Persons: Human and Divine
Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean)
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Amazon Product Description

    The nature of persons is a perennial topic of debate in philosophy, currently enjoying something of a revival. In this volume for the first time metaphysical debates about the nature of human persons are brought together with related debates in philosophy of religion and theology. Fifteen specially written essays explore idealist, dualist, and materialist views of persons, discuss specifically Christian conceptions of the value of embodiment, and address four central topics in philosophical theology: incarnation, resurrection, original sin, and the trinity.
From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions" (“Preview of Coming Attractions”)
    The first two parts of the book contain a series of defenses of idealist and dualist theories of human persons. In the third part, two representatives of the "new wave" of Christian materialists have their say (the essays by Baker and Merricks in Parts IV and V also advance the Christian materialist cause). In the fourth part, Quinn and Baker defend the thesis that the bodily nature of human persons is essential to their dignity and value—a point of view that Christians (along with adherents of many other religions) have often been tempted to deny. Finally, various conceptions of personhood are put to work in the exploration of four central Christian doctrines: the incarnation, the resurrection of the dead (including the resurrection of Christ), original sin, and the trinity.
    I. Idealism
  1. "Adams (Robert Merrihew) - Idealism Vindicated"
  2. "Robinson (Howard) - The Self and Time"
    II. Dualism
  3. "Hawthorne (John) - Cartesian Dualism"
  4. "Plantinga (Alvin) - Materialism and Christian Belief"
  5. "Swinburne (Richard) - From Mental/Physical Identity to Substance Dualism"
  6. "Hart (W.D.) & Yagisawa (Takashi) - Ghosts are Chilly"
  7. "Wong (Hong Yu) - Cartesian Psychophysics"
    III. Materialism
  8. "Van Inwagen (Peter) - A Materialist Ontology of the Human Person"
  9. "Hudson (Hud) - I am Not an Animal!"
    IV. Embodiment and the Value of Persons
  10. "Hudson (Hud) - I am Not an Animal!"
  11. "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and the Natural Order"
    V. Personhood in Christian Doctrine
  12. "Merricks (Trenton) - The Word Made Flesh: Dualism, Physicalism, and the Incarnation"
  13. "Forrest (Peter) - The Tree of Life: Agency and Immortality in a Metaphysics Inspired by Quantum Theory"
  14. "Rea (Michael) - The Metaphysics of Original Sin"
  15. "Leftow (Brian) - Modes without Modalism"

"Olson (Eric) - Review of 'Persons: Human and Divine'"

Source: Mind, 2008
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).

For a write-up of Olson's paper, Click here for Note.

COMMENT: Review of "Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine"; Link (Defunct).

Write-up2 (as at 18/12/2010 19:58:05): Olson - Review of 'Persons: Human and Divine'

This is mostly a place-holder3. It is a review of "Olson (Eric) - Review of 'Persons: Human and Divine'".

Olson gives more attention to some papers than to others. He mentions three of them, which sound like those most akin to his own concerns, without comment, namely:-

1. "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and the Natural Order"
2. "Hudson (Hud) - I am Not an Animal!"
3. "Van Inwagen (Peter) - A Materialist Ontology of the Human Person"

His reason is that “they discuss materialist accounts of human people that they have developed elsewhere”. Maybe he was bored with their thoughts on such matters. Maybe I should take this as reason for not reading them – though they are the reason I bought the book, though also for the general reason of wanting to know what Christian philosophers thought of persons. It is depressing to find most of them plumping for dualism or idealism.

Olson also merely mentions:-

4. "Quinn (Philip L.) - On the Intrinsic Value of Human Persons"

… which certainly sounds central to Baker’s concerns, and so – maybe – to Olson’s own, if only on the rebound.

He finds the following three papers “openly reactionary”, with reasoning he cannot follow, namely:-

5. "Adams (Robert Merrihew) - Idealism Vindicated"
6. "Plantinga (Alvin) - Materialism and Christian Belief"
7. "Swinburne (Richard) - From Mental/Physical Identity to Substance Dualism"

I don’t care about defences of idealism, though I suppose I ought to care about what Plantinga and Swinburne have to say, but I don’t.

Then, he finds others “frankly bizarre”, namely:-

8. "Robinson (Howard) - The Self and Time"
9. "Hart (W.D.) & Yagisawa (Takashi) - Ghosts are Chilly"
10. "Forrest (Peter) - The Tree of Life: Agency and Immortality in a Metaphysics Inspired by Quantum Theory"

The paper by Forrest sounds intriguing but, as described by Olson, rather silly. Forrest takes a multiverse approach to quantum events, so that while in one universe, we die, in the other we don’t. So, if you remain alive as long as one branch does, you never really die. But surely, the branch that leads to eternal life is life in an increasingly moribund state, which doesn’t sound like much fun. And is it true that of the quantum choices on offer far down this path, one would always lead to life, rather than different deaths? This is a physical multiverse, not the logical “modal realism of possible worlds” of David Lewis.

He then perks up a bit, noting a couple of useful papers on dualism, the first of which patches up Descartes’ arguments:-

11. "Hawthorne (John) - Cartesian Dualism"
12. "Wong (Hong Yu) - Cartesian Psychophysics"

The second may be worth reading as it deals with Jaegwon Kim’s “Pairing Problem” – that is, the problem of just what ties a particular soul to a particular body. Olson’s enthusiasm seems to rest on the fact that Wong thinks the problem really hard! Olson doesn’t give a reference for Kim, but it is "Kim (Jaegwon) - Lonely Souls: Causality and Substance Dualism". I found an MA-Thesis paper "Vaught (Jimmy Ray) - Kim’s Pairing Problem and the Viability of Substance Dualism", which may or may not be rubbish.

We’re about half-way through the review at this stage, when Olson gets interested – though not in the essays I’d have expected. The ones he gets excited about have to do with elements of Christian doctrine. Maybe it’s “amusement” rather than intrinsic importance that he has in mind. As he says, “These essays offer the elevating spectacle of watching a first-rate mind operating in a tight spot”. These papers are:-

13. "Leftow (Brian) - Modes without Modalism"
14. "Merricks (Trenton) - The Word Made Flesh: Dualism, Physicalism, and the Incarnation"
15. "Rea (Michael) - The Metaphysics of Original Sin"

Olson points out that any explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity risks falling into one of two heresies – tri-theism or modalism. The later seems to have been Charles Welch’s view – that there is one divine being with three different roles or offices (Olson, I think mistakenly, says “one divine person” – does modalism deny that there are three persons, or just seek to explain how?).

According to Olson, Leftow suggests God has three separate mental lives, but Olson can’t see how this differs from modalism. From a quick look, Leftow seems to adopt a Lockean approach to personal identity, and also to accept both temporary and contingent identity, both of which are logical heresies.

Merricks’ attempt seems more interesting. If we are immaterial substances, that “have” a body, then in the incarnation God acquired a body in the same way. But this is problematical in that what makes this body God’s body? What makes my body mine (on a dualist account) is that I can directly move and feel it. Yet God can do this with every body, so this won’t work. Dualism won’t do, and so we are left with materialism – where having a body is simply being a body (or, rather, an animal, Olson would say). So, in the incarnation, God became a material thing. How is this possible? Can an immaterial thing become a material thing, and remain the same thing? This is a mystery, but this is true of all accounts of the incarnation, says Merricks, so human materialism is the best option. Olson finds it hard to weigh one mystery against another.

We end with a relatively long discussion of Rea’s views on Original Sin. According to Olson, Rea has it that we are born with a corruption that harks back to Adam and which makes it inevitable that we will sin. Further, we are guilty of being in this condition. I need to re-read "Barr (James) - The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality" on all this. Olson considers this an “outrageous claim”, and Rea is sensitive to it – the suggestion that we are guilty of something we could do nothing about, but were born with. I wonder whether we should rather say that we need saving because of our propensity to sin (because we are sinners) but that our guilt relates to our actual sins. In that way doesn’t the problem of unmerited guilt go away? Rea firstly rejects the view that we all sinned “in Adam”. Olson describes Rea’s actual approach as “a proposal of monumental subtlety”. According to Rea, original sin is a “backtracking” condition, one people are in because of what they do later, and is a “compelling condition” in that it makes it inevitable that the sufferer will act that way. Olson accepts that there can be examples of both such conditions, but not of a single condition that is both backtracking and compelling. That would require backward causation, “hocus pocus” which Rea doesn’t intend to invoke. Even so, Olson recommends the essay to those “seeking instruction on this dreary topic”.

In-Page Footnotes ("Olson (Eric) - Review of 'Persons: Human and Divine'")

Footnote 2:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (18/12/2010 19:58:05).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.

"Taliaferro (Charles) - Review of Persons: Human and Divine by Peter van Inwagen & Dean Zimmerman"

Source: Religious Studies, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Dec., 2008), pp. 499-504

Author’s Introduction
  1. Peter van Inwagen and Dean Zimmerman have edited a fine collection of fifteen essays at the intersection of the philosophy of God and the philosophy of mind, dedicated to the late Philip L. Quinn.
  2. The work as a whole provides some reason for thinking that philosophical reflection on God and human nature should be intertwined.
  3. Alvin Plantinga and several other contributors employ arguments based on their Christian theism for certain tenets in philosophy of mind and Brian Leftow draws on some models of personal identity in philosophy of mind to shed light on a Trinitarian concept of God.
  4. The contributors differ substantially in their metaphysics (idealism, dualism, and physicalism are each represented), but they have close to a consensus when it comes to accepting theism.

COMMENT: Review of "Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine".

"Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

The three introductory questions are:
  1. Is Analytic Philosophical Theology an Oxymoron?
  2. Is Substance Dualism Incoherent?
  3. What's in this Book, Anyway?
Section I (Full Text)
  • The essays within this book — all of which appear here for the first time — are philosophical explorations of the nature of persons. Those comfortable using the word "analytic" to describe the kind of philosophy that now thrives in the philosophy departments of most Anglophone universities will say that we are all analytic philosophers. (Shortly, I shall have more to say about the problematic adjective "analytic".) As a consequence, there is much within this book that is continuous with current philosophical debates about the nature of persons. On the other hand, the authors have theological concerns that do not arise for most contributors to the philosophical literature on persons. Most of the contributors are Christians or strongly identify with the Christian theological tradition. W. D. Hart and Takashi Yagisawa are the only authors who, so far as I know, have no theological axe to grind — certainly, none is evident in the short, jointly authored paper included here.) The essays explore the philosophical implications of theological and ethical doctrines that have been central to Christianity. And there are options on the table that are not usually taken seriously in mainstream philosophical debates. One might ask whether we think we are doing philosophy or theology. The answer, in most cases, is a bit of both. When Christian analytic philosophers tackle the traditional problems of philosophy of religion, they inevitably produce work that could just as well be called "philosophical theology" — an enterprise that was once popular with philosophers, theologians, and many scholars who were equally at home in both disciplines.
  • Every chapter concerns the metaphysical nature or ethical value of persons. Even the two essays largely about the divine persons of the trinity contain a good deal of discussion of the contrasting case of ordinary human persons. One of the most frequently discussed questions is, in effect: what should Christians think about the relationship between human persons and human bodies? Of course a compelling case for a single answer to this sort of question should not be expected, given the theological diversity within Christianity — a diversity reflected in this volume, with its mix of Catholics and Protestants from a variety of theological traditions. Still, there is a great deal of common ground; and we have much to learn from one another.
  • Christianity is often thought to require a dualistic conception of human persons, according to which each of us has (or perhaps simply is) an immaterial soul that survives death and awaits reunion with the body at a general resurrection. Unsurprisingly, the book begins with spirited defenses of the sorts of immaterialism and dualism that have traditionally dominated Christian thinking about the nature of persons. For several decades, however, philosophers and theologians have been questioning the inevitability of Christian opposition to materialism. Indeed, at present there seem to be more Christian philosophers defending materialism (as a theory about human persons, not about the deity) than dualism — at least in print. In this volume, at least six of the authors defend the compatibility of Christian faith with a materialist metaphysics of human persons.
  • My introduction has three parts:
    1. The first (Section II) is basically historical. I attempt to explain how it has come to be that philosophical theology, when done in the (so-called) analytic style, is unpopular among theologians — even among theologians who have deep philosophical interests. Philosophy has always been, and arguably continues to be, at least the handmaid (and sometimes the dominatrix) of theology. And, for many decades now, analytic (in the broad sense defined below) has been the preferred philosophical flavor in most of the larger Ph.D.-granting programs in Great Britain and North America. But analytic philosophy is largely regarded as tedious and irrelevant by scholars in seminaries, departments of theology, and departments of religious studies — including even the philosophically-oriented scholars in these settings. Section II is, in part, an appeal to you, if you belong to this group: Please don't simply toss the book aside, now that you've discovered the authors are a bunch of analytic philosophers! Give us a chance! My description of recent interactions between philosophy and theology is intended to show that analytic philosophy got a bum rap; perhaps it will convince one or two theologians or Continental philosophers with theological interests that analytic philosophy of religion deserves another look.
    2. After my excursus on the unhappy early history of analytic philosophy's relations with theology, I turn to a more properly philosophical task in Section III: describing the distinction between substance materialism and substance dualism — something that figures prominently in most of the essays. The distinction requires clarification, largely because some materialists are careful to define "substance dualism" in unfriendly ways — for example, in such a way that, to be a substance dualist, one must either believe a contradiction or be hostile toward all things scientific.
    3. The third part of the Introduction (Section IV) is a synopsis of the rest of the book.
  1. A Tripartite Introduction
  2. Philosophers among the Theologians
    • Introduction
    • What Analytic Philosophy Is, Was, and Wasn’t
    • The Need for Cooperation
  3. A Dearth of Dualists
    • Introduction
    • The Varieties of Dualism: Property Dualism
    • The Varieties of Dualism: Substance Dualism
    • How is the Soul “Responsible” for a Person’s Mental Life?
    • How Many Properties Can the Soul Share with Paradigmatically Physical Objects?
  4. Preview of Coming Attractions
    … Extracted as the book and paper Abstracts.

"Adams (Robert Merrihew) - Idealism Vindicated"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    In this Chapter, Robert M. Adams argues that a thing-in-itself or substance must have positive qualitative properties that are not purely formal, and that the only such properties with which we are acquainted are qualities of consciousness. This provides the basis of an argument that we have no adequate reason to posit the existence of soulless substances that would have no properties relevantly similar to qualities of consciousness. A type of idealist hypothesis is proposed that allows our physical science to be tracking a metaphysically real causal order. But, at bottom, the universe consists entirely of thinking, experiencing subjects — finite persons and the infinite God.

COMMENT: Part 1: Idealism

"Robinson (Howard) - The Self and Time"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    Descartes put human souls "outside of space"; Howard Robinson explores the idea that souls are also in some sense "outside of time" — at least, outside the temporal order that is part of what he calls (following Wilfrid Sellars) the "scientific image". Robinson's metaphysics of persons is offered as part of a larger, idealist package in which God's role is crucial.

COMMENT: Part 1: Idealism

"Hawthorne (John) - Cartesian Dualism"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    John Hawthorne identifies some neglected Cartesian principles about the essential properties of substances. They provide the materials for a more interesting, and perhaps even more defensible, argument for dualism than the ones that are typically attributed to Descartes.

COMMENT: Part 2: Dualism

"Plantinga (Alvin) - Materialism and Christian Belief"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    Alvin Plantinga offered a modal1 argument for dualism in his famous book The Nature of Necessity. In this volume, he advances another modal2 argument on the basis of the conceivability of my surviving arbitrarily rapid changes in the parts of my body. He notes that some people are suspicious of the sort of intuitions about possibility he relies upon in such arguments; it is easy to confuse not seeing that something is impossible with seeing that it is possible. So Plantinga offers a second argument for dualism that proceeds from an intuition of impossibility, namely, the impossibility of a material structure's having belief content. He concludes with extensive reflections on specifically Christian reasons for being a dualist.

COMMENT: Part 2: Dualism

"Swinburne (Richard) - From Mental/Physical Identity to Substance Dualism"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    Richard Swinburne's arguments for dualism are well known. Here, he offers a new support for dualism based upon the non-supervenience1 of the mental. He introduces a concept of an event according to which there is no more to the history of the world than all the events that have happened. All events can be described canonically as the instantiation of properties in substances (or events) at times. He then introduces a certain conception of the "names" of a property, a substance, and a time; anyone who knew the names of the properties, substances, and times involved in every event (in the sense of "name" he stipulates) would know (or could deduce) everything that happens in the history of the world. He defines the category of the mental (whether property, event, or substance) as that to which one subject has privileged access; the category of the physical as that to which there is no privileged access; and the category of the pure mental as that which contains no physical component. Using these categories, he argues that there are mental and pure mental properties, events, and substances; and that these are not identical with, and do not supervene2 on, physical properties, events, and substances. Human beings are, he concludes, pure mental substances. Consequences are drawn for the Christian doctrines of life after death3 and the resurrection of the body.

COMMENT: Part 2: Dualism

"Hart (W.D.) & Yagisawa (Takashi) - Ghosts are Chilly"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    A responsible dualist should be able at least to sketch how causal interaction between mind and matter is possible. But causation1 seems inevitably to involve the flow of energy. So a dualist should be able to make sense of the idea that energy might be transferred between mind and matter. That is what W. D. Hart and Takashi Yagisawa attempt to do in "Ghosts Are Chilly".

COMMENT: Part 2: Dualism

"Wong (Hong Yu) - Cartesian Psychophysics"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    Soul–body interaction as imagined in the previous chapter would seem to depend upon the soul's being spatially located. But on many versions of dualism, the soul is not spatially related to anything — and this generates a “pairing problem". Normally, one explains why one arrow hits one target, and another arrow hits another target, by describing the spatial relations between archers and targets. But if souls are "outside of space" altogether, no such explanation can be given of the fact that one soul interacts with one body, and another soul interacts with another body. Hong Yu Wong examines this explanatory challenge to Cartesian interactionism, raising serious objections to John Foster's response to it. Foster posits laws of nature that apply only to particular soul–body pairs; Wong objects that, given the nature of human bodies, such laws are quite implausible.

COMMENT: Part 2: Dualism

"Van Inwagen (Peter) - A Materialist Ontology of the Human Person"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    Global materialism is the thesis that everything (other than abstract objects if such there be) is material. Local materialisms are theses to the effect that everything within some specified domain, such as the created world or the natural world, is material. A local materialist, like van Inwagen, may accept the existence of God or of angels. In this Chapter, he attempts to combine a Platonic ontology of abstract objects with a local materialism according to which human persons are material substances. He then goes on to examine the consequences of his theory for "token–token identity theory" — the view that "tokens" of mental state types, such as types of pain, are identical with "tokens" of physical types, such as types of brain processes — and also for property dualism.

COMMENT: Part 3: Materialism

"Hudson (Hud) - I am Not an Animal!"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

  1. Although Hud Hudson accepts a thoroughgoing materialism about human persons2, he nonetheless reaches the conclusion: "I am not an animal!"
  2. Much of the inquiry into whether a human person3 is identical to a human animal4 (i.e. a biological organism5 of the species Homo sapiens6) revolves around the debate between those who endorse some version of the "psychological criterion7 of personal identity" and those who endorse some version of the "bodily criterion8 of personal identity". Much of this latter debate, in turn, centers on intuitive responses to thought experiments9 that are notorious for a number of features (none of which is that of generating decisive answers to questions about the persistence conditions10 of persons).
  3. In this chapter, Hudson explores what he takes to be a more promising approach. He defends the thesis that a human person11, although a material object, is not a human animal12; and he does so while largely sidestepping the "criterion of personal identity" dispute. He appeals, instead, to what he calls a "big-picture, best-candidate13, general metaphysics defense" of a theory of personal identity.
  4. The most plausible general account of the metaphysics of material objects, together with a few other convictions about ourselves — including, for Christians, belief in the possibility of surviving death14 — should lead us to the conclusion that we do not have the persistence conditions15 of human animals16.


In-Page Footnotes ("Hudson (Hud) - I am Not an Animal!")

Footnote 1:

"Quinn (Philip L.) - On the Intrinsic Value of Human Persons"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    The late Philip Quinn, in this essay, explores his topic by asking what values are violated when persons suffer great evils — abominations, horrors, and atrocities. His starting point is recent work on great evils by philosophers such as Marilyn Adams, Claudia Card, and Susan Neiman. Using as evidence the magnitude of the evils of cannibalism, incest, rape, torture, and mutilation; Quinn argues that an important component of the value of persons resides in the fact that they are embodied creatures of flesh and blood. His aim is to correct what he takes to be the narrowness of our philosophical tradition, in which the value of persons has been located almost exclusively in their possession of such mental capacities as free will and reason. He seeks a more balanced view that takes seriously the simple truth that human persons are not disembodied1 angels.

COMMENT: Part 4: Embodiment and the Value of Persons

"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and the Natural Order"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

  1. Lynne Rudder Baker is responding to the fact that, when Christians emphasize the dignity and value of human persons, they often find the source of this dignity in the assumption that persons have immaterial souls or libertarian freedom.
  2. In this Chapter, Baker briefly canvases some reasons to doubt that human persons have either immaterial souls or libertarian freedom, and then presents a view of human persons that locates the dignity and value of persons elsewhere: in the property of inwardness made possible by a first-person perspective.
  3. She defends a distinctive, broadly materialistic approach to the dignity of human persons; and argues that it is congenial to the most important aspects of Christian teaching about our nature.

Author’s Introduction2
  1. We human persons have an abiding interest in understanding what kind of beings we are. However, it is not obvious how to attain such an understanding. Traditional analytic metaphysicians start with a priori accounts of the most general, abstract features of the world — e.g., accounts of properties and particulars — features that, they claim, in no way depend upon us or our activity. Such accounts are formulated in abstraction from what is already known about persons and other things, and are used as constraints on metaphysical investigation of everything else. So, if we accept traditional metaphysics, we should be prepared to yield to abstruse pronouncements — either by giving up our most secure beliefs about the world that we encounter or by abandoning our conception of what those beliefs are really about.
  2. In contrast to traditional metaphysics, a more pragmatic metaphysics does not hold the empirical world in abeyance until we have thoroughgoing accounts of properties and the other topics of traditional metaphysics. Rather, a more pragmatic approach to reality — an approach that elsewhere I have called ‘Practical Realism’ — reverses the priorities of traditional metaphysics. A Practical Realist starts with the world that people successfully interact with. Instead of holding the encountered world hostage to accounts of, say, properties and particulars, the Practical Realist judges accounts of properties and particulars in terms of how well they illuminate matters that everyone — nonphilosophers as well as philosophers — cares about. To use metaphysics as a tool for understanding is not to conflate metaphysics and epistemology; nor is it to follow Quine in taking philosophy to be an extension of science. Rather, it is to pluck metaphysics out of intellectual isolation and to bring it to bear on the world that we all encounter. In this way, metaphysics can earn its keep.
  3. Like Lewis and Chisholm, I take ordinary beliefs about human beings and their place in the world to count as data for an ontology that includes persons. But unlike Lewis and Chisholm, I take most substantive a priori commitments to be negotiable. I want to consider the world as we encounter it more or less at face value, and to formulate an ontological scheme that systematizes what we all believe. A Practical Realist seeks a unified theory that hews as closely as possible to what is common currency about the world as we encounter it.
  4. Anyone who takes the world as we encounter it to be ontologically significant — as I do — will be attracted to the more pragmatic line. (By contrast, much traditional metaphysics either has nothing to say about ordinary things that matter, or it treats them in ways that are unrecognizable to science and to common sense.) One way that a more pragmatic metaphysician departs from traditional metaphysics is to accept that what something is most fundamentally may be a matter of what it does, rather than what it is made of. Persons, I believe, are such entities.
  5. ‘Person,’ as Locke famously noted, is a forensic term. However, it also denotes a certain kind of being. A metaphysical account of human persons should accommodate well-known established facts. First, there are the facts of biology that situate human persons in the animal world. Darwinism offers a great unifying thesis that “there is one grand pattern of similarity linking all life.” Human and nonhuman organisms both find their place in this one grand pattern. Second, there are the facts of self-consciousness3 that distinguish human persons from other parts of the natural world. People often know what they are thinking, feeling, deciding, etc. They can think about the future, wonder how they are going to die, hope for resurrection. They can reflect on their own motivations — from Augustine in the Confessions to former U.S. Presidents in their memoirs. Such descriptions all presuppose self-consciousness4: they presuppose beings with the ability to be conscious of themselves from a first-personal point of view. And what they describe is unique to human persons.
  6. The view that I shall propose fully honors both these kinds of fact — the biological facts that pertain to human beings as part of the animal kingdom and, for want of a better word, the “personal” facts that pertain to human beings uniquely. On the one hand, human persons are material objects, subject to all the natural laws that apply to other kinds of material objects. Human persons are wholly part of nature, the product of natural processes that started eons before the existence of our solar system, and that account for the existence of everything in the natural world — from atoms and molecules to solar systems and galaxies. On the other hand, human persons have evolved to have the capacity to think of themselves in the first-person. A first-person perspective is the defining property of persons and makes possible their characteristic forms of life and experience.
  7. Not only are human persons a unique part of nature, but also — as I shall urge — they are an ontologically unique part of nature. By saying that persons are ontologically unique, I imply that an inventory of what exists leaving out persons would be incomplete. The addition of a person to the world is the addition of a new entity. Being a person is not just a property of some essentially nonpersonal kind of thing. (Fs are essentially nonpersonal if and only if being a person makes no difference to whether or not an F exists.) I realize that many philosophers do not take ontological uniqueness of persons to be a desideratum for an account of persons. Such philosophers are often motivated by doubt about the compatibility of persons’ being ontologically unique and their being natural products of natural selection. Part of my aim here is to dispel that doubt. (If you do not think that ontological uniqueness of persons is a desideratum of an account of persons, then omit the term ‘desideratum’ and take my argument to show that if persons are wholly natural, they may still be ontologically unique.) I know of no view of human persons other than the Constitution View5 that satisfies both these desiderata (as I shall continue to say): Human persons are wholly natural, yet ontologically distinctive.
  8. Let me interject a word about my use of the terms ‘nature’ and ‘natural.’ I use such terms broadly to apply to anything nondivine or nonsupernatural. So, nature, as I construe it, includes culture. Both biological and cultural processes are natural, in the sense that I intend.
  9. I have set out and defended my view of persons — the Constitution View6 — elsewhere in detail. Here I want to defend the kind of account that I hold, however the details are worked out, by showing how much better it satisfies the desiderata than its rivals. After comparing and contrasting three approaches with respect to the desiderata, I shall discuss the compatibility of the Constitution View7 with traditional theism. I hope to show that the Constitution View8 takes human persons to be wholly in the natural world and wholly material, to come into being without special divine intervention, and yet to be ontologically distinctive in the way required by the great monotheistic traditions. That is, I hold the Constitution View9 of human persons to be compatible with traditional theism without entailing it.

  • Part 4: Embodiment and the Value of Persons
  • See Link

In-Page Footnotes ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and the Natural Order")

Footnote 1: From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions".

Footnote 2: Footnotes omitted.

"Merricks (Trenton) - The Word Made Flesh: Dualism, Physicalism, and the Incarnation"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    In earlier chapters, there are defenses of a wide variety of views about a human person's relation to her animal body. The most straightforward theory, represented by van Inwagen, is identity: a human person just is her body, just is a living, breathing human organism. Hudson and Baker think humans coincide with, but are not identical to, the organisms that are their bodies. Plantinga and Swinburne think humans are substantial souls, related to their bodies by particular causal relations. In this Chapter, Trenton Merricks describes the differences amongst these views; and considers how, on each, a Christian would understand the doctrine of the incarnation. He takes it to be a theological desideratum for a theory of the incarnation that Christ should be related to his human body in the way each of us is related to his or her human body. He explores the different relationships between person and body implied by the competing metaphysics of human persons, and considers the results for a theology of the incarnation. He then argues that the theological preferability of a certain interpretation of the incarnation vindicates one of the theories of person–body relations. According to Merricks, belief in the incarnation supports the view that humans are identical with their bodies; that they are — contra Hudson, Baker, Swinburne, and Plantinga — human animals1.

COMMENT: Part 5: Personhood in Christian Doctrine

"Forrest (Peter) - The Tree of Life: Agency and Immortality in a Metaphysics Inspired by Quantum Theory"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    Peter Forrest brings both theological and scientific considerations to bear upon the nature of persons in this chapter. He develops an account of what material objects, including human beings, are; and of what human beings, as agents, do. This account has the advantages of the notorious Many Worlds interpretation of quantum theory1, without some of its more counter-intuitive consequences. His "fibrous-universe" metaphysics provides scope for the free agency of human persons; it explains how immortality is possible, making allowance for several mechanisms by means of which the resurrection of Christ and the general resurrection of the dead could be achieved; and it coheres with current scientific theories about the nature of the physical world.

COMMENT: Part 5: Personhood in Christian Doctrine

"Rea (Michael) - The Metaphysics of Original Sin"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    One important motivation for believing that we are free is that moral responsibility requires freedom and we are clearly morally responsible for at least some of our actions. Michael Rea's Chapter explores the question whether the traditional Christian doctrine of original sin undermines this motivation by undermining the claim that moral responsibility requires freedom.

COMMENT: Part 5: Personhood in Christian Doctrine

"Leftow (Brian) - Modes without Modalism"

Source: Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine

From "Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine - Three Introductory Questions"
    The doctrine of the trinity has it that there are three Persons in one God. Such odd arithmetic requires explaining. Many explanations begin from the oneness of God, and try to explain just how one God can be three divine Persons. Augustine and Aquinas pursued this project, which Brian Leftow calls "Latin Trinitarianism". In "Modes without Modalism1", Leftow describes the difficulty of preventing Latin Trinitarianism from devolving into "Modalism2" — a view rejected by most Christian theological traditions. He argues that not every mode-concept one might bring into trinitarian theology begets Modalism3. In particular, John Locke made use of a concept of a mode that proves congenial to the formulation of Latin Trinitarianism. We are not ourselves the sort of beings for whom Locke's theory of personal identity is true, argues Leftow. But the three persons of the trinity are.

COMMENT: Part 5: Personhood in Christian Doctrine

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