The Personal Stance
Rovane (Carol)
Source: Philosophical Topics, Vol. 22, No. 1/2, The Philosophy of Daniel Dennett (Spring & Fall 1994), pp. 351-396
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction (Extract)

  1. The point of convergence in Daniel Dennett's work on which I shall focus is the concept of a person. Although some of the lines that converge there run the whole length of the composition, there are a few lines that belong just to the little group that Dennett treats as 'conditions of personhood.' This group deserves - and rewards - careful study in its own right.
  2. Dennett's most concentrated study of the group is to be found in a remarkable essay entitled, simply, "Dennett (Daniel) - Conditions of Personhood". Interesting developments of it can also be found in "Dennett (Daniel) - Elbow Room - The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting" and in scattered remarks and chapters about the self in his writings in philosophy of mind.
  3. I will argue that Dennett's view of the person should lead him to embrace the possibility of what I call "multiple persons" and "group persons" - i.e., persons who exist along with a multiplicity of others within a single human being, and persons who are comprised of groups of human beings (or to be more precise, persons who are comprised of groups of parts of diverse human beings). These possibilities are to some extent approximated by the actual phenomena of multiple personality disorder1 and group agency. However, my argument is not an empirical argument about these phenomena.
  4. What I want to defend is the conceptual or the metaphysical (as opposed to merely logical) possibility of multiple and group persons. And I want to defend this possibility both as a consequence of Dennett's position, and as something with independent plausibility. (With respect to this second, stronger thesis, I want to stress that I aim to demonstrate plausibility and not to offer conclusive proof. For I cannot, within a single article, clear the ground of the many objections that are likely to arise, nor can I rule out the possibility of good arguments in favor of alternative and incompatible theses. In fact, I believe that such alternatives are bound to arise, because our common-sense notion of a person is a multifaceted and contradictory notion.)

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