Authors Citing this Book: Snowdon (Paul)
Amazon Book Description
- The starting point for this book is a particular answer to a question that grips many of us: what kind of thing are we? The particular answer is that we are animals (of a certain sort) – a view nowadays called 'animalism'. This answer will appear obvious to many but on the whole philosophers have rejected it.
- Paul F. Snowdon proposes, contrary to that attitude, that there are strong reasons to believe animalism and that when properly analysed the objections against it that philosophers have given are not convincing. One way to put the idea is that we should not think of ourselves as things that need psychological states or capacities to exist, any more that other animals do.
- The initial chapters analyse the content and general philosophical implications of animalism – including the so-called problem of personal identity, and that of the unity of consciousness – and they provide a framework which categorises the standard philosophical objections.
- Snowdon then argues that animalism is consistent with a perfectly plausible account of the central notion of a 'person', and he criticises the accounts offered by John Locke and by David Wiggins of that notion.
- In the two next chapters Snowdon argues that there are very strong reasons to think animalism is true, and proposes some central claims about animal which are relevant to the argument.
- In the rest of the book the task is to formulate and to persuade the reader of the lack of cogency of the standard philosophical objections, including the conviction that it is possible for the animal that I would be if animalism were true to continue in existence after I have ceased to exist, and the argument that it is possible for us to remain in existence even when the animal has ceased to exist.
- In considering these types of objections the views of various philosophers, including Nagel, Shoemaker, Johnston, Wilkes, and Olson, are also explored.
- Snowdon concludes that animalism represents a highly commonsensical and defensible way of thinking about ourselves, and that its rejection by philosophers rests on the tendency when doing philosophy to mistake fantasy for reality.
OUP Oxford (9 Oct. 2014)
"Olson (Eric) - Review of P. Snowdon, Persons, Animals, Ourselves"
Source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2015.06.31
- Paul Snowdon is a gentle, nonconfrontational philosopher. He doesn't try to show that our views are incoherent, or to change our minds with powerful arguments, or to frighten us in any other way. His approach is to show that our deepest convictions fit better with simple and homely views than with their more exciting rivals, however fashionable they may be. He wants to talk us calmly down from the high ledge to something safe and sensible. His thinking is conservative in the best sense of the word: calm, cautious, and distrustful of radical departures from what we thought before we took up philosophy. It's a refreshing change from the usual literature on personal identity.
- Snowdon's book is a defense of "animalism", the view that you and I are animals. Most philosophers see animalism not as safe and sensible but as a daring innovation, strongly opposed to our ordinary beliefs and supported only by difficult metaphysical arguments. Snowdon thinks this is the opposite of the truth. He sets difficult metaphysics aside and tries to show that, for the most part, our ordinary thinking favors animalism.
- He begins (after three rather slow preliminary chapters) by arguing that animalism is "the default position". It is overwhelmingly how things appear on the face of it. There certainly are human animals. Each of us appears to have the shape and size and physical properties of such an animal. And we think of ourselves as animals, albeit special ones. We rarely think of ourselves as nonanimals. (There is evidence that we have an innate tendency to believe in life after death. But to believe that we have life after death is not to deny that we are animals. The two claims may even be compatible.) Snowdon infers from this that we are entitled to believe without argument that we are animals, much as we are entitled to believe without argument that time is real and that there are material things independent of our perception of them. By contrast, we are not entitled to believe without argument that we are nonanimals.
- We might wonder whether there is such a thing as the default position here. There must be philosophical claims that we are entitled to accept without argument -- otherwise we should never be entitled to accept any such claim as a premise -- and animalism is a strong candidate for being one. But might not some rival to animalism have the same status? It used to be alleged that atheism was the default position on the question of God's existence: you can deny theism without doing any work, but affirming it requires positive evidence. Since then, many philosophers have argued that theism, too, can be accepted without positive evidence. Whatever the strength of those arguments, we no longer hear that atheism is the default position, and "the presumption of atheism" has been relegated to the dusty shelves of the library basement. But if there is not obviously a unique default position on the existence of God, why must there be a default position on what we are?
- Yet Snowdon's claim is quite plausible. Consider the main alternatives to animalism. We might be immaterial substances. We might be bundles of mental events -- that is, immaterial nonsubstances. We might be spatial or temporal parts of animals: brains, perhaps, or temporal parts of brains. Or we might be nonanimals made of the same matter as animals and physically identical to them, but with different modal properties. There are arguments for each of these views. But could we be entitled to accept one of them without argument because that is how things appear before the arguments are given? Compared to these, animalism is gray and respectable -- boring, almost. Its reputation for being tough-minded and revisionist is due only to the fact that professional philosophers have been led away from it by complex arguments. It looks like the candidate to beat.
- If animalism really is the default position, the main question is whether the arguments against it are strong enough to overturn the presumption in its favor. Most of the book is devoted to showing that they are not. The most common of these arguments try to show that animalism has unacceptable consequences in "puzzle cases": stories where animalism and its rivals give different verdicts on who is who. What Snowdon does best, and does better than anyone else, is think about these cases in a vivid and realistic way that makes the usual discussions of them look shallow.
- For instance, it is commonly argued that we are essentially people (or persons) in something like Locke's sense: we could not exist without being rational and able to think about ourselves as persisting through time. Since no animal is essentially a person in this sense, it would follow that we are not animals: we should have a property that no animal has, namely being a Lockean person essentially.
- Why think we have this property? The usual answer is that permanently losing those mental capacities that make you a person looks like the end of you. Snowdon has us think again. Imagine your reaction if a parent or grandparent got a bad case of senile dementia. You might reasonably wonder whether she would get any benefit from a visit. But would you decline to go on the grounds that no inmate of the nursing home was any relation of yours? Would you say that you had been unable to see your relative because she wasn't there? If she were in agony, would it be the same as if an elderly patient unrelated to you were in agony?
- Or consider that parents of disabled children who never attain Lockean personhood don't think of them as belonging to a different category of thing from their normal children. And if some new treatment could enable them to acquire normal mental capacities, everyone would see this as a wonderful thing for those children. Yet according to the anti-animalist argument, the new treatment could not possibly benefit them, but could only bring new children into existence. For that matter, we all think of ourselves as having once been in our mother's womb. Lockean personhood appears to be a property we acquire, and thus not one that we have essentially.
- Another frequent claim is that multiple-personality disorder can "fracture" someone into a number of new people, none of which is the original. The animal would then outlive the person. Since nothing could outlive itself, it would follow that none of us is an animal. Snowdon again imagines this happening to a loved one. "Is there really any appeal at all," he asks, "in thinking that the person who means so much to you is literally no longer there, rather than so obviously there and suffering?" (153).
- The best-known objection to animalism imagines your brain transplanted into my head, so that the resulting being has your memories and other psychological features and not mine. The orthodox view is that he would clearly be you -- as he would think he was. Yet the operation would not move an animal from your head to mine, but simply deprive it of an organ. So you, but not the animal, are such that you would go with your brain if it were transplanted. Since this would hold for all of us, it would follow once again that none of us were animals.
- In this case Snowdon does not try to show that careful reflection on the story is consistent with animalism. He argues only that the "transplant intuition" is less certain than it's taken to be. Suppose you had an illness that would kill you unless your brain was replaced with a healthy donated organ. This would of course destroy your memories and cognitive skills. It may not be clear whether you could survive such a thing. But it's not obvious that you couldn't survive it either. Maybe the operation could save your life, though at great cost. And it makes little difference if we suppose that the new brain comes with memories from the donor. But if it's not obvious that the brain recipient would not be you, then it's not obvious that it would be the donor, and thus not obvious that a person must go with her transplanted brain.
- The discussion of cases like these is the most successful part of the book, and there is much to learn from it. But in the attempt to reassure us, Snowdon goes on to make the bold claim that animalism fits well with almost any general metaphysical view. This includes temporal-parts and constitution views, generally seen as antithetical to animalism. Snowdon wants to be ecumenical and welcome all metaphysical faiths into his tent: this is another example of his nonconfrontational style. In fact he is attracted to the view that each ordinary material thing is "constituted by" another thing physically identical to it but with different modal properties. He says little about this, but it's an important point.
- It would mean that we each now share our matter with a lump of flesh that is not an organism, just as a clay statue coincides with a lump of clay that is not a statue. Most constitutionalists take this to imply that a human animal coincides with a third thing as well, one that is a Lockean person essentially and would go with its transplanted brain. It would have all the mental properties that the animal has (as would the lump, if the mental supervenes on the physical). This is the very problem of "too many thinkers" that animalism is usually taken to avoid. This apparent virtue is the basis of the most common argument for animalism: the animal thinks, but I'm not one of two thinkers here; so I must be the animal. Snowdon's ecumenicalism deprives him of this reasoning and forces him to fight on his enemies' territory, by wrangling over puzzle cases.
- Snowdon is more or less unique among animalists in granting the existence of the beings that their opponents take us to be. He happily concedes that each of us shares our thoughts with at least one nonanimal, and probably more. How am I to know that I'm the thinking animal, and not the thinking lump of flesh or the essential Lockean person? Mustn't all but one of those beings be mistaken about what they are? How do I know I'm not one of them? Snowdon's answer is that when the essential Lockean person or one of the others thinks or speaks in the first person, it does not refer to itself, but rather to the animal coinciding with it. Since I am trivially the being I refer to when I say or think "I", this enables me to know that I am the animal rather than one of the other thinkers of my thoughts.
- This is the opposite of what animalism's opponents say: they claim that the animal's first-person thoughts (if it can think at all) refer not to itself, but to the essential Lockean person. This is because they take our attitudes to the puzzle cases to reflect the conviction that we are essentially Lockean people and that we should go with our transplanted brains. And it is these attitudes, they say, that determine the reference of first-person thought and the personal pronouns. Snowdon accepts that these attitudes determine the reference, but thinks they reflect the conviction that we are animals rather than essential Lockean people.
- Here I think he overstates his case. I doubt whether our attitudes to the puzzle cases are precise or consistent enough to fix our "personal" reference to any unique sort of candidate. If there really are many different beings thinking our thoughts, and the reference of those thoughts really is determined by our attitudes, this reference is likely to be indeterminate. Sometimes, at least, our thoughts will not definitely refer to an animal, but not definitely refer to a nonanimal either, but refer ambiguously to both.
- So if we ask what we are -- that is, what we refer to when we say "I" -- there will be no definite answer. We're not definitely animals, yet not definitely not animals either. This is not because any single being is neither definitely an animal nor definitely not an animal, but because the personal pronouns are indeterminate in their reference: they "sort of" refer to things that are definitely animals, and "sort of" refer to things that are definitely not animals. Likewise, it will be indeterminate what would happen to me if my brain were transplanted. Again, this is not because the fate of any single being would be indeterminate, but because of semantic indeterminacy: one of the beings my question sort of refers to would go with the brain, and another would stay behind with an empty head. It follows that neither animalism nor its negation is definitely true. Snowdon's ecumenicalism appears to make the debate between animalism and its rivals a stalemate -- not because the arguments are equally strong, but because both views are equally correct.
- Even if there is no indeterminacy of reference and animalism is true for Snowdon's reasons, this will be a less important fact than most of us thought it was. Snowdon's ecumenicalism makes the question of whether we are animals a purely semantic one. Both animalists and their opponents can agree about the metaphysical facts: the existence, mental properties, persistence conditions, and modal properties of human animals and of the various beings coinciding with them. They disagree only about which of these things our words and thoughts refer to. It's hard to see how these semantic facts could have any ethical significance, or why we should care much what they are.
- Few parties to the personal-identity debates will find this cheering. Even those who dislike metaphysics and are suspicious of the debates will be happy only until they realize that the important question now is whether the constitution view or the ontology of temporal parts or the like is true -- that is, whether there really are nonanimals thinking our thoughts. Snowdon's desire to please everyone puts him at risk of pleasing no one.
"Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves: Preface"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Preface
- This book, or at least a version of it, should have been published much earlier, but my own hesitations and work habits have resulted in a delay, which I regret. However, delay in publishing philosophy does not rank with delay in letting the world know about, say, a miracle breakthrough in medicine, and so, although regretful, I refuse to feel too downcast about lost time. I do, though, regret that even with the delay it is not a better or more complete treatment of the problems than it has turned out to be.
- There are many people, some indeed now dead, who have, over the years, influenced my thinking about these issues and whom I wish to thank here. They include Michael R. Ayers, Stefan Berglund, Stephan Blatti, Quassim Cassam, David Charles, Brian Garrett, Alexander Geddes, Grant Gillett, Christopher Kirwan, Mark Leon, Marie McGinn, David Mackie, Rory Madden, C.B. Martin, Michael G.F. Martin, Naci Mehmet, Roger Melin, Lucy O'Brien, Eric Olson, Michael Otsuka, Derek Parfit, Christopher Peacocke, Ingmar Persson, Paul Robinson, Arthur Schipper, Peter Strawson, Richard Swinburne, David Wiggins, Kathleen Wilkes, and Hong Yu Wong.
- I want especially to thank David Mackie, Stephan Blatti, and Rory Madden, each of whom, at some point, engaged with my ideas, offered me new ones, and sustained my commitments to the project. Recently Stephan's encouragement has been especially helpful. Some of the people I have to thank were, when I was in contact with them, students, some colleagues, and some colleagues with whom I gave seminars on these matters. I have also learnt more than this book will make obvious from the writings of Mark Johnston, Sydney Shoemaker, and Harold Noonan. There are, I am sure, also many others I should have acknowledged but whom I have failed to recollect here and now. I apologize to them!
- I am also extremely grateful to Peter Momtchiloff, and the group of advisers he assembled that gave me feedback, for their help, and particularly for his messages of urgency and support. I want especially to thank Eleanor Collins, Elmandi du Toit, and Subramaniam Vengatakrishnan for their help and care in preparing the text.
- I wish to thank three animals2 who have to some extent let me into their lives and illuminated my sense of the nature of animal life — they are Topsy, Molly, and Jama.
- Finally, I wish to thank my family, Katzi my wife and Victoria and Nicholas my children, for their support and love over many years. That has meant more to me than I can say. This book is dedicated with love to my wife Katzi who has been the centre of my life and from whom I have received unmerited levels of support and from whom I have learnt more about persons (and animals) than from anyone else.
In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves: Preface")
Footnote 2: This is important. I’ve learnt a lot from Henry the dog.
- I don’t usually bother with prefaces that are just lists of acknowledgements, but I think it will be useful to me to have a ready set of links to the various influences on Paul Snowdon.
- It will also indicate those of whom I know nothing.
"Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves: Introduction"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Introduction
- One of the fundamental purposes of this book is to provide a critique of a certain mode or style of philosophical thinking about ourselves. It is, therefore, in part an essay in critical (or, perhaps, as one might call it, destructive) metaphysics. The style of thinking that is its target is not one which leads to, or incorporates, dualist conceptions of ourselves, theories according to which we are, or perhaps are partly composed of, non-material souls, spirits or, what are sometimes called, 'metaphysical2 egos'. This is a style of thinking that has had a long place in philosophy (and also in religious thought). To criticize it and to search for a well-founded alternative is, I think, a task that is clearly valuable, but this book does not aim to carry out that task. Rather, I take it as a warranted assumption from the very beginning that in thinking about ourselves we must do so without postulating such non-material entities. I assume that both because it seems true to me, but also because it seems true to most3 philosophers nowadays4. The way of thinking that is the target here can, and does, occur in thinkers who acknowledge, or sense, no attraction in such dualism.
- The style of thinking it is my aim to uproot can be given an initial characterization in terms of two features. In fact this characterization is slightly restrictive in a way that I shall shortly indicate, but it is close enough to start with and even without the modification covers almost all versions of the idea that currently tempt people.
- The first feature is that according to it we have a conception of ourselves as entities which must have some positive psychological features to exist. This is vague and highly general, but one particular version would be the claim that we cannot exist unless we are capable of remembering our past. In this version the loss of memory is equivalent to the loss of existence. That is, however, only one candidate version5. It needs to be borne in mind, too, that what I am calling the 'mental feature' that is regarded as essential to us might be highly complex and conditional.
- The second feature of the view is that the claim that we are essentially possessors of psychological features is not reached by finding, or thinking that one has found, empirical evidence that we cannot, in fact, exist without such features. Rather, it is regarded as in some way having an a priori status. Thus, the conception has such a status that it supposedly enables us to judge of described cases, on the basis of thought alone, whether or not the people described at the beginning in them continue to exist after various imagined changes. Again, this is, of course, a vague characterization.
- I intend this characterization to apply to the vast majority of modem thinkers about personal identity, including, for example, and despite their many differences, Baker, Garrett, Grice, John Mackie, McMahan, Nagel, Noonan, Parfit, Shoemaker, Unger, and many others6. Amazingly, Locke's discussion of personal identity written in the seventeenth century is a clear, explicit, and brilliant exposition of this way of thinking.
- In this introduction, and from time to time in the book, I shall call this, vaguely characterized, approach 'mentalism7'. (I am, though, far from wanting to recommend this use of that name generally, but it has a certain utility for me in this essay.) Mentalism can be divided into two varieties. According to the first variety we, persons, essentially possess certain mental features. Descartes thought that we are essentially thinking things, but others think, for a variety of reasons, that we are essentially capable of self-consciousness8, or that we are essentially capable of consciousness9. The essential mental condition might be a complex (and conditional) one.
I aim to make a case for thinking that both variants of mentalism are quite without support or plausibility. This is the right point to add the complication that I hinted at earlier. One type of mentalism might deny that mental characteristics are essential to our existence, and that mental links are essential too, but hold, in a minimal way, that in certain conditions we can survive over time solely in virtue of the presence of mental links (or in virtue of mental links plus some physical links well short of those required for animal persistence). When certain philosophers in the 1960s proposed the slogan that the criteria of personal identity are multiple it may be that they wanted to incorporate this possibility. The term 'mentalism' should be understood as covering this idea. I should, though, note a restriction relating to my discussion of mentalism. There will be no discussion of some standard pro-mentalist arguments, including, for example, those of Descartes. The ones I aim to counter are those which emerge in, roughly, a more recent tradition of debate concerning personal identity and the unity of consciousness.
- Thus one view might be that the essential feature is that if we are conscious then our conscious states must possess what might be called strong unity. According to such views these mental features represent conditions for our existence.
- According to the second variety of such views for a person to exist over time there must be certain psychological links across time. Such views hold that personal existence over time can be partly or completely analysed in terms of such relations. This second version provides an analysis which, as one might say, enables us to trace ourselves over time in the light of psychological data. The first version merely issues in nonexistence verdicts.
- To deny the correctness of what I am calling 'mentalism' is not to imply that the psychological (or mental) aspects of our existence are not what confer value on our lives10. Nor is it to deny that we have the sorts of lives we have only because we possess the psychological features we do possess. Nor is it to deny that characteristically and naturally we do possess mental properties. It is, rather, to deny that these psychological features define or partially define our existence conditions.
- Now, an apparently crucial commitment of the mentalist approach is that we need to distinguish between ourselves, the persons, and the human animals present where we are. This is (or seems to be) a consequence in virtue of two things.
This means that the style of thinking under attack endorses what is sometimes called the 'animal/person', or, in an earlier way of speaking, the 'man/person', distinction. If this is right then to endorse the claim that the animal and the person are one and the same thing is to commit oneself to something the mentalist mode of thinking must oppose. So my opposition to this way of thinking proceeds by claiming that the proposition that I am identical to an animal is true, and by exploring, and attempting to undermine, the reasons offered to believe it false. To defend this involves countering the reasons on which the mentalist tradition is currently based.
- The first is that it seems fairly obvious that it is not a condition for these animals to exist that they possess psychological capacities or states. Awful things can happen to animals to deprive them of their psychological capacities. Mentalism does not apply to animals, even human animals.
- The second is an elementary piece of logic that says that if A cannot continue to exist in circumstance C, whereas B can continue to exist in those circumstances, then A and B cannot actually be the same thing. If A is B then either it will be able to exist in C or not.
- The claim that each of us is identical to an animal I call 'animalism'. However, in order not to bore the reader I designate that thesis (or theses that are equivalent to it) in other ways in the course of the discussion.
- Since the style of thinking about ourselves which is my target is, or seems to be, committed to the animal/person distinction, to deny that distinction and affirm animalism involves criticizing that mode of thinking. However, affirming animalism is not simply equivalent to denying mentalism. It is obviously possible to affirm that there is an animal/person distinction for other reasons. I do not mean that it is obvious what those reasons might be, but it is obvious that someone might think that there are such reasons. Affirming animalism, therefore, also involves articulating and confronting any other suggested reasons. To defend as well as I am able to the positive claim that there is an identity between each of us and a (human) animal is the second fundamental aim of the book. This book is, therefore, in part an essay in constructive metaphysics11.
- If one is attacking a way of thinking which is, and has been, popular, there is a strong temptation to search for explanations as to its attractiveness. Unfortunately, the type of explanations that philosophers have tended to offer for what they see as mistaken but attractive modes of thought, in terms of, for example, the bewitchment of intelligence by language or mistaken ideals of reasoning, are either too unspecific or simply prompt further questions. The truth is that we do not, as yet, understand, in enough detail, the dynamics of human (philosophical) thought to give such explanations with confidence. It can be said, though, that the way of thinking in question is made possible by our possession of a distinctive first-personal way of referring to ourselves, whereby we can focus on and advance theories about those objects that we are without knowing what sorts of things the objects are. As to why philosophical theorizing has tended to converge on what I am arguing is a mistaken view I shall myself offer some, unconfident, speculations in the course of the argument.
- Stepping far back from the details of the argument, both the destructive and the constructive claims rest on three major lines of thought.
- First, mentalists and anti-animalists urge the plausibility of their views on the basis of verdicts about described cases which they think are convincing and support their attitude. Looking at these case by case I argue that the verdicts are simply not plausible, but are, rather, fantastical and insubstantial, and lack any grounding in a psychologically realistic description of what our reactions to such cases would be. It is, of course, impossible to scrutinize all the cases that philosophers have based their arguments on, but I hope that the way some of them are discussed here will indicate how to respond to others that are not discussed.
- Second, I argue that animalism has the status of the default view, to be accepted unless there are convincing arguments against it. Together with the first claim we get strong support for animalism.
- Third, once it is granted that there is a psychologically endowed animal in the same place that we ourselves occupy it is very hard to claim that the entities are distinct. I suggest that patterns of argument based on this difficulty have application in different ways and in relation to different cases.
- Current metaphysics is marked by extreme disputes over a number of issues which are relevant to the present discussion. For example (and this is just one example), is it possible for two, non-identical, objects to exist at a time occupying exactly the same area? As it is sometimes expressed: are coincident objects possible? Now, standardly, the mentalist way of thinking commits itself to the possibility of coincident objects, and so denying that possibility creates difficulties for the view12. However, what is, in my opinion, most striking about these abstract metaphysical disputes is that, despite the manifest strength of conviction of the different sides, they are remarkably hard to settle. My aim, therefore, is, as far as possible, to remain neutral, in the development of my case, about these so-called 'big' metaphysical issues. In my view, it is actually easier to see and to bring out the problems in the mentalist way of thinking under attack than it is to determine the truth about, for example, the possibility of coincidence13. A goal of the argument to be developed in this book is, therefore, to be as non-committal about such metaphysical debates as possible. I hope that at the cost of some excitement there may be a gain in solidity and plausibility. The purpose of this monograph is, as one might say, to uproot one metaphysical prejudice without relying on other metaphysical prejudices. I hope, too, that this approach will counteract a tendency in some recent philosophical discussions of personal identity which is to argue for a general approach to the problem in a rather brief way, in, as it were, short order, and then to spend colossal intellectual energy devising a metaphysical structure to sustain it and to render it consistent with other preferred metaphysical commitments. What needs particular attention is, rather, the basis for the choice of general approach14.
- The aim then is, by looking at it direct, to paint mentalism in its unattractive colours, and to display the contrasting attractions of animalism.
In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves: Introduction")
Footnote 1: See the note at the end of the page for the colour conventions to determine which footnotes are mine, and which are Snowdon’s.
Footnote 2: I assume these are the same as “Cartesian Egos”: Click here for Note.
Footnote 3: Footnote 4: The kind of anti-dualism that I assume throughout is, I hope, not too strong. It is an assumption that enables me to ignore certain conceptions of ourselves. The assumption also impinges on the discussion in that I assume that cognitive and psychological processes have to be grounded in processes that are physically real. The notion of being grounded in is weaker than that of being exhaustively realized by or identical with. I do not wish to deny that the mental and the physical are related in some such stronger way, but I am not relying on the (controversial) assumption that they are.
Footnote 5: This particular suggestion, hardly attractive on first encounter, is quite close to what Locke himself thought.
- When I name proponents of mentalism who are alive, I do not mean to imply that they currently hold such a view, merely that, at some time, they did.
Footnote 8: Footnote 9: Amusingly, Locke provided a devastating response to Cartesian mentalism, while proposing a different version of his own.
- This – roughly speaking – equates to what is normally referred to as the Psychological View (Click here for Note).
- However, if also includes other views that give priority to psychological factors – for instance, Baker’s Constitution View (Click here for Note), because of her focus on the FPP (Click here for Note) and the Brain View (Click here for Note, including – it seems – the view of Johnston [and latterly Parfit] that we are [in a special sense] Human Beings – Click here for Note).
Footnote 10: To react to a sense of the importance and value for us of our mental lives by incorporating reference to them in our existence conditions is like, if I may be allowed an absurd conceit, a piece of cheese which valued above all the result when it was attached to a biscuit failing to recognize that it was a distinct thing from a biscuit or from a biscuit/cheese complex!
Footnote 11: Note that neither sort of metaphysics that I am engaged in here corresponds to the two types famously distinguished by "Strawson (Peter) - Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics" (1959), the descriptive and the revisionary.
Footnote 12: This claim is central to the animalist arguments of both Michael Ayers and Eric Olson.
Footnote 13: In the past there was a tendency to base one's system on a prior theory of meaning, say verificationism, but supporters of alternative systems merely inferred that the theory of meaning was false. Currently, certain metaphysical claims seem to be offered as playing the probative role, But again opponents merely infer their falsity.
Footnote 14: If I were writing here about the practice of philosophy, rather than, as I am doing, engaging in it, I would recommend above all the secure grounding of general proposals, so that, as a subject, it does not become a misplaced exercise of extraordinary ingenuity.
"Snowdon (Paul) - Animalism"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 1
- Philosophy tends to present itself, or, at least, it tends to be presented, as a group of problems or questions. To each of these problems a range of alternative solutions also presents itself, and the task of the philosopher is seen as deciding which of the solutions is correct. The different problems often have names; the problem of other minds, the problem of free will, the problem of personal identity, the problem of perception, and so on. There is, of course, in the general tendency just described, nothing to criticize, but two comments can be made. The first is that there is, or at least seems to be, another way of setting up a philosophical debate, and that is to start, not with a general question (and a choice between answers), but with a proposition, or claim, the truth value of which is to be decided. That is the approach adopted here. The second comment is that a question (or problem) often rests on significant assumptions, and sometimes the best response to a question is not to answer it (or to set about answering it), but rather to reject, or criticize, it as resting on a mistaken or dubious assumption1. The named problem most closely linked to the discussion here is that of personal identity, and I shall suggest that a somewhat more critical attitude to that problem than is usual would be in order.
- The contrast just sketched, between starting a philosophical discussion with a question and starting it with a proposition to be assessed, is not, however, quite accurate. The problem with it is that even in the second case there is also, at the outset, a question, namely the question whether the specified proposition is true. A more accurate description of the contrast is, therefore, that it is between starting a philosophical discussion with a question of this sort — is it true that P? — and starting it with a question of another sort — for example, how do I know that there are other minds? There is nothing wrong with starting in either way2.
- Animalism (A3) and Its Significance
- Philosophical Reactions: Alleged Dissociations
- 2.1 [A & not-P] Cases4
- 2.2 [P & not-A] Cases
- Non-Dissociation Arguments
- Another Source of Scepticism
- Another Reaction
- Animalism (A) and Some Distinguishable Propositions
- My aim, in this chapter, has been
- to pin down, to some extent, (A), the central proposition to be discussed, and hint at its philosophical importance,
- to demarcate the main sorts of objections to it, and
- to distinguish it from some closely related general claims.
- The next task is to relate (A) more fully to the philosophical problems with which it is connected and to articulate the conception of those problems which is assumed here.
In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Animalism")
Footnote 1: The classic example of such a question is, of course, have you stopped beating your wife?
Footnote 2: Starting with a question about the truth of a proposition as opposed to starting with a standard question definitive of a named problem might sometimes have a liberating effect. Considering the truth of the proposition might lead one to move across the boundaries around standard problems, a result which can be fruitful.
Footnote 3: Each of us is identical with, is one and the same thing as, an animal.
Footnote 4: Snowdon has a footnote to the effect that here “A” does not stand for the Animalism thesis: rather, this section deals with (alleged) cases where a human animal (A) is not a person (P).
"Snowdon (Paul) - Animalism and Some Philosophical Problems"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 2
- I have tried so far to motivate philosophical interest in assessing (A), to distinguish it from some related propositions, and to categorize different supposed possibilities which are taken to create problems for thinking that (A) is true. My aim in this chapter is to pick out a number of important ongoing philosophical questions and to explain what the relation is between these problems and proposition (A). I want also to explain, to some extent, what my own conception of these problems is. The four main problems to which I shall attend here are those of
- personal identity,
- the unity of consciousness,
- principles governing content ascriptions, and
- the mind/body problem.
- The principal issue in relating (A) to these problems is to decide which answers to, or views about, the different problems are consistent with holding that (A) is true. In the present chapter this cannot be determined in full detail, but some aspects can be sketched. This task is, of course, particularly important in relation to problems where there is, currently, a tendency to accept answers incompatible with (A). Where that is so the problem and the grounds for favouring these answers will need close attention. Of the four areas or problems I have mentioned I think that there is no widespread tendency in dealing with the mind/body problem to favour answers incompatible with (A). If so, interesting though it is, the mind/body problem need not be of central focus. It is though in relation to the problems of personal identity and of the unity of consciousness that there is, I believe, a widespread tendency to adopt answers that are incompatible with (A), or at least incompatible with (A) given certain assumptions which have some claim to count as fairly obviously true. The grounds for these preferences need to be scrutinized. What is essential is that we do not build into our initial understanding of the problems any assumptions which predispose us to favour answers incompatible with (A) and which, when assessed, are by no means dearly true. That is why some explanation of the nature of these problems is important at this stage.
- With these guiding aims in mind I want to turn first to the problem of personal identity.
- The Problem of Personal Identity
- Personal Identity and Identity
- Personal Identity: Is It a Conceptual Issue?
- Personal Identity: Some Further Assumptions
- Animals and the Problem
- The Main Options
- Other Options
- Personal Identity and Animalism (A)
- The Concept of a Subject of Experience
- Propositional Attitude Ascription
- The Mind/Body Problem
- I have been concerned to argue that there are three problems or issues for which the assessment of (A) has crucial implications. I have stressed, too, that we must not simply make assumptions about these issues, and how they are to be posed, that rule out answers to them that are consistent with (A). On the contrary, we should, I argue, rely on the plausibility of (A) to guide our answers to these questions.
- It is not a commitment of the present analysis that there are no other issues that consideration of (A) has implications for. Thus, it would not be implausible to suggest that there are issues in the theory of value and ethics for which the assessment of (A) might have implications1.
- I have restricted myself to the questions in, roughly, metaphysics with which (A) has links. I want, though, in the next chapter, to begin the task of getting straight about the truth of (A) by focusing on a notion of central importance in considering it, that of a person.
In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Animalism and Some Philosophical Problems")
"Snowdon (Paul) - Animals and Persons"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 3
- The fundamental question is what our attitude should be to (A1). When we bring this issue into the orbit of the term 'person' the problem that arises is whether we can give an accurate account which is consistent with the acceptability of (A) of what it is to be a person and of the role in our thought of that notion. It should be said straight away that this question might not be a totally accurate one, for it assumes that there is such a notion as the notion of a person. It might be, though, that the term 'person' is ambiguous, or used in different ways, ways which also contrast in degrees of precision. We have to be alive, throughout the discussion, to that possibility. Still, until I am forced not to, I shall talk in a way which assumes a uniqueness of significance for 'person2'. It also needs remarking right at the beginning that confronting so quickly and in some detail the notion of a person is justified by the manifest importance that notion has had in philosophical reflection about ourselves. This centrality is obvious, and it is exhibited in the writings of, for example, Locke, Hume, Strawson, Shoemaker, Parfit, and Wiggins. The notion tends to be central not only to our efforts to work out the fundamental theoretical truths about ourselves but also in our attempts to formulate fundamental moral principles that apply to us. We tend to formulate them in terms of what persons owe to one another. Of this centrality I here offer no explanation, nor indeed any criticism, but rather rely on it to justify the urgency of engaging with that notion.
- Why, then, might it be so much as suspected that the acceptance of (A) collides with truths about persons? If (A) is true then, given the undoubted truth of the proposition that, in the previous chapter I labelled (IP), viz., I am a person, it follows that there is something that is a person and an animal. However, staring at or scrutinizing this existential implication hardly gives any reason to reject (A), for there is nothing obviously counterintuitive to it. On the contrary, I am a human being and a person, and human beings seem to be a sort of animal, so there precisely seems to be something which is an animal and a person.
- The Double Truism Source
- Some Questions About the Notion of a Person
- Locke’s Account of a Person
- A Further Interpretive Question About Locke
- Locke’s Central Argument
- Further Lockean Arguments
- Wiggins’s Animal Attribute Theory
- The Right Animal
- Persons and Animals
- Psychological and P-Factor Animalism
- Animalism and the Person-Concept
- It would be wrong to think that a definite view of the person-concept has been strongly supported. Rather, an approach has been suggested, to some extent supported, and to some extent developed.
- My view is that once the general structure of such a position is outlined it amounts to wasted effort to try to determine the precise details. In particular, there is no real metaphysical significance in determining precisely what the content of a Lockean style person-concept is.
- The crucial claims are that
- it is not necessary that persons are animals;
- the concept of a person, if elucidated along Lockean lines, does not express an essential property of those that possess it;
- it is not, as it is said, a sortal concept.
- I suggest that we can, consistent with (A), give a perfectly plausible account of the role of the term 'person' in our language and thought.
In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Animals and Persons")
Footnote 1: Each of us is identical with, is one and the same thing as, an animal.
Footnote 2: It is sometimes pointed out that there are uses of 'person' in which collections or organizations are talked of as persons. I want to set such uses aside, and say that I am interested in ambiguities, if such there be, in uses of the term 'person' where it can certainly be said that I am a person.
"Snowdon (Paul) - Animals and Us"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 4
- I have attempted, in the previous chapter, to decide what role the term 'person', and the notion(s) it expresses, have in this debate. The conclusion, expressed in an abbreviated way, was that our task is not to explore the concept of a person. However, shall, in this chapter, sometimes, express claim (A1) using the term 'person'. I shall express it as: the person is the human animal. One advantage of speaking this way is that it avoids excessive use of the first-person pronoun (singular or plural). It does not distort the discussion, either, because it is hardly controversial that each of us is a person. There is, therefore, no threat of a change of reference or subject matter. (When there are argumentative moves where the employment of the term 'person' might seem inconsistent with the previous conclusion I shall explicitly discuss the problem.) It is, also, not, in any obvious way, a retreat from the conclusions of the previous chapter. It is clearly legitimate to employ a term even though the primary task is not considered to be the analysis of the concept it expresses.
- I want, now, to consider the fundamental question whether there are good reasons to accept (A). It is not, of course, to be expected that we can demonstratively prove that (A) is true. It might be, though, that there are aspects in its favour, and costs to rejecting it, which mean that we should abandon it only if there are very powerful arguments against it.
- It is interesting to consider why the types of arguments that I shall scrutinize are being discussed currently. The reason is that two propositions which were overlooked in the discussion of personal identity between the 1950s and the late 1970s have been rediscovered. The first is the proposition that there is an animal (a thing of that sort) where the person is. (I shall call the person 'P', and the animal 'H' (for Human).) The second proposition is that the animal H itself has psychological and mental properties. Once these propositions are articulated it is clear that there must be something to be said in favour of identifying ourselves with such creatures; it is also clear that if we are not to identify ourselves with them then their relation to us needs to be explained very carefully. When these propositions were first noticed it seemed to some people that there is no remotely plausible way to avoid accepting (A). One task, amongst others, of this chapter is to determine what the right weight is ascribe to the arguments that lead them (or perhaps I should say 'us') to think this.
- I have claimed that two propositions were overlooked. It might be asked why they were overlooked. The answer it seems to me is that philosophers were dazzled by the thought that the problem which they were considering is the problem of personal identity. They thought that it is unnecessary to consider what other objects there. So, the presence of the animal was overlooked. One illustration of how invisible the idea of animals has been to philosophers is Strawson's classic discussion of persons in Individuals2. His theme there is that persons are thought of as single two-sided entities, not as complexes of two single-sided entities. The two sides are of course, the physical (including features such as weight and shape and so on) and the mental (including such features as perceiving and acting and having sensations). But this general characterization of a single two-sided thing fits animals in general and not just persons3. So why not think of the category of animals as being the fundamental category an analysis of which is being offered? There are two observations to add. The first is that in the recent classic period of discussion of personal identity, although the presence of an animal where the person is, was largely ignored, it was, standardly, accepted that there is a body there. This, however, did not seem to the participants to create the same kind of problem, because the standard assumption was that the body was not mentally endowed. It could not, therefore, be a candidate for being the person. It rather featured in questions as to whether the person was essentially tied to the body or not. But the second point is that although the question of the relation between the person and the animal simply did not occur to people in the recent debate, that certainly does not apply to the discussion which can be ranked as creating the framework which permitted the neglect, namely that of Locke himself. What is outstanding about Locke is that a major theme in his discussion is the nature of animals and animal identity. He himself certainly did not sustain the animal/person contrast by ignoring the presence of animals.
- Two Background Assumptions
- Arguments for Identities
- Ockham’s Razor
- An Argument from Linked Unique Identities
- An Additional Argument in Favour of (A) as the Default View
- Human Beings
- Other Responses Considered
- A Remark on Dualism as Our Naïve Conception
- Some Other Questions
- Some Other Types of Arguments
- Two Sorts of Arguments
- The Objection Based on the Uniqueness Thesis
- The Psychological Objections
- Some Ways to Avoid These Arguments
- 14.1 The Extreme Denial
- 14.2 Psychological Cut-Off Strategy
- Responses That Accept the Psychological Premise
- Explanatory Arguments
- From Biology to Animalism
- I have argued that the animalist thesis is the default option, and moreover, it is paradoxical to deny it, and it, further, is implied by certain explanations we accept and for which we, and the scientific community engaged in looking for explanations, have no alternatives.
- I need to consider the reasons that have been offered for denying animalism, but before that more (though by no means everything) must be said about animals.
In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Animals and Us")
Footnote 1: Each of us is identical with, is one and the same thing as, an animal.
Footnote 2: "Strawson (Peter) - Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics".
Snowdon seems to have omitted his own works from the bibliography.
- I do not mean to endorse Strawson's way of characterizing persons as 'two-sided', which I have discussed in Snowdon (2010). The point is that it is as good a characterization of animals as of persons.
"Snowdon (Paul) - Some Questions about Animals"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 5
- The assessment of the animalist thesis, expressed here in its plural form, that we are each identical to an animal, namely, the animal where each of us is, requires that we answer some questions about the category of an animal, though by no means all the questions, and certainly not all the most important questions, that can be raised about it. It is not necessary, that is to say, to provide what might be called a complete metaphysics of animals as a kind of thing. In fact, it is far from clear what providing such a complete metaphysic would amount to. What it is necessary to do is to provide a partial theory, or characterization, of animals, filling it out in the respects that impinge on arguments for and against animalism and that concern also the philosophically interesting consequences of the thesis1. It needs stressing that the task of providing such a partial theory is not one imposed solely on the animalist. Those who endorse a person/animal distinction invariably rely on arguments that involve, or presuppose, some (theoretical) assumptions about animals. My aim, therefore, is to outline some such views that will, I hope, seem plausible to both sides2. There is, in talking here of a theory, something that is misleading. The propositions about animals that I shall articulate hardly merit the name 'theory', in that some of them are, it seems to me, more or less obvious, and, moreover, the resulting collection of propositions is fairly unsystematic. There is, surely, something rather odd in the idea that a philosopher could provide an account which merits being described as an interesting theory about animals. That is a task for those who genuinely study animals and who have therefore to confront, and whose explanatory concerns define, the important questions. The questions I shall engage with are (for the most part) simply those that concern the present enquiry.
- Animals are a sort of thing that we mark out, or have significance for us, early in our cognitive development, and they represent a sort which has a fundamental role in our thinking thereafter3. Most important, animals are a kind in the world as we encounter it and which we mark out as, that is to say, recognize as, distinctive objects. A theory of them has to be validated by what on investigation we find these distinctive objects around us to be. Now, very importantly, what has been found is that animals are evolved creatures, entities which have a place in an evolving long-term historical development. No entity outside that process can be what we mean by 'animal', however much it resembles animals4. Proposition (A), therefore, identifies us with entities in this as yet dimly perceived historical process.
- Animals are studied by biologists and we can, therefore, say that the concept of an animal, or of an organism, belongs to biology. Biology is, moreover, a subject about which there is a well-developed and extremely important tradition of philosophical discussion5. It is also a discipline where its own practitioners take such philosophical questions (or at least some of them) seriously6. In part, these philosophical discussions concern the status of biology as a so-called special science, but there are also central issues to do with organisms that have been raised.
A major need is to work out the implications for these questions of the theory of evolution. These (and other issues raised by biology) cannot, of course, be sensibly discussed by anyone ignorant of modern biological theory. Now, such questions are amongst the most important philosophy currently faces, but for the limited purposes of this book it is not necessary to solve them (or even to take a partial view on them). Of course, the working out of answers to these problems in the philosophy of biology is relevant to determining the general consequences of animalism. But most of these consequences will not provide grounds for worrying about the truth of animalism, nor will they link with the philosophical arguments being discussed here.
- What are the conditions for being an organism?
- What distinguishes a single organism from a collection of organisms?
- What are the conditions for being a sort of organism (say a dog)?
- What is the import of the classification of organisms?
- The most basic claim or assumption that is relied on here is that there is no problem about the existence of animals (or organisms). The thesis that each of us is identical to an animal cannot seriously be disputed by denying there are animals for us to be identical with. Moreover, it is also true that there is an animal where each of us is. The way to think of this is to regard the concept of an animal as introduced in the regular natural kind way to apply to such objects as cows and cats, etc., where, as introduced it may be that we are not regarded as forming part of its extension. However, and roughly, the discovery of evolution and the realization that humans form part of that evolved group and so are animals, means that we have to allow that where we are there are animals. That is, so to speak, a fundamental empirical discovery. Beyond that there is now a shared and well-established general conception of animals, and also, in particular, a shared and well-established conception of human animals. The pros and cons of animalism rely on this shared understanding. None of this means, of course, that there are no mistakes within traditional thinking about animals and their classification. There are certainly significant lacunas. There are, though, certain claims no one would, or should, be inclined to deny.
- My aim, then, in this chapter is to defend in as reasonable a way as I can, and to the degree to which it seems necessary, certain claims about the category of an animal. In fact, the relevant claims centrally concern human animals. We can ignore here the fantastic variety of other life forms. I want to divide the presentation of the claims into two parts. The first part contains what I think of as, even for philosophy, relatively uncontroversial theses, and after that there will be the part which contains the more philosophically controversial theses. It is of course controversial sometimes what is controversial, but I hope that the theses I list as uncontroversial are both uncontroversial and uncontroversially uncontroversial.
- Five Uncontroversial Theses
- Two More Controversial Theses
- Three Further Questions
- I have tried to justify the main assumptions about animals, including human animals, on which the arguments to be developed rely. These assumptions do not amount to a proper metaphysics of animals as type of thing, but the evaluation of the relevant arguments does not require such a metaphysics.
- The next task is to analyse [A&~P] cases.
In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Some Questions about Animals")
Footnote 1: Since more or less any thesis we could currently provide will be partial in the sense of being incomplete, it is truistic to say that any theory of animals will be partial. I mean, rather, that only some parts of the best present theory are relevant to this philosophical discussion.
Footnote 2: This remark is simply an application of a general point that is often forgotten. Usually at least the concept X is a concept shared between those who deny that Y's are X's and those who affirm that Y’s are X's, and neither side has a special obligation to explain what X's are. Another case is the notion of the physical, which is employed as centrally by those who deny mental states are physical as it is by those who affirm that the mental is physical. The obligation to clarify the concept is often, quite illegitimately, taken to fall on those who employ it in a positive thesis rather than a negative thesis.
Footnote 3: See Mandler, J.M (2004) The Foundations of Mind, OUP.
Footnote 4: This represents one fundamental contrast with chemical and physical natural kinds.
Footnote 5: Footnote 6: See Mayr, E (2001) What Evolution Is, NY: Basic Books.
"Snowdon (Paul) - [A & not-P] Cases: An Introduction"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 6
- In this chapter I shall both provide a general introduction to what I call '[A&~P] cases' and consider the plausibility of some of the supposed examples.
- In Chapters 7 and 8 there are more extended analyses of the two types of examples which seem to me to be the most powerful candidate examples, namely examples of what used to be called 'Multiple Personality Disorder' (MPD) and of 'split-brains'. Of these two, it is, I believe, the latter examples which are of major interest. Here, though, I want to say a little more about their supposed logic and to consider a few of them.
- I shall, also, in last part of this chapter, consider what, in Chapter 1, I called '[AO] cases'. The name '[AO]' is short for Animal Only.
- [A&~P] Cases
- General Problems for [A&~P] Cases
- Shoemaker’s Termination Case
- Some Other Termination Case
- [AO] Cases
- I have argued that there is no basis in our existing attitudes or in the facts of our development to grant the possibility of [AO] cases. Further, there are no persuasive grounds to hold that the standard psychological degenerations that our lives are prey to (nor some of the imaginative extensions of these developments), should be evaluated as [A&~P] cases. To think realistically about such cases is to think of them as things that can befall us. I am suggesting, then, that what I called in my initial enumeration in Chapter 1 'type-1 cases' really do not give any reasons to deny my identity with this (human) animal. Now, it might be felt that the rejection of such examples does not represent anything of importance, since other cases remain to consider. However, if these cases are abandoned then it is disastrous for the Lockean tradition, since it amounts to rejecting a central commitment of that view. Perhaps, though, in imagined or actual cases where developments seem to involve the emergence of a plurality of persons associated with a single human animal, which is to say type-2 and type-3 cases, we have better candidates for [A&~P] cases. If so, their status cannot be explained by endorsing the Lockean (or neo-Lockean) models of persons, central implications of which have just been rejected, but if they are accepted then some more complex conception of ourselves remains to be devised. It is to the question of the status of these other supposed examples that the next two chapters attend.
- It might seem to some that the argument in this chapter has been pushing against open doors. That is not really so. Lockeans and neo-Lockeans, because they analyse the persistence of persons in terms of memory links, and perhaps psychological links more generally, are committed to holding of the sort of scenarios considered that they merit the [A&~P] verdict. It is, I suggest, a serious problem for their conception of our nature if, on reflection, there is no strong inclination at all to accept such verdicts. If the claims in this chapter are correct they also represent a serious problem for those philosophers who are not neo-Lockeans but who propose that a capacity for consciousness is a necessary condition for the existence of a person. We seem to regard someone who has lost the capacity for consciousness as still there. The discussion in this chapter may seem rather simple but it has broad implications.
"Snowdon (Paul) - Multiple Personality Disorder"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 7
- The thought to be confronted, and I hope undermined, in this chapter is that examples of what used to be called 'Multiple Personality Disorder' (MPD) constitute good [A&~P] cases1. In its most obvious form the conviction of people who think this is that in MPD cases there is, literally and actually, a sequence of different persons (or people), and not the continuous presence of the single person which is the verdict to which animalism is committed. The discussion here is about which of these two attitudes is more securely grounded.
- This is not, however, the only possible verdict on such cases which is inconsistent with animalism. Thus, it has been thought that when the symptoms of MPD have set in there is nothing recognizable as a person present at any time thereafter. There is no room, that is to say, after the onset to count as present any entity of the kind we are. I take it that this is what has to be meant by talk of the concept of a person 'fracturing' when confronted by such examples2. This suggestion strikes me as an option that is hard to take seriously. It faces the question as to what it allows us to say there is once the condition has set in. Clearly, no one thinks that what is there lacks psychological states (of, indeed, a sophisticated kind). There is surely something with beliefs, including beliefs about its own identity, capable of complex actions and of talking with those in the vicinity. This means that we have to recognize someone who can speak, think, and act, and that means, surely, that there is a person. Having conceded that, talk of 'splitting' seems to reduce to holding that there are so many persons that counting them is difficult, and that seems hardly to contrast with the 'many persons' verdict. I propose, therefore, not to pursue this response any further.
- The employment of such cases as a basis to reject animalism dates back at least to Locke. Thus, he says; 'Could we suppose two distinct incommunicable consciousnesses acting on the same body, the one constantly by day, the other by night... I ask, in the first case whether the day- and the night-man would not be two as distinct persons as Socrates and Plato3? Locke clearly appreciated the appeal of revisionary verdicts in these cases and saw them as supporting his opposition to (A).
- It is, though, worth drawing attention to two dubious aspects of Locke's own presentation of such cases.
We should, therefore, refuse Locke's invitation to assume that we really understand his way of speaking. To assume that we do understand it means that we have already swallowed the idea that there are involved in these cases entities of a distinct kind whose persistence we can understand and which are distinct from human beings. Locke's description of them, therefore, does not have the right degree of neutrality.
- The first is that Locke is drawn to describe the case in an odd way. He talks of the day-man and the night-man, but one of his main points is that talk of the 'man' picks out one thing, the human animal there throughout, whereas there are two persons. We might see this as evidence that even Locke in his linguistic practice cannot completely escape the temptation to equate person and man.
- More significant, though, is Locke's talk of 'incommunicable consciousnesses' which 'act on' a body. To talk this way is to assume that 'consciousness' can be a singular term standing for particular entities of a certain kind. Thus, on Locke's way of speaking we can refer to one consciousness that is in control and present at t and another one, something of the same kind (a consciousness) only a distinct individual instance, that is later present and in control. It seems, however, that we do not employ 'consciousness' as a singular term in this way. We do not say that, and would not ask whether, the consciousness that is currently in me (or acting on me) is the same consciousness that was in me yesterday. We do not treat consciousnesses as distinct persisting entities, to which we are capable of referring. Rather, when we employ the term 'consciousness', the noun, we are talking about a shareable condition. We can return an individual P to consciousness (not return him to his consciousness), which he can be in danger of losing. We talk of different states of consciousness, meaning different levels or varieties of that state or condition. We also do not arrive when contemplating what to say about such cases with any understanding of what it means to talk of a consciousness 'acting' on a body.
- In order to assess whether these stories do rationally ground a rejection of (A)
- I shall first describe what, for present purposes, MPD will be taken to involve.
- I shall then discuss the standard way of employing such examples and criticize it, and after that consider how the claim that they are [A&~P] cases might be strengthened.
- Finally I shall provide some further reasons which favour a singularist treatment.
- What, though, must a supporter of (A) claim? Since there is a single human animal present throughout the psychological developments the verdict that needs defending is that there is also a single person, or self, or, as we might say, one of us, there throughout. There is at least one and not more than one of us there during the history. I call this 'singularism'. The denial of this is non-singularism, and the version favoured by most people who reject singularism is that there is a succession of distinct persons, a thesis that I shall call 'pluralism'. The content of singularism will receive clarification in the course of the discussion. However, some implications can be presented straight away. Singularism implies that the first-person pronoun on the lips of the continuously present human animal refers to the same person throughout. Its reference does not change because its user does not change. Further, the thing addressed throughout the changes is the same person. These identities hold whatever the patient thinks of the situation. My aim is to argue that there are really no grounds to reject this as a true, and, indeed, totally unsurprising characterization of MPD cases.
- The Disorder
- The Simple Argument
- The Non-Explanatoriness of Pluralism
- Rationality Constraints
- In Favour of Singularism
- A Singularist Approach to the Names
- Conclusion: Reflection on MPD cases does not sustain their classification as [A&~P] cases. On the contrary, reflection on the pluralist verdict and its grounds suggests that it is highly paradoxical, and supported by no good reasons. I submit, then, that consideration of these cases does not show that animalism is contrary to the truth. Rather, the implications of animalism seem in this area to be true. The far more difficult issue of the unity of consciousness needs facing in the next chapter.
In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Multiple Personality Disorder")
Footnote 1: The disorder that used to be called 'MPD' is now called by those who believe in it 'dissociative-identity disorder'. Certainly 'MPD' was not a good name, in that the condition is not solely one to do with personalities, nor must it involve contrasting personalities. However, I retain the old name in this chapter, simply because it is the familiar one in philosophical circles, and its being medically misleading does not matter for philosophy.
Footnote 2: See "Wilkes (Kathleen) - Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments" (1988; ch. 4 – "Wilkes (Kathleen) - Fugues, Hypnosis, and Multiple Personality"). Wilkes adopts this way of speaking, I suspect, under the influence of Nagel's similar way of speaking in response to the problems raised by the phenomenon of split-brains.
See "Locke (John) - Of Identity and Diversity".
- Locke, Essay, Bk. 2, ch. 27, sec. 23. The day- and night-person story is also cited in sec. 19, and a similar idea mentioned in secs. 20 and 21.
"Snowdon (Paul) - Animalism and the Unity of Consciousness"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 8
- The last chapter attempted to undermine the reliability of the judgement that MPD cases are instances of 'serial' pluralism. In this chapter I want to consider whether there are plausible cases of simultaneous, or synchronic, pluralism. This means engaging with the problem of how to describe what is generated by so-called split-brains, and also with imaginative extensions of such cases in which the degree of destructive and constructive intervention in the mental functioning of the subject is greater than in actual examples. The distinction between serial and synchronic does not in fact correlate quite so tidily with the different cases. Believers in MPD, influenced as they are by the stories that the subjects are prone to tell, often assent to judgements which commit them to synchronic pluralism. I shall, though, carry on pretending that things are tidier than they really are.
- In order to impose some order on the discussion I shall divide the suggested examples into two groups.
The reason for dividing the examples up in this way is that it is fairly clear what an animalist must say about the former cases, and the intuitive pull of saying something inconsistent with animalism is not, I believe, impossible to counter. Whereas, what the correct animalist treatment of two-headed examples should be is less clear, and the intuitive pull of describing them as involving two subjects is considerable. Maybe, though, that is not a problem. I shall consider the single-headed cases first.
- In the first we have a normal human being, whose brain is interfered with, to different degrees, apparently producing more than one subject. There are, of course, actual examples of this kind, but imaginary extensions of such processes also need to be considered. In imaginary cases the degree of interventions in the brain can be far more extreme.
- In the second we have animals, perhaps freakish human beings or purely imaginary beasts, which have more than one head. An imaginary example would be the two-headed push-me-pull-me animals described in some children's stories. Another sort of case, this time actual, is what are called 'dicephalic conjoined twins'. The simplest (but not necessarily the most accurate) description is that they are children born with two heads but one body. What should be said about them?
- My method in discussing them is to determine what an animalist seems committed to saying, and then to consider whether decisive or strong reasons can be found to reject that answer. I also wish to explore what general approaches to the problem of the unity of consciousness will validate the animalist's claims and whether any such approaches seem defensible or plausible. When reflecting on these types of cases many seem drawn to classifying them as belonging to the [A&~P] category. The question is: is that response well founded?
- Puzzles of Commisurotomy
- The Animalist Treatment
- Unity Requirements
- The Possibility of a Consistent Interpretation
- Other Constraints
- Inferential Conditions
- Unity of Experience Principles
- Some Problems
- What Experience Must Be Like
- Peacocke’s Example
- An Alternative View
- The Alternative Considered
- A Referential Reading
- Conclusions About Split-brains
- Multi-Headed Monsters
- Imaginary Multi-Headed Animals
- Actual Multi-Headed Cases
- Inspired by a sense that the patient in a split-brain case is a single, functioning human being, I have argued that we should look with suspicion on the principles of psychological unity that have led to a rejection of a singularist account. Such cases do not represent well-founded (A&~P) cases. Nor, I have suggested, do examples of dicephalic twins, or related cases, when realistically and cautiously analysed, provide counterexamples to animalism.
- The most serious challenge to animalism, I believe, comes from some alleged (P&~A) cases, and it is the issues raised by them that need to be considered next.
"Snowdon (Paul) - [P & not-A] Cases: An Introduction"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 9
- According to the logic which constitutes the framework of this discussion it is assumed that if a = b then it is not possible for any sequence to end up with a but not with b, or vice versa. Given that a = b then either after a period of time and development the thing which is a and b exists or it does not. Further, if a = b then not only must a and b jointly exist or not exist at any particular time, they must have the same properties at any time they exist. It cannot, therefore, be that a and b come apart. It follows that if it is possible for a to exist without b existing, or vice versa, then a is not (nor ever has been) identical to b. These informal remarks spell out what might be thought are commitments of the formal modal claim; (x) (y) (x = y → □(x = y)). If, therefore, we consider the suggested identity proposition that you are identical with animal A it cannot be true if there are possible circumstances in which you exist without the thing which is animal A existing. To suppose that there is such a possibility is, in my terminology, to endorse a [P&~A] possibility.
- Now, I believe that the dominant ground for resistance to the animalist's identity' claim derives from a general conviction amongst philosophers who have thought about the issue that there really are possible [P&~A] cases. There is, I want to suggest, something paradoxical about this situation. The real world at least provides, as we have seen, scenarios which are candidates for being regarded as [A&~P] cases, whereas the envisaged scenarios regarded as [P&~A] cases, such as brain transplants and teletransportation, are quite unreal. To accept them one has to be persuaded first that they represent real possibilities and then that they constitute [P&~A] cases. Yet it is these second sorts of cases which strike people as the most persuasive grounds to reject (A). This status reflects such people's convictions that certain developments involving highly unusual and vestigial groundings for continued mental states, so vestigial that they involve the removal of the animal, definitely contain enough to ensure they, the person, remain in existence. However, although there is something paradoxical about quite unreal [P&~A] cases, as opposed to the much closer to reality [A&~P] cases, being the ones that really move opponents of (A), there is also something that is understandable about it. The problem with [A&~P] cases is, according to the analysis of them argued for here, that it is highly implausible to regard them as [~P] cases at all. Once we recognize what is involved in them and what types of real cases they resemble and what our attitude to them is, it becomes hard not to feel that we should think of them as genuinely [P] cases. Our very familiarity with them means we have a well-grounded and agreed conception of them, so long as we can remain in contact with it, with, as one might say, reality, while doing philosophy. In contrast, with supposed [P&~A] cases that is not so. Their unreality means that it is harder to latch on to a shared and established conception of them. This does not, indeed, explain why these cases strike us so powerfully and, at least in some cases, in a uniform direction, but it explains why there is not the same weight against them. My aim in the next three chapters is to oppose the conviction that [P&~A] cases are genuinely possible. The most influential type of case is what I earlier called 'shrinkage cases', the sort that has been most convincing being the famous brain transplants. It will take two chapters to present the grounds that I am able to offer against the idea that cases of that sort are genuinely possible [P&~A] cases. In this chapter, though, I wish to comment on the other categories of [P&~A] cases that I distinguished in Chapter 1.
- There are, roughly, two very general grounds for opposing the claim that there are possible [P&~A] cases. One is that, with some of them, on proper reflection the candidates are not really [P] cases at all. That is to say, they are not cases in which the person actually survives. The impression that they are [P] cases is, I shall argue, quite simply an illusion. How can it be shown that the impression is an illusion? The amount of work required to do that varies from case to case, but one recurring and essential element is that if we can be persuaded to formulate the cases in terms of people that are significant to us, say our children or parents, they simply cease to even seem like [P] cases. If this is correct, then it can be said that the temptation to judge that the cases are [P] cases is the result of a lack of attention, focus, or proper engagement with what is given. It results, that is, as one might say, from faulty philosophical technique. The second, general, ground is that, however on immediate reflection the cases strike us, and even if we imagine them with people playing the roles who matter to us, we should acknowledge that the intuitive reactions are not properly regarded as reliable. We should, rather, acknowledge that we do not really know what the scenario generates. The verdict about them should itself be based on the best theory about what we are, rather than guide our adoption of a theory about that.
- Pure Person Transfers
- Non-Substantial Transfers
- Animal Replacement Cases
- I have tried to argue in this chapter that three of the leading examples of [P&~A] examples are not convincingly counted as [P] examples at all, as well as suffering from other defects. The examples are deployed as ones where what we might call the 'prediction' of animalism, that there cannot be the person without the animal, is regarded as being refuted.
- The fundamental point is that they do not refute it, because the person does not even seem to be there. I have also argued that the dialectical relevance of some of these examples, which rest on some less than certain assumptions about animals, can be grounded by presenting them as [A&~P] cases.
- We must next focus on the absolutely crucial case of SCs1.
In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - [P & not-A] Cases: An Introduction")
"Snowdon (Paul) - Brain Transplants, Animals, and Us"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 10
- If the general direction of the argument in this book is persuasive then we should arrive at this point in the discussion accepting, amongst other things, that there are no plausible examples of [A&~P] dissociations, and that most suggested categories of [P&~A] dissociations are also implausible. In both cases the implausibility derives from problems with the judgements regarding ourselves, either that we are absent from or are present in the imagined scenarios. However, the candidate dissociations which have had most influence on the philosophical imagination belong to what I have called shrinkage cases. Although the overall category is broader, the specific version that has seemed plausible to many people is that of brain transplants. I think that anyone who has reflected about the issues raised by the question of the relation between us and animals (or about our identity and nature more generally) must have a sense of the strength of the anti-animalist judgements elicited by such imagined cases. There is, I believe, no easy way to uproot these judgements and a proper engagement with them has to take time. What I shall do is first focus on the standard brain transplant story and argue, in this chapter and the next, that on second (and subsequent) thoughts in relation to this sort of shrinkage case the normal judgements are not in fact as plausible as they at first sight seem. My claim is that they do not provide a solid ground for rejecting (A). Then I shall finally and briefly, at the end of the next chapter, consider some other, and also plausible, shrinkage cases.
- I hope there is, also, a second opinion with which a reader arrives at this point, and that is that there are significant intellectual costs involved in abandoning (A), costs which should encourage us to look very hard for ways to avoid its abandonment. The structure, or balance, of the present discussion might have, to some extent, dimmed a sense of this element of the message. Much more space has been devoted to counteracting problems for (A) than emphasizing problems raised by (A)'s rejection. But a theme within these primarily critical discussions, and also central to Chapter 41, has been that it is hard to avoid assenting to (A). I hope that those discussions will stimulate a sense that making a real effort to oppose these arguments has considerable attraction. Defending (A) represents a research programme which should not be lightly dismissed.
- The Brain Transplant Argument and Some Clarifications
- The ‘Possibility’ of Brain Transplants
- The First Reply to BTA
- One Revised Version of BTA
- I have argued that Johnston's alternative formulation of BTA, in which the fourth premise is regarded as following from M, lacks cogency. No reason has been provided for supposing we can legitimately infer it from any plausible version of M. The initial reply, then, to BTA is not overturned by Johnston. That leaves me, so far, with responding to BTA by pointing out that the fourth premise, which corresponds merely to an intuition, is not something that we are obliged to accept, and which we have reason to abandon given the severe theoretical inconvenience generated by adopting the conclusion of BTA.
- I hope that this has achieved some weakening of BTA, but in the next chapter I want to explore some other criticisms of the argument.
In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - Brain Transplants, Animals, and Us")
Footnote 1: See "Snowdon (Paul) - Animals and Us".
"Snowdon (Paul) - Strengthening the Rejection of Transplant Arguments"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 11
- The aim so far has been to set up some resistance to BTA by targeting the fourth premise in it. That premise simply expresses an intuition about what happens to the person, to things of our sort, in such cases. Its credentials have not been strengthened by one argument for it that I have considered. It remains, then, a rational option in the light of its status and the real difficulties that rejection of (A) involves, to think that, on the balance of all the evidence, the intuition it represents is not trustworthy. By not being trustworthy I mean not being such that we are entitled to trust it.
- This response would clearly be strengthened if we could develop more general grounds for scepticism about such an intuition. Now, to consider this line of thought is to raise a fundamental question about philosophical methodology, which is, however, far too broad an issue to pursue here in the way it deserves. It has, though, been argued by some that a case can be made for thinking that intuitions about brain transplants are not reliable. I want to explore two attempts to generate scepticism about these kinds of intuitions. The first attempt is by Kathy Wilkes, and the second by Mark Johnston. I have selected them because both are interesting and consideration of them enables, I hope, some general conclusions to be drawn.
- Wilkes's Criticisms of Thought Experiments
- Johnston’s Criticism of Intuitions About Brain Transplants
- An Alternative Argument
- A Remark About Intuitions
- Brains, Animals, and Reference
- A Second Revised Argument
- Other Transplants Briefly Considered
"Snowdon (Paul) - Conclusions and Consequences"
Source: Snowdon (Paul) - Persons, Animals, Ourselves - Chapter 12
- I have been arguing that there are no grounds for supposing that you and the animal where you are can or could have come apart. No solid case has been made to think that such dissociations represent possibilities. One loose end to which I wish to attend in this chapter is that nothing critical has so far been said about possible objections to (A) which are not based on dissociations.
- In Chapter 1 it was argued that there may be such objections. Can anything be said about this possibility? Now, I do not see any general proof that there could not be a sound argument of this type. It is a matter of considering candidates.
- I want, therefore, to proceed in a piecemeal way by scrutinizing, in the first section of this chapter, some examples of such arguments which have been put forward by Professor Baker in her book "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View". In the course of this scrutiny I hope that some more general points might emerge, or at least might indicate themselves.
- Some Non-Dissociation Arguments
- Too Many Thinkers
- I have no desire at this point to repeat or summarize the arguments I have proposed. I do not think of what has been presented here as anything approaching the last word about animalism, its significance, or the grounds for it or against it. We are at an early stage in the exploration of the way of thinking of ourselves as animals, a way that became peripheral in the English-speaking philosophical tradition after Locke. It is not to be expected that the full resources of this approach have emerged so far in the course of its rediscovery over the last thirty years.
- My aim has been to present a conception of the debate formed in response to the modes of argument that have been popular in a certain tradition of discussion. I hope, at least, to have altered somewhat the perception of the power of that tradition. The denial that we are animals I see as one example of what might be called the 'bewitchment of our intelligence' by philosophy, and my hope is, in some small way, to have combated that.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)