Introduction - 1
- Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics
- Personal Identity and Immortality - 23
- Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern - 59
- Alternative Approaches - 87
- Personal Identity and Other-Regarding Ethics
Conclusion: Notes on Method – 277
- Moral Issues at the Beginning of Life, Part I: Killing - 119
- Moral Issues at the Beginning of Life, Part II: Creation - 143
- Moral Issues at the End of Life - 175
- Personal Identity and Moral Responsibility - 205
- Personal Identity and Ethical Theory - 241
Broadview Guides to Philosophy, Plymouth, 2009
"Lerner (Berel Dov) - Review of 'Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction' by David Shoemaker"
Source: Metapsychology Online Reviews, Jun 16th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 25)
- When philosophers discuss personal identity they are not talking about such down-to-earth concerns as ethnicity and multiculturalism. Instead, they are referring to the more abstractly metaphysical question of what makes each of us the same person he or she was last week. Ever since the great English philosopher John Locke kicked off the conversation back in the seventeenth century by telling a perplexing story about a prince and a cobbler whose bodies were switched while they slept, the philosophical investigation of personal identity has largely revolved around bizarre imaginary cases. At one point in the early 1990s the apparent craziness of the whole thing drove philosopher Kathleen Wilkes to write her book "Wilkes (Kathleen) - Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments". Nevertheless, the steady flow of new and weirder imaginary cases continues unabated.
- Shoemaker's book offers a relatively painless entry into this abstruse area of philosophy, but it does so with a twist: he is primarily interested in how the problem of personal identity relates to matters of practical human interest. While this take might sound surprising, it is in a way, quite traditional. When he first tackled personal identity, John Locke himself defined person as a "forensic1 term"; we have to be able to re-identify persons in order to hold them responsible for their past actions and commitments.
- Shoemaker engages with some rather down to earth problems: can an adult be held responsible for something he did in his childhood? Is he still really the same person? And what about a healthy middle aged woman whose advanced medical directives will gravely affect the life of her future aged and demented self? In what sense can those two very different modes of existence be said to belong to one and the same person? Personal identity is also important for the heated debate over abortion2. Is it correct to say, "I once was an embryo3"? And if that statement is correct, does it imply that it would have been just as wrong to put an end to my embryonic4 existence as it would be to put an end to my present adult human existence? Things get even more complicated when Shoemaker addresses the treatment of criminals suffering from multiple personality disorders5. If one personality committed murder, is it fair to imprison the innocent personalities as well? Another set of problems involves issues of self-concern. Why should an eighteen year old be worried about how his present actions will affect the life of his distant grumbling future self? If there is such a thing as life after death6, is there any reason for us to identify ourselves with the disembodied7 souls that might survive our deaths? These are the kinds of problems with which Shoemaker grapples.
- The theories that Shoemaker applies to these issues come in two basic flavors: biological and psychological. The biological criteria of personal identity say that we can keep track of who someone is by keeping track of him as an organism: "same organism, same person." The psychological brand of criteria points to continuity of memories, personality traits, and the like as constituting the backbone of a person's continued existence as a particular person. Beyond these mainstream views he also grants space to two less popular theories: "narrative identity8," which says that actions can be attributed to me when they constitute part of the biographical narrative I have constructed to unify my life into an intelligible whole, and the "Identity Doesn't Matter" approach, which tries to deny moral relevance to the metaphysical question of personal identity. Shoemaker explains the important philosophical arguments for and against each approach and tries to apply them to the kinds of practical issues mentioned above.
- All-in-all, this is a very clearly written book and it manages to present a great deal of philosophical material quickly and relatively painlessly -- including more technical issues in ethical theory (such as Derek Parfit's defence of utilitarianism) whose complexity is not amenable to description in this short review. People looking for straightforward solutions to the puzzles brought up in the book will, however, be somewhat disappointed. Shoemaker takes care to point out the advantages and disadvantages of each approach but finally adopts a position of principled fence-straddling, suggesting that different ideas about personal identity will be useful for dealing with different concerns and situations. As he puts it: “This is all fairly complicated, messy, and disunified, but it could well be that the truth about the relation between personal identity and ethics, like persons themselves, is complicated, messy, and disunified” (p. 284).
- Berel Dov Lerner teaches philosophy at the Western Galilee College in Israel.
Review of "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction" from Metapsychology On-Line, Jun 16th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 25).
"Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics - Introduction"
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Introduction
For the meaning of any abbreviations in what follows Click here for Note …
Six Motivational Questions
To illustrate the complex relationship between ethics and theories of personal identity, Shoemaker introduces us to six TEs:-
Before looking at some key concepts and distinctions, Shoemaker outlines the plot of the book.
- Imminent Death: Is there any possibility of post-mortem survival1 (ie. after the destruction of both body and brain). Is it rational to anticipate survival? The post-mortem entity claimed to be me has to be not just a replica of me. I can only look forward to having my own experiences, not someone else’s. I can only have a special concern for myself, however concerned I might be about the fate of others. The “you’re going to be tortured in the morning” TE shows that the concern you might feel for a replica differs from prudential concern felt for yourself. This shows the importance of personal identity
- Abortion2: Were you a fetus3? Before we can answer such questions, we need to decide what we are4, which Shoemaker notes to be a controversial question. If you are essentially a person, which a fetus5 isn’t, then it won’t be as bad to kill a fetus6 as it is to kill you, who came into existence after the fetus7. Even if you were a fetus8 (as the Animalists9 claim), is it as wrong to kill a fetus10 as it is to kill you?
- Advance directives: Is the happily senile individual the same person (or a person at all) who made the advance directive demanding euthanasia? Whatever the answer, should the directive be obeyed? If she is the same person, which instruction should be obeyed? Should the advance directive be treated as a rash request that she now regrets? If she is not the same person, should one person have a say concerning what is done to another? Well, possibly – guardians do. This seems to raise a number of issues:-
- Firstly, the whole point of advance directives is that (for various reasons) we think that our future self will not be competent to make decisions: another case might be if we were to be taken hostage; we might anticipate that our captors might induce us to ask for things to be done that we don’t in fact want to be done – though through weakness we might then be made to request them. Depending on the situation, it might be important that our requests from captivity are not obeyed.
- But also, we might not have fully envisaged the situation we’d be in (either as a hostage or as an old decrepit). Out present comfortable and competent situation may stunt our imagination when we envisage our future self, so we might not be competent to make decisions on that self’s behalf.
- We might note that – in the case of presumed non-identity – that guardians, while they do have authority over their wards are supposed to have their wards’ best interests at heart, and not their own. But this situation, were the guardian is your “earlier self”, and the ward your “later self”, the ward is perfectly happy (it is said) – it’s the guardian who’s upset at the thought of their later self sitting there contentedly dribbling.
- Shoemaker introduces the thought that the existence of my demented self acts as a “tragic coda” that undermines many of the goods of my life as a whole. It might do – but usually the last years of great individuals are passed over quietly by posterity (so, Nietzsche’s demented years are not taken to undermine his earlier philosophy). Where the situation might undermine the earlier life is if the demented individual retained authority (cf. Caligula’s last mad years undermined his early good years, so that the latter were forgotten; in general, it might be possible for an individual to undo all the good they once did). But if the individual just declines privately and without doing great damage, it seems that the advance request for termination is made for either aesthetic or economic grounds. Alternatively, it might be made on the self-contradictory assumption that I’m both demented and fully cognisant of my plight, and there seems no good reason to obey muddled commands.
- Shoemaker discusses the understanding of the case where it is taken that I am indeed the same individual, but no longer a person in my demented state. He seems to imply that in that case it’s not clear that my early self has authority over my later non-self, though I couldn’t altogether follow the reasoning. Shoemaker’s point is that if we are not essentially persons, then the fact that my demented non-self is not a person is not relevant to evaluating the advance directive. Fair enough; but surely it is more likely that we’d accept the advance directive under this description of the case than under other descriptions; for instance, if I was taken to be non-identical to the decrepit individual, either because I’m essentially a person, or because he is a different person?
- Cloning: Does cloning rob the person cloned11 of his unique identity? If not, is the reason that this is not so because clones12 develop different psychologies? The trouble with the standard objections to cloning is that they are equally effective against the situation identical twins13 find themselves in. There is more to individuality that genetics. The questions remain:-
- Whether intentional cloning has a different moral dimension to inadvertent cloning (twinning)14.
- Whether there is indeed a problem with twinning15 – some loss of individuality (though maybe some gains in comradeship?).
- Just what makes up an individual’s “identity”?
- Childhood misdemeanours: Should the adult continue to be blamed for the sins he committed as a child? Or is he a different person? This seems to force apart two different concepts. The child and the man are clearly the same individual – they are the same animal. So, if identity is all that matters for responsibility (I am responsible for all and only my actions), and we are animals, then the man is responsible for the actions of the child. But, there may be another relation, between stages of a human animal16, called “same person”. This is not an identity-relation – because identity is an equivalence-relation, and so is transitive (as Reid pointed out in his objections to Locke with his “brave officer” parable). But it might be a relation that is as good as identity for the ethical purposes we are considering here. This has implications for what we do with “reformed criminals” (though things get complicated when we move on from ethical to legal matters, as we need to consider what punishment is for - if it’s retributive, or a deterrent, then the reformation of the criminal is not in that respect relevant. But even in matters of private resentment, we need to ask what the on-going resentment is for - if someone has genuinely repented, what’s the use of not forgiving and forgetting?
- The cute baby and the budding genius: Is it ever fair to give what one person earned and suffered for to another if the utilitarian sums work out best that way? Shoemaker connects this puzzle with the ethics of compensation, claiming that I can only be compensated for my own sufferings, and cannot be compensated if the compensation accrues to someone else (though maybe – I would suggest – you could if the bond was very tight – as with mothers and their young children). There’s a genuine (utilitarian) dispute about prima facie misdirected compensation, but Shoemaker thinks that its resolution may depend on personal identity claims.
- Given that in the TE the baby who suffers is (for the sake of the argument) not the same person as the youth that misses out on the compensation, this misdirection may not be unethical. To clarify: the TE is that the there are two sons; one suffers as a baby, and the other reaps the rewards. As the baby that suffered grows up to be a youth, the goods in trust go to his brother. Now, if the youth is not the same person as the baby (because, say, the baby was not a person at all) then why should one person (the youth) have more moral rights to the goods than another (his brother)? Of course, the youth may be legally entitled to the goods, but that’s another matter entirely.
- Even if the youth is the same person as the baby, the vast psychological differences between the baby and the youth may make this sameness of person morally unimportant. Shoemaker has mentioned this possibility before; but it seems to ignore the importance of psychology in the “same person” relation, and reduce it to the “same animal” relation.
- Shoemaker posits that identity may come in degrees, but this sounds logically heretical, and I’ll need to see what he says later in the book. Psychological connectedness17 comes in degrees, and this may be the ethically significant relation, but calling it “identity” seems to muddy the waters.
- Again, if numerical identity18 is all that matters, and the baby and the youth are numerically the same individual, then siphoning off the compensation to a different individual is unethical.
- None of this seems to address the issues with utilitarianism where there seems no ethical reason (within utilitarianism) to insist that goods are tied to their owners – if taking them from the owner and giving them to another person produces more utility overall.
Concepts and Distinctions
- Considers Case 1 – the possibility of post-mortem survival19 – and then floats four crude and hopelessly flawed theories of PID – souls, memories, bodies and brains.
- Two views – the psychological view20 and the biological view21, which end in a stand-off.
- Two more radical views – “narrative identity”22 and Parfit’s23 “identity is not what matters”24. The four views in Chapters 2 & 3 remain in contention for the rest of the book.
- Start-of-life problems – abortion25, stem cell research and cloning.
- Genetic intervention (pre- and post-natal) and moral responsibility for the creation of entire populations.
- End-of-life problems – advance directives, and terminating MPDs26.
- Moral responsibility, a motivator for interest in PID; especially Case 5.
- The relation between theories of ethics and theories of PID; especially Case 6.
- Three methodological questions (and default answers):-
- The motivation for investigating PD stems from practical rather than metaphysical concerns.
- Personal identity is prior to ethics.
- There is just one theory of PID that applies to all our ethical concerns. An alternative view is a mix and match approach.
Shoemaker discusses the following items that are of a fairly elementary nature, and require no further comment here:-
- Ethics versus Morality. Some take Ethics as meta-morality, but Shoemaker makes no such distinction. Click here for Note for an old attempt on my own part to make a different distinction between ethics and morality.
- Ethics as practical concern: self-regarding and other-regarding ethics.
- Qualitative vs Quantitive Identity. Click here for Note for what I have to say on similarity and Click here for Note for what I have to say on the logic of identity27.
- Criteria of Identity28: Metaphysical versus Epistemological.
- Kind Membership. Click here for Note for my thoughts.
- The relation between kind-membership and identity criteria29.
- Essential versus Inessential kind membership.
- Necessary & Sufficient Conditions.
Printout of the Book-Paper Absract filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 16 (S1: Sa-Sl)".
"Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Immortality"
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 1
For the meaning of any abbreviations in what follows Click here for Note.
- Motivating Introduction: The impending death of Gretchen Weirob – the case from "Perry (John) - A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality". A pastor and a former philosophy student of hers fail to convince her (a life-long atheist) that it is rational for her to anticipate post-mortem survival1 (taken to be “surviving the death of her body”).
- What she requires (but does not get) is:-
→ the rational anticipation of
→ the mere metaphysical possibility of continued post-mortem experiences
→ “from the inside”.
- She does not require survival to be probable, just metaphysically possible, but this seems too weak a requirement, as some gerrymandered solutions to the problem are prima facie too improbable to be worthy of any rational credence.
- Note: Just what does “probable2” mean in this context?
- But, personal identity is key – it is essential for any surviving being to be her. And, in particular, not someone exactly similar3 to her.
- The burden of proof is on the person proposing that post-mortem survival4 is possible. On the standard materialist5 conception of “I” – the default view – just how is post-mortem survival6 possible if my body has been cremated?
- The Body Criterion (of personal identity) (BC): X at t1 is the same person as Y at t2 iff X’s body is the same as Y’s body.
- Note: The Body Criterion (BC7) as stated doesn’t mention that either X or Y are persons. It’s usually assumed that both are, but Olson (in "Olson (Eric) - Persistence" and elsewhere) has it that only X need be (or alternatively only Y need be). We discuss the BC later in this Chapter.
- If the body is destroyed at death, and the BC is true, then it is impossible to survive.
- Note: Shoemaker references "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection", but doesn’t consider whether a body can be an intermittent object8, re-constituted post-mortem. This seems to have been the mediaeval view, with all the concomitant worries about the resurrection of those consumed by cannibals. Note, however, that such views don’t take seriously the difference between an organism, which continuously exchanges matter with its environment, and a body, which – considered as a mass of matter – as a corpse9 – arguably does not.
- Pending a Note of my own on Van Inwagen’s strange idea in the above paper, the summary offered by Shoemaker is that God “whisks away” the body of the soon-to-be-deceased at the point of death, and replaces it with a simulacrum, which is then dealt with as expected. The point of this is that Weirob’s knock-down objection to the metaphysical possibility of resurrection (the destruction of the body) is undermined. A body is destroyed, but it’s not your body. Your body – even though it will die “off scene” (this death is required for theological reasons) – is salted away for future resurrection. Shoemaker sees the following objections:-
- without clarifying the “whisking”, how are we to know whether bodily identity is preserved?
- doesn’t this process make God a deceiver?
- My thoughts on the above are that:-
- The whisking and salting must be within the power of an omnipotent being, so aren’t problematical as such – though we do need to know the identity-preserving mechanisms.
- Allowing God to be a deceiver may simply be redefining the concept “God”. Deception may be impossible for the traditional concept of God “who cannot lie”, but maybe there are other coherent concepts of the divine that don’t require this attribute. Also, one could say that – on the traditional conception of “God” – if it’s logically necessary for God to act in a certain way to keep his promises, then he doesn’t need to point this out, and so isn’t strictly deceiving anyone, since we can work out what must be going on (if we’re as smart as Van Inwagen, or have him to enlighten us).
- However, I don’t accept this weaselling. As noted above – “mere metaphysical possibility” isn’t enough for rational expectation. We’ve no reason to believe in this whisking, especially since God hasn’t told us anything about it.
- On the presumption that the Body Criterion is insufficient to provide for rational anticipation of resurrection (whatever its merits as a criterion of Personal Identity), we move on to look for alternative criteria that meet the following requirements:-
- Provide a mechanism whereby pre- and post-mortem identification is seen as rational.
- Is possible – ie. isn’t absurd or incoherent.
- The Soul Criterion10 (SC): X at t1 is the same person as Y at t2 iff X’s soul is the same as Y’s soul.
- Shoemaker describes the soul as being “your essence”, that might survive the destruction of your body, but goes on to give Plato and Aristotle’s accounts:-
- Plato: The soul is what the person really is, a non-physical thing that is the prisoner of the body. For Plato (and more or less similarly, Descartes) the soul is a substance, and is the sort of thing that persists.
- Aristotle: The soul is the organising principle of the (in fact, any) body. All persons have a common form (the soul), but different physical manifestations. This is not a substance-concept, so Aristotelian souls don’t persist. This is why Aquinas, who adopted Aristotle’s concept of the soul, insisted on the resurrection of the body.
- So, only Plato’s conception of the soul is even prima facie grounds for rational anticipation of post-mortem survival11 thereby. What are the objections?
- Firstly, more detail is required of the concept. Is a soul:-
- A purely psychological substance, whose essence is to think (as Descartes maintained)?
- A substance whose psychology is separable from it?
- Something I have or something I am (or something else)?
- Shoemaker makes the assumption that “we can directly and reliably know about the existence and nature of only those substances we can perceive with our senses”. If this foundation of empiricism (not here challenged by Shoemaker) is true, then:-
- How can we determine whether souls exist or what they are like, given that they are immaterial substances?
- Shoemaker notes that there are many and various objections to the existence (or coherence) of Platonic souls as such, but he (and Weirob) allow their existence for the sake of the argument. Their objection is that they don’t even do the work they are conceived of to do.
- This leads to Weirob’s Reductio:-
- If the Soul Criterion12 were true, we could never have the grounds to judge if X is the same person as Y,
- But we do this all the time,
- The Soul Criterion13 is false.
- The point of the objection is an epistemological one. If the Soul Criterion14 is the correct account of Personal Identity, then – because we can’t see souls – we can’t individuate them, and so we can never tell whether an individual is the same person from one moment to the next.
- Shoemaker notes that this isn’t the same as the problem of misidentification – where an exactly similar15 individual (an identical twin, say) is mistaken for another. Here, the problem is one of principle rather than practice. We can put in controls to prevent misidentification, but we can’t do this if the Soul Criterion16 is correct, as no identification of Souls is possible.
- Note: I need to review the various conceptions of the soul, as I suspect some of this may have more force against Platonic souls than Cartesian ones. Is a Platonic soul supposed by Shoemaker to be a bare particular? Click here for Note (eventually) for a general note on Souls. Are both Platonic and Cartesian souls supposed all to, have certain standard attributes (lack of extension, the ability to think) but no qualities that distinguish them one from another other haecceity17?; some of the references from this Note will consider such matters.
- Possible response – use a proxy for soul-identification, either
- The Body, or
- The body as proxy for the soul: this is alleged not to work for another epistemological reason – because we could never determine that there was a “same body, same soul” relation.
→ Weirob’s “Chocolate Centre” analogy.
Note - all these arguments are considered by Locke in "Locke (John) - Of Identity and Diversity" (Click here for Note).
- Psychology as proxy for the soul: this takes the body as a normally reliable indicator of sameness of person, but what really establishes identity is sameness of psychology. Radical personality changes indicate a different person, even in the presence of identity of body. But psychology is what souls do, so sameness of psychology is a much better indicator of sameness of soul than sameness of body. The objection to this defence is that it confuses similarity18 with identity. We can tag the body, so can tell if it’s the very same one, but we can’t do this with the soul – all we can see are similar19 states of mind, which might or might not belong to the very same soul.
→ Weirob’s “River / River Water” analogy.
- Response to objections: Weirob’s arguments seem to confuse epistemology with metaphysics. She admits that there might be souls, but denies that they meet her requirement that they can help with practical questions of re-identification. But, we can reject this requirement. Metaphysically, the Soul Criterion20 might be the right account of Personal Identity, even if it is of no help in answering our epistemological questions.
- But, Shoemaker suggests that – since the Soul Criterion21, if correct, would undermine all our practical concerns that involve matters of Personal Identity – we should reject it on these grounds alone (if there aren’t more compelling metaphysical grounds for the rejection of souls). Shoemaker leaves the question whether this is correct to the final Chapter ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics - Conclusion: Notes on Method").
- But for now, Shoemaker claims that the issue is that – whether or not it is the correct metaphysical account of Personal Identity – the Soul Criterion22 can never satisfy Weirob’s request for rational anticipation of post-mortem survival23.
- Whether this is so is a very deep question. The claim is that as a soul is separable from both body and psychology, there’s no guarantee that we’d see the post-mortem world “from the inside”. But is this so? Take the worst case – or is it the best case? – the soul is associated with a new resurrection body distinct from my pre-mortem one, and a new, improved psychology, free of propensities to sin – but would this be me? This situation is somewhat similar to the traditional Christian hope of resurrection, and it has some force even there. The difference is that in the “worst case”, I don’t have any physical or psychological continuity24 with my past – while, presumably, in Christian resurrection I do, at least psychologically, and even physically for those that are “changed” (ie. metamorphosed25 at Christ’s return). Now, in the “worst case”, would there be anything of me that persists? Would I have anything to look forward to (or – if I went to the other place – to fear)? Would I still have my window on the world, but one in which I’ve utterly lost my context – say like a severe stroke victim? Is there, in such cases, a continuity – maybe in virtue of the soul’s haecceity26 – that’s more than that non-existent continuity between two unconnected individuals (which is the case as Shoemaker describes it)?
- The Memory Criteria (MC):
- Shoemaker considers what we do when we wake up and “re-identify ourselves”. This is a first-person perspective27, rather than the third-person considered hitherto. The idea is that re-identification is undertaken indexically – “I have awoken”, not “Theo has awoken”. It’s clear (says Shoemaker) that we don’t check we are (or have) the same soul, but he also claims that we don’t check we’ve the same body either. This is not just because we don’t expect it to have changed (though it might have changed radically, say, if we’d been in a 50-year coma). But even if it had changed, this wouldn’t persuade us that we were a different person.
- The reason is that there’s a long history of TEs that claim to show that we might wake up in an entirely different body – "Kafka (Franz), Pasley (Malcolm) - Metamorphosis and Other Stories" being the classic case (though Locke’s Prince and Cobbler is older; see my BA Finals paper on this topic, converted to Note form (Click here for Note)).
- Combined, these thoughts – in particular that persons are neither bodies nor souls – imply that Persons aren’t substances. If not, what are they? Shoemaker introduces a discussion of games, not that persons are games, but that they might be a whole made up of parts in accord with certain rules, much as games are.
- Maybe a better attempt is a life, for which see "Wollheim (Richard) - Living".
- The portfolio of alternative memory criteria is the obvious first choice, as this is what is said to make the awakened bug think it is the man that slept. Memories connect our various stages.
- There are many objections to the coherence of these TEs, and they seem to beg the question of what it is that enables this first-person perspective28 in the first place. If it was the soul, then body changing might be coherent. But if it is the brain, or the body as a whole, then it isn’t.
- Memory Criterion 1 – MC1: X at t1 is the same person as Y at t2 iff Y remembers the thoughts and experiences of X.
Objections to MC1
- Butler’s 1736 Objection: Intermittent existence29 caused by amnesia. Click here for Note (section “Problems with Locke’s Account of Personal Identity”, item 3 (“Amnesia”), admittedly not quite covering this issue). Shoemaker has a footnote on MC1 being a sufficient but not necessary condition for personal identity. It might satisfy the metaphysical requirement for immortality if remembering a past life was sufficient for survival. But Shoemaker has higher aims.
- Reid’s 1785 Objection: The Brave Officer. Failure of transitivity. This is a much more serious objection, as it implies a contradiction – since identity is a transitive relation. Click here for Note (section “Problems with Locke’s Account of Personal Identity”, item 4 (“Transitivity”)).
- Memory Criterion 1a – MC1a: X at t1 is the same person as Y at t2 iff
→ ie. the ancestral of the “remembers” relation.
- Y directly remembers the thoughts and experiences of X, OR
- Y directly remembers the thoughts and experiences of some Z, who …Q, who … R, …, who directly remembers the thoughts and experiences of X.
Objections to MC1a
- False memories: being deluded into thinking I remember commanding at Waterloo doesn’t make me Napoleon. But we can’t patch this up by saying that only genuine memories count, as this makes MC1a circular. Click here for Note (section “Problems with Locke’s Account of Personal Identity”, item 1 (“Priority”)).
- Circularity: if for memories to be genuine I need identity, I cannot use memory as a criterion of identity. (David) Shoemaker claims that (Sydney) Shoemaker and Derek Parfit30 claim that I can have genuine memories of experiences other than my own. Scientists “copy a memory trace” into my brain. I “seem to remember”, but am not deluded because I’m in on the act and know the experience wasn’t mine. The issue is one of causality31. Delusions (of course) have some cause, but it’s not of the right sort, with no connection to the original experience. (David) Shoemaker seems to think that the transplanted32 (though he says “copied”) memory-trace example is a case of genuine memory not presupposing identity.
- Is this “Quasi-memory33”? This isn’t genuine memory (which is why it’s called Quasi-). There’s a causal relation between two events of experiencing, but the present experience isn’t one of remembering but of experiencing for the first time. It’s not re-lived but first-lived for the person who has the Q-M. But we’ll let this pass, and move on to …
- Memory Criterion 2 – MC2: X at t1 is the same person as Y at t2 iff
- Y seems to remember the thoughts and experiences of X, either directly of ancestrally AND
- Y’s seeming to remember is caused in the right way.
Objections to MC2
- The “causal” clause is to circumvent the “delusion” objection.
- The claim is that the “copying” of the memory trace does provide a cause of the right sort, because the actual memory trace is a record of an experience, and not a record of an experience that never happened to anyone.
- Copying: “Copying” memory traces seems all wrong – for surely this will fall foul of reduplication objections34 (see later). “Transplanting”35” memory traces might have more going for it, but is the sort of thing that (because of the distributed and intertwined realisation of “memory traces”) may be either forever practically impossible or even metaphysically impossible.
- Brains: However, it may be the case that my brain makes backup copies of its own memory traces, to provide fault-tolerance. So, we need to be careful about copying – some copyings may be of the right causal form, while others aren’t. It looks to me as though the copyings must involve the same brain, so that copyings from one brain to another are of the wrong sort. To be a memory, the memory-trace must have got into my brain (or indeed, any brain) by the right sort of causal process. This is – please note – in order to be a memory at all, not just my memory.
- Reliable Storage Mechanisms: It seems at first sight that what we want is “any old” reliable storage mechanism. So, the thought is that we might download the memories from one body (the pre-mortem one) and upload36 them to another (the resurrection one). The fact that this is not the usual causal mechanism is not relevant if it is reliable. The trouble is, that it isn’t …
- Reduplication37: the problem with the download/upload38 proposal is that we need to stop multiple uploads39 – which Shoemaker takes to be equivalent to fission. (More on which later. Click here for Note). The reason for the reduplication40 problem is that identity is transitive. So if the pre-mortem person is identical to two resurrection persons, then those “two” persons have to be identical to one another. Shoemaker does briefly consider the possibility of “distributed persons” whereby the two resurrected bodies do house one person apparently living two lives, but rules that this stretches the concept of personhood too far.
- Real-Life Reduplication41: Note, however, that there are well known issues here that apply to real-life situations, not just TEs – Multiple Personality Disorder42) and Commissurotomy43.
- Lewis: Note also that Lewis’s perdurantist44 approach to fission45 is a possible answer to the reduplication objection46.
- Quick Fix: So, to avoid the reductio of reduplication47, we could make a “no competitors” stipulation …
- Memory Criterion 3 – MC3: As for MC2, but with an additional “No competitors” clause.
Objections to MC3
- Absurdity: Shoemaker’s view is that while MC3 isn’t self-contradictory, it is “deeply absurd”, which is almost as bad. It’s like the “Branch-Line” case in Teletransportation48; one copy is made and is you, then another copy is made and what was you is no longer you. There are questions of priority here, and a better case for non-absurdity can be made than Shoemaker attempts. But there are cases where there’s no principled choice. See the discussions under “Closest Continuer49”.
- Your Experience: Shoemaker seems to assume that if we had the right sort of causality50, you would wake up in the resurrection body. And he may be right – but he also seems to assume that even without the right sort of causality51, there would still be continuity of experience, even without identity. Again, he may be right, but this takes me to my forward versus backward continuity52 theme. While someone would wake up, this waking-up would not be something you experience, even if the waker-up would claim to be you. This has something (though I don’t know what) to do with how conscious states propagate. Resurrection to a new body is too much of a hop, though resurrection of the same body doesn’t seem so problematical (it seems analogous to resuscitation from a coma).
- Identity and Experience: Can one imagine continuity of experience in the case of fission? It seems difficult to do so, whether or not identity is preserved. We might, for instance, say that whatever we might think, because fission involves loss of identity, whatever we might imagine we would experience, we couldn’t in fact experience. We’re just deluded by the TE. However, what if we adopt a perdurantist53 approach to fission, so that prior to fission there were two co-habiting individuals whose stages just happened to be spatially coincident. Then we cannot use non-identity as a knock-down proof of inconceivability, as identity is preserved for both fission products. In that case continuous (if intermittent) conscious experience out to be possible, whether we can conceive of it or not.
- Christ: So, St. Paul’s claim that if the dead don’t rise, then Christ is not risen doesn’t quite work. As a generality the dead might not rise (if their bodies have been destroyed). But Christ may be a special case. Jesus Christ (is said to have) risen in his own body, somewhat “glorified”, but still so that there is a continuity that is lacking for the generality of mankind.
- The Body Criterion (BC): Shoemaker starts off with an awkward case – the fusion of X’s body with Y’s brain, to make F. Who is F? Note that the example is taken from Barbara Harris’s Who is Julia?.
- Olson (and Weirob here) claims that F=X, taking the brain to be just another organ, but …
- Most would say that the brain is special, and either that in consequence F=Y, or that the TE is underspecified or incoherent.
- Methodological Aside: Shoemaker notes that the standard practice in this area is to test TEs against our Intuitions, which he equates to “pre-philosophical common-sense judgements”. This is supposed to be analogous to scientific investigation (as would be indicated by TEs being Thought Experiments), where theories are checked against “the facts”. However, Shoemakers account of our Intuitions makes them sound like prejudices, and not at all like the data with which science deals. A (philosophical) theory is judged successful in accord with how many of our intuitions it can account for. But how reliable are these intuitions, especially in unusual situations? This is a standard objection to TEs54 generally.
- Three objections to the BC
- The Brain is Special: The argument goes that while we can transplant55 livers and such-like, the brain56 is not just another organ. The reasons given may seem to presuppose the PV57, and lead on to the Brain-Based PC (see later). The reasons are that the brain preserves my memories and psychology, and while my liver might keep me alive – I could make do with “any old” set of vital organs (even mechanical ones) – the same isn’t true of “my” brain. The psychology in the brain is the “me” that’s being preserved by vital organs.
- Maybe this is a case of survival without what matters58. Ie. the body that survives with the transplanted brain59 (F) is X, but X doesn’t have what matters60 to her in survival; she lacks the psychological factors just rehearsed.
- But, we still need to consider the status of Y’s brain and its psychology. It continues to exist (lodged in X’s body) and (we suppose) continues to experience a first person perspective61 as Y (if out of context). Is it supposed to be part of X? Would the FPP62 really be continuous? All the usual questions.
- Sometime I need to look through "Popper (Karl) & Eccles (John) - The Self and Its Brain" (and "Eccles (John) - Evolution of the Brain, Creation of the Self"), however wearying, in case Popper or Eccles had anything useful to say on the possibility of a particular brain being important (but not essential) to the maintenance of self.
- Dicephalus63: Shoemaker quotes the familiar case of Abigail and Brittany Hensel, conjoined64 twins65 that share all organs below the waist, but not above, and (while having two spinal cords) have “nervous systems that are interconnected and partially shared” which “allows them to coordinate their activities fairly well”, including being able to play the piano. Shoemaker thinks that it’s obvious that there is only one body, but two persons. This is taken as a knock-down argument against the BC, though not, it seems, against the Biological View66, which is discussed in the next chapter (see "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern").
- For other discussions on this topic, see my Note on Dicephalus67 (and see "Blatti (Stephan) - Animalism, Dicephalus, and Borderline Cases"). Shoemaker gives a link which now fails. There are multiple references on the web – eg. Wikipedia: Abigail and Brittany Hensel.
- I agree with Shoemaker that there are two persons. However, I disagree that there is one body. There are two bodies that share parts. Not sure if there are “normal” examples of this – maybe plants68 that share a root system?
- Parfit’s69 Vagueness Objections: just how much body is required for identity-preservation? Shoemaker imagines a body being “pared down” bit by bit, and asks precisely how much has to remain before identity ceases. He says there has to be a limit, but thinks it ludicrous that “a few cells” could make the difference between identity and non-identity, life and death.
- This is an objection to the real existence of bodies as such, and not just as a criterion of (personal) identity. Also, presumably Shoemaker’s suggestion of percentages presuppose all parts of the body are equally important, and that we can start paring away at any place we feel like.
- There have been arguments along Sorites-lines70 against the existence of bodies (and many other things) – for instance "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings" and "Unger (Peter) - I Do Not Exist".
- But things like organisms may have a more principled set of existence-criteria (ie. they either work or they don’t); but there are other problems. For instance, organisms on life-support are still organisms … aren’t they – Olson may deny this?
- Can’t the same argument be fired at any criterion of identity71? For instance to the PC – just how much of my psychology can I lose before I’m no longer me.
- Maybe we just don’t have identity, but the ancestral of a similar72 relation? I think this is suggested by some philosophers – but I can’t remember who.
- Shoemaker equates identity / non-identity with life / death, but these are very different concepts. Only organisms can live or die; the concept is applied to non-organisms only by analogy.
- The Sorites73 argument – when applied to both body and psychology – seems to apply to the process of senescence that most of us will go through, and raises the question of whether we go out of existence before we die. We don’t assume this.
- Shoemaker seems to muddle together epistemological and metaphysical objections – he complains that the BC (in the paring-down case) would mean that we’d never know whether a person had survived or not, because (given they might be deluded) we can’t take their work for it. But, this
This has come up before, and reflects the practical concerns driving this project.
- applies to all criteria and
- doesn’t affect what is actually the case.
- In all, I think that objections to BC (even if not Shoemaker’s) are sound. Most current Animalists74 reject the BC.
- What does "Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities" have to say on the BC? Note that bodies are not the same things as animals, or organisms.
- Brain-based Memory Criterion - BBMC: This is effectively MC2, but with the stipulation that the “right” cause is sameness of brain. It is also (as Shoemaker points out) the “hardware” analogue of MC1-3, which are “software” based.
- Advantages: Shoemaker correctly notes that the BBMC has the following advantages:-
- It gives an answer in accord with our intuitions in the Julia case. F=Y.
- It avoids the duplication75 objections (subject to my amendment below), though at the cost of making resurrection impossible.
- It gives the right answer in the Dicephalus76 case.
- Shoemaker’s Objections: However, Shoemaker finds the BBMC objectionable for the following reasons:-
- Teletransportation77 (TT): Shoemaker gives a brief account of the “information transfer” rather than “disassembly and re-assembly” variant. His point is just that if we take TT as a fast way of travel rather than death and duplication78, then we don’t accept the BBMC. True, but so what? Can we really trust our intuitions in a TE as far from our normal experience as TT?
- Brain Rejuvenation: This is another TE, which Shoemaker recognises as a terrestrial equivalent of the “Divine Duplication”79 case. The situation is that you have an ailing brain, and an organic, but repaired, exact copy of your brain is manufactured and substituted for your own brain (the ailment is described as vascular, with no explicit psychological impact). According to Shoemaker, there is a dilemma: either you admit that you survive with the new brain or you don’t. If you admit to survival, you’ve given up the BBMC. But if you deny that you’ve survived, then you’ve effectively given up on the memory-based identity that motivated the BBMC in the first place. The reason is that there was an “insight” that (allegedly) moved us away from a substance-based criterion of personal identity to a relational criterion: that when you awake, you don’t need to check a substance (body or soul) to re-identify yourself – you “just know” based on your memories, and these over-ride evidence to the contrary (as in the Kafka Metamorphosis80 case). By insisting on identity of a particular brain, you’re choosing a substance, when (it is said) you already have everything you want, psychologically. Shoemaker adds a further TE to this one: your brain is supposed to have been duplicated81, and your brain is removed and sat next to the clone82. But then an accident happens – both brains fall on the floor and get muddled up, so no-one knows which is which. And there can never be enlightenment on the matter – whichever brain is implanted, the recipient will feel the same, though in one case (according to BBMC) identity is preserved, with genuine memories, while in the other it isn’t and the memories are delusions. This is said to be “mysterious” and to detract from the “lustre” of the BBMC.
- Duplication83: Given that the BBMC is motivated by reduplication objections84, we probably need a non-branching condition as in MC3, given the well-known TE of fission by idempotent half-brain transplants85. Shoemaker doesn’t mention this possibility. Follow up under Fission86, and my general thoughts on Brains87 and Transplants88.
- Brain Rejuvenation: This doesn’t seem to take seriously the reason we posited the BBMC in the first place – which was to get round the “Divine Duplication”89 objection. This raises a question about the dialectic at this point in Shoemaker’s argument. He’s introduced the BBMC as a way round reduplication90, but then introduced reduplication91 himself. The idea is presumably that the BBMC is no defence to the reduplication objections92, because, he thinks, the duplicate93 brain, given that we hold a MC at all, would have such a strong claim to be me that we’d have to admit the dilemma that Shoemaker introduced above.
- Resurrection: The BBMC is said to rule out resurrection – but why more so than any other form of PID? I think the issue is that resurrection can be viewed (as in the New Testament itself) as something like a change of clothes. Identity is grounded in some non-corporeal way, and that incorporeal thing “has” a body. The BBMC is no more in difficulties in this respect than the BC, but is still in trouble, as it doesn’t seem possible that the resurrection-body’s brain is identical to the pre-mortem body’s brain. So, if it’s the physical brain that grounds identity, then we don’t have it in the case of resurrection. Now, there are a couple of wheezes on offer that try to get round this issue. One is Van Inwagen’s divine body-snatching suggestion, previously remarked upon (see "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection"). Then there is "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from 'Is There a Mind-Body Problem?'" (Click here for Note). Neither of them seems promising.
- Teletransportation94: I have written extensively on this topic elsewhere (Click here for Note). Enough to say here that TT is – at least in the information transfer variant – a case of death and replication95. From Shoemaker’s perspective, it just seems a more fanciful version of the Brain Rejuvenation TE, but with the deliverances of Intuition somewhat less certain.
- The Possibility of Immortality
Three conditions are assumed – not for the possibility of immortality as such, but for its rational anticipation (= RA). In what follows, HP = “Heavenly Person” and “EP” = “Earthly Person” (= me). I pass over the assumption that the home for the blessed is heaven and not (a reconstituted) Earth:-
- Personal Identity – ie. HP = EP – is a necessary condition for RA.
- The criterion of PID that accounts for HP = EP must be free from absurdities.
- Suitable Mechanisms are critical for RI.
- Denying the Conditions
Any of these three assumptions can be denied, and Shoemaker considers doing so, though not in the order below:-
- Identity: Can we do without it? It fails for BC, BBMC and for non-substance MC. SC fails condition 3. Are there alternatives? Shoemaker rehearses the Brain Transplant96 TE (as discussed under the head of the BC) and for the sake of the argument, assumes that F=X, ie. I don’t “go with my brain”. Even if I accept this premise, should I still go ahead with the brain transplant97 in the hypothetical circumstances envisaged? There are two variants:-
- You (and everyone else) are ignorant of the metaphysics. It looks like you’ve “gone with your brain”, you thought you’d “be transplanted98”, the brain recipient thinks she’s you, as does everyone else. Everyone’s happy … so what’s the problem?
- You know what’s going on metaphysically-speaking, and you know you don’t survive – but do you have any reason to care less for the survivor (F) than for yourself? Can we anticipate the experience of HP in the same way we anticipate our future self (with non-identity?). Shoemaker thinks this suggestion is too radical to accept until we have exhausted the alternatives (ie. the Psychological Criterion99 and the Biological criterion100) in the next Chapter ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern"). He will return to the question in Chapter 3 ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches").
- Absurdities: Can we live with these? Shoemaker notes that MC2 & MC3, while improving on MC1 in (it is said) providing for genuine memories, are still open to the Divine Duplication101 objection. Shoemaker thinks that we cannot just ignore this difficulty. If we insist on condition 1 (identity) then we cannot have absurdities – two “non-identical” things supposedly identical because of the transitivity condition.
- Mechanisms: Do we need one? Even though the SC metaphysically-speaking provides a mechanism for survival, it doesn’t provide for RA, because there’s no way we can know that we have the same soul, as we can’t track them. But we could give up this condition and adopt the SC anyway. But, Shoemaker thinks, this would involve abandoning all our usual forensic102 uses of identity. Because we need re-identification for pronouncements of guilt, ownership and such-like, and we can’t have re-identification on the SC account of PID, the SC is no use to us.
- Identity: Are there any options with non-standard identity logics? Maybe - Click here for Note for a discussion of the Logic of Identity103, but we need to beware that we don’t stray off topic into Exact Similarity104. Otherwise, we have to hold fire until completing Chapter 3 ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches").
- If we’re talking about physical things (BC, BBMC), we might fall back on Perdurantism105 to avoid absurdity. But, for MCs, is there a perdurantist106 analogue? For instance, multiple co-located personalities? But, what would this mean? Just what are “personalities” – are they universals107 or particulars? If the former, are they located anywhere?
- Shoemaker rejects out of hand bodily resurrection as identity-preserving, but doesn’t consider the suggestions of Chisholm or Van Inwagen. Are these ideas absurd, or just silly – and so not really providing for RA? Does "Nagel (Thomas) - The Absurd" have anything to say on these distinctions?
- Mechanisms: I think we might have RA under the SC of PID – say if God had explicitly told us this is how it works. So, while we couldn’t do the tracking, we could trust him to do it. Also, Shoemaker makes two assumptions here (it seems to me). Firstly, that Ethics is prior to Metaphysics (when it should be the other way round). If the SC is correct, then we need to adjust our ethics to suit. Secondly, maybe things aren’t that bad in any event. Maybe we can’t be sure of identity of soul – but we could make the simplifying assumption that souls don’t hop around capriciously, and act on this basis. This is what Locke does when he has to admit that by his criterion we might be inappropriately punishing the genuinely amnesiac drunk. We have to punish, lest he be dissimulating. We have to act that way as no other practice is open to us. Yet we trust God to sort out the mess in eternity (see "Locke (John) - Of Identity and Diversity" - Click here for Note, section on Amnesia).
I may be unfair to Shoemaker in alleging that he holds Ethics to be prior to Metaphysics. He seems to deny this (in his final Chapter - "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics - Conclusion: Notes on Method" - though there he says that Personal Identity is prior to Ethics, which may not be quite the same thing), but doesn’t seem (to me) to stick rigidly to his own guidelines.
- Works Cited:-
- Outstanding Tasks108:
"Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern"
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 2
For the meaning of any abbreviations in what follows Click here for Note. My comments in general appear as footnotes at the bottom of the page.
- Introduction: Rational anticipation of future goods (or ills) appears to presuppose numerical identity1 (NI). Similarly, self-concern differs in kind from concern for others – Shoemaker gives the usual “being tortured in the morning” example – and again, self-concern seems to presuppose NI. So, we need to try harder to find a criterion, as SC, BC, MC & BBMC have all failed. Most contemporary philosophers support one of the two following:-
- The Psychological Criterion2 (PC)
- The Biological Criterion3 (BioC).
- The Psychological Criterion4
- PC: X at T1 is the same person as Y at T2 iff Y is uniquely psychologically continuous with X.
- Motivation: this recognises the advantage of MC, while sorting (if only by stipulation) the duplication5 problems. It also correctly widens “memory” to include other psychological attributes This both allows for bouts of amnesia and takes into account the following four relations:-
- Present-past: Y’s memories of the acts and experiences of X.
- Present-future: X has an intention that Y carries out.
- Persistence: X’s beliefs, desires and goals are had by Y.
- Resemblance: X and Y have similar characters.
- Continuity: PC refers to psychological continuity, and Shoemaker makes the same distinction between continuity and connectedness6 that I’ve noted elsewhere (Click here for Note). If X and Y share the above four relations to some degree, they are psychologically connected to that degree. We can imagine all sorts of degrees of connectedness7, including zero. This means that psychological connectedness8 is as hopeless a criterion of PID as was memory – because of the failure of transitivity – as in Reid’s Brave Officer case considered under MC1 in "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Immortality". So, we need overlapping chains of psychological connections9
- Strong Connectedness10: Shoemaker is worried that some psychological connections are too weak to count. He gives the dubious example of a memory-trace transplant11 that we’ve seen in the previous chapter – though his purpose is just to use this as an example of “minimal psychological connectedness”12. So, how much connectedness13 is enough? It’s unclear – 100% is enough, but isn’t necessary. But the epithet Strong Connectedness14 reflects the achievement of the threshold, whatever it is. He quotes "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons", p. 206, where Parfit15 claims that it’s implausible to specify a threshold, but that we might take 50% of the normal day-to-day connections as sufficient. As Shoemaker notes, this is plucked out of the air16.
- Psychological Continuity17 : is what is needed – loosely defined as the concatenation of overlapping strongly-connected stages. Strong Connectedness18 itself is no use as an identity criterion19, as it is in general non-transitive. This agrees with our intuition that the 80-year-old is identical to the 10-year-old, despite minimal psychological connectedness20, because there is a continuous stream21 of psychology connecting the two.
- Uniqueness: Shoemaker just notes that the uniqueness clause in PC is a stipulation, introduced as in MC3 to avoid some absurdities. But it itself seems absurd, in that it makes my identity dependent on someone else’s existence, in the duplication22 cases. A radical response is the IDM (Identity Doesn’t Matter) approach, but consideration of this is reserved until the next chapter ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches"). For now Shoemaker thinks we must live with this absurdity as at least it’s better than the SC and BBMC (unmotivated), and less absurd than BC. It’s also well-motivated, as it accounts for RA – for how can I rationally anticipate some future state with which I’m not psychologically continuous23?
- Wide and Narrow Criteria: of psychological continuity24; depending on the cause of the continuity.
- On the Narrow Criterion, we require the normal (brain-based) cause.
- On the Wide Criterion, any psychology-preserving cause will do, provided the psychological continuity25 is unique26.
- Advantages of the PC
- Rational Anticipation: is accommodated well (as is self-concern). Without psychological connection to a future person, why should I care about his fate? The PC – by tying identity to psychology – has it that the future person is both me, and has my psychology, so it makes good sense for me to be prudentially concerned with his welfare.
- Resurrection: makes sense on the Wide Criterion of the PC. You, on the PC account, would survive the death of your body if psychological continuity27 is uniquely preserved.
- Self-identification: is performed using psychological criteria28. We don’t check we have woken up in the same body, or have the same soul. Shoemaker notes that people can be deluded as to their identities (in “Napoleon”, or duplication29 cases), but in general the PC is a reliable indicator.
- Disadvantages of the PC
- The Method of Cases Problem – Intuition Reliability: our intuitions in the various TEs that try to prise apart body and psychology are that “we go where our psychologies go” But, we’re asked to imagine cases that could not happen (based on our current knowledge and skill). So, how are we to trust our intuitions? And things are no better if we try to imagine these cases happening for beings for which they could happen. In neither case can we draw “enlightening and stable” philosophical conclusions. Shoemaker thinks this response overblown. We (presumably) share concepts and values with those to whom the TEs are actual, so what’s the problem? They only differ in technology, and would have the same rational anticipation as we do.
- The Method of Cases Problem – Contradictory Intuitions: Shoemaker rehearses the well-known case in "Williams (Bernard) - The Self and the Future" where different descriptions of what is exactly the same situation give contradictory intuitions. Does this invalidate all TEs? Shoemaker thinks not, as the Williams case may be a one-off, or nearly so. But, he also suggests that even if we can’t rely on TEs30, the PC doesn’t depend just on TEs, but has other advantages31.
- The Essence Problem: Shoemaker considers this – the most troublesome problem facing the PC. It starts from the question What are we32?. This leads on to kinds, in particular to …
- Basic Kinds: we belong to lots of kinds … from parents to human animals33 to philosophers to persons to … but the question is what we are34 essentially, and this is our basic kind35, which defines our necessary identity conditions (Click here for Note on persistence criteria, a related term). Shoemaker rehearses the different persistence criteria36 of statues37 and lumps of bronze (though does not draw the conclusion that there’s such a thing as contingent identity as does the well-known statue/clay38 paper "Gibbard (Allan) - Contingent Identity").
- So, what are we39? The answer given by supporters of the PC is that we are essentially persons and our persistence criteria40 are psychological. Shoemaker quotes the famous Lockean definition. Shoemaker notes that this Lockean use of the term person is as something of a term of art, in that it pulls apart the notions of “person” and “human being”, which are often conflated in popular diction. In Locke’s terms, a human being might not be a person if the appropriate psychological factors fail. But this leads to problems:-
- The Fetus41 Problem: Since (early term) fetuses don’t have the appropriate psychology, I couldn’t have been one if I’m essentially a person. But,
- doesn’t it make sense to say – looking at an old sonogram – “that’s me”?
- if you had fetal alcohol syndrome, wouldn’t it make sense to say that you had been damaged in utero?. So,
- “just as … I existed prior to being an adult, so … I existed prior to being a person42.”.
- The PVS43 Problem: If I suffer a brain-injury and enter a PVS, then according to the PC, I would cease to exist – since I’m essentially a person, and those in PVSs44, lacking any psychology, are not persons. But wouldn’t my hospital visitors be visiting me? The being in the PVS45 would seem to be the same human animal46 as me, at any rate.
- The Person / Animal Problem: The human animal47 and the person are not temporally co-extensive, and this leads to two problems, effectively a dilemma:-
- On the assumption that there’s only one substance present at a time, what happens to the non-person at the temporal termini of the person? Shoemaker (for good reason) denies that it dies or disappears when the person arises, or that it’s born or pops into existence when the person ceases. Birth and death don’t work that way (they are biological terms) and things just don’t pop in and out of existence (as far as we know).
- The alternative is that there are two partially temporally and spatially overlapping substances. Then, during the period of existence of the person, there are two co-located things present. Shoemaker contents himself with saying that this seems a little odd48.
- The Biological Criterion49: We are essentially human animals50, and personhood is (like adulthood) a stage certain special animals go through. So:-
- BioC: if X is a person at T1, and Y exists at T2, then X=Y iff Y’s biological organism is identical to X’s biological organism.
- Three Points: Shoemaker points out three aspects of the BioC:-
- Non-persons: It’s no longer assumed that both X and Y are persons. This represents a departure from the previous attempts at developing identity criteria52 for persons53.
- Biological Continuity54: the BioC cashes out as continuity of biological organisms, which in turn (says Shoemaker) cashes out in terms of inheritance of life-sustaining functions or, alternatively, of tracking a biological organism uniquely through space-time.
- Organisms, not Bodies: the BioC is not at all the same as the BC. Following Olson (in "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology", no page reference), Shoemaker sees two objections to bodies as such. Just what is meant by a human body?
Both of these proposals are open to objections and counter-examples:-
- It is what we can feel and directly move.
- It is that to which any of your temporal or spatial attributes really apply.
- At least three objections:-
→ Paralysed people have bodies;
→ We cannot move internal organs, which are still body-parts;
→ We directly move implements and prosthetics.
- The objection is that this proposal assumes (says Shoemaker) what is in question – that I am my body – because it assigns all my physical and spatio-temporal attributes to my body. But (says Shoemaker) some deny that I am my body – in which case we have two possessors of these attributes – me and my body. By denying this, the second attempt to clarify what is meant by “body” fails as well.
- Three advantages56 of the BioC over the PC:
- Provides a more plausible account of our essence: Because I and “my” animal are one and the same thing, the BioC makes good sense of saying that I – whose current phase is a person – was once a fetus57 and may be in a PVS58.
- Provides a tight and direct connection between the metaphysical and epistemological criteria of identity: I can’t see psychologies59 or souls, but I can see the human animal60.
- Is broader, in that it provides PCs for human non-persons: Shoemaker’s example is that of an anencephalic infant – which he describes in a footnote as “ … lacking a major portion of the brain … The lack of a forebrain means that the child will be permanently without any conscious functions”. Now, I dare say this is debatable – are no animals without forebrains conscious? Just where is conscious experience “generated61”? Either way, isn’t the issue that it’s not phenomenal consciousness that’s definitive of the person, but self-consciousness62 – and this is probably lacking from perfectly normal infants. So, the BioC allows me to say that I was once an infant, which is not really open to the supporter of the PC (though it is to the supporter of the SC).
- Problems for the BioC:
- The Conjoined63 Twins64 Case: Shoemaker thinks it’s obvious that in the Hensel dicephalus case that we have two persons in one body – and, more to the point here – one human organism65. DeGrazia’s view (in "DeGrazia (David) - Human Identity and Bioethics"), says Shoemaker, is that we have two overlapping organisms as they mostly have separate organs. Shoemaker’s view is that all this is too quick. He admits that there are cases of conjoined66 twins67 – eg. the original Siamese Twins68 (Eng and Chang Bunker – see Wikipedia: Chang and Eng Bunker) – where it is natural to think that we do have two human animals69 joined by a band of flesh. But, in the case of the dicephalus70, the twins71 have a single skin, various shared vital organs, and if one were to die, the death of the other would shortly follow72. Shoemaker takes this fact to imply that they are a single organism.
Shoemaker presses this thought by considering (hypothetical) cases even more conjoined73 than the Hensel twins74, eg.
- Where there is one body and two heads: in this case, taking separate cardio-pulmonary systems as individuative of organisms (which works for the Hensels) would fail and
- Shared body and brain-stem, but two cerebra and faces: there would be a single autonomic control centre, but two streams of consciousness.
Shoemaker says that DeGrazia – an animalist76 – claims this latter case (ii) is an analogue of MPD77 – ie. there is a single organism but two streams of consciousness. Shoemaker rejects this response, on the grounds that in MPD the streams of consciousness are cut off from one another. But whatever our view on this score, his main objection is that the motivation for saying that the Hensel twins78 are two individuals – that they disagree about things and are otherwise independent – would (ex hypothesi) be true in the case of case (2); so, if DeGrazia is willing to agree that the Hensel twins79 are two persons and two individuals (human animals80) he should have the same view in case (2) – but it is hard to argue that the extreme case of conjoint twins81 really does represent two almost overlapping animals (which is why DeGrazia tries to wriggle out of the problem by introducing the MPD82 analogy).
- The Corpse83 Problem: There’s physical continuity84 between me and my dead body – but what is my relationship to it? There are three alternatives, says Shoemaker:-
- I will be that corpse85: Shoemaker thinks this “wildly implausible” – though admits that some have held this view. His reason is that, at death, the presumption is that “we are no more”, and that this is what mourning is all about. He sees incoherence86 if we were still there, as a corpse87.
- My “corpse-to-be”88 has existed all the while alongside me: Shoemaker thinks this is both “creepy” and that it undermines the main motivation for animalism89 – on not having two things of different kinds co-located (ie. persons and animals – or in this case, animals and “corpses-to-be”)90. So, does Baker – and Olson, though Olson gets out of the bind by denying that this is a sensible option, instead preferring …
- My corpse91 comes into existence at my death: This is Shoemaker’s “best bet” (and rightly so) – because the persistence conditions92 of a human animal93 and a corpse94 are so different, why are they not different things? But he’s worried by the vagueness of death – just when do I cease to exist and my corpse95 start to exist? He’s worried96 by this for two reasons:
- it’s worrying that we can’t tell the demarcation between two such distinct entities and
- if we’re reduced to a stipulation, how can this have an ontological impact?
- The Transplant97 Intuition: Animalism98 seems to give the wrong99 answer – in that the recipient of the cerebrum transplant100 is (said to be) the same animal as prior to the graft – but now confused as to its identity.
- The Prudential Concerns Problem: The assumption has been that identity is a necessary condition for rational anticipation and prudential self-concern (and I agree) – but is it a sufficient condition? Not for the animalist101, for though I am identical to the unfortunate in the PVS102, there’s nothing to anticipate. The animalist103 can respond by simply denying the sufficiency condition – but we still have a distinction between what is rationally required and what is permissible. I’m permitted104 to anticipate the experiences of my senile old self, but not required105 to do so (says Shoemaker); but it’s not permitted for me to anticipate anything from a PVS106.
- Summary: PC vs BioC
Criterion / Considerations
1. “Intuition pump” science fiction cases
3. Rational Anticipation
1. Our Essence
2. Third-person identification
3. Identity conditions of human non-persons
1. Method of Cases problem
2. The Essence Problem:-
2. Corpse110 Problem
3. Transplant111 Intuition
4. Rational Anticipation
- Who wins?:
- Shoemaker thinks the game is undecided. We can’t count bullets and declare the PC the winner, as the Essence Problem is the most serious issue. BC’s failure on the issue of Rational Anticipation might be deemed irrelevant if we’re more interested in metaphysics than practical concerns.
- So, it’s pretty much a draw, and it’s unclear how to make progress. Shoemaker seems three possibilities:-
- Look in detail at the defences each side provides to counter the objections. Since each side has lots of smart advocates, we can’t expect a resolution any time soon112.
- See how the rival theories perform when stressed by various moral concerns, such as abortion113, advance directives, moral responsibility and compensation – a job for Part 2 of the book.
- See if there are radical alternatives – the job of the next chapter ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches").
- Works Cited:-
- Outstanding Tasks114:
In-Page Footnotes ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern")
- Why is Shoemaker focused on connectedness? I suppose “overlapping chains of strong psychological connections” just is a definition of psychological continuity, so continuity has to be cashed out in terms of connectedness.
- So, … isn’t continuity just the ancestral of connectedness, so we have the full psychological analogue of MC1a … and then of the other MC tweaks to circumvent duplication?
- And it’s not even clear what it means, in my view.
- This seems to me to be related to Baker’s FPP, sameness of which she takes to be constitutive of PI.
- In the text on which the above comment is based, Shoemaker says “connected” – which might be intended, but then makes the PC false in the non-transitivity cases where connectedness fails.
- This uniqueness condition is a symptom of the problem with the PC, at least in its wide form.
- Since there’s nothing to stop duplication – and only the logical possibility of duplication is required – then identity can never be preserved (if we insist that one thing’s existence cannot be affected by the mere existence of another thing: see, eg., "Noonan (Harold) - The Only X and Y Principle").
- Shoemaker’s rejection of the objections to TEs is all a bit quick and glib, given the extensive literature on the subject.
- I need to follow up on this (Click here for Note).
- Only the self-reidentification factor, as far as I could see, though maybe also it motivates rational concern for the future).
Footnote 41: Footnote 42:
- Shoemaker has a footnote to the effect that the assumption that each “concrete object” that exists belongs most fundamentally to one and only one fundamental kind that provides the object’s diachronic identity conditions can be challenged. He asks us to bear in mind that (maybe)
- Some objects may not have a fundamental essence, and
- An object’s essence may not provide the identity conditions that matter.
- This final comment from Shoemaker motivates my thought that persons are phase sortals of human beings (or of other appropriately psychologically-endowed beings).
- Shoemaker doesn’t explain the oddness.
- The explanation would presumably develop into Olson’s TA argument for animalism.
- There are too many thinkers present (as both the animal and the person think).
- Note that the temporal priority of T1 and T2 is unspecified. So, the individual need only be a person at one of the temporal termini, it being unspecified which.
- Also, I would note that the way the BioC is specified implies that X and Y have biological organisms, rather than are them. This may just be an infelicity of expression, and what is intended by “X’s biological organism” is “the biological organism that is X". If this is supposed to be an animalist position, I’d have thought it ought to be specified something like the following:-
- BioC-A: if X is a person at T1, and Y exists at T2, then X=Y iff the biological organism that is Y is identical to the biological organism that is X.
Footnote 54: Footnote 55:
- If neither X nor Y was a person, then the question of personal identity would not arise, though it is, of course (assuming the psychological requirements of personhood) possible that a human animal – with its admitted biological identity criteria – might never be a person.
- The first attempt is an obvious non-starter, but I really don’t understand the second objection.
- I have a vague recollection that P.F. Strawson divided predicates up somewhat like this (in "Strawson (Peter) - Persons" from "Strawson (Peter) - Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics") – into p- (personal) and m- (material)? So, I can’t see why ascribing all my physical and spatio-temporal attributes to my body says anything about whether or not I am (identical to) my body.
- But there are better objections to the existence of bodies (as distinct from organisms), as their persistence conditions are much less clear. An organism has an organising principle whereby it metabolises food and carries on its vital functions. It has (it is said) clear – if vague – spatio-temporal boundaries. The same cannot be said of organic bodies (unless they are considered as organisms). I need to follow up Olson’s and others accounts of bodies, the issue of mereological essentialism, and such-like. But for these purposes, I’m happy to admit that organisms is a better bet for what we are than bodies.
- Another advantage not owned by Shoemaker is that it makes our PCs more in line with those of the higher mammals, and the great apes in particular (on the assumption that the latter aren’t quite persons).
- This seems to ignore the counter-examples such as “X isn’t the same person any more” (though this reflects only a change of personality the animalist will counter).
Footnote 65: Footnote 72:
- In "Penrose (Roger) - The Emperor's New Mind" (Where is the seat of consciousness? – p. 492), Penrose claims that it’s the reticular formation at the top of the brain-stem that is the seat of consciousness. No doubt there are more authoritative sources.
- At least Wikipedia (Wikipedia: Reticular formation) agrees that it’s “one of the phylogenetically oldest portions of the brain” (Penrose seems to think he’s being radical by supposing that animals might be conscious – though he has doubts about fish). It also states that “The reticular formation has projections to the thalamus and cerebral cortex that allow it to exert some control over which sensory signals reach the cerebrum and come to our conscious attention. It plays a central role in states of consciousness like alertness and sleep. Injury to the reticular formation can result in irreversible coma.”
- From this it’s unclear whether the RF is the seat of consciousness, or the gateway to it.
- Because of their linked circulatory systems, Eng died soon after Chang (though he could have undertaken emergency surgery and been separated and maybe survived, but refused).
- I still don’t see why the “overlapping” idea won’t work – especially if we’re attracted to Lewis’s idea of completely overlapping temporal stages belonging to future-fissioning or past-fused organisms.
- Also, it’s not certain that case (ii) would have two centres of consciousness (and thereby be two persons) – though presumably this is an empirical matter.
- While there are good reasons to think that I am not my corpse, Shoemaker’s reasons are not they.
- Firstly, mourning takes place even amongst people who think the dead still exist – as disembodied spirits, say – though only the Carthusians sincerely rejoice at a funeral.
- And the issue is not presence or absence, but loss of interaction – corpses don’t interact much, and don’t even have the remote possibility of revival, as have those in a PVS.
- What’s the answer to this? Is it a pseudo-problem? And, just what is the impact on animalism?
- I need to consider this case under TEs, and Transplants, and in particular Brain Transplants.
- Currently, my view is that the intuition should be denied.
- It may be a similar situation to the “forward psychological continuity” problem – where it is the graft-recipient whose consciousness continues, though in a confused state.
- But it’s an empirical matter, though one that would be forever undecided (since even the first-person perspective cannot be trusted – and if the transplantor’s consciousness doesn’t persist, no-one can tell us).
- But if I deny the sufficiency condition, why should I be convinced by this analogy?
- The point seems to be that we’re looking for a criterion of personal identity that (amongst other things) allows for anticipation of future states, and animalism fails the latter test.
- Shoemaker is right that something “extra” of a psychological nature is required for anticipation – so we need both identity and an appropriate psychology. What’s wrong with that?
- I think the situation is muddled somewhat by calling animalism a theory of personal identity (in deference to the history of the philosophical problem) when in fact it’s a theory of our identity.
- In my view, I am (rationally) required to do so, because we share the same FPP.
- I dare say the limits of my rational concern will be for the physical well-being of that person, not for his particular likes and dislikes, which I may not be able to anticipate. Also, I may rationally discount – in the sense of give less weight to – my concern on the grounds that that person may not exist (ie. if I die young).
- But surely we might as well give up on philosophy if we adopt this attitude?
- This “digging deeper” approach is, in any case, the route I intend to take with my Thesis, in arbitrating between Olson and Baker.
"Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches"
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 3
- Narrative Identity1
- 4 points is favour / by way of explanation
- Evaluation of the Narrative Identity2 Alternative
- Evaluation of the IDM View
"Shoemaker (David) - Moral Issues at the Beginning of Life, Part I: Killing"
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 4
- Moral Status Arguments
- The Future-Like-Ours Argument
- Human Embryonic2 Stem-Cell Research
- "DeGrazia (David) - Human Identity and Bioethics"
- Holland, Suzanne; Lebacqz, Karen; and Zoloth, Laurie, eds. The Human embryonic3 Stem Cell Debate: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001.
- Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day (Vatican). Available on the web at Vatican - Instruction on Respect for Human Life .
- "Marquis (Don) - Why Abortion is Immoral"
- "McMahan (Jeff) - The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life"
- Noonan, John T. "An Almost Absolute Value in History." In The Morality of Abortion4; Legal and Historical Perspectives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,1970.
- "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons"
- Peters, Ted. "Embryonic5 Stem Cells and the Theology of Dignity." In Holland, et al.
- "Shoemaker (David) - Embryos, Souls, and the Fourth Dimension"
- Thomson, James A. "Human Embryonic6 Stem Cells." In Holland, et al.
"Shoemaker (David) - Moral Issues at the Beginning of Life, Part II: Creation"
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 5
- Genetic Intervention
- Prenatal Genetic Therapy: Pre-conception Cases
- Prenatal Genetic Therapy: Post-conception Cases
- Postnatal Genetic Therapy
- Other Sorts of Genetic and Biological Interference
- Wrongful Life and Population Ethics
"Shoemaker (David) - Moral Issues at the End of Life"
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 6
- Advance Directives
- The Death of Multiple Personalities
- "Buchanan (Allen) - Advance Directives and the Personal Identity Problem"
- "DeGrazia (David) - Human Identity and Bioethics"
- "Dennett (Daniel) - Conditions of Personhood"
- Dresser, Rebecca. "Life, Death, and Incompetent Patients: Conceptual Infirmities and Hidden Values in the Law." Arizona Law Review 28 (1986): 373-405.
- "Jaworska (Agnieszka) - Respecting the Margins of Agency: Alzheimer's Patients and the Capacity to Value"
- "Lizza (John) - Multiple Personality and Personal Identity Revisited"
- Luttrell, Steven, and Sommerville, Ann. "Limiting Risks by Curtailing Rights: A Response to Dr. Ryan." Journal of Medical Ethics 22 (1996): 100-04.
- "McMahan (Jeff) - The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life"
- "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons"
- Prince, Morton. The Dissociation of a Personality. London: Longmans, Green, 1906. Reprinted in 1968 in New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation.
- "Radden (Jennifer) - Divided Minds and Successive Selves: Ethical Issues in Disorders of Identity and Personality"
- Ryan, Christopher James. "Betting Your Life: An Argument Against Certain Advance Directives." Journal of Medical Ethics 22 (1996): 95-99.
- "Wilkes (Kathleen) - Multiple Personality and Personal Identity"
- "Wilkes (Kathleen) - Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments"
"Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Moral Responsibility"
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 7
- Moral Responsibility
- Locke on Identity and Responsibility: Person as a forensic1 term
- The Biological Criterion2
- The Psychological Criterion3
- Narrative Identity4
- The IDM View
- Test Case 1: Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Test Case 2: Phil & Jen (Motivating Example 5 – Childhood Misdemeanours – from the Introduction).
- Bradford, J., and Smith, S.M. "Amnesia and Homicide: The Padola Case and a Study of Thirty Cases." Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 7 (1979): 219-31.
- "DeGrazia (David) - Human Identity and Bioethics"
- Fischer, John Martin, ed. Moral Responsibility. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.
- Frankfurt, Harry. The Importance of What We Care About. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
- "Locke (John) - Of Identity and Diversity"
- "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons"
- "Parfit (Derek) - Comments"
- "Radden (Jennifer) - Divided Minds and Successive Selves: Ethical Issues in Disorders of Identity and Personality"
- "Schechtman (Marya) - The Constitution of Selves"
- "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Persons and Their Pasts"
- Watson, Gary. Agency and Answerability. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
"Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethical Theory"
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 8
- Reductionism and Utilitarianism
- Rawls’ Impartial Spectator
- Morally Significant Metaphysical Units (MSMUs)
- Momentary Experiencers, or Person-Atoms
- Reductionism and Alternative Ethical Theories
- Interpersonal Connectedness1
- Interpersonal Continuity
- Rational Egoism
- Practical Commitments and Personal Identity
- The Practical Standpoint
- The Subject of Experiences
- The Theoretical Standpoint
"Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics - Conclusion: Notes on Method"
Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Conclusion
For the meaning of any abbreviations in what follows → Click here for Note
- Introduction: Shoemaker states that his aim in the book has not been to propound one theory of the relation of Personal Identity to Ethics is being the correct one, but to set out the various stalls as a foundation for further study on the part of the reader. But, there are questions of methodology that need to be considered. Shoemaker identifies three:-
→ 1. The priority of Personal Identity over Ethics
→ 2. Theoretical or Practical Motivation
→ 3. Which are the motivating practical concerns?
These cascade on from one another, and represent further decisions based on earlier bifurcations.
- Motivation – Theoretical or Practical?: Even for those who take Metaphysics as prior to Ethics, there’s a further bifurcation.
- Theoretical Motivation: Persons are simply an interesting special case of the identity conditions of objects generally. There’s no necessary connection for those of this motivation between Personal Identity and Ethics. There will be a tendency to assimilate the identity conditions of persons to those of other objects – or at least other organisms – hence the attraction of the Biological Criterion3 for those with this motivation.
- Practical Motivation: The driver for investigating questions of Personal Identity is our practical concerns, for instance agency (because we need to know that we are punishing (say) the right agent). Note that this motivation is different from giving Ethics priority over metaphysics. Those motivated by practical concerns will tend to favour Psychological Criteria4 (or Narrative Identity5, or IDM (= “Identity Doesn’t Matter”)), as our practical concerns are with psychology. Hence, they will think that the PCs or Persons differ greatly from those of animals.
- Each of the opposing views does well in some respects and badly in others. The BV does well on Essence – what we are6 – but badly on rational anticipation – we don’t get what we want out of persistence, or don’t persist at all. And vice versa for the PV7.
- Motivating Practical Concerns: There are motivational differences even amongst those who agree that Metaphysics is prior to Ethics, and who agree that the motivation for the investigation of the PCs of Persons is practical rather than theoretical.
- They have different starting questions, the answers to which – given the need for consistency – influence the answers to others. Eg:-
→ Moral Responsibility
→ Post-mortem survival8
→ Prudential rationality, etc.
- So, someone whose initial interest is in questions of agency, will tend to assume that all questions of personal identity must be psychology-related.
- However, someone who’s interested in compensation may not adopt this approach, because the cases involving compensation may not involve a person at all. For instance, compensation for damage in utero (when the fetus9 had no psychological properties); or compensation to an individual who has received a traumatic head injury, and who might have no psychology either (eg. if in a PVS)10. These situations prima facie require the BV for compensation to apply; then, consistency may apply the BV to all cases of practical concern.
- Note: I’m not fully convinced that this isn’t a reversal to giving priority to Ethics over Metaphysics. But it may be that the initial question so colours the philosopher’s thinking that he doesn’t consider alternatives even when the counter-examples roll in.
- Response to Methodological Differences:
- Preferably – but not popularly – the philosopher will review his methodology in the light of the conflicts that arise. Shoemaker cites the following as laudable but rare attempts at so doing:-
→ "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings"
→ "Johnston (Mark) - Human Concerns without Superlative Selves"
→ "Schechtman (Marya) - The Constitution of Selves"
- Pluralism: This allows the adoption of different approaches to the relation between Personal Identity and Ethics, depending on the case to hand. Pluralism denies a single relation.
- Note: that Pluralism is not allowing different metaphysical accounts of Personal Identity, depending on the practical context – at least I hope not – and Shoemaker agrees – as this would lead to contradiction. This is a pluralist account of the relation between PI and E, not a pluralist account of PI.
- What Shoemaker proposes is that the question “is X at t1 identical to Y at t2” might have different answers depending on the descriptions under which X and Y fall. These descriptions would depend on the practical concern being addressed. The context Shoemaker is discussing involve the cases where either the BV or PV11 give the intuitive practical account, depending on the case at hand. So, the descriptions he has in mind are “Agent” and “Biological Individual” (or maybe “Human Being12” or “Human Animal13”).
- Note: We need to be very careful that we don’t fall into the incoherence of Relative Identity14. We probably have to distinguish between Persons and Human Beings as falling under different Sortals15 – which would allow two individuals to be co-located); or else to deny that Person (or Agent) is a substance-concept at all.
- Shoemaker admits the Pluralist approach doesn’t resolve conflict – rather it dissolves it, in that there was never any real conflict in the first place.
- Conclusion: Recognising where we are with respect to these assumptions enables disagreements to be clarified and understood. Shoemaker asks whether we have to make a single choice, or whether adopting the pluralist “horses for courses” approach might not be liberating.
- Other Works Cited:-
- Outstanding Tasks16:
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2023
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)