E-Symposium on 'Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View'
Baker (Lynne Rudder), Etc.
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BOOK ABSTRACT:



"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Precis of 'Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View'"

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1

Full Text
  1. Persons and Bodies develops and defends an account of persons and of the relation between human persons and their bodies. According to the Constitution View2 of human persons, as I call it, a human person is a person in virtue of having a first-person perspective, and is a human person in virtue of being constituted by a human body (or human animal)3.
  2. Thus, the Constitution View4 aims to give our animal natures their due, while recognizing what makes human persons ontologically distinctive. The Constitution View5 contrasts with two other leading accounts of human persons: Animalism6 and Immaterialism. Like Animalism7 but unlike Immaterialism, the Constitution View8 holds that human persons are material beings; like Immaterialism but unlike Animalism9, the Constitution View10 holds that we are not identical to the animals that constitute us. This, of course involves self-reference, but it is self-reference of a distinctive kind.
  3. On the one hand, human persons are constituted by human animals11, and hence cannot escape their animal natures; on the other hand, there is more to human persons than their animal natures. What sets human persons apart from other animals has nothing to do with anything immaterial; rather what sets us apart is the ability that underlies our asking, “What am I12?” That ability is a first-person perspective. First-person perspectives may well be the result of natural selection; but what is relevant here is not where they came from, but what they are and the difference that they make in what there is.
  4. So, there are two theoretical ideas needed for the Constitution View13 of human persons: the idea of a first-person perspective, the property in virtue of which a being (human or not) is a person, and the idea of constitution, the relation between a human person and her body.
Contents Analysis
  • Part I, “The Metaphysical Background” (Chapters 1-3), explores and defends the two theoretical ideas.
  • Part II, “The Constitution View14 Explained” (Chapters 4-6), uses these two ideas to give an account of human persons.
  • Part III, “The Constitution View15 Defended” (Chapters 7-9), argues for the coherence of the general idea of constitution-without-identity and the coherence of the application of that idea to the notion of human persons; finally, it argues directly for the Constitution View16 by contrasting it with its competitors, Animalism17 and Immaterialism.
Detailed Contents Analysis

Now turn to Persons and Bodies in greater detail.
  1. Chapter 1
    • Sets out the task. Persons and Bodies will answer three questions: What I am18 most fundamentally? What is a person? How are human persons related to their bodies?
  2. Chapter 2
    • Provides a technical account of the idea of constitution. The basic idea of constitution is this: when certain kinds of things are in certain kinds of circumstances, things of new kinds, with new kinds of causal powers, come into existence. For example, when a certain combination of chemicals is in a certain environments, a thing of a new kind—an organism—comes into existence. A world without organisms, even if it contained the “right” combination of chemicals but in the “wrong” environment, would not have the same things in it as a world with organisms. So, constitution makes an ontological difference. It guarantees ontological plurality.
    • The relationship of constitution is ubiquitous. It is not peculiar to human persons and their bodies. It holds between rivers and aggregates of water molecules, between statues19 and pieces of marble, between genes and groups of DNA molecules, between stop signs and octagonal pieces of metal. If x constitutes y at t, then x and y are spatially coincident at t, but they not identical. If x constitutes y at t, then x and y have different persistence conditions20. Identity is a necessary relation; constitution is contingent. (Indeed, I use the notion of constitution to solve problems that others try to solve by notions of contingent identity21, temporal identity22, relative identity23 and so on. The idea of constitution has an advantage over these other views in that the idea of constitution does not compromise the classical notion of identity in its strict Leibnizian form.) I provide a definition of ‘x constitutes y at t’ in order to show that the idea of constitution-without-identity does not suffer from obvious incoherence.
    • If x constitutes y at t, then x and y share many of their properties: x weighs 100 lbs. at t if and only if y weighs 100 lbs. at t; x is worth $10,000 at t if and only if y is worth $12,000 at t. Each of these properties has its source in either x or y. If a piece of bronze constitutes a statue24 at t, then what exists at t is a statue-constituted-by-a-piece-of-bronze25, whose weight has its source in its being (constituted by) a piece of bronze, and whose value (usually) has its source in its being a statue26. This observation leads to the notion of ‘having properties derivatively.’ The piece of bronze has its weight nonderivatively; the statue27 has its weight derivatively. The statue28 has its value nonderivatively; the piece of bronze has its weight derivatively. To have a property derivatively is to constitute, or be constituted by, something that has the property independently of its constitution-relations. Only some properties are subject to being had derivatively. All this is spelled out in two definitions. The notion of having a property derivatively explains why if x and y both weigh 100 lbs. at t, and x and y are not identical, it does not follow that there is an object that weighs 200 lbs. where x is at t.
    • The idea of constitution is decidedly nonreductive. As long as x constitutes y, x has no independent existence. If x continues to exist after the demise of y, then x comes into its own, existing independently. But during the period that x constitutes y, “what the thing really is”—y, constituted by x—is determined by the identity of y. So, what is in front of you when you go to a museum is a statue29 (constituted, perhaps, by a piece of bronze). What the thing most fundamentally is a statue30; but it is constituted by a piece of bronze.
  3. Chapter 3
    • Develops the notion of a first-person perspective. A first-person perspective is the ability to think of—to conceive of—oneself in the first-person without recourse to any name or description or demonstrative. A first-person perspective is necessary for any form of self-consciousness31, and is sufficient for some forms of self-consciousness32. Evidence that a being has a first-person perspective comes from the person’s ability to think a thought expressible as, e.g., “I wonder how I shall die.” The second occurrence of ‘I’ in a first-person sentence, with a psychological or linguistic verb and an embedded first-person sentence indicates that the being has a first-person perspective.
    • Nonhuman animals are conscious (some chimpanzees may even be able to refer to themselves), but as far as we can tell, they do not have first-person perspectives in this sense. They don’t wonder how they will die, or hope that they have a painless death or any other such thing. I argue for the irreducibility of the first-person perspective, and argue that other views of self-consciousness33 (e.g., Rosenthal’s, Armstrong’s, Dennett’s) are inadequate.
  4. Chapter 4
    • Applies the notions of constitution and of a first-person perspective to the issue of human persons. A person is a being with first-person perspective; a human person (at t) is a person constituted by a human body (at t). Human persons are essentially embodied; they can never exist without some body or other, but they do not necessarily have the bodies that in fact constitute them. E.g., it is possible that parts of a person’s human body are replaced by bionic parts until the person is no longer human; still the same person would continue to exist (now constituted by a bionic body) as long as the first-person perspective stayed intact.
    • So, although a human person cannot exist unembodied, she may come to be constituted by a different body from the one that actually constitutes her. If she came to be constituted by a bionic body, she would no longer be a human person. But she would still be a person as long as she existed. A human person is most fundamentally a person, not an animal—just as a bronze statue34 is most fundamentally a statue35, not a piece of bronze. Two separate human persons that exist at the same time are individuated by their bodies. A human person’s body at a time distinguishes her from all other separate persons at that time.
    • A human person and the body that constitutes her are a unity, in the same way that a bronze statue36 and the piece of bronze that constitutes it are a unity. Unlike the statue37, however, I have a first-person relation to my body. Properties that my body has nonderivatively are my properties derivatively. E.g., I have the property of being left-handed and of having brown eyes derivatively; the nonderivative bearer of these properties is my body. When I attribute to myself such properties, I am thinking of myself-as-my-body. On the other hand, .I have the property of being employed or of having asked a question nonderivatively; my body is the derivative bearer of these properties. When I attribute to my body properties that I have nonderivatively, I am thinking of my-body-as-myself.
  5. Chapter 5
    • Discusses the vexing problem of personal identity over time. In virtue of what is a person P1 at t1 the same person as a person P2 at t2? I canvass candidate answers to this question, and show that each fails:
      … 1) sameness of person consists in sameness of body,
      … 2) sameness of person consists in sameness of living organism (Animalism)38,
      … 3) sameness of person consists in sameness of brain,
      … 4) sameness of person consists in psychological continuity39,
      … 5) sameness of person consists in sameness of immaterial soul.
    • Then, I discuss my own view: sameness of person consists in sameness of first-person perspective. Alas, my own view does not provide an informative criterion either. Although I can characterize noncircularly what it is to have a first-person perspective at a time, I know of no noncircular characterization of sameness of first-person perspective over time. Since nobody has an adequate and informative criterion of personal identity over time, I conclude that there is no adequate and informative criterion of personal identity over time: Sameness of person is not reducible to sameness of anything nonpersonal.
    • Nevertheless, construing personal identity in terms of sameness of first-person perspective has its advantages. First, it avoids problems besetting the other views (e.g., species chauvinism, the duplication problem). Second, it accords well with our self-understanding: there is a fact of the matter whether some future individual is I, and that fact of the matter does not depend on the nonexistence of someone else. Finally, the idea of sameness of first-person perspective ties what it is to be a person over time with what it is to be a person in the first place.
  6. Chapter 6
    • Discusses the importance of personhood. Only persons can be moral agents or rational agents. Persons have many cognitive and practical abilities that beings lacking first-person perspectives lack. Only beings with first-person perspectives can know that they are going to die; only such beings can envisage alternative possibilities for their own futures, or seek self-understanding. Only beings with first-person perspectives can have ideals or can try to change themselves to conform better to their ideals. Human persons are not only the products of evolution, but (unlike any other finite beings) only human persons can deliberately change the course of evolution—not only by artificial breeding, but more directly by genetic engineering.
  7. Chapter 7
    • Defends the coherence of the general idea of constitution (without identity) from a number of published criticisms. Here are two examples. First is the criticism that two things consisting of the same atoms (e.g., a statue40 and a piece of bronze) cannot differ in kind; this criticism is answered by a discussion of essential properties. Second is the criticism from counting: that if x is spatially coincident with y, and x not = y, and x is a statue41 and y is a statue42, then where x is there are two statues43. The second criticism is answered by a discussion of the distinction between having a property derivatively and having a property nonderivatively. Also, Chapter 7 discusses criticisms stemming from mereology and supervenience44.
  8. Chapter 8
    • Defends the coherence of the application of the idea of constitution to human persons. I discuss the misleading conception of constitution (which I have spelled out in detail) as mere coincidence of two different things, another version of the “how many” problem, a charge of linguistic incoherence stemming from the reference of ‘I’. I show at length that the Constitution View45 has a coherent account of the relation between an early-term fetus46 and the person that it comes to constitute later. Finally, I reply to a counterexample concerning ghosts made of ectoplasm.
  9. Chapter 9
    • Concludes the book with reasons to accept the Constitution View47. It really is a materialistic view. It can accomplish almost everything that a dualist wants without the burden of dualism. It takes persons seriously in a specified sense: Being a person is relevant to the fundamental kind of individual that one is; elimination of any person would be elimination of an individual; having mental states is relevant to what a person is. No other materialist view takes persons seriously in all three of these respects.
    • The Constitution View48 explains how it is that, although we are set apart by our first-person perspectives, we are still animals. Hence, the Constitution View49 locates human persons in the material world. The general idea of constitution (without identity) allows for a metaphysics that is both materialistic and nonreductive. This general conception of constitution supports an ontological pluralism that honors the genuine variety of kinds of individuals in the world.


COMMENT:



"Garrett (Brian) - The Story of I: Some Comments on L.R.Baker 'Persons & Bodies'"

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1

Author’s Introduction
  1. In her thorough and comprehensive study "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View", Lynne Rudder Baker argues for what she calls the Constitution View2 of persons. This view comprises two strands.
    • According to one strand, persons are constituted by, but not identical with, their bodies.
    • According to the other strand, persons are essentially self-conscious beings with a distinctively first-person perspective on the world.
    The book is basically an elucidation and defence of these two strands.
  2. I am pretty much in agreement with Baker on both strands.
    • I agree, contra the Animalists3, that persons are not identical to their bodies/brains, but reject Dualism; so I agree that the relation between a person and his body is constitution-without-identity.
    • And I agree that persons are distinctively and uniquely self-conscious beings, with a first-person perspective on themselves and the world.
    (My own views on these matters, for what they’re worth, are set out in my short book "Garrett (Brian) - Personal Identity and Self-consciousness" (Routledge, 1998).)
  3. However, I found it a bit odd that both these strands were described as comprising the Constitution View4, as if the two strands formed a unified view. I would have thought that ‘Constitution View’5 is really only a name for the first, metaphysical, strand; after all, many different metaphysical conceptions of the relation between a person and his body could agree that there is an intimate link between personhood and self-consciousness6. But this may just be a book-keeping point. What of more substantial issues? I have no intention of discussing every issues Baker raises, and will confine my comments largely to claims made in Chapters 3, 5 and 9, ie. to .


COMMENT:



"Noonan (Harold) - Arguments Against Animalism: Comments on L.R.Baker 'Persons & Bodies'"

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1


COMMENT:



"Olson (Eric) - Thinking Animals and the Constitution View"

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1

Sections
  1. The Arguments Against Animalism2
    1. The Argument From Fiction
    2. Animalism3 is not a Contender
    3. Animals are Brutish
    4. The Corpse4 Problem
  2. Baker's Defence of the Constitution View5


COMMENT:



"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Reply to Garrett"

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1


COMMENT:



"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Reply to Noonan"

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1


COMMENT:



"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Reply to Olson"

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1


COMMENT:



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