animal.
- Maximality: “No cat is part of another cat”
→ "Hawley (Katherine) - How Things Persist", p. 166
- Assumed in medical ethics.
- Arguments for the Container Model: Kingma has trawled the literature and only found two14:-
- The Intuitive Argument ("Howsepian (Avak Albert) - Four queries concerning the metaphysics of early human embryogenesis")
Form OK; also goes through with “mouse” rather than “human”. So:-
- P1: Fosters are Human
- P2: No Human is part of another human
- P3: Gravidae are Human
- C: Fosters can’t be part of Gravidae
Alternatively (again agreeing P3)
- Agree P3.
- P1 is disputed: people have different views as to when / whether Fosters become human. But you could “fix” this premise.
- P2: can’t overgeneralise from your own case; maybe part of what it is to be human is autonomy; but it all depends what you pack into the term “human”. This is basically an empirical question whether Fosters are part of other humans. That’s if we’ve fixed it that Fosters are human. So, P2 begs the question.
So this argument fails – it begs the question in P1 or P2, unless you can come up with independent support for them. People equivocate about what they mean by “human” in these two premises. Conclusion: can’t do armchair physiology – have to actually think about what it is for one organism to be part of another.
- Fix P2 – just agree that – whatever humans are – humans can’t be part of other humans.
- Then P1 seems to beg the question.
- The Topological Argument ("Smith (Barry) & Brogaard (Berit) - Sixteen Days")
- The Foster is like a Tennant in a Niche.
- A Niche is a part of reality into which an object fits and into and out of which it can move. Eg. Fish in an aquarium.
→ But isn’t it obvious that we can’t move15 Fosters in and out of their niches?
- Complete external boundary; no topological connection.
→ No clear external boundaries;
→ No separation – stalk morphology;
→ Hallmark of topological connection.
- Fosters don’t float like fish in an aquarium – they have an umbilical cord which grows out of the Foster and into the placenta, which itself grows straight into the uterine wall. So, it’s simply false that there’s no topological connection.
- There is eventually a separation – at birth. If I chop off my finger, there’s a boundary created, but not beforehand. That’s why women occasionally bleed to death post-partum as the placenta is really joined to the uterus, not separated by membranes.
- So, Kingma concludes that if Smith & Brogaard applied their criteria consistently, they would conclude that the Foster is part of the Gravida.
- Arguments for Fetal Parthood: Part-Whole Model – The Organism
- Metaphysics: ignore this, in favour of …
- Philosophy of Biology
- The problem of biological individuality: no consensus! Organisms are messy16, especially when we look at fungi or strawberries.
- Don’t defend any particular account, but consider recurrent criteria that give insights into what is a part.
- Strategy: if it looks like a part, it’s a part!
- So, Organisms:-
- Are physiologically autonomous & maintain homeostasis
- Internally, the environment has to be maintained within fine parameters to avoid death; but, externally organisms can accommodate a wide variety of environments.
- The Foster is regulated as part of the Gravida and dependent on it: only after birth does is regulate kidney-function, breathing etc. All of which prior to birth were performed or regulated by the larger organism. This is why birth is a risky business as there are babies that are fine in the womb but can’t perform these functions on their own.
- Part of the internal environment – embedded in the uterine wall.
- Of course, the Foster has some degree of physiological autonomy, but this is universal in the biological world. The liver does, and every cell does.
- Have Metabolic and Functional Organisation
- Metabolic Integration: one metabolic system and active metabolic facilitation. The Gravida is actively involved. The Foster is not a parasite. The Gravida is set up to do this and makes adjustments in numerous ways (heart rate, hormones, …)
- Functional Integration: The Foster performs a reproductive function in that it realises the Gravida’s reproductive function. Some women – especially in pre-modern societies – die during pregnancy or as a result of giving birth. But survival / fitness17 trade-off is normal. Stags and their antlers, rutting. Only extreme conflict between the Foster and the Gravida is pathological – eg. pre-eclampsia18. Testicles19. Distinguish functional integration from complete alignment.
- Fosters Are Immunologically Tolerated & Facilitated
- We’re referred to20 Pradeu (2012) & Howes (2007)
- Rejection of the Foster is pathological, just like an auto-immune disease.
- Topological Continuity; discussed earlier
- Placenta & Umbilical Cord
- In Uterine Wall, not Uterus
- No Membranous Separation
- Direct Cell-cell Connection / Integration in One Tissue
- Whole-Part Model: Conclusion
- The Foster certainly looks and acts like a part, but …
- Raises questions about the delineation of organisms: how do we delineate between generations?
- Helpful to think of other examples (strawberry plants21, fungi). New strawberry plants22 are initially clearly connected to the parent plant, but can become self-standing (though this is subject to debate).
- Objections to the Part-Whole Model
- There was nothing in favour of the Fetal Container Model, but there was at least a case to be made for the Part-Whole Model. So, objections that always come up …
- Genetic Difference23: Response – organisms are not genetically uniform:-
- DNA-less cells (erythrocytes24, skin)
- Microchaemerism25: Fetal-maternal & Twin-twin transfer. Pregnant women usually pick up fetal cells during pregnancy, which remain in their bodies for decades.
- Macro-chaemerism: Kidney donation; blastocyst fusion26. In the latter case, two blastocysts (of non-identical twins) fuse non-pathologically27 – for all she knows this might be true of her – so that some organs are formed from one blastocyst and the others, or the skin, are formed from the other. It’d be bonkers to think that such cases weren’t each a (single) organism.
- Genetic essentialism is a bad view (supported only by journals like The Economist that report really badly on science).
- Fosters have a future of their own – viability & separability: Two versions:-
- Modal28: can become separate. After a certain time, the Foster can separate and be separately viable, so it’s not a part. Confuses a disposition with its realisation (fragile <> broken). So, while it can separate, it’s not actually separate until we separate it, so it’s perfectly possible for it to be a part before that.
- Will become separate. Response is firstly similar to that above. Mortal <> dead. I will certainly die, but that doesn’t make me dead now. So, the fact that the foster will separate doesn’t make it separate now. Ask not if but when. Also, organisms lose stuff all the time. So we can’t have it that cells that will leave29 the organism were never part of the organism.
- Moral Relevance30
- Ethics should not dictate metaphysics.
- Many parts differ in their moral relevance. Compare hair, kidney, sperm, egg … etc. All agree that a foster is a morally special and interesting part.
- Other Questions
Ignore these for now. Stick to the normal case – pregnancy – first. Understand this, rather than thinking that abnormal cases – conjoined twins31 – should determine our metaphysical views.
- Conjoined Twins
- Conclusion & Implications
- Fetal-Container Model is devoid of support. Important as this is so widely assumed and asserted. Evidence is required.
- A case can be made for the Part-Whole Model, though Kingma admits it could be made stronger, but it’s currently the best candidate.
- Possible Ethical and Legal Consequences: No direct inferences from metaphysics to ethics; nothing Kingma has said guarantees any moral claims; but …
- Legal & Moral Presupposition of Individual Organisms. More to it than just abortion. Pregnant women: how much they owe their foetuses if they are going to bring them into existence. Surrogate pregnancies and how we construe a surrogate relationship. Examples:-
- Autonomy, self-determination
- Constraints against doing harm to others
- How, if at all, applicable to pregnancy? All our legal and ethical judgements presuppose that there are individual organisms and individual bodies who have independent existences, which others mostly don’t interfere with, and if they do there’s something to discuss! If the Part-Whole theory is true, this is a presupposition that is just false; a mistake – an artefact of not thinking about pregnancy. How to proceed if humans aren’t in possession of their own bodies, aren’t physically distinct and don’t normally stand in a relationship of non-interference. You might have to rewrite the lot for pregnancy. Kingma’s team has a separate paper32 in which they are working all that out.
- Also, fewer inferences licenced. People will make a claim that Fosters are human, and then infer lots of things therefrom. For example:-
- Foster is HUMAN; therefore it has a right to x
- But this inference depends on whether the right to x presupposes individual bodies / lives, etc.
- Everything that follows from such presuppositions might need some serious re-evaluation in the light of the metaphysical facts.
- Some of us already realised this, but (the Part-Whole Model) makes the case stronger.
- Possible Metaphysical Consequences:
- Implications for:-
- When do we begin?
- How many (human) entities are there? How many are right here33? She doesn’t think anything is clinched here (she says)
- Questions are not necessarily inter-related; It might be the case that the question whether the Fetus is part of the Gravida is related to the question when we begin or how many human entities there are. It all depends on the further assumptions.
- Think of the assumption “no Human Organism (HO) can be part of another HO”. Then this assumption – combined with a Part-Whole claim – shows that Fosters aren’t HOs. At this point there are two options34:-
→ Either accept consequent
→ Or reject assumption
- Kingma supposes that there are many assumptions in metaphysics that might come under serious pressure if combined with this view that Fosters are part of the Gravida.
- No consequences without further assumptions relating persons to organisms. Many views. If persons are non-material minds then the Foster being part of the Gravida tells us nothing about whether the Foster’s non-material mind is part of the Gravida’s non-material mind.
- Exception, Animalism35. Animalists (allegedly) don’t make any distinction between organisms and persons. We are organisms. Also committed to the view that we were foetuses. So,
→ P1: We are Organisms
→ P2: We were Fetuses
→ P3: Part-Whole Claim
→ C: We were Part of our Mother
Very interesting, and
- Raises the question what is the relationship to one’s offspring, to one’s part. Does my Foster-part that becomes a baby continue to be part of me? Sets up a very different picture of personal identity.
- Massively counterintuitive? Kingma claims not to deal with intuitions. People send her material:
Later I look with wonder at my mushy middle and at my child, amazed that this yowling flailing thing, so completely different from me, was there inside. part of me. Almost everyone who reads that treats it as metaphor (Young is a phenomenologist), but for an animalist – if the Part-Whole Theory is true – this could just be literal.
→ Young, 198436, emphasis added by Kingma.
[a] woman may be utterly devastated by the thought of a child, a bit of herself, put out for adoption and never seen or heard of again. Thomson, who’s not a phenomenologist, and who in this paper makes the famous “violinist attached to your kidney” analogy of abortion, the use of one’s body by another.
→ "Thomson (Judith Jarvis) - A Defense of Abortion", 1971, p. 166, emphasis added by Kingma
- And this isn’t a recent phenomenon either, take
She longs to fold to her maternal breast
part of herself, yet to herself unknown → Barbault, 1790s, emphasis added by Kingma
- So, there is certainly scope for taking seriously these views, not just from their metaphysical arguments, but it’s interesting that they map onto statements that appear metaphorical, but may not be metaphorical at all.
KCL Lecture Notes
- Kingma’s talk is sufficiently similar to the (slightly later) RIP talk as not to be worth commenting on in addition.
- There’s a pre-talk interchange about the background of the speaker and audience, before the talk-proper begins around 00:01:05.
- There are some philosophy and some medical students, as well as a qualified doctor, a social scientist, a gynaecologist and a neuroscience (student?).
- Kingma started out as a medical student in the Netherlands – she qualified, but didn’t d her clinical rotation so didn’t obtain a medical license and is not a medical doctor because she left medical school and got side-tracked into philosophy.
- There’s a poll of views which – like the RIP lecture – was a couple either way, but (presumably) fewer abstentions as it looks like the audience at KCL was much smaller.
- Talk – Variations Only
- From 00:52:30 to 01:01:15 there was what seemed to be another talk. It wasn’t 100% clear who the speaker was as her back was to the camera, and it was difficult to make out what was being said – though it didn’t seem to be a response to Kingma’s talk (and Kingma seemed to be checking her emails while it was going on) – so I’ve ignored it.
- Questions start after the second talk and are addressed to Kingma, so I’m not sure what the intervening mumble had to do with things.
- Questions & Answers
- Question 1:
- Can we not make an analogy between the Fetal Container Model and breastfeeding? The mother is more than just a “milk supplier”. There’s intimate connectedness37, but this doesn’t mean we don’t have two organisms. But in neither case can we reduce the nurturing mother to her functional role.
- This is entirely obvious. If I eat a carrot I do not thereby become – merely – a carrot-container! Kingma was making a metaphysical claim about the relationship between the maternal organism and the fetus, not a moral claim with lots of social implications.
- However, breast-feeding is really interesting. Two points:-
- The Part-Whole model is already controversial, but at the end of talks people come up and ask “are you sure the link finishes at birth?” It’s nearly always women who have been pregnant who claim that the infant was part of them for longer – “just out here”. It’s interesting that people should think that way. From a biological point of view there’s something to be said for it … metabolic integration. Baby and mother remain one metabolic system.
- Philosophers of biology are not interested in topology but with functionality: intensive nurturing relates parents and offspring irrespective of whether there’s still a placental connection or whether it’s later on. Analogy: mother & daughter strawberry plants38 have a very gradual transition.
- Question 2 (01:07:53):
- Two ideas:-
- The model has it that the Foster is part of the mother. What about the mother being part of the Foster. How does this fit the model?
- Organisms are determined to reproduce. How about organisms being determined to be born?
- The arguments don’t say which way the parthood relationship goes. We could say the Foster loses its Gravida. However, it’s plausible that it’s the Gravida that grows a part.
- The woman + conceptus → pregnant woman. This organism constitutes two entities – organisms – with different persistence conditions.
- Constitution: Statue39 + Clay.
- At birth, the mother loses the Foster and the Foster loses the surrounding organism.
- Awaitig the next phase of the project to develop this mode – it gets messy.
- Alternatively, and overlap → share parts. Weaker?
- The purpose of an organism isn’t to reproduce.
- We are the disposable bodies of our eggs / sperm. Quite a bit of work needed here.
- Commment by moderator: male “babies” tend to feel (fetal) stress more. Sex is an indicator of (the need for) caesarean section. So … ?
- Question 3 (01:14:00):
- Parfit40 – there’s no Personal Identity, just psychological and physical connectedness41.
- Response: Kingma wants to get into this topic when she gets to know more about Personal Identity. Two points:-
- There’s a tendency to prefer psychological accounts42 of Personal Identity … “we go with our brains”. Kingma is suspicious of certain types of TE43, suspecting that the arguments are rigged. Philosophers are really interested in their brains! Fashion models, or Usain Bolt, might be more involved with their bodies. Examples are always about pain, which is exclusively psychological. Different TEs might make out that we go with our bodies. I think this is all mightily confused44! So, the pregnant woman is connected to both the non-pregnant woman and the baby: what she does affects both.
- Philosophy is full of Brain Transplants and Brain Splitting. Here we have a natural case of splitting45. There are multiple futures to consider. Kingma wants to investigate all this, but is not ready yet.
- Question 4 (01:17:40):
- What about complications with placental attachment46? Pre-eclampsia?
- If the placenta is too invasive, we have a problem. This is a pathological condition … agreed? Just as when other cells in the body become too invasive. In the normal case the placenta is linked to the maternal tissue and remodels the maternal blood supply: neither too invasive, nor not invasive enough. Versions of pre-eclampsia occur when the trophoblast sufficiently remodelled the uterine wall … the capillaries weren’t wide enough, etc. So there are connections, but like everywhere else in the body the connections need to be at the right level. This is very different from the “floating with no connection” model!
- There is something weird about this project. Sets up dichotomous relationships – as metaphysicians like – such as being part of a table or not. Rather than something slowly ceasing to be a part. But biology is full of things that are slowly ceasing … to be alive, or parts, or … whatever. Almost everything in biology is gradual. So, how do you deal metaphysically with very clear cases of gradation? The placenta is neither too little nor too much grown in.
- (Moderator): see the earlier question of just when is the point of birth? The severance is not instant.
- (Moderator; 01:22:58): Comment … something about intra-uterine death / caesarean section.
- Question 5 (01:23:58):
- Just what’s meant by “part”? This will impact on the account of the Part-Whole Model vs the Fetal Container Model.
- This needs to be worked out! Kingma initially argues for a relatively pre-theoretical notion of parthood. But exactly how you want to cash out metaphysically on this notion of parthood and what the underlying ontology is – and whether it even allows for complex objects or allows for parthood … that’ll affect the analysis.
- So, Kingma is not presupposing a particular metaphysical view of parthood. The project presupposes there’s something interesting to be said about what there is. Universalist suppose that any two things form another thing: then the question is uninteresting.
- Question 6 (01:26:14):
- Acknowledging the “Strawberry” model – but isn’t the situation more like the Apple Tree? The apple had to be part of something else in order to exist at all.
- The status of the stuff surrounding the seed in the apple is interesting: what’s made by the embryo and what by the “mother”? It all gets really messy as you get multiple fertilizations of plants47 … could be another embryo that forms the surrounds. This is on the project list!
- But, this shows that in biology, starting as a part and later becoming separate is the norm. The question is when does this separation happen? Fish just squirt their gametes into the sea. It seems that with apples, strawberry plants48 and placental mammals that the parthood relation lasts much longer.
- [Mumbled comment]: Response: But that means that if your mother is still alive when you’re 80, you’re still a part. Most people hope their children are independent by age 33!
- There was an interesting announcement for the next meeting of Philosophy & Medicine: "Death and Mortality" (6th October 2016), with the legend “Immortality – would it be worth it?” On the reading list are:-
→ "Williams (Bernard) - The Makropulos Case: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality",
→ “Unbearable Suffering” from "Williams (Bernard) - The Sense of the Past"
Birkbeck Lecture Notes
- Kingma’s talk was sufficiently similar to the other two talks to be not worth commenting on in addition, except for the occasional variation or emphasis.
- Kingma showed remarkable enthusiasm given the number of times she must have delivered the talk. The first slide showed “Milan49” – well somewhere in Italy – I think.
- There were maybe 15 people in the audience – including my former supervisor Jennifer Hornsby. A straw poll was taken and most were committed one way or another, about 50-5050, though Jen abstained. We subsequently learnt that this was for mereological51 reasons. Having one individual being part of another individual doesn’t jive well with standard mereology (as worked out by Peter Simons and others). Standard mereology may need revision!
- Talk – Variations Only
- The provenance and context of the claim – from "Hawley (Katherine) - How Things Persist", p. 166 – that “No cat is part of another cat” was explained (so preventing me from making a comment to that effect). It is in the context of the “too many cats52” problem, Tib and Tibbles53 and the like. It seems that Kingma had “been for a beer with” Katherine Hawley, who had not even considered the case of a pregnant cat54 (despite having been pregnant herself).
- In addition to items by Young and Thomson previously noted, a trawl of the literature for philosophers explicitly or implicitly supportive of for the Part-Whole model had revealed a passing reference on p. 67 of "Mellor (D.H.) - Micro-composition".
Why does giving birth shrink a mother’s surface to exclude her now-detached child instead of extending it to continue to include the child?
- Kangaroos and their joeys – while excluded from this discussion – do fit the “niche” variant of the Container Model, as the joey can hop in and out. See other footnotes where I’d queried whether the earlier (ie. pre-33-day) development of joey had been placental, or something analogous.
- There’s a question how much of the gestational apparatus should count as part of the Foster. Kingma is undecided, but inclines towards a maximal approach, including the placenta.
- The claim that the Foster has a life-cycle of its own doesn’t bar it from being a part. Various organisms – starfish, sea anemones and strawberry plants55, for instance – fission or emit a part that becomes a daughter and will then have a life-cycle of its own.
- Eggs are part of the mother – else what are they?
- Surrogacy and IVF are relevant to the discussion insofar as they help determine time the Foster starts to be part of the Gravida.
- Questions & Answers
- Question 1:
- The fetus experiences many things in utero, including learning to recognise its mother’s voice. The mother doesn’t learn to recognise her own voice. Is this a problem? The questioner had voted for the Part-Whole model.
- The Part-Whole model is of one individual being part of another individual.
- In any case, cognitive experiences are irrelevant to the model which applies equally to all placental mammals.
- Question 2:
- Given breast-feeding and the like, could an infant be considered to continue as a part of the mother after birth?
- Response: Kingma had some sympathy with this idea without actually accepting it. Personally, I think this muddies the waters and makes parthood in this context into a façon de parler.
- Question 3:
- My Question. Had Kingma considered whether the situation might be considered as two individuals – the fetus and the Gravida – sharing parts, these parts being the placenta and other gestatory apparatus, including the umbilical cord. I agreed that Conjoined Twins per se should be left to one side until the much more common general situation was resolved. However, Conjoined Twins are at least a prima facie case of individuals sharing parts, so what we want to say in this unusual case may shed light on the more general non-pathological case.
- The point was basically accepted. Kingma has assigned the question of Conjoined Twins to a post-doc. I said this was a bit disappointing as I’d hoped to research the topic myself. She encouraged me to continue to do so.
- However, there still needed to be a principled reason to deny parthood with respect to Foster and Gravida, which I agree.
- Question 4:
- Is this a feminist project? Or something along those lines. By a senior academic who’d written a book on Aristotle.
- Response: No. It’s a metaphysical project that has no clear ethical, social or political implications without further assumptions.
- Question 556:
- The questioner asked whether Gilles Deleuze’s ideas might help reduce the degree of separation between organisms. She referred to a – supposedly well-known – image of a human being, a tree and a tick. I know nothing about Deleuze – nor – by the sound of things – did Kingma, so the discussion was all rather surreal57.
- Response: Kingma took it all very literally and pointed out that humans, ticks and trees have different life-cycles – a fact that doubtless hadn’t escaped Deleuze.
- Question 6:
- Jennifer Hornsby made a doubtless important point about the relation between the developing and developed organism, which had to be repeated and re-explained a couple of times. Developing is part of coming to be, and we cannot say of something that it is developing using the name of the developed thing until that thing has in fact developed. So – I suppose – you cannot refer to the fetus in the ultrasound image as – your baby – as it isn’t, yet, a baby. Jen differs from G.E.M. Anscombe on this.
- I think there was a later remark about the difference between spatial containment and mereological containment.
- Response: Kingma encouraged Jen to drop her a line on the matter.
- Question 7:
- How does all this metaphysics affect the mother’s duty towards the fetus?
- This question seemed to have touched a raw nerve, and I see that there’s a sub-project at Southampton run by Fiona Woollard that investigates the pressures on pregnant women to act in certain ways for the benefit of their Fosters and infants.
- Kingma was at pains to point out that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect container’. Everything the mother does affects her fetus in one way or another – including stressing about what she should or shouldn’t do in order to provide that impossible perfect environment.
- My own view is that all this is orthogonal to the metaphysical questions so the same answer would apply whether the Foster is deemed a part or a free-standing individual on ‘life-support’. It’s agreed that both Foster and Gravida impact on one another in so many ways. That said, it can’t be right for a mother to deliver her baby with fetal alcohol syndrome or addicted to heroin. The impossibility of perfection doesn’t give licence to do whatever we please.
- My notes suggest that – subsidiary to this question – was the statement that “it’s not the issue whether the fetus is an organism, but whether one organism can be part of another organism”. Kingma has no settled position on this58.
I don't yet have a copy of the Mind paper.
- It sounds impolite and somewhat curt to say “Kingma”, but I’d unhesitatingly say “Lewis” – and only say “David Lewis” if there was ambiguity.
- This seems to have disappeared from YouTube!
- That is disappointing, as it would seem to raise even more questions than the “container model”, which Kingma claims “needs substantial support if it is to be taken seriously”.
- Of course, either position requires careful argument rather than just being assumed.
- As is indicated by the colour convention, these Notes are – in general – in my own words, though occasionally I’ve copied headings from the slides.
- However, the notes are very full, and so are fully indebted to Kingma’s paper as delivered and my comments are relegated to footnotes.
- The structure, however is my own, and is subject to revision once I’ve finished listening to the Talk and have fully written it up.
- Famously, the joey crawls from the uterus (one of two) to the pouch after about 33 days in the case of the largest – (red) – kangaroos when it is only a few centimetres long. See:-
→ Wikipedia: Kangaroo Reproduction and Life Cycle, and
→ Wikipedia: Red Kangaroo Reproduction
- The Wikipedia articles are silent about the details of the “in uteri” stage of the joey’s gestation. Is it a part of the gravida or merely contained therein?
- The developing joey is definitely a separate individual organism, though contained within the pouch.
- These are this the Foster is either separate from and contained within the Gravida, or else it is part of the Gravida.
- There does seem to be a third option that probably most people would accept if they thought about it – that the Foster is contained within the Gravida, but only partly separate from her because it shares parts with it.
- The obvious parallel is with conjoined twins.
- In the original “Siamese Twins” case, the shared part was just a flap of skin and associated blood vessels.
- In the dicephalus case, it’s much of the body, and it’s maybe vague which bits aren’t shared, though a principled story could be told depending whether the genesis of the dicephalus resulted from incomplete fission or from fusion.
- The issue with this parallel is with whether conjoined twins are one or two human beings – or organisms.
- Most people would agree that they are two persons, but that’s a separate question. Even there, in the defective case, one of the twins might not be a person, on some definitions of the term, but might still be a human being.
- This is an empirical modal claim.
- It’s clear that it’ll never be easy to do this, but is it obvious that it’s impossible?
- It’s certainly logically or metaphysically possible (see my note on modality).
- I think this is down to adopting a Socratic approach – to find necessary and sufficient criteria for all cases – rather than a Wittgensteinian one of “family resemblance”.
Footnote 18: Footnote 19:
- I think “survival” and “fitness” are used in their technical Darwinian senses – “fitness” is reproductive fitness, wherein “fit” individuals wear themselves out reproducing, and so do not survive, though their “line” does.
Footnote 20: Footnote 23:
- I didn’t understand the reference, which seemed to be that if the Foster isn’t part of the Gravida then a male’s testicles aren’t part of him – something to do with survival.
Footnote 24: Footnote 25: Footnote 26:
- I thought that Kingma could bat this objection away more quickly.
- It’s certainly metaphysically possible – and probably even practically possible right now – for a woman to be impregnated with her own clone.
- Objectors wouldn’t withdraw their objection on the grounds of no genetic difference between Gravida and Foster in this case.
- See Wikipedia: Chimera (Genetics)
- This link distinguishes Chimeras from Hybrids and Hybridomas. In a Chimera, each cell is genetically uniform, whereas:-
- Hybrids: form from the fusion of gametes from two species that form a single zygote with a combined genetic makeup. See Wikipedia: Hybrid (Biology).
- Hybridomas: result from the fusion of two species' cells into a single cell and artificial propagation of this cell in the laboratory. See Wikipedia: Hybridoma Technology.
- See my note on Chimeras, which looks like it could do with an update in this regard.
- The pathological cases – of conjoined twins – where there’s incomplete fusion and integration – was noted above.
- Does Kingma correctly represent the modal argument?
- It’s saying that true parts of an organism don’t have the possibility of separate viability – they differ in their modal properties from some other things – such as fosters – that do have this modal property.
- But, is this modal claim anything other than ad hoc?
- Anyway, the argument isn’t that because the foster could be separate, it’s separate now, any more than if something could be broken – because it’s fragile – it’s broken now.
- Doesn’t this ignore the “viability” claim?
- Not clear that hair or nails are “viable” even when attached (as the cells are dead), so aren’t a fair comparison as they aren’t viable when detached.
- Nor the skin cells that are lost.
- Question about “semen” – or at least the spermatozoa therein. Were they ever parts in the first place? And are they “viable” in the way the fetus is “viable”.
- Kingma seems to confuse “importance” with moral relevance.
- Kidneys are more important – to the Gravida – than hair, but have no moral relevance on their own account.
- However – so it is claimed – fosters do have independent moral “worth”.
- Maybe this is the whole point at issue?
- I agree that we should focus on the normal case first.
- The importance of Conjoined Twins is that they ask the question whether organisms can share parts.
- I hope to find out what this paper is!
- Kingma mumbles something brief – including the word “interesting” – which I couldn’t make out.
- Note that the above little speech refers to the situation of pregnancy, rather than human behaviour generally (I hope). The claim isn’t “just false” in the general case.
- Presumably Kingma – who is manifestly and admittedly pregnant – is referring to herself and her Foster, rather than wondering about her – mainly male and / or aged – audience.
Footnote 36: Footnote 40:
- This is the standard choice in the propositional calculus between Modus Ponens and Modus Tottens.
- It all depends on what you hold to be most certain:-
→ the Premises
→ the Consequent, or
→ the Logical Form.
- This was G.E. Moore’s argument for the existence of the external world. Here are two hands – any purported proof that they don’t exist is less secure in its form or premises than this fact.
- Of course, many philosophers who believe in an external world have subsequently denied that fact!
→ see "Marshall (Richard) & Olson (Eric) - Eric T. Olson: The Philosopher with No Hands".
- The (male) interlocutor was very indistinct, and I couldn’t make out what the question actually was!
- It’s true that historically most accounts of PID have been psychological, but the Brain Transplant Intuition is a sort of hybrid account. It doesn’t posit things like Brain State Transfers, which supposedly transfer an individual’s psychology from one brain to another, but are basically physicalist, claiming that the brain is an unusually important organ that – psychology apart – is responsible for the regulation of the organism.
- But, it is a psychological intuition. Basically, it says that you’d go where your FPP goes. It’s a hybrid account because of the claim that the FPP can only be supported by the one and only brain an individual is born with.
- It’s a cheap shot to say that the psychological view is an intellectualist view that’s tempting to intellectuals.
- What it’s saying is that all that matters to us depends on our experiences. Usain Bolt would get no satisfaction seeing – as a third party – “his body” winning the 100 metres with someone else’s brain feeling the thrill of victory.
- Also, the Future Great Pain Test was used – eg. by Bernard Williams – to focus our attention in TEs onto what’s really important to us, where he actually seemed to come down on the side of a Body Criterion view of Personal Identity.
Footnote 49: Footnote 50:
- This was another mostly inaudible question.
Footnote 52: Footnote 54:
- I voted for the Fetal Container model, on the assumption that my “shared parts” objection to the Part-Whole model was cogent.
- I’m not sure whether pregnant cats are fatal to this proposed solution to the “too many cats” problem, or even whether this proposed solution is the best bet.
Footnote 57: Footnote 58:
- The questioner’s first language wasn’t English, and I suspected something had got lost in translation.
- In particular, the reference to “tick” – but it does seem that Deleuze had an interest in “spiders, ticks and fleas”
- Kingma does propose that the fetus is part of the Gravida, so “this” must ultimately boil down to the question whether the fetus is itself an organism.
- If organisms cannot be part of other organisms, then Kingma would be committed to denying that foetuses are organisms. Or so it seems to me.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2022
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)