Human Persons – A Process View
Meincke (Anne Sophie)
Source: Forthcoming in: Was sind und wie existieren Personen? (What are Persons and how Do They Exist?), ed. by Jörg Noller, Münster: Mentis
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. Introduction
  2. The Metamorphoses of the Substance View of Human Persons
  3. Towards a Process View of the Human Person
  4. Conclusions

Notes – by Author’s Section
  1. First Thoughts / Author’s Abstract
    1. 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.
    2. 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?
  2. Introduction
  3. The Metamorphoses of the Substance View of Human Persons
  4. Towards a Process View of the Human Person
  5. Conclusions

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In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 11: Footnote 12: Footnote 18: Footnote 19: See "Aristotle - Aristotle 1".

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"

Footnote 27:

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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