- What are persons and how do they exist? The predominant answer to this question in Western metaphysics is that persons, human and others, are, and exist as, substances, i.e., ontologically independent, well-demarcated things defined by an immutable (usually mental) essence. Change, on this view, is not essential for a person’s identity; it is in fact more likely to be detrimental to it.
- In this chapter I want to suggest an alternative view of human persons which is motivated by an appreciation of their biological nature. Organisms, human and non-human, are dynamical systems that for their existence and persistence depend on an on-going interaction with the environment in which they are embedded. Taking seriously this most fundamental human condition leads to recognising human persons as processes, i.e., as entities for the identity of which change is essential. It also implies a holistic view of the human mind.
- The Metamorphoses of the Substance View of Human Persons
- Towards a Process View of the Human Person
Notes – by Author’s Section
- First Thoughts / Author’s Abstract
- First Thoughts
- This is a very important – and contemporary – challenge to my ideas on Personal Identity in general and Animalism1 in particular.
- As the author’s Abstract notes, the Process View2 is in opposition to the Substance3 view presupposed by almost all other theories (whether they explicitly acknowledge it or not), with the possible exception of those espousing a Perdurantist4 account of persistence.
- I liked the attempt to bring together the mental and the biological5, but felt that the paper left out (by focusing mostly on the social6 aspect of being a person; I’ve clearly not given it enough focus!) much of what Daniel Dennett – and especially Lynne Rudder Baker – take as central to being a Person7.
- I wondered whether this theory is more about what Animals8 are, rather than what Persons9 are. Meincke seems to take it as obvious that we are10 animals (and also persons).
- While it’s important to recognize continuities in the natural world, any theory that ends up with fish11 as persons – let along plants12 – is getting silly.
- Like any novel view, it’s not clear whether some of the standard problems that appear to be side-stepped by this approach just pop up again in another guise (how are processes individuated? Do we have [Problems of the Many] for processes, etc.), and that – while solving some problems – the Process view causes others to arise.
- I’ve now read the paper and made my usual copious marginal annotations; I’m in the process of writing up a detailed appraisal and critique, as below.
- Author’s Abstract
- I wondered whether a substance having an essence13 was the same as having essential properties14. I understand what essential properties are supposed to be, but not what an essence would be.
- I wondered whether a thing’s essence might be its (Natural15) Kind16 membership?
- I feel that saying that change is essential for an entity’s identity was too strong. It is true that organisms do need to continually change in order to maintain themselves in existence, but would we want to say that a deep-frozen organism had ceased to exist? The transhumanists17 would probably disagree. Then again, if an organism died, as all must, does its corpse need to change in order to continue existing? It’s true that it would change, but this seems to be a contingent matter. Finally, does a diamond carefully preserved continue to exist?
- The Metamorphoses of the Substance View of Human Persons
- Towards a Process View of the Human Person
- "Aristotle, Lawson-Tancred (Hugh) - The Metaphysics" (2004).
- Aristotle (2016): The Categories19, transl. by E. M. Edghill, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
- Aurelius Augustine (2012): De trinitate, transl. by E. Hill (The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. I.5), Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City Press.
- "Bapteste (Eric) & Dupre (John) - Towards a processual microbial ontology" (2013).
- William Bechtel (2006): Discovering cell mechanisms, New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Bickhard, M. (2011): “Systems and Process Metaphysics20”, in: Handbook of Philosophy of Science. Philosophy of Complex Systems, Vol. 10, ed. by C. Hooker21, Amsterdam: Elsevier, 91-104.
- Ancius Boethius (1918): Contra Eutychen et Nestorium, in: Theological Tractates and the Consolation of Philosophy, transl. by H. F. Stewart & E. K. Rand, London & Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
- "Calvo (Paco) - The philosophy of plant neurobiology: a manifesto" (2016).
- Campbell, R. (2015): The Metaphysics of Emergence, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
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- "De Jesus (Paulo) - Autopoietic Enactivism, Phenomenology and the Deep Continuity Between Life and Mind" (2016).
- John Dupré. (2012): Processes of Life. Essays in the Philosophy of Biology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- "Gosling (Samuel D.) - Personality in Non-human Animals" (2008).
- Martin Heidegger (1962): Being and Time22. Transl. by J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson. Malden: Blackwell.
- Martin Heidegger (1988): The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, transl. by A. Hofstadter. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
- "Hershenov (David) - A Hylomorphic Account of Thought Experiments Concerning Personal Identity" (2008).
- Hölldobler, B. & Edward O. Wilson (2008): The Superorganism. The Beauty, Elegance and Strangeness of Insect Societies, New York: Norton.
- Honneth, A. (1995), The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- David Hume (1964): A Treatise of Human Nature23, Volume I, ed. by A. D. Lindsay, London & New York: Dent & Dutton.
- Hutchins, E. (1996): Cognition in the Wild, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- "Jaeger (Johannes), Irons (David) & Monk (Nick) - The Inheritance of Process: A Dynamical Systems Approach" (2012).
- "Jaeger (Johannes) & Monk (Nick) - Everything flows: A process perspective on life" (2015).
- Jonas, H. (1966): The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology, Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
- Immanuel Kant (1998): The Critique of Pure Reason24, (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant), transl. and ed. by P. Guyer & A. Wood, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- "Koslicki (Kathrin) - Aristotle's Mereology and the Status of Form". (2006).
- "Lewis (David) - Survival and Identity" (1983a).
- Lewis, D. K. (1983b): “Postscripts to ‘Survival and Identity’”, see above.
- "Lewis (David) - On the Plurality of Worlds" (1986).
- "Locke (John), Nidditch (Peter) - An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" (1987).
- E.J. Lowe (2008): “A Defence of Non-Cartesian Substance Dualism25”, in: Psycho-Physical Dualism Today: An Interdisciplinary Approach, ed. by A. Antonietti et al., Lanham et al.: Lexington Books, 167-183.
- "Machamer (Peter), Darden (Lindley) & Craver (Carl F.) - Thinking about Mechanisms" (2000).
- "MacIntyre (Alasdair) - After Virtue" (1984).
- "Marmodoro (Anna) - Aristotle’s Hylomorphism without Reconditioning" (2013).
- Humberto Maturana & Francisco J. Varela (1980): Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living, (Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science), Dordrecht et al.: Reidel.
- "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Body or Organism? Eric T. Olson’s Charge of Cartesianism against the Bodily Criterion of Personal Identity" (2010).
- "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - On the Battlefield of Metaphysics" (2015).
- "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Personal Identity Without Personality? Remarks on a Neglected Relation" (2016).
- "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Metaphysics: On the Being-There of What There Is" (2017).
- "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Do Human Embryos Have a Disposition to Personhood?" (2018a).
- "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Bio-Agency and the Possibility of Artificial Agents" (2018b).
- "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Persons as Biological Processes: A Bio-Processual Way Out of the Personal Identity Dilemma" (2018c).
- "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Autopoiesis, Biological Autonomy and the Process View of Life" (forthcoming a).
- "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - How to stay the same while changing" (forthcoming b).
- "Menary (Richard) - Introduction to the special issue on 4E cognition" (2010).
- Alvaro Moreno & Matteo Mossio (2015): Biological Autonomy. A Philosophical and Theoretical Enquiry, (History and Theory of the Life Sciences 12), Dordrecht: Springer.
- "Nicholson (Daniel J.) & Dupre (John), Eds. - Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology" (2018).
- David Oderberg (2007): Real Essentialism, (Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy 11), New York & London: Routledge.
- "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology" (1997).
- "Olson (Eric) - What are We? A Study of Personal Ontology" (2007): What Are We? A Study in Personal Ontology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons" (1987).
- "Rescher (Nicholas) - Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy" (1996).
- Edmund Runggaldier (2006): “The Aristotelian Alternative to Functionalism and Dualism”, in: Die menschliche Seele. Brauchen wir den Dualismus?, ed. by B. Niederbacher & E. Runggaldier, Frankfurt on the Main: Ontos, 221-248.
- Edmund Runggaldier (2008): “Operatio demonstrat substantiam”, in: Was sind menschliche Personen? Ein akttheoretischer Zugang, ed. by B. Niederbacher & E. Runggaldier, Frankfurt on the Main: Ontos, 17-35.
- Gilbert Ryle (2000): The Concept of Mind26, London: Penguin Books.
- Jean-Paul Sartre (2007): Existentialism is a Humanism, transl. by C. Macomber, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
- "Schechtman (Marya) - The Constitution of Selves" (1996).
- "Seibt (Johanna) - Beyond Endurance and Perdurance: Recurrent Dynamics" (2008).
- "Seibt (Johanna) - Process Philosophy" (2016).
- "Simons (Peter) - Processes and Precipitates" (2018).
- "Skewes (Joshua) & Hooker (Cliff) - Bio-Agency and the Problem of Action" (2009).
- Spann (née Anne Sophie Meincke), A. S. (2012): “Substanz, Relation oder beides: Augustinus und Heidegger zur Frage ‘Was sind Personen?’” (“Substance, Relation or Both: Augustine and Heidegger on the Question ‘What are Persons?’”), in: Crossing Borders. Grenzen (über)denken. Beiträge zum 9. Internationalen Kongress der Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Philosophie in Wien, ed. by A. Dunshirn, E. Nemeth & G. Unterthurner, 2012, 839-847.
- Spann (née Anne Sophie Meincke), A. S. (2013): "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Without Metaphysics, please!? Transtemporal Personal Identity as Practical Reality".
- Spann (née Anne Sophie Meincke), A. S. (2014): "Meincke (Anne Sophie) - Bio-Agency: Can Organisms Act?".
- "Swinburne (Richard) - Dualism Intact" (1996).
- "Taylor (Charles) - Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity" (1989): Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Thomas Aquinas (1998): On Being and Essence, in: Selected Writings of Thomas Aquinas, transl. by R. McInery, London: Penguin Books.
- Evan Thompson (2007): Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
- "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings" (1997).
- Francisco J. Varela (1979): Principles of Biological Autonomy, (The North-Holland Series in General Systems Research 2), New York: Elsevier.
- "Varela (Francisco J.) - Neurophenomenology: A Methodological Remedy for the Hard Problem" (1996).
- "Varela (Francisco J.) - Patterns of Life: Intertwining Identity and Cognition" (1997): “Patterns of Life: Intertwining Identity and Cognition”, Brain and Cognition 34, 72-87.
- Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson & Eleanor Rosch (1991): The Embodied Mind27, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance Renewed" (2001).
- "Wiggins (David) - Activity, Process, Continuant, Substance, Organism" (2016).
For the full text, follow this link (Local website only): PDF File28.
Footnote 11: Footnote 12: Footnote 18:
Footnote 19: See "Aristotle - Aristotle 1".
- This is a full list, for my own use and doesn’t include full bibliographical detail where I have the work in question (follow the link for this).
- If I don’t have the edition in question, but have an alternative, I’ve provided that in a footnote.
Footnote 20: Footnote 21: Footnote 22: See "Heidegger (Martin), Macquarrie (John) & Robinson (Edward) - Being and Time".
Footnote 23: See "Hume (David), Mossner (Ernest) - A Treatise of Human Nature"
Footnote 24: See "Kant (Immanuel), Kemp Smith (Norman) - Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason".
Footnote 25: Footnote 26: See"Ryle (Gilbert) - The Concept of Mind"
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
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