Abstracta Special Issue on 'The Human Animal'
Olson (Eric), Etc.
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"Olson (Eric) - Precis of 'The Human Animal'"

Source: Abstracta Special Issue I – 2008 (Brazil)
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).


Write-up2 (as at 18/12/2010 19:58:05): Olson - The Human Animal (Precis)

Olson’s paper isn’t a formal précis of "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology" as such, but picks out a few themes that Olson thinks are most important. See the following Terminological Disclaimer3 related to what I have to say below.

He thinks that historically the whole question of personal identity has been wrongly put. It assumes without argument that we are Persons, and so expresses the “same person” relation as between persons, rather than simply between individuals who at some time in their existence are persons. So, the question has been assumed to be concerning persons A and B at two times, and trying to determine what the necessary and sufficient conditions are for them to be the same person (A = B). Olson thinks (rightly) that this prejudices the case against Animalists and others who don’t think that persons qua person are substances, and that consequently the question should rather be whether a person at time x is the same individual at time y, whether or not that individual then qualifies as a person. Otherwise, the question whether I was ever a fetus, or might ever end up in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) cannot even arise.

Olson doesn’t use the term “substance” – so, as the disclaimer4 allows, I might be distorting his thought, but it seems to me that this is the root of his disagreement with certain other philosophers (in particular Baker, though I’m not sure whether she uses this concept either). Olson thinks there is one substance present – the Human Animal, which at certain times in its existence has the property of being a person (where – to qualify as a person – the possession if not exercise of certain psychological capacities is needed). He doesn’t consider a person to be a separate substance that can exist independently of the human animal. Other philosophers think that several substances are co-located where a human person is, and Olson finds this objectionable for metaphysical and epistemological reasons, as we will see below. I need to determine Baker’s view on this – does she think of the Person and the Animal as separate substances, one constituted by the other? Substance dualists are rare these days – though see "Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine", reviewed by Olson in "Olson (Eric) - Review of 'Persons: Human and Divine'".

It’s interesting that Olson in fact says that assuming that we are persons means that I could not have been an embryo (rather than, as usual, a fetus). Elsewhere, I think, Olson denies that I was ever a zygote (a fertilised ovum) – because a zygote isn’t an animal, in that it can’t maintain itself in any sense (obviously, early-term fetuses aren’t “viable” either, but with the aid of a functioning placenta do carry out a lot of animal functions).

It seems that before I can work out my persistence conditions, I have to decide what sort of thing I am – but is this a principled decision? Olson claims that this is an open question, but not one that should be answered in the way the question is asked. I’m not sure he hasn’t done just this, but I may be being unfair. I need to read his new book – "Olson (Eric) - What are We? A Study of Personal Ontology" – where he looks at this most fundamental question in more detail.

Olson asks whether the persistence conditions of all persons are the same? Do Gods, angels and intelligent computers all have the same persistence conditions as human persons. Olson allows that they might, but still claims that this factor shouldn’t be built into how the question is asked. I’m not sure what this means. I was surprised by this admission – in "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology", if I remember correctly, Olson thinks it obvious that they don’t, and consequently that there’s no such thing as the persistence conditions of persons as such. That he is less confident now steps, presumably, from his reduced confidence in being able to answer what we are. We need to decide whether a “person” (qua person) is the sort of thing that has persistence conditions at all. I’m not sure how this decision is to be made; is the answer a matter of fact or a matter of conceptual analysis? Baker thinks persons are ontologically significant – in that they are a separate kind without which the world would be ontologically impoverished. Presumably for her the persistence conditions of persons – for which a necessary and sufficient condition for persistence is the maintenance of the same first person perspective (FPP) – is a fact, though how FPPs are individuated is somewhat mysterious.

Anyway, Olson thinks that the question should be what it takes for us to persist simpliciter, not what it takes for us to persist as persons.

Olson gives a brief synopsis of the Thinking Animal argument for Animalism – what Zimmerman (in "Zimmerman (Dean) - Problems for Animalism") calls his Master Argument – split between the metaphysical “two many minds” objection and the epistemological “how would I know which I was” objection. As usual, Olson fails to even consider Baker’s Constitution View.

This argument – that the human animal thinks, and because there is only one thinker present, therefore I am (identical to) that animal, leads to the claim that what it takes for me to persist is what it takes for an animal to persist.

It seems to me, though that it might still make sense to ask the “same person qua person” question, and Markosian5 raises this as an issue. We might just be talking about personalities in that case, but maybe there is a third situation – where enough of the brain has been transplanted to move the “first person perspective”, but the animal has been left behind. I might want to describe such cases as those of fission and fusion of animals.

Olson consequently claims that psychology is irrelevant to our persistence conditions – neither necessary nor sufficient. Not necessary because we start off as embryos and may end up in a PVS. Not sufficient because of our intuitions on brain transplants. In fact, Olson talks of cerebrum transplants, which is not the same thing as a whole brain transplant, nor a head transplant.

It occurs to me that the term “persistent vegetative state” may hark back to the Aristotelian tri-partite soul – where plants just have nutrition and reproduction, animals have goal-direction, and human beings have rationality. So, should an individual in a PVS – or an embryo – be considered an animal or a plant? This might be central to the case for Animalism. At least it might make the pill easier to swallow if Animalists could consistently deny that I was ever an embryo or could ever been in individual in a PVS – though the religious right might get even more annoyed.

We are only temporarily and contingently people – at least if a person needs to have present certain psychological capacities (Olson says “mental properties”) to qualify as such.

Olson tried to give a positive account of what it takes for a human animal to persist, along the lines of Locke and Aristotle – like other animals, it is what it takes for our biological lives to continue. I need to re-read "Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities" concerning the persistence conditions of animals.

In-Page Footnotes ("Olson (Eric) - Precis of 'The Human Animal'")

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.

"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Big-Tent Metaphysics"

Source: Abstracta Special Issue I – 2008 (Brazil)
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).


Write-up2 (as at 17/04/2018 21:04:19): Baker - The Human Animal: Big-Tent Metaphysics

  • This paper is a review of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Big-Tent Metaphysics", which is itself a response to "Olson (Eric) - Precis of 'The Human Animal'". Baker’s paper strikes me as rather an exasperated swipe. Reviewing Baker’s and Olson’s disagreements – as distinct from their positive accounts of their own work – fills me with weariness, as they don’t seem to seriously engage with one another. After some introductory remarks – even including some points of agreement – the sections of Baker’s paper are:-
    1. What is Big Tent Metaphysics?
    2. What Would Olson Say? (About BTM)
    3. Olson’s Conception of a Human Life
    4. Being the Same Person
    5. A Word about Constitution
  • It looks as though Baker ran out of time, as she doesn’t in fact expatiate on Constitution in this paper, though she does in her final response ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Response to Eric Olson").
  • Baker’s points of agreement are:-
    1. Psychological continuity is insufficient for our persistence, but this does not imply acceptance of the Biological Approach (Animalism) or agreement that psychology is irrelevant to our persistence. Her reason is that in that case mentality would make no ontological difference.
    2. She agrees that we are fully animals, with no non-organic part like an immaterial soul. She just denies that we are merely animals – there’s more to us ontologically than this. We are “most fundamentally” persons.
  • Baker’s “ontological” beef is curious. Firstly, mentality occurs at many levels, and I have always thought that the real saltation is between sentient and insentient creatures, and that taking self-awareness as the critical step is just human parochialism (as is the assumption that it is exclusive to humans). Also, Olson surely agrees that it is ontologically significant that there are individuals with first person perspectives (FPPs), and maybe even species whose typical members have FPPs, but it is the individuals or the species that are ontologically significant, not the FPPs themselves.
  • Baker uses Human Being as a synonym for Human Person. This may waste a term. It raises the question of whether someone in a PVS is a Human Animal, but not a Human Being (since she is not then a person; on this Olson and Baker seem to be agreed). This is counter-intuitive. I’d prefer to use the term Human Being as synonymous with, though less prejudicial than, Human Animal though, if I remember correctly, "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings" manages to prise the terms apart. I need to check3.
  • Baker admits that it is the brains (and vocal cords!) of certain animals that have developed to the extent that these beings can think of themselves from a first person perspective.
  • On vocal cords: this needs spelling out. Language is important, but whether there was a language of thought (LoT) before spoken language, or spoken language preceded the ability to think isn’t something that can be decided without careful research and argument. As I consider that lots of non-human animals can think, despite having no language, I tend to put the LoT first – in which case vocal chords might not be so important. But, we might fall into Wittgenstein’s objections to private languages. Maybe4 I should read "Ayer (A.J.) - Can There Be A Private Language?"
  • Baker claims that we are constituted by animals but are most fundamentally persons, and that the sine qua no of personhood – the possession of a FPP – is not shared by any other species. This is a contentious point, but may not be central to the main issue. If Baker is consistent, then if any other animal possesses a FPP, then it is most fundamentally a person too.
  • A point that occurs to me about the ontological significance of FPPs is that maybe a FPP is culturally acquired, can be taught or is such that one can be (self-) trained to reject. Buddhists and Parfits seem to want to escape from a sense of self. Maybe chimpanzees raised with human children, or taught sign language, get something of a sense of self. Baker would say that an ontological novelty arises or disappears following such events or processes. This seems to be a strange way of describing what is really the development or rejection of a capacity to adopt a certain perspective.
  • Also, surely this FPP isn’t all or nothing. A young child develops a sense of self, and how are we to know whether or not there are gradations as there (presumably) are with sentience. Just as, we imagine, Socrates is more sentient than the oyster, so has an adult a more developed FPP than a child or a chimp. And so, maybe, does an intellectual than the intellectually challenged.
  • That said, Baker seems to bundle all non-human animals together, and not to care about the gradation of ability between species. "Rowlands (Mark) - The Philosopher and the Wolf" has a lot to say about this sort of prejudice. There would seem to be a lot of ontological novelties along the way, and it’s pure prejudice to single out one as more significant than the rest. This is despite our allegedly unique “ability to deliberate about possible courses of action, to decide how we want to live, etc.”
  • Baker disagrees that our PCs are those of animals, claiming that we could continue to exist without being animals. She considers the TE whereby my lower brain is replaced by a prosthetic device, and then various parts of my body replaced by inorganic parts. Then I would no longer have a carbon-based body, so would not be an animal, but would continue to exist. She claims that to deny this is “totally ad hoc”, and that she – the cyborg – would take Olson to court (to prove that she was who she said she was; though quite how she would do this is not clear – claims are not proofs).
  • Considering these points:-
    1. Metamorphosis5: Neither Baker nor Olson suppose this to be possible. For Baker, the continuant is a person, which was initially constituted by an animal and is subsequently constituted by a cyborg. Olson would probably say that the animal ceased to exist, and that a new entity with my FPP came into existence. I probably have to accept metamorphosis6 if I think that I persist as the cyborg, unless I either deny that the TE is possible, or insist that the cyborg is an animal “maximally mutilated”.
    2. Cerebrum Transplants: Baker and Olson have opposite intuitions about what to say in the case of the Cerebrum Transplant. Both agree that the animal stays put. For Olson, a mere organ has been transplanted. For Baker, that organ is so important – since, for the sake of the argument, it supports my FPP – that the person moves. I want to have it both ways – that I am an animal and that I go where my FPP goes. I probably have to attack the TE – that for the FPP to move, so much of the animal has to move that what is left behind is not the animal, but most of the animal’s body. For animalists, do animals have bodies? Olson denies that they are bodies – because they are organisms. We can definitely pare down an organism by lopping off bits – so the question is whether that minimal part of me that supports my FPP is still an organism (contingently).
    3. My View: The contingency of my view isn’t necessarily a drawback. After all, I might (a priori) have been all sorts of things, though, a posteriori, given that I am in fact an animal, I am essentially an animal.
  • Baker sums up the difference between her position and Olson’s as follows:-
    • On Olson’s Animalist view, there is a particular animal x such that I am identical to x, and x has the property of being a person now. I am an animal essentially, and a person contingently. On Olson’s view, whether or not I am a person is irrelevant to whether or not I exist.
    • On her constitution view, there is a particular person x, such that I am identical to x, and x is constituted by a particular animal now. I am a person essentially, and an animal contingently. On her view, I could not ever exist without being a person.

What is Big Tent Metaphysics?
  • This section just seems like a rant. Baker accuses Olson’s (and most philosophers’) metaphysics of not being big enough – and that it should include matters of value as well as existence. This does seem to be taking the reaction away from Logical Positivism – in which metaphysics was bunk – too far. She seems to be staunchly realist as far as matters of value are concerned, and so metaphysics ought to have an opinion on the matter. To me, I can’t see any gain in bundling together metaphysics with ethics and aesthetics, but I agree that there has to be a metaphysics of value.
  • She says that “According to Big-Tent Metaphysics, there exist many different kinds of things; each kind of thing has a nature, and the nature of any kind of thing includes what distinguishes that kind from other kinds and what is most significant and most distinctive about that kind.” Most of this is unexceptionable, and Olson would agree, except with the reference to significance. For, nothing is significant in and of itself. Significance is a relation between one thing and another. One thing is significant for another. So, our FPPs are very significant to us – as the speed of a wolf is significant to it – but the wolf doesn’t care anything about our FPPs, and not merely because it has no concept of a FPP (if it doesn’t). I’m influenced by "Rowlands (Mark) - The Philosopher and the Wolf" here.
  • And again, “What something most fundamentally is should ground what is most significant about it.” But, from what perspective? I happen to think (as I keep saying) that sentience is the great ontological novelty. What is most significant about animals is that they are sentient – though the degree of sentience varies greatly – is the sentience of an oyster really that of Socrates?
  • BTM just seems to be STM with significance attached. All agree with Baker that “a metaphysics of Fs should tell us the nature of Fs”, and probably that it deals with “what is distinctive or unique about Fs” – though this is already perspectival, depending as it does on whatever else the metaphysician concerned knows. But few would agree with her insistence on significance. “What we consider to be real should not be independent of what we consider to be important. Else, why bother with metaphysics?” Well, all sorts of academic disciplines study things that their students don’t consider to be important in any cosmic sense – though they may subsequently turn out to be useful to those with a need for that particular area of knowledge; pure mathematics, for instance.

What Would Olson Say?
  • Baker thinks that Olson doesn’t share her view, and wants to keep what’s significant about us out of metaphysics thinking it of only practical concern. She thinks him indifferent to what’s ontologically distinctive about us.
  • But surely this is a misunderstanding. Surely Olson allows that out FPP is one of our mist significant properties. All he says, is that we can literally live without it, even if we can’t do without it.
  • Baker wants to show this by discussing what Olson means by “same person as”. Does Olson actually use this expression? Since he allows that I can exist without being a person, it ought to be “same individual as”. Yet he’s not talking about just any individual. “Individuals” as such don’t have persistence conditions. He needs a label to stick on the individual he’s talking about – and because that individual at the point in time we usually start the story of personal identity is in point of fact a person – he uses the expression “same person as”, probably as equivalent to “same human animal as”. However we label the individual seems to prejudge or assume the answer to the question “what are we”7, which Olson claims to want to avoid. The way he uses “same person as” (if he does) which denying that psychological criteria have anything to do with our persistence conditions makes it sound (to those wanting to misunderstand him) as though he thinks a FPP unimportant to persons. Yet an FPP is definitive of what it is to be a person – it is just that a FPP is a property of an animal (and maybe other things), and not separable therefrom.

Olson’s Conception of a Human Life
  • Baker says that Olson thinks that we are fundamentally organisms, and so misses what is unique about us. But surely Olson distinguishes between organisms – we are not any old organism, but an organism with (typically) remarkable properties.
  • Baker says that what’s unique about us is our FPP – not shared with other animals. Again, wouldn’t Olson agree? Being an animal doesn’t show what’s distinctive about any animal. It’s membership of a particular species (and being a fully functional exemplar thereof) that does this. All agree that the loss of a FPP is a catastrophe for the individual concerned: but (Olson claims, and I agree) the individual survives this loss – it just doesn’t have what matters to it in survival – it might as well be dead. Note- contra Parfit and (in a sense) Baker – we can’t have what matters without surviving. If the animal dies, we cease to be, even though some numerically distinct individual might carry on our projects or think of itself as us.
  • Barker quotes Olson as asserting that “psychology is completely irrelevant to our identity”. Baker’s objections to this seem to trade on an ambiguity of “identity”. Often then is taken in a psychological sense of what really matters to us – who we “really are”. But Olson means it in the logical sense, of what is essential to our persistence conditions.
  • She also quotes him as saying “just as” one could exist without being a professor, so one can exist without being a person. This analogy – the “just as” – could be taken as implying that personhood is no more important than a job or hobby. This is just why matters of value are not relevant here – Olson is not evaluating the depravation of personhood, only discussing the ontological and logical consequences of its loss. Olson is rightly saying that values are irrelevant to logic. Baker disputes this, but only by rhetoric.
  • Baker notes that Olson claims that what makes us persist is the same biological life as other animals. Baker says this understanding of life that is common to all organisms is both too broad and too narrow to understand human life.
    • Too broad because it doesn’t take into account what’s distinctive about human life.
    • Too narrow because it defines human life wholly in terms of biology.
    Baker rightly notes that the word “life” is central here. She thinks that different kinds of thing have different kinds of life.
    • Animals have biological life, while
    • Persons have personal life.
  • This raises lots of questions about just what “life” is.
    • I wonder how central this is to the debate. I think it’s just re-stating the problem, maybe not helpfully. Biological life is fairly well understood now that the magical, vitalist aspects of it have been pared away. It’s a bit vague at the edges. Just when does death occur, and of what? We certainly need to distinguish the death of the organism from the death of its cells, and from the death of its organs.
    • We cannot understand life without understanding death. Is something dead when it ceases to function properly, or when it ceases to function at all?
    • The battle-lines between those who adopt a broadly physicalist approach to human identity, and those who adopt a psychological approach, are confused by the concept of “brain death”. I presume that (but can’t remember8 whether) Olson has any truck with such notions. For him, the brain is one of the organisms’s organs, so if the organism’s biological functions continue, it remains alive. Again, this notion is muddied by the concept of “life support”. We’d tend to say that a fully conscious human being on “life support” is alive, but (some of us) want to say that one in a PVS is dead – though Olson does not. I suspect that the whole concept of “brain death” is a muddle brought about by not wanting to “kill” something; “switching off” something that is already dead is much more palatable. It’d be better to admit that something that was once a human person is one no longer, has nothing that matters to it, and – in all probability – never will. It is wasting resources – both physical and psychological – and has an opportunity cost that vastly exceeds any likely gain; so, the wasteful process should be terminated. This sounds Nazi, so no-one wants to say it.
    • Just what is a “personal life”? It seems to be the career of a FPP. Baker doesn’t (as far as I remember9) take seriously the problem of individuating FPPs. It seems to me that the notion of an FPP is in greater need of clarification than that of constitution, on which Baker has expended such great pains. Just what makes an FPP my FPP? Could my FPP suddenly change into someone else’s – eg. as a result of sudden brain damage leading to a radical personality change – if the world, the past and my expectations suddenly looked different to me, would the FPP have changed so that, strictly speaking – by Baker’s lights – I no longer existed?
    • Baker has it that non-biological things are alive, which sounds a bit counter-intuitive. They seem to exist (though lots of philosophers would deny this), and have careers, but are they strictly-speaking alive? And does it matter (in this context)?
    • Both Baker and Olson agree that there is only one life in the picture here – it’s just that for Baker it appears that there are two, though she denies this, saying that the personal life is constituted (temporarily) by the biological life. This is more than just an argument about words. For Olson, there is just a biological life, that for periods of its duration has personal aspects. For Baker, there really are two lives, because (statedly) the two lives are not co-terminous and (unstatedly) the personal life is portable – the life that (in some way unexplained) supports (or maybe is) the FPP can hop from one infrastructure to another. Presumably, though, it cannot exist on its own – it needs some body, whether physical or spiritual, whose life constitutes it. I’m not sure what the case is with persons that are essentially spirits.
    • I need to step back10 a bit from all this and consider Baker’s ontological claims. We have FPPs, lives, persons, careers, constituted at various times by other things. Just how does all this hand together?
    • Baker has it that there is one integrated life, of which the biological aspects are only part. She has it that “in a strict and philosophical sense” “your life includes your successes … as well as your high cholesterol”. Does anyone doubt this? Baker has things round the wrong way. Successes and such-like are just special aspects of various special biological lives. But these lives continue on regardless of these special aspects that (for human animal lives) are their normal concomitants.
    • I don’t know whether there’s any allusion to the substance of Butler and Reid’s (confused; references required11; probably "Butler (Joseph) - Of Personal Identity", "Reid (Thomas) - Of Identity" or "Reid (Thomas) - Of Mr. Locke's Account of Our Personal Identity") notions of “strict and philosophical” identity and some other sort, falsely so called; probably just a rhetorical flourish.
    Baker has two important footnotes:-
    • Nonhuman persons, if there are any, may have personal lives with no biological aspect at all: again, this way of putting things puts cart before horse. Such non-human, non-biological persons will have the persistence conditions of whatever it is that has the FPP. If a robot has the capacity for a FPP for only portions of its existence, then it will be a person during those portions, but it will continue to exist whether it is a person or not. What cannot happen is that a FPP hops from a human person to a robot person. The way to describe this case is that the robot has a qualitatively similar FPP to the human.
    • Since organisms constitute persons, and not vice versa, persons are of a higher primary kind than organisms. Hence, it is not the case that a personal life is an aspect of biological life, except perhaps derivatively: this is the key argument – but it depends on persons being a primary kind in the first place. Of course individuals who are persons fall under a variety of primary kinds – at least potentially – namely human being, angel, God, robot, and so on. But their primary kind is not person. I’m not sure how this issue is to be resolved other than by shouting louder – which is what Baker and Olson seem to be doing. A primary kind needs to have persistence conditions: the above “constituting” primary kinds all have different persistence conditions. Baker claims that the PC of persons is “sameness of FPP”, but this is mightily obscure because, it would seem, reduplication arguments imply that “it seems to me that I have the same FPP” s inadequate evidence – and what else do we have? This is, of course, just what physicalists have been saying all along.

Being the Same Person
  • Baker makes a series of claims about her own and Olson’s views that need comment one by one:-
    • Baker says that Olson explicitly divorces practical and moral concerns about persons from the identity of persons: As Baker points out, Olson adopts a Parfitian line, according to which we can be rationally practically concerned with the futures of beings with whom we are non-identical, just psychologically continuous.
    • Yet, according to Baker, What is significant about us … (is) … tied to being a person, indeed to psychological continuity: yes, indeed. But, as Olson says, matters of significance and matters of logic can go different ways.
    • Baker says that According to Olson, there is nothing metaphysically important about being a person … because … Being the same person... is not a metaphysical relation: I don’t think the consequent follows from the premise. Persons are only substances in the sense that the individual that has the FPP is a substance. The FPP is a metaphysically important property, but it is not something that has persistence conditions.
  • My responses above are a bit woolly and require further attention12.
  • Baker is kind enough to acknowledge that Olson does not accept relative identity, even though he appears to do so. The appearance of logical heresy arises because Olson appears not to be univocal in using the relation “the same F”. For, when F = “Animal”, “the same” is a logical relation, whereas when F = “Person” it is a merely practical relation involving some sort of psychological continuity. Baker has something of a case here, and I doubt that Olson should allow the existence of the “same person” relation other than as shorthand for “same X”, where X is a substance term, and the individual X is a person at at least one of the termini of whatever period is under consideration.
  • Baker points out that Olson is concerned to deny the transplant intuition – that I’m identical to the future being that is psychologically continuous with me. However, Baker should acknowledge that this intuition must sometimes be misleading. The reduplication cases provide examples where I cannot be identical to the person with whom I am psychologically continuous because others share this relation, and one thing cannot be identical to multiple things. Baker (I think) just claims that there is a fact of the matter as to who is identical to whom in such cases – it’s whoever has the same FPP – but I couldn’t find any principled reason for this (this point arises in the objections to “closest continuer” theories). If psychological continuity is going to drive identity claims, then these cases where apparent psychological continuity misleads have to be explained in detail, not just brushed to one side. In the case of cerebrum transplants, duplicates may seem hard to come by – though the idempotent single-cerebrum transplants would provide a difficult case if cerebrum transplants preserve FPPs at all. Presumably, Baker would say that in the idempotent-cerebrum case we had engineered two qualitatively identical but numerically distinct FPPs – but in that case it seems that we’ve engineered two things out of one – if there had originally been one FPP supported by two hemispheres. It all gets rather complicated.
  • As Baker unpicks all this, we get three important premises (presumably accurately alleged against Olson) that are factual or quasi-factual:-
    1. The inheritor of my cerebrum is a different animal.
    2. The recipient of my cerebrum is the person I should care about.
    3. The person responsible for my actions is the person psychologically continuous with me.
  • What to say about all this?
    1. Premise (1) is certainly accepted by Olson, but I’m not sure he should accept it. It looks to me as though the original animal fissioned, and that the recipient of the cerebrum is a fusion of two animals. As such, it might not be clear what the situation is with respect to identity claims. Additionally, moral considerations arise because of the importance of the organ that was transplanted. The moral considerations resulting from fission + fusion involving lesser organs are less considerable – while moral considerations do arise (as in the case of partitioning a healthy individual to save the lives of a large number of dying but unconnected individuals, which is usually taken to be a counter-example to consequentialism) – they are not relevant to this case, I don’t think.
    2. A number of things to say here:-
      • Premise (2) depends on how the TE is set up. If a single cerebrum has been transferred – and we suppose idempotency – then I, the donor, am psychologically continuous (at least temporarily) with two individuals, though logically identical to only one – the donor. The recipient is either very muddled (as the possessor of two inconsistent hemispheres) or deluded into thinking he is me. I need only be concerned with this individual in the sense of being sympathetic to his plight. He has not inherited my moral accountabilities – he just thinks he has. However, if I have had both cerebra transferred then the situation depends again on what has happened. If I (the donor) have no cerebra, then presumably I won’t be capable of having concern for anyone. The difficult case is where I’ve received the cerebra that initially belonged to some other individual. The question is how to describe this case. We’ve already pre-judged the situation in Olson’s favour by saying that “I” have donated / received the cerebra – and it is difficult to say anything without begging questions is cases such as this.
      • What should we say in this situation – does Olson really claim that the animal that has donated all its cognitive capacities to another should have concern for the animal that receives them? This does seem counter-intuitive. It is also logically separate from the third claim. As far as I can see, claim (2) is just plain false, and I can’t see why Olson should support it.
    3. Two things:-
      • Olson notes that premise (3) is inconsistent with the usual claim that one is only responsible for one’s own actions. This is why Baker thinks he is in serious difficulties. I think this “usual claim” is false. I can be responsible for the actions of individuals that are not themselves morally accountable but which I put in situations where they can have morally relevant effects. For example if I knowingly allow my psychologically-deranged teenage son to be used as a babysitter, or take my uncontrollable and easily-provoked pit-bull on the tube, I am accountable for their actions even though I didn’t perform them personally. I assume all agree that such individuals can “act”, and that it’s not just that I’m responsible for some lesser moral failing such as negligence (though morally it would depend on my intentions). However, even if these examples are admitted, their relevance to the cerebrum transfer case is far from obvious. Maybe there’s another analogy – that of a take-over – where a company incurs all the debts and responsibilities of the company taken over. The individuals running the new company (if not originally connected to the company taken over) are not personally accountable, but the new company is. This might tie in with the description of the cerebrum transfer as a “fission + fusion” situation.
      • Olson allows the “usual excuses”. But, what are these? If they include the rejection of false memories, we may end up arguing in a circle here.
  • In response to (3), Baker points out that it’s a fundamental principle of ethics that I’m only responsible for my own deeds. Parfit? But Baker in any case rejects the Transplant Intuition – because psychological continuity does not suffice for identity. WHY? I’VE LOST THE PLOT HERE. I’d have thought that if we have the right sort of psychological continuity (maintenance of the FPP), this does suffice for identity of person, for that’s what individuates a person for Baker in the first place.
  • What she doesn’t want is the divorce of identity from moral responsibility, which is why she advocates Big-Tent Metaphysics.
  • Baker notes that we do sometimes use “same person” in a sense that does not imply identity – as in “he’s not the same person he used to be” – where there has been a radical change of personality or affiliation. But, she claims, there’s also the “strict and philosophical” sense of “person” that does imply identity – as in “personal identity”. She quotes Olson from p. 64 and p. 69 of "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology": “… whenever it is natural and pragmatically justified to treat someone as if he were a certain person, then he is that person” and “to anyone but a metaphysician it is more important than the truth about who is numerically identical with whom.” Baker’s response is that if this is so, then this “small-tent” metaphysics is hardly worth doing. I need to check up on just what Olson’s saying. He seems to be giving too much away, but this still doesn’t justify mixing up metaphysics with ethics.

A Word about Constitution

In-Page Footnotes ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Big-Tent Metaphysics")

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  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.

"Markosian (Ned) - Three Problems for Olson's Account of Personal Identity"

Source: Abstracta Special Issue I – 2008 (Brazil)
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).


Write-up2 (as at 10/05/2018 10:07:41): Markosian - The Human Animal: Three Problems for Olson

This Paper is a review of "Markosian (Ned) - Three Problems for Olson's Account of Personal Identity", which is itself a response to "Olson (Eric) - Precis of 'The Human Animal'".

  1. Overview:
    • Markosian starts of by paraphrasing two theses from Olson.
      1. Firstly his Characterisation of the Problem of Personal Identity, and
      2. Secondly, his proposed answer to that question.
    • He then sets out three problems for Olson’s account, which are identified by three thought experiments:-
      1. The Mummy
      2. The Corpse Problem
      3. The Salamander
    • Markosian’s conclusion is that both the Biological Approach (BV, Biological View – I will usually just say “animalism) and the Psychological Approach (PV) to the problem of Personal Identity are false, though he doesn’t know what the right answer is!
  2. Olson’s Theses:
    • Are:-
      1. Olson’s characterisation of the problem of personal identity: under what circumstances can something be numerically identical to something that is at one time a person?
      2. Olson’s proposed answer to the above question: the right kind of biological continuity.
    • My immediate responses to this are that Olson is only interested in human persons. He allows that there might be non-biological persons, whose persistence conditions (PCs) are non-biological. If we stick to human persons, then Markosian’s account is satisfactory. The important point is that we have to have a human person at some career-stage, but not at every stage to have an interesting question of personal identity. For Olson, the human person can persist without being a person, because it is an organism.
  3. The Mummy:
    • A man lives, is mummified, and subsequently the particles of the mummy are rearranged to form a living woman, with no psychological continuity.
    • Markosian thinks we can draw two conclusions from the Mummy Thought Experiment (TE):-
      1. There is a single thing that was once a man and ends up as a woman.
      2. The man and woman at the termini of the TE are different people.
    • He thinks (rightly) that Olson must deny that these conclusions can be simultaneously true. In fact, Olson probably ought to consider the first claim to be false but the second true. The first claim is doubtful because mummies aren’t organisms, so we have a double metamorphosis3. However, as for Markosian’s second claim, while Olson denies that psychology has anything to do with personal identity claims, if the persons at the TE termini aren’t the same animal, then they aren’t the same person (in the sense of the same animal) either.
    • Markosian thinks this denial of joint truth is a problem for Olson, in that it implies that there is a “same person” relation other than Olson’s. In his reply4, Olson seems willing to accept this point. But I don’t think he would agree with Markosian that he thereby mischaracterises the problem of personal identity. While he’s willing to allow a non-identity-preserving “same person” relation, he insists that if we’re talking about the logical relation for the identity of human persons, then we have only one relation – his animalist characterisation.
    • Markosian’s point is spoilt somewhat by his choice of TE. It’s not at all clear that we have Olson’s “same person” relation in play here, as it’s not clear that we have the “same animal” relation. However, if Markosian had chosen a different TE – something like his Salamander case, but without metamorphosis5, we would have the issue he wants to raise. Ie. if we had Fred gradually changing into Jane – or something like Michael Jackson’s antics – then we might have same animal / different person. But this depends on how the “same person” relation is supposed to work. It’s not clear to me that there would be a difference of FPP here, so Baker might say that we had identity of person in this case also, so there’s no wedge between the two accounts, at least not in this TE (there are still fetus-type problems – if these are taken to be problems rather than advantages of the animalist account).
  4. The Corpse Problem:
    • Proponents of the psychological view (PV) have a Fetus Problem, but animalists have an analogous Corpse Problem. While the person pops into existence after the fetus (a problem for the PV) the corpse pops into existence after the animal’s demise (a problem for the animalist).
    • This is a bit quick. What Markosian actually says is that the supporter of the PV faces a dilemma. Since they have to deny that they were a fetus (as fetuses don’t have any psychological properties), they have a choice:-
      1. You replaced your fetus.
      2. Your fetus continued to exist and shares space, parts and matter with you.
      . Markosian doesn’t like either horn, but thinks the animalist has a similar problem, as is argued in "Carter (William) - Will I Be a Dead Person?". This is the Corpse Problem, but before considering it, we must note that the CV finds no problem with the second option – cohabitation – claiming that constitution gets round this worry.
    • The Corpse Problem arises because if your persistence conditions are those of an organism, and a corpse is not an organism, then you are not identical to your corpse. Markosian thinks this leaves the animalist with a trilemma:-
      1. When you die, a new object comes into existence.
      2. When you die, nothing is left, not even a corpse – corpses do not exist.
      3. You cohabit space with, and share matter with, a thing that is non-identical with you that will become your corpse.
    • Markosian thinks this is a problem, because he doesn’t like any of these options, but thinks that he is a physical thing, with the persistence conditions of physical things, and that a physical thing continues after death, and that physical thing – your body – is you as long as it exists. Olson rightly objects to this view – the PCs of animals aren’t at all like the PCs of lumps of matter.
    • Markosian thinks (rightly) that as Olson is suspicious of bodies, he’ll be suspicious of corpses too, and so will go for option 2. He thinks other animalists will go for option 1. Again, he ignores the CV whereby option 3 is not a problem. The dialectical position here, of course, is that considerations concerning the objectionabilty of (3) – cohabitation – are central to Olson’s main argument for animalism. I don’t think he needs that argument, so should accept (3).
  5. Alternatives to Olson:
    • Markosian now tries his hand at providing what he considers to be the best alternative to Olson’s view. He claims it rests on three metaphysical assumptions:-
      1. There are instantiations of properties (ie. Tropes?)
      2. Property-instantiations come in episodes – time-bounded event-alikes.
      3. It makes sense to identify time-instances of property-instantiation-episodes as belonging to the same property-instantiation-episode.
    • Given these assumptions, Markosian proposes the EPPI (the Episodic Characterisation of the Problem of Personal Identity). “The problem of personal identity consists of trying to provide an answer to the following question: What are the circumstances under which an instance of personhood at t1 is part of the same episode of personhood as an instance of personhood at t2?”
    • This is interesting. These “episodes of personhood” are episodes of time-extended tropes – time-bound particularised properties – so aren’t universals. They are properties of things – in this case a single thing - an animal-mummy-animal. And depending on what the persistence conditions of these trope-episodes are, they may or may not coincide temporally with the thing they are properties of (in this case they don’t – because Markosian claims that the termini belong to different “episodes of personhood”, and presumably there’s no “episode of personhood” during the “mummy” stage).
    • He also claims that it allows animalists to get round the corpse problem. Just how does this enable us to escape the sting of the corpse problem? The problem is to have too many thinking things in the pre-mortem state. However, here we have only one thing, with various properties – because a property isn’t a thing, but a property of a thing. Or, if it is a thing, it’s not a material thing.
    • As an aside, Markosian’s scheme would seem to offer no hope of resurrection, unless (as far as I can see) one of two possibilities obtain:-
      1. We can have intermittent objects. Maybe we can, but Markosian doesn’t consider the possibility (as he’s not discussing the possibility of resurrection). In the Mummy case, Markosian is insistent that we have the same object throughout. While I think this is incorrect, at least it’s important to be clear on what Markosian thinks. To carry this approach over to a resurrection situation, we’d have to identify the pre- and post-resurrection object. Thus we’d be committed to intermittent objects, unless there’s no temporal gap between death and resurrection.
      2. We can identity trope-episodes that are properties of different things. Maybe we can. But I don’t think this is Markosian’s view. He’s not saying we are the time-extended tropes (at least I don’t think he is, though a superficial reading with suspended incredulity might lead to this conclusion). Rather, we are organisms with the person-defining property. This might lead to interesting questions in the case of MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder) were we might have overlapping episodes of personhood belonging to different persons. This would lead to multiple occupancy, but this might not be a problem – or at least not so much of one – there is no epistemological problem, as the thinking things are distinct. I need to compare6 Wiggins’s arguments for multiple occupancy with Olson’s worries on this score. Olson is worried about two objects of different sorts (ANIMAL and PERSON) coinciding, whereas Wiggins is not (if I remember correctly).
    • Markosian claims that the proponent of the BV can answer the question posed by the EPPI by saying that what makes for continuity of person is the right sort of biological continuity. He also claims that EPPI gets round the Mummy problem. This is because, though we have (he insists) a single thing throughout the TE, we can have separate trope-episodes. So, I’m still slightly at a loss as to just what a person is for Markosian. Is he a perdurantist7? I need to check8.
    • What to make of all this? I don’t know enough about Markosian’s philosophy to provide a “reasonableness check” on what he says. Are people really trope-episodes? This would deny that people are substances. Or maybe people are substances (animals) but persons aren’t – they are properties of animals. But this seems unattractive (to me) – surely we want to say that persons are animals with certain special properties, not that they are them? The EPPI seems to be talking about personalities, not persons. Or personality-tropes, as a personality sounds like a universal that can be a property of many different individuals.
  6. The Salamander:
    • Ned is a (male) human person who gradually morphs into salamander called Sally while remaining conscious. Subsequently, Sally morphs back into a human female person, Lucy, different from Ned in every important way.
    • Markosian thinks this TE represents a problem for both the BV and Psychological approach.
    • There are a number of important points about the TE, which may or may not cast doubt on its validity:-
      1. “Remaining conscious throughout”: why is this important? Surely the consciousness of a salamander is very different from that of a fully-functional human person.
      2. “very slow metamorphosis”9: just why is the “slowness” important? To provide an analogy with the career of a single object over time which changes its properties? Time is needed for their consolidation? Is any consolidation really possible at the human / salamander boundary? Are we exposed to sorites10 paradoxes?
      3. “Differing in every important way”: however much Ned and Lucy differ, it is as nothing compared with how either of them differ from Sally (the salamander). Just what is an “important” difference – important to whom? This comes up in Baker’s alleged “important” ontological differences.
    • So, why is this a problem for the BV? Markosian thinks those holding the BV are committed to saying that Ned and Lucy are the same person, whereas Markosian thinks they are obviously not. I’m not sure (from the BV perspective) that this is much of an advance on the Mummy problem. At least there is biological continuity, but it’s of the wrong sort. The salamander is not a human animal, so there’s no reason to think that Ned and Lucy are the same human animal any more than I am Caesar if made from Caesar’s atoms.
    • And why is it a problem for the PV? Because there is psychological continuity. But is there? Markosian tries to stipulate that there is, but can there really be psychological continuity between a human being and a salamander? Of some sort, but not of the FPP-preserving sort that Baker would require – after all, the salamander (presumably) has no FPP. And, we are to presume, though this is unclear despite the stipulation that Ned and Lucy are as different as could be, Ned and Lucy don’t share the same FPP, so aren’t the same person for Baker. So, while there may be a problems for the standard PV, there isn’t one for the CV or the BV – not unless they accept the possibility of intermittent objects and identify Ned and Lucy contrary to their own requirements.
    • Markosian thinks that proponents of either the BV or the PV have problems with the Salamander, because there is both biological and psychological continuity – but proponents of either view insist that the continuity has to be of the right sort, and why should they agree that this TE provides the right sort – it doesn’t appear to, though maybe others might (eg. if we just missed out the salamander step, and had Ned morph directly into Lucy. Why did he not adopt this ploy? If he had, I presume the responses would have been:-
      • Baker (CV): would probably deny that Ned and Lucy have the same FPP; still the wrong sort of psychological continuity.
      • PV: don’t know; too many varieties
      • Olson (BV): As Olson cares naught for psychological factors in matters of identity, he would admit that (indeed, claim that) Ned and Lucy are the same person, provided the morphing convinced him that they are the same human animal. He might admit that they are not the same person in some sense, provided “same person” isn’t an identity-preserving relation.
    • Markosian now makes 4 claims, all of which he takes to be true. I consider them all false!
      1. The thing that is Ned persists throughout the story.
      2. Ned survives the events of the story.
      3. This is a story about a thing that begins its career as a person, that later becomes a salamander, and that eventually comes to be a person again.
      4. Both Sally and Lucy really are identical to Ned.
    • While Markosian thinks all these claims true, and is happy to call the relationships between Ned, Sally and Lucy “object identity” or even “organism identity”, he doesn’t want to call it “personal identity” (PI). He thinks there must be some other relation that is worth calling PI that does not relate Ned to Sally or Ned to Lucy.
    • There are several things that could be said of all this:-
      1. Markosian seems perilously close to the heresy of relative identity.
      2. As noted above, the wrong sort of continuity (whether biological or psychological) is involved in the Salamander TE, so none of the above 4 claims need be accepted.
      3. Identity claims need to latch on to the SORT to which the persistent is claimed to belong. Since this (and the Mummy) example involve change of sort, there is no identity between the termini.
      4. The only possible continuant is “mass of matter” – but no organism – which continually exchanges matter with its environment – can be thought of as a mass of matter. The mass of matter that was (in some sense of “constituted”, at some arbitrary point in time) Ned would be highly dispersed by the time Lucy came on the scene, so Lucy cannot be claimed to be identical to Ned in that sense.
      5. Olson agrees that there is some non-identity-preserving relation called “personal identity” involved here (or in other less odd cases). He just denies that it has anything to do with “identity”.
    • Markosian’s conclusion from the Salamander example is that both the BV and PV are false, though he doesn’t know what the right view of Personal Identity is. It is not clear to me why he doesn’t invoke his “episodes of personhood” account as a possible solution.

In-Page Footnotes ("Markosian (Ned) - Three Problems for Olson's Account of Personal Identity")

Footnote 2:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (10/05/2018 10:07:41).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.

"Zimmerman (Dean) - Problems for Animalism"

Source: Abstracta Special Issue I – 2008 (Brazil)
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).


Write-up2 (as at 18/12/2010 19:58:05): Zimmerman - The Human Animal: Objections

This is a review of "Zimmerman (Dean) - Problems for Animalism", which is itself a response to "Olson (Eric) - Precis of 'The Human Animal'". Zimmerman’s paper is the most cogent critique of Olson’s views, according to Olson. Zimmerman applauds Olson for charting (in "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology" and "Olson (Eric) - What are We? A Study of Personal Ontology") the range of arguments against his Master Argument for animalism (what Olson himself refers to as the Thinking Animal argument). So, Zimmerman’s paper is a discussion of this argument, and therefore interesting to me since my view is that this argument is both unsound and unnecessary. Zimmerman’s main point is that Olson’s argument is self-defeating because its argument-form allows for rival candidates for who we are, and one of the premises – that animals exist – is undermined by the assumptions underlying the argument itself. In addition, Olson’s commitment to his Master Argument restricts the options open to him in accounting for animals as vague objects.

The Sections are:-
  1. Olson’s Master Argument: after describing the argument, Zimmerman shows that rival candidates for being us can be argued for using arguments cast in the same form.
  2. Chisholm’s Entia Successiva Argument: for dualism, but showing that Olson is unjustified in believing that animals exist, given the supporting premises he relies on that imply the non-existence of other common-sense things.
  3. The Vagueness of Animals: Olson’s insistence that only one animal-like object is present (else we have too many thinkers) rules out plausible accounts of vagueness.

1. Olson’s Master Argument

Zimmerman takes the argument from a recent (but unspecified3) paper by Olson. If I am alone in the room:-
  1. There is a human animal in the room.
  2. Any human animal in the room is thinking.
  3. You are the only thinking being in the room.
  4. You are a human animal.
In support of the premises, Zimmerman glosses as follows:-
  1. The human animal in the room has biological and not psychological persistence conditions (PCs).
  2. The human animal has a brain, doing what your brain is doing – ie. thinking. As always, it is the reference of “you” that is important here. Presumably different entities substituted for “you” (once we’ve decided what “you” are) would “have” brains in different senses.
  3. If multiple entities were present, all thinking the same thoughts, how would you know which you are? This is Olson’s epistemological argument.
  4. So you have biological and not psychological PCs.
. Zimmerman notes that this argument is of the following schema:-
  1. There is a human-shaped F in the room.
  2. Any human-shaped F in the room is thinking.
  3. You are the only thinking being in the room.
  4. You are an F.
For some reason, Zimmerman doesn’t have the conclusion, as is warranted, as “You are a human-shaped F”. This is because the conclusion in the original argument just has “human animal” rather than “human-shaped human animal”. Presumably this is firstly for brevity (can human animals be other than human-shaped? Maybe they can if they are maximally-mutilated – ie. brains aren’t human-shaped) and due to the fact that the original argument doesn’t mention shapes at all. Now clearly, any human-shaped F is an F, but some Fs can’t (presumably) be human-shaped.

This may be important when we consider other things that Zimmerman suggests might be substituted for F:-
  1. Mere Body: while the animal presumably does not exist after its death, its body does, and did also exist pre-mortem. So, we can substitute “body” for F, as in "Carter (William) - Will I Be a Dead Person?". Note that this paper was also quoted by Markosian4, so must be judged to contain a cogent argument.
  2. Psychological Person (PP): but, I ask, is a PP, qua PP, shaped like anything? Just what is a PP if it isn’t a human animal? We are referred to Shoemaker, though we’re not given a reference5 (though Zimmerman does say that Shoemaker’s latest thoughts on the matter are in "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Physical Realization"). It seems that Shoemaker accepts the Master argument with F = PP. Zimmerman asks “Is there something now shaped like this body but that would survive the transfer of the cerebrum? If so, and if an animal can’t, then there is another candidate, call it a “psychological person”;”. I’m not clear quite what Shoemaker (as expounded by Zimmerman) has in mind here, and nor does Olson in his reply, but the details may not matter. I’d thought that Shoemaker would propose that the psychological person is the cerebrum, which isn’t exactly human-shaped, and isn’t what Zimmerman says. There’s a whole bunch of stuff by Shoemaker I ought to review6, in addition to "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Physical Realization", for instance:- Be this as it may, the consequence for Shoemaker is that because he accepts this argument in its entirety (with PP substituted for F), but in its original form (with “human animal” substituted for F) he accepts premises (1) and (3), yet denies the conclusion (4, that you are a human animal), he has to deny (3) – that human animals think – and indeed in his later work (we’re referred to "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Physical Realization") he argues that no animal with a sufficiently complex psychology thinks. This seems paradoxical, though less paradoxical than claiming that it’s only human animals that don’t think. What is supposed to do the thinking is something else in the vicinity of the animal’s body that has psychological persistence conditions. Zimmerman doesn’t say what Shoemaker considers these PPs to be (or what his criteria of personhood are). I need to follow7 this up.
  3. Mere Hunk of Matter: this is related to Chisholm’s arguments, though only loosely by the sound of things.
    • We are referred to Chisholm’s “Is There a Mind-Body Problem?”, (from which I’ve reviewed the excerpted version – follow this link8 – "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from 'Is There a Mind-Body Problem?'"). I think Chisholm distinguishes between entia nonsuccessiva, for which strict and philosophical identity conditions apply, and entia successiva for which we just talk as if there was identity, when in fact there is not. I had thought that mere hunks of matter would fall into the latter category, but it seems we’re to think of the actual particles that make them up – which are only temporarily locally assembled. Chisholm seems to think there is some material core (analogous to the Rabbinic Luz bone), which preserves the identity of material persons, but isn’t clear on what it is (this is an empirical matter).
    • Zimmerman notes all this and equates a “mere hunk of matter” with an ens nonsuccessivum. Entia successiva are dealt with in the next section of Zimmerman’s paper
    • Anyway, the bottom line is that – according to Zimmerman – Chisholm has (1), (3) and not-(4), leading to not-(2) – and (Zimmerman says) dualism.
    • I don’t suppose it matters what Chisholm thought, because Zimmerman’s point is that if we plug F = “mere hunk of matter” in Olson’s schema – with the rider that the PCs of a “mere hunk of matter” require mereological essentialism – the conclusion is that “you” are a “mere hunk of matter” – something that was, and will shortly be, scattered. Because this is absurd, Chisholm denies (2), and claims that “you” are either a tiny particle or a monad.
    • Zimmerman claims that Olson says (where9?) that this is “the most impressive sort of argument for dualism he knows”. Zimmerman “is inclined to agree”, but is looking for a better one. Two things might be said about this.
    • Firstly, Zimmerman seems to think that philosophy is just a tool for thinking up clever arguments to justify his pre-philosophical prejudices (I’ve a feeling someone else10 said that recently).
    • Secondly, what have monads or tiny particles got to do with dualism? I’d thought Chisholm was arguing for (a rather odd form of) materialism – which just goes to show what a waste of time it is reading one (or part of one) of a philosopher’s papers in isolation. However, I suppose the argument is that if the human animal isn’t thinking, then something else – presumably something immaterial – must be; this is interesting given that Chisholm seems to think that there is some identity-preserving physical thing present, though presumably not one capable of thinking.
The bottom line of all this is that Olson’s Master Argument stinks, because its form allows for rival candidates.

2. Chisholm’s Entia Successiva Argument

The purpose of this discussion is to raise the question whether Olson can assume that animals exist. Basically, in answering the first problem he has to deny the existence of lots of common-sense objects like undetached heads, and mere chunks of matter. But, if he’s willing to give up on common sense, what is his justification that he can believe his eyes when he sees a human animal in the room? Again, Zimmerman compares Olson’s argument form with another – due to Chisholm – for the negation of Olson’s conclusion. Chisholm’s argument approximates to:-
  1. If you are a human animal, then there is a mere hunk of matter in the room shaped like an animal only if the mere hunk of matter in question is thinking.
  2. There is a mere hunk of matter in the room, shaped like a human animal; that recently was and soon will be scattered.
  3. So, you are a human animal only if the mere hunk of matter in question is thinking.
  4. You are the one and only thinking being in the room.
  5. You are not a mere hunk of matter.
  6. Therefore, the mere hunk of matter is not thinking.
  7. Therefore, you are not a human animal.
This argument invites comment (mine or Zimmerman’s, as indicated):-
  1. Chisholm/Zimmerman justifies this by the usual Olson arguments – the hunk of matter has a brain …
  2. Olson denies the existence of any such thing. Also, the scattered object doesn’t think, does it? The thinking is done by a better-connected object (the animal, not the hunk). Also, there’s a distinction to be made between the hunk (the mereological sum of atoms) and the animal’s body – which has PCs like those of an artefact, but not those of an animal or a hunk. Of course, Olson denies the existence of bodies as well.
  3. This follows from (1) & (2).
  4. One of Olson’s core claims.
  5. Again, a core Olson claim.
  6. Follows from (4) and (5); Olson would deny this claim, if he believed the mere hunk existed. In that case, he’d have to deny (4).
  7. Follows from (3) and (6); Zimmerman notes that the same argument applies not just to animals, but to any “gross physical objects” that can gain or lose parts. Why11 is this so?
I did not fully understand12 Zimmerman’s use of Chisholm, and need to follow it up later. But in any case, Zimmerman draws the following conclusions:-
  1. If Olson accepted the existence of the various alternatives, he’d have to say (based in this argument form; at least with equal justification) that he was not an animal, but one of the alternatives. Therefore, he adopts what he calls “biological minimalism” and denies that the alternative candidates – whether mere hunks of matter, bodies or psychological persons – exist.
  2. Biological Minimalism: was first expounded in "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings" and is supported by "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons". Olson has to deny that coincident objects of these sorts exist – and in particular that there exist undetached proper parts of me that are big enough to become me if other parts are removed.
  3. The point here is that if undetached heads – say – exist, then my head exists right now, and if – per impossibile – my head were to become detached and placed on life support, it would have a good claim to be me. But right now, my undetached head isn’t me, because it’s a proper part of me (the whole human animal); so – if undetached heads exist, we would have two thinking things more or less where I am located – which is one too many by Olson’s lights.
  4. Hence Olson goes along with Van Inwagen in denying the DAUP (Doctrine of Arbitrary Undetached Parts; see:- .
  5. On this analysis note that Olson need not be troubled by feet (because a foot is not a candidate for being me); but see "Olson (Eric) - Dion's Foot" and "Olson (Eric) - Why I Have No Hands". Maybe Olson is just being consistent – if heads don’t exist, then hands and feet ought not to exist either.
  6. Zimmerman has something further to say about Olson’s views on Mere Hunks of Matter, but I couldn’t understand what his point was. He says that (from Olson’s perspective) there shouldn’t be the sort of things that would cease to exist because of merely extrinsic changes – changes in what’s attached to them.
Zimmerman now asks what the consequences are for Olson of denying the existence of brains, rocks or clouds, given that we really seem to interact with such things? Zimmerman thinks that this stance undermines Olson’s first premise in his Master Argument – that there is a human animal in the room. What are the reasons Olson gives for thinking, when he is alone in the room, that there is an animal in the room?

Zimmerman thinks Olson just uses common sense (though he doesn’t use the term). What are the alternatives? Zimmerman doesn’t think it can be a tacit appeal to biology, because Olson denies the existence of mere hunks of matter, despite the prestige of physics – and (in the case of psychological persons) despite the prestige of psychology (at least given some future predictive power of neuroscience). Zimmerman concludes this section with an elegant argument:-
  1. He grants Olson that we have no immaterial parts, and that “you” are located in the vicinity of your whole body.
  2. He also grants Olson that thinking cannot be done by a plurality, so that you (the thinker) must be a (single) object made of the parts in the vicinity of your body. What is the favourite candidate?
  3. Olson claims this is the human animal, since we know there are such things.
  4. But, prior to Olson’s arguments, we would also have said we knew there exist lots of other macroscopic objects – such as lumps of clay, statues, organs, … and all sorts of other things we can tell exist simply by looking around. But once this conviction is shaken, why should we think animals exist?

3. The Vagueness of Animals

Zimmerman wants to provoke Olson into addressing vagueness, but the following argument which (when combined with Olson’s 3rd premise – that “you” are the only thinking thing in the room) gives an argument against animalism:-
  1. Animals are vague objects, which means that there are very many hunks of matter with an equal right to be identified with each animal.
  2. If I am an animal, there are very many hunks of matter with an equal right to be identified with me.
  3. If these hunks have an equal claim to be me, then either each of them is conscious, or only one is
  4. They can’t each be conscious, because there’s only one thinker
  5. It is implausible to suppose that just one is conscious
  6. So, it is false that there exist all these hunks of matter with an equal right to be me.
  7. I am not an animal.
Zimmerman adds the following riders in support of the premises and arguments:-
  1. Zimmerman claims that “this” – presumably “that these hunks have equal right” – is a crucial component of either “semantic indecision” or “epistemic” theories of vagueness. I need to follow13 up on these theories.
  2. Follows from (2).
  3. No further comment.
  4. This depends on Olson’s “too many minds” objections.
  5. Zimmerman thinks this another “Olson-ish” claim.
  6. Follows from (3), (4) & (5).
  7. Follows from (2) and (6).
My thoughts on these premises and arguments are as follows:-
  1. That does “identified” mean? Not “identical”, because the PCs of animals and hunks of matter differ. So, presumably, the thought is that one hunk or another constitutes (in some sense) the current temporal phase (in some sense) of the animal? Also, what does Zimmerman mean by “each animal”? It sounds as though he’s saying not only that we have lots of hunks present, but also lots of animals. Presumably he just means that for any particular animal, there are lots of hunks – and that we’re only considering one animal (as commonly conceived) in this case. Having said that, why give priority to the animal? There are definitely lots of hunks present (they are defined cleanly by mereological considerations if we adopt mereological essentialism), so presumably a particular hunk could claim to instantiate lots of different animals, if we were to allow animals to overlap – though this might depend on how fuzzy we allow our animals to be – it might be the case that if “two” animals overlap in any way, we have one animal – though pathological cases – eg. the dicephalus or less radically conjoined individuals – make this suggestion implausible.
  2. I “am” an animal if identical to one, rather than constituted by one.
  3. I couldn’t see why there were only two possibilities. Might not “some” be conscious, rather than one or all, at least at this stage in the argument?
  4. The whole argument is of the form “valid ad hominem” – attempting to show inconsistencies in Olson’s arguments. However, in his reply, Olson claims that if these hunks of matter existed, he would admit that they think. I’m not sure how the logic of this works. Is his foundational problem the epistemological one – that if they all thought, I wouldn’t know which he was, or the plain metaphysical one – wastage? I presume it’s the latter – Olson doesn’t want this plurality whether they think or not, but if they do exist, we have extra problems.
  5. This “argument from idempotency” arises a lot – and seems perfectly legitimate – it is, for instance, an objection to “closest continuer” theories of personal identity when there are lots of equally-qualified candidates (as in the botched teletransportation TE). Baker doesn’t seem to accept it, however. She says, somewhere14, that in reduplication cases, “I’d just know” which one maintained my FPP – though I’ve no idea how (and nor has she).
  6. No further comment.
  7. No further comment.
Zimmerman thinks that Olson would deny (1), and therefore (2). Unfortunately, Premise (1) isn’t atomic. Olson accepts that animals are vague objects (despite the arguments of "Evans (Gareth) - Can There Be Vague Objects?" (and probably others) claiming that such objects are illogical). He just denies that each mereological sum that has a claim to constitute an animal does so. It strikes me (and this is indeed Zimmerman’s point) that if animals are vague objects, then there’s only one of them where an animal is commonly presumed to be, whereas if they aren’t vague, then there are lots of mostly-overlapping ones. Anyway, the reason Zimmerman gives for Olson’s rejection of (1) is that (for Olson) “the vagueness of the boundaries of an animal cannot be a matter of there being many hunks of matter that are equally good candidates for being the animal”, which seems fair. Zimmerman thinks this leads to problems, and rules out certain popular accounts of vagueness, namely:-
  1. Semantic indecision among many things with only slightly different spatiotemporal boundaries, or
  2. Timothy Williamson’s epistemicism, since it too requires many good candidates in (nearly) the same place at the same time.

    The reason is that Olson insists that there’s only one thing present. Therefore, Zimmerman thinks Olson has to choose between:-
  3. Merricks: There is just one thing there, and it is superprecise, and
  4. Van Inwagen: There is just one thing there, and it fades out, objectively.
Zimmerman gives no precise references for any of this, other than gesturing towards "Williamson (Timothy) - Vagueness" (and John Hawthorne’s Epistemicism and Semantic Plasticity (Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 2, 2006), which I don’t yet possess), but I presume the following are likely candidates, which I need to follow15 up:-
  1. Semantic indecision: My database has no references to this, so will need to check with "Keefe (Rosanna) & Smith (Peter) - Theories of Vagueness".
  2. Timothy Williamson’s epistemicism: presumably "Williamson (Timothy) - Vagueness as Ignorance" would be a good place to start?
  3. Merricks’ superprecision: try "Merricks (Trenton) - Composition and Vagueness"?
  4. Van Inwagen: "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Problem of the Many and the Vagueness of Composition", Olson’s preferred solution.
Zimmerman’s worries are that neither of the accounts of vagueness available to Olson seems appropriate for animals. I don’t have enough background16 in theories of vagueness to understand or evaluate what he has to say. The points he makes are that:-
  1. The vagueness of animals – of the spatial boundaries of its body and the temporal boundaries of its life – seems similar to that of artefacts such as ships or natural features such as mountains.
  2. Artefacts and natural features do not seem best dealt with by positing super-precision or objective fade-outs.
  3. He alleges that the super-precision Olson needs is much worse that Williamson’s variety. Olson needs “exactly one object, its parts somehow very different from all the other collections of parts that almost make up a ship, a mountain, …”. I can’t comment on this – yet17.
  4. Both the lone candidates of Merricks’ superprecision and Van Inwagen’s fade-outs are incompatible with:-
    • Vagueness being resolved by linguistic revision, or
    • People being able validly to draw boundaries in different places.
    … unless we are idealists (ie. immaterialists), which neither Olson nor Zimmerman are.
These points, and especially the point about idealism, were lost18 on me.

In-Page Footnotes ("Zimmerman (Dean) - Problems for Animalism")

Footnote 2:
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  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.

"Olson (Eric) - Replies to Baker, Markosian & Zimmerman"

Source: Abstracta Special Issue I – 2008 (Brazil)
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).


Write-up2 (as at 21/04/2018 20:15:22): Olson - The Human Animal: Reply to Baker

This is a review of that part of "Olson (Eric) - Replies to Baker, Markosian & Zimmerman" (where Olson replies to his critics, Baker3, Markosian4 and Zimmerman5) that deals with his response to "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Big-Tent Metaphysics". Baker felt sufficiently incensed by Olson’s reply that she wrote a complaint ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Response to Eric Olson").

Olson kicks off by noting how he and Baker forever seem to talk past and misrepresent one another.
  1. Olson doesn’t deny the existence of people; he just claims that they have the same identity conditions as cats.
    • As usual, Olson uses the term PEOPLE, which the uninitiated might consider to be equivalent to the plural of the term PERSON, but which he means to be equivalent to the term HUMAN ANIMAL (or maybe HUMAN BEING). He avoids using the term of art PERSON because he thinks introducing the term PERSON as distinct from (say) HUMAN BEING prejudges the case against animalism – but I don’t think it does. At least you shouldn’t legislate any view out of existence by completely ignoring the opposition’s terms of art. So, Olson doesn’t deny the existence of people (human beings) but he does deny the existence of (human) persons, if they are supposed to be entities other than human animals.
    • I need to add an article6 on PEOPLE to my list of philosophical nuggets.
  2. Olson also accepts the existence of chairs and flowers, things that an earlier draft of Baker’s paper implied that he’d left out of his metaphysics.
    • This is in a footnote, and a discussion of artefacts appears later in paper. From the footnote it appears that Olson is not a reductionist. However, I’m not sure about this, or even if it’s relevant. What I think he does deny is the existence of artefacts – in the same way that he denies the existence of persons – if they are understood as ontologically separable from the matter – or organisms – that are co-located with them (I keep wanting to say “that constitute them”, though not necessarily in Baker’s technical sense). So, he would deny that a wooden table can gradually metamorphose7 into one of metal, in the same way that he denies that a person can gradually metamorphose8 into a machine. That said, PERSON and MACHINE might be seen as belonging to different categories. What doesn’t metamorphose9 into the machine is the human animal. By Baker’s lights, the person isn’t metamorphosing at all. But this is just the same old disagreement as to what exists. Olson also think there’s something fishy about tables in the first place.
  3. Olson doesn’t ignore all that’s distinctive and non-biological about our careers, he just denies that they are relevant to or identity conditions.
    • But Olson does ignore Baker’s ontological claims: namely, that there’s an ontological difference between human persons and human animals. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think Olson should argue that he has already taken this ontological difference into account by acknowledging that human animals are members of the species homo sapiens whose typical members have a FPP during extended portions of their lives. Then he hasn’t missed anything out. He can still deny that the very same FPP is transferable, if he wants to (though I don’t think he does) but he doesn’t deny its existence and importance.
Olson now considers Baker’s claim that she might gradually metamorphose10 into an inorganic machine, provided it had her FPP. Olson denies that denying this is “totally ad hoc”. He’s argued that Baker is a biological organism, and both he and Baker are agreed that a biological organism cannot come to be an inorganic one.
  • Just what is wrong with metamorphosis11 or cyborgisation? That a think cannot change its primary kind? This is because the persistence conditions of a thing are sortal-relative – cf. Wiggins. Could we deny this? The alternative is to insist that the cyborg is a whittled-down (“maximally mutilated”) human being with inorganic bits attached. This option isn’t open in the case of metamorphosis12 into a machine, as there’s no residual “luz bone” to provide continuity. Cf. Chisholm. What if the machine was so finely constituted that it had the same persistence conditions as an organism?
Olson thinks that Baker misdescribes her own view, because while she claims to believe that she is an animal, she can’t really believe this as it has unacceptable logical consequences when combined with her other views. That is, you can’t simultaneously hold:-
  1. That you are an animal,
  2. That the persistence conditions of an animal are such that an animal starts off as a fetus and may end up a vegetable, and
  3. That you weren’t a fetus.
Olson presses the point: Baker says that while I’m an animal, I’m not merely an animal. Olson parses that as “x is F, but x is not merely F”. He doesn’t really spell it out (though he does refer to “the second conjunct”), but from the inferences he draws (that if every F is G, then x is G; ie. he has taken it that Fx) it appears that he takes it that “but x is not merely F” should be understood as “and x is H”, so that from (Fx and Hx) we get Fx. The example for F is “a philosopher”; but surely this isn’t a primary kind term, so Baker is bound to object.
  • Just what kind of “is” is involved in the case “x is a philosopher” – not the “is” of identity – but didn’t Jen Hornsby say that all “is”s reflect property-attribution? Look13 this up. Part of the trouble here is that what follows from all this logic depends on whether the property attributed is a primary kind term. If it is, and we have both Fx and Gx, then we have F = G, for instance. That’s why F = “Human Animal” and G = “Person” are problematical. But nothing interesting follows from Olson’s example where G = “Philosopher”.
  • It’s clear (to me) that these objections only work if Baker uses “is” univocally in her sentences “I am an x”. But she doesn’t. When she says “I am an animal” she means “I am constituted by, but not identical to, and animal”. When she says “I am a person”, she means “I am identical to a person” (she probably muddies the waters by saying “I am most fundamentally a person”). Olson does recognise this but doesn’t take it seriously. He says “When Baker says that I am an animal, she means that an animal “constitutes” me.” However, he doesn’t take constitution seriously – he says the details don’t matter – but they do. He parses constitution as saying that I (a person) and an animal (a different thing to me) are co-located. Baker denies this, though whether her account of constitution really allows for this denial is a moot point.
Now Olson gets to the real substance of the matter. He says that Baker doesn’t believe that I have the property of being an animal – because if she did, she would have to admit that I was once a fetus. Instead, she believes that I have the property of being constituted by an animal. And, yes – she does believe that. So, I suspect that all the tedious logical spelling out is a complaint that Baker shouldn’t use “is” equivocally. The equivocation disguises the fact that she doesn’t really believe that she is an animal in the way that Olson believes she is. Olson is of course correct in this analysis.

Olson makes an analogy – which he takes to illustrate the sort of error Baker is making. We might say that (in the Biblical epic) Charlton Heston is Moses – but we wouldn’t thereby by claiming that he really is Moses, only that he’s acting a part. If someone did make the claim that CH really is M, they wouldn’t be in agreement with the normal speaker. The way the analogy is supposed to work is that Olson (but not Baker) is making the claim that Baker really is an animal. Baker is only saying something like that she is playing the role of an animal. I’m not sure that Baker would accept this. Her account of constitution has it that the relationship between the thing constituted (the person) and the thing constituting (the animal) is much closer than this role-play.

Finally, Olson turns his attention to Big Tent Metaphysics (BTM):-
  1. Baker says that “reality and value go together” and that every property that is distinctive (D) or significant (S) determines a natural kind. However, if she just meant “metaphysically D or S”, then she’d be saying something trivial, so just what does she mean? Olson takes it that it’s something D or S to us, and that’s my understanding too. He adds “in any way”, which may be taking things a bit far, though Baker does owe us an account of just how D or S a trait has to be in order to generate a new primary kind. Olson seems to be claiming that for Baker, all D or S properties are essential – and she’d probably agree – but unless she’s to claim that all properties are essential (in which case there could be no persistence through change), she has to give a (non-circular) account of essential properties.
  2. Olson says (rightly) that it is this BTM that leads Baker to claim that we’re not really organisms, just constituted by them. Baker finds the FPP S & D. So, anything with a FPP is an essential kind. “Person” is shorthand for “thing with a FPP”, so Persons are an essential kind, and have their defining property – an FPP – essentially. Since organisms don’t have FPPs essentially, Persons can’t be organisms. So far, so good.
  3. For Baker, the person and the organism are distinct things – numerically different – yet they aren’t separate things. Olson has two problems with this – just what does “separate” mean, and how do I know which I am?
  4. Olson says (rightly) that there are lots of things we are interested in, and picks just the one I think represents an ontological watershed – sentience. Where I am is a sentient being who (or that) isn’t essentially a person as sentient beings don’t necessarily have FPPs. Amusingly, Olson claims that Baker needs a Big Tent because she has a lot of things to fit into it. I don’t know how Baker answers this question. Presumably she must allow that we have a Sentient and a Person co-located and both constituted by the Human Animal. If her logic of constitution works at all, it won’t have a problem with this as there is still only one thing present – but she might have to change the direction of focus. The one things present is the human Animal, which constitutes both the Sentient and the Person. If we say there is something that is most fundamentally a Sentient, and another thing that is most fundamentally a Person, don’t we have 2 things – but we always seemed to have two things, because we had the thing that is most fundamentally a Human Animal as well as the Person, so maybe it all works out somehow.
  5. Olson now asks why we should accept BTM (note this is independent, I think, of accepting the CV). He gives Baker’s argument … which is really just the assertion that metaphysics isn’t worth doing unless it treats of everything we find significant – ie. that it say something to say about Persons, artefacts and Sentients as such.
    • Note 1: Olson has to deny the existence of artefacts as such (ie. as things over an above the lumps of matter that make them up) because otherwise he ends up with overpopulation just as in the TA argument. Or so it would seem. I need to check14.
    • Note 2: Does Metaphysics really treat all organisms alike? Members of the species Homo Sapiens in general have interesting properties that members of other species don’t, or at least not to the same degree (maybe an important distinction). Is this a metaphysical fact, or something that only biology, or psychology, is interested in? Surely the fact that there is such a thing as (self-) consciousness (or sentience) is a metaphysical fact?
  6. Olson is unmoved. He makes an analogy between Physics and Metaphysics. Physics doesn’t deal with Persons as such – it treats them as lumps of matter – but Physics is worth doing, for all that. I’m not sure I’m moved by that argument, either. The special sciences are agreed to be a partial view (except by reductionists, who would claim that everything is really just matter in motion, and that physics misses nothing out). However, metaphysics is supposed to deal with everything that exists. I suppose it can’t just leave things out – if it doesn’t want to include them, it must deny that they exist. That’s just what Olson does – he does deny that persons exist – but only if they are thought of as anything other than animals with peculiar properties.
  7. Olson ends by rejecting the claim that there is something about metaphysics that requires it to capture all the categories that are important outside of metaphysics, because he doesn’t know what that something is.

In-Page Footnotes ("Olson (Eric) - Replies to Baker, Markosian & Zimmerman")

Footnote 2:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (21/04/2018 20:15:22).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.

"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Response to Eric Olson"

Source: Abstracta Special Issue I – 2008 (Brazil)
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).


Write-up2 (as at 17/04/2018 21:04:19): Baker - The Human Animal: Response to Olson

  • This paper is a review of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Response to Eric Olson", which is itself a response to "Olson (Eric) - Replies to Baker, Markosian & Zimmerman".
  • Baker has two objections to Olson’s reply3 to her objections4 to Animalism:
    1. That Olson accused her of mis-describing her own view, and
    2. That Olson accused her of making a simple logical error.
  • She raises two technical points, both related to her Constitution View (CV) that she had not had time to elaborate on during her initial response to Olson:-
    1. The “Key Distinction”: between having properties derivatively and non-derivatively.
    2. Not all properties can be had derivatively.
  • According to Baker, properties are had derivatively if they are had in virtue of the individual being constituted by something else that has them non-derivatively. The derivative and non-derivative having of properties is exhaustive. This is the Key Distinction (KD).
  • She says that the KD shows that some Fs have their persistence conditions (PCs) in virtue of being Fs while others do not. She notes that persistence conditions only apply to primary-kind properties (introduced without definition). If F is a primary-kind property, then all and only non-derivative F’s have their PCs in virtue of being Fs.
    • PCs are sortal-related, and “what it is to be an F is what it is to (continue to) be”. If F is the property that defines the Sort, you can’t have an F that doesn’t have PCs in virtue of being an F. I presume that SORT and PRIMARY KIND are synonyms. However, TEACHER is not a Sort (or Primary Kind), so no teacher has her PCs in virtue of being a teacher, but in virtue of being a human being (pace Baker). Teachers as such don’t have PCs. The big issue here is whether PERSON is like TEACHER, in not being a Sort. It’s not clear that we need the concept of constitution or the KD to explain these differences in PCs. What is Baker’s view of teachers – are they constituted by human animals too – or just properties of human animals (or maybe persons)?
    • Baker doesn’t mention substances - but are they pre-supposed by talk of Kinds, or are these orthogonal concepts? Are the major accounts of persistence (endurantism5, perdurantism6, exdurantism7) orthogonal to ideas about substances – ie. does endurantism presuppose substances, and perdurantism deny them?
    • If substances are the key to this debate, is it the case that PERSON is not a substance-term, but only a property of a substance? In that case, it is the human animal that has the FPP, and it is this that qualifies it to be a person. So, the person’s PCs are the PCs of an appropriate animal (one capable at some time of having a FPP).
    • We might ask about the persistence of a personality, but it’s not clear what a personality is. Personalities seem to be able to develop, but they seem rather abstract. Are they collections of properties? They can’t really be universals, as universals are timeless and changeless.
  • As an example – and application – Baker says that her body is an animal non-derivatively, and has its PCs in virtue of being an animal. There’s lots to say here:-
    1. Olson (and I) would disagree bodies are animals in any sense. Olson probably denies that (living) bodies exist, though he probably agrees that corpses exist, and organisms certainly exist. I’m not impressed by co-location arguments, though I’m not quite sure what the relation of an animal to its body is – presumably some form of constitution.
    2. My difference with Baker is not with constitution per se, but with ontological priorities. Baker has it that there are two substances involved (the person and the animal, or the statue and the clay) and that one is temporarily constituted by the other. But in my view one is not a substance – the statue cannot exist apart from the clay, and the person cannot exist apart from the animal. The ontological priority is that x constitutes y, for periods of x’s existence, but for the whole of y’s existence.
    3. The PCs of a body differ from those of an animal – at least if the body is taken to persist as a corpse, as is often said.
  • As a second example, Baker says that she is an animal derivatively, and does not have her PCs in virtue of being an animal. This is just Baker’s main thesis, and doesn’t require any further comment here.
  • As for Baker’s second technical point, she gives three examples of properties that cannot be had derivatively:-
    1. Those expressed by “constitutes”.
    2. Those expressed by “is identical with”.
    3. Those rooted outside the time that they are had – such as “started out as an embryo”.
  • I couldn’t see any explicit reference to this point in the subsequent discussion. However, they do have applications to the case in hand. If the second example were allowed, then Baker might be identical to a human animal derivatively, and consequently have the PCs of a human animal, which she denies. And if the third were allowed, then only being an animal derivatively would not protect her from having been a fetus, or about to be in a PVS. I couldn’t quite get my head around the first example. If it were allowed, then Baker might be self-constituting. I need to follow-up8 on this.
  • She then applies (the first of) these distinctions to Olson’s response. She looks at what is wrong with the apparently valid:-
    1. I am an animal
    2. Every animal started out as an embryo
    3. I started out as an embryo
  • Baker’s response is that the argument, as it stands, is ambiguous, and doesn’t work however it is disambiguated. The problem is with premise (2). If it claims that all animals, derivative or otherwise, started out as embryos, then it is (by Baker’s lights) false, as she (being a person essentially, and only an animal derivatively) did not start out as an embryo. She couldn’t have, because embryos aren’t persons, and she is essentially a person (she says). The alternative, making both the premises true, leads to an invalid argument:-
    1. I am an animal derivatively
    2. Everything that is an animal non-derivatively started out as an embryo
    3. I started out as an embryo
  • I presume that the same repair has to be made for all sorts of (human) substitutes for “I” … student, professor, bus-inspector, but that it gets a bit wobbly is we get less intellectual – toddler, baby, neonate, chimpanzee, individual in a PVS, and so on.
  • Baker makes further application of the KD, claiming that it:-
    1. Answers Olson’s worries about ‘separate existence’,
    2. Defeats Olson’s claim that if x constitutes y at t, then x and y are numerically different, and
    3. Answers Olson’s “epistemological question” about how someone non-identical to an organism can know this alleged fact.
  • My immediate responses to these claims are as follows:- :-
    1. Separate existence: What was this worry? Presumably that (according to Olson’s view of Baker’s ontology) we have two things rather than one. If so, it’s the same worry is Baker answers in the next point.
    2. Constitution and Numerical Difference: this is really awkward, it seems to me. Baker is claiming that the person and the human organism are not “numerically different”. But what is “numerical difference”. Normally we’d say that two things are “numerically the same” if they are identical, but Baker denies this – one thing is not identical to the thing that constitutes it (because it might have been constituted by something else, yet identity is a necessary relation, and the existences may not be coterminous – so we’d have a failure of Leibniz’s Law).
    3. Epistemological Questions: Maybe the KD does answer this worry, but Baker doesn’t explain how here. Presumably the knowledge isn’t immediate, but is a metaphysical deduction.
  • Baker sees a single thread of misunderstanding in Olson’s response to her. Indeed, he doesn’t so much refute her arguments as ignore them, a complaint I think can be sustained. She says a whole Section of a Chapter of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View" is devoted to this topic. Presumably this is part of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Very Idea of Constitution", though it could be part of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Constitution View of Human Persons", or "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Coherence Of the Idea of Material Constitution", or "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Coherence Of the Constitution View of Human Persons". I need to follow-up9 on this when reviewing these chapters.
  • Baker agrees that Identity is a necessary relation, but thinks there are two ways non-identical x, y can be related at time t:-
    1. By being constitutionally related, and
    2. By having separate existence.
  • These two ideas are “explicitly defined in familiar terms” (presumably in the aforementioned Section). The idea, presumably, is that where we don’t have identity we can either have completely separate things (apples and pears, or apple1 and apple2) or two things that nevertheless are not “separate existences”. This would be impossible on a perdurantist view (as the temporal worms are clearly distinct when not coterminous), but on an endurantist view (where a thing is “wholly present” at each time, is not obviously false.
  • Baker has another rant about Olson and whether she might have misunderstood him. While acknowledging that he believes that there are persons (though we should note that Olson avoids this term, preferring people), he ignores what’s distinctive about them. “On Olson’s view, being a person is no more fundamental to what we are10 than is being a fancier of fast cars”.
  • She makes a closing assertion that it is not her view that all value or matters of significance to us have ontological significance. However, she doesn’t explain where the boundaries lie.

In-Page Footnotes ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Response to Eric Olson")

Footnote 2:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (17/04/2018 21:04:19).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020

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