Processual Animalism: Towards a Scientifically Informed Theory of Personal Identity
Meincke (Anne Sophie)
Source: Meincke (Anne Sophie) & Dupre (John), Eds. - Biological Identity: Perspectives from Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Biology
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Animalism is the view that we are biological beings, i.e., organisms or animals, and have biological persistence conditions. Personal identity, properly understood, is biological identity.
  2. In this chapter, I discuss this core animalist tenet, arguing for three claims:
    1. The Harmless Claim: animalism has not yet sufficiently explicated its key notion of biological identity;
    2. The Not-so-harmless Claim: a large part of what animalists do say about biological identity is in tension with what biologists and philosophers of biology say about biological identity;
    3. The Radical Claim: animalism cannot provide a convincing account of personal identity so long as the notion of biological identity employed is based on the metaphysical assumption that organisms are substances or things composed of (smaller) things.
  3. I argue that only processual animalism which recognises organisms as processes can deliver a truly convincing account of biological and, hence, personal identity, thus overcoming a characteristic dilemma faced by psychological accounts of personal identity, rather than repeating it.

Editors’ Abstract1
  1. Anne Sophie Meincke concludes the dialogue by arguing for ‘Processual Animalism’: a version of animalism that is based on the view that organisms are (continuant) processes.
  2. This proposal is motivated by the critical diagnosis that the animalist understanding of the key notion of biological identity is in conflict with our best contemporary science.
  3. Meincke shows this with respect to the two criteria of biological identity through time proposed by the animalists Eric Olson and Peter Van Inwagen, the Biological Continuity Criterion and the Life Criterion. The former proves unable to handle branching cases, such as the case of monozygotic twinning, prompting empirically questionable ad-hoc claims, while the latter invokes an empirically implausible view of a biological life as a well-individuated event.
  4. Meincke further argues that these difficulties have their ultimate roots in the thing ontological framework presupposed by animalism, and suggests that animalism adopt a (non-four-dimensionalist) process ontological framework instead.
  5. Meincke then explains how such a processual and scientifically informed notion of biological identity, complemented by a processual theory of mammalian pregnancy, resolves the branching problem for animalism and lays the foundations for a convincing comprehensive account of our identity through time that integrates biological and personal aspects.


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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