Papers in Desk Drawer
Various
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Pseudo-Book (Hanging Folders!) to hold a subset my printouts / photocopies of papers related - inter alia - to my Thesis on the topic of Personal Identity. Those I'm reading or intend to read shortly.



"Alexander (Denis) - Healing, enhancement and the human future"

Source: Cambridge Papers, Vol. 28.1, June 2019


Author’s Summary
  1. This Paper reviews some recent examples of genetic engineering and brain science that make human technoscientific enhancement a pressing moral question.
  2. Healing and different types of enhancement are compared.
  3. Two rival world-views are considered, Transhumanism and Christianity – with contrasting visions of life after death – world-views which come to strikingly different conclusions concerning the path that leads to true human enhancement.


COMMENT: For the full text see Alexander - Healing, enhancement and the human future.



"Alter (Michael J.) - 'Follow the Money': Faith-Based Education and Publishing"

Source: Κέλσος - Matthew Ferguson Blogs


Editor’s Introduction
  1. Below is a guest blog by Michael Alter, author of "Alter (Michael J.) - The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry", which is a 912 page tome offering one of the most important contributions to challenging historical apologetics for the resurrection. During his research, Alter learned a great deal about the vast amount of resources that are invested in Christian apologetics – spanning universities, organizations, and publishers – which eclipse the scattered authors and handful of organizations that engage in counter-apologetics. In this post, Alter provides a researched summary that offers just a glimpse at the tip of the iceberg for how much money and resources are invested in Christian apologetics.
  2. I’ve been talking about problems with how faith-based universities distort critical biblical scholarship for years now, due to doctrinal statements that their faculty are required to sign, which force them to adhere to predetermined conclusions that are friendly to Christian dogma. As someone who works in Classical Studies, researching ancient texts from the same historical period, written in the same ancient languages, and using the same historical methodology, I am not aware of any Classics department or university that requires professors to sign doctrinal statements asking them to affirm tenets of Pagan theology or Greco-Roman religion. The fact that the Christian religion is treated in an abnormal manner in this regard is very disturbing, therefore, and a bad sign for the health of higher education.
  3. As a note, while the essay below discusses faith-based universities with doctrinal statements, not all institutions of higher education that have a Christian affiliation fall into this category. While the University of Notre Dame has a Catholic affiliation, for example, the school still fosters a secular research environment and its religious affiliation is more traditional. While I do not think that a religious affiliation is beneficial for the structure of any university (even if it can be relatively innocuous), it should not be assumed that a loose religious affiliation based on a school’s history implies that it belongs to the apologetic-type campuses discussed below.


COMMENT:



"Anton (Roman) - Re-evaluation of artificial intelligence engine alpha zero"

Source: MedCrave: Open Acc J Math Theor Phy. March 07, 2018; 1(1):22–33


Author’s Abstract
  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at the heart of IT-research and pioneers automated problem-solving. A recent breakthrough that could shift the AI-field was reported by Silver and colleagues of the famous Google Deep mind developer team around Demis Hassabis. They have reported that a new adaption of their in-house generalized neural network (NN) machine learning algorithm, termed AlphaZero, has achieved to outperform the world’s best-rated chess engine Stockfish, already after four hours of self-learning, and starting only with the rules of chess.
  2. AlphaZero originates from the superhuman Alpha Go program and could beat the best chess engine via blank slate tabula rasa self-play reinforcement machine learning, i.e. only by learning from many games played against itself. This worldwide strongest AI-performance claim has been drawn from a 100-game match between AlphaZero and Stockfish engines and has attracted much attention by the media, especially in the world of chess, which has been historically a key domain of AI. AlphaZero did not lose one game and won 28 times, while the remainders of the 100 games were draws.
  3. General reinforcement learning is very promising for many applications of mathematical solution finding in complexity. However, the requirement to independently verify if this breakthrough AI claim can be made poses some major difficulties and raises some inevitable doubts if a final proof has been given.
  4. Machine and method details are not available and only10 example games were given. This research starts with a reproducibility testing of all 10 example games and reveals that AlphaZero shows signs of human openings and might have outperformed Stockfish due to an irregular underperformance of Stockfish8, like post-opening novelties or sub-perfect game moves, like in game moves and post-opening novelites.
  5. At this juncture, the testing revealed that AI quiescence searches could be improved via multiple roots for both engines, which could boost all future AI performances. In light of a lack of tournament conditions and an independent referee, comparability challenges of software and hardware configurations such as AlphaZero’s TFLOP super-calculation-power, this work suggests that a final best AI-engine-claim requires further proof. Overclaim biases are found in all sciences of today due to the publishing imperatives and wish to be first.


COMMENT:
  • See Re-evaluation of AI engine alpha zero.
  • The author is from "The University of Truth and Common Sense, Department of Theoretical Sciences, Germany", which sounds somewhat dodgy! I couldn't find anything about it on-line.



"Appiah (Anthony Kwame) - The Politics of Identity"

Source: Daedalus, Vol. 135, No. 4, On Identity (Fall, 2006), pp. 15-22


Author’s Introduction
  1. The extremity of Identity' politics in many parts of the globe during the last few decades has given rise to widespread use of the term 'identity' as well as to a glamorous theoretical interest in the concept. However, there has been little clarity or rigor in its theoretical deployment. This brief essay will make a very small effort at correcting that.
  2. My main concern will be how we use 'identity' in the context of identity politics, not how the word surfaces in discussions of metaphysics, about which philosophers have already produced a flourishing and interesting literature. In politics, when we say an individual has a certain identity, we mean that he be longs to a certain type relevant to what we commonly call 'identity politics.'
  3. For some years now, in various essays, I have tried to impose some theoretical order on the concept by distinguishing at the outset between the 'subjective' and 'objective' aspects of identity. Your subjective identity is what you conceive yourself to be, whereas your objective identity is how you might be viewed in dependently of how you see yourself. In other words, your objective identity is who you are in light of certain biological or social facts about you.
  4. Of course, subjective identity and objective identity are often closely related. It is neither routine nor plausible, at least in a political sense, to conceive of yourself as something you manifestly are not. Could I, born of Indian parents, think of myself as an African American? I suppose I could. One can imagine all sorts of things that go beyond reality. But since we are interested in the notion of identity in the realm of identity politics, we would be sensible to put aside self-conceptions that amount to fantasies.
  5. But while the two aspects of identity are closely linked, there can be asymmetry between them. Subjective identity - when it is not mere fantasy - presupposes some proximate objective version of that identity, but not vice versa. For instance, one might be a Jew or an Indian objectively - born to a Jewish mother or to Indian parents - but not identify subjectively as a Jew or an Indian.
  6. It is worth spending time discussing both subjective and objective identities, since they raise very different philosophical issues and ought to be analyzed in very different ways. But before doing so let me quickly register another distinction.
  7. On the question of political identity, one can take either a normative angle or a descriptive one. A normative perspective asks if it is good to have identity or to engage in a politics based on one's cultural, national, racial, or other forms of identity. Much writing about identity politics takes this perspective, with a view to arguing either that identities should not be left out of politics or that infecting politics with identitarian issues is dangerous and wrong.
  8. By contrast, a descriptive treatment of the subject merely tries to analyze what it means to have an identity in the con text of identity politics. Of course, a descriptive angle on identity can observe that those who have a certain subjective identity themselves often think that it is a good thing. However, the theorist of identity, in taking a descriptive approach to the subject, does not take a position either way. This distinction between the normative and the descriptive is important. Too often, an author's normative stance drives his description of identity, skewing the analysis in one direction or the other. Rather than taking a normative approach to identity politics, this brief essay merely tries to examine 'identity' descriptively.



"Arikha (Noga) - The Interoceptive Turn"

Source: Aeon, 17 June, 2019


Author’s Final Paragraph
  1. The interoceptive turn is a historical step to the other side of our mind’s looking glass, into the heart of our complex organism, reconciling us to our mortal embodiment, forcing us to consider our mental makeup with humility as just one aspect of biology – a far cry from the posthumanist future that Yuval Noah Harari and others warn us about.
  2. It does not dissolve the mystery of how we are able to think and speak sophisticated thoughts, create art and meaning, or indeed investigate self and world: science does not replace experience, and though it is indispensable to serious thought about human nature, and to the advancement of clinical care, so is a humanist eye on what the best of science can tell us about ourselves.
  3. Yet this new picture has a transformative power. It can help understand, to an extent, how we relate to each other as embodied beings, how we feel at each moment of our lives, why Woolf’s ‘creature within’ feels what she does when unwell.
  4. It can help us understand each other in our animal nature so as to regain harmony with nature, and in our inherently social nature so as to regain harmony with each other – and to maintain our psychophysical integrity in the face of the ‘procession of changes’ that Woolf writes of.
  5. No window pane into the self is perfectly transparent. But we are clearing up some smudges.


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The science of how we sense ourselves from within, including our bodily states, is creating a radical picture of selfhood."
  • For the full text, see Aeon: Arikha - The interoceptive turn.



"Awad (Edmond), Etc. - The Moral Machine experiment"

Source: Nature volume 563, pages 59–64 (1st November 2018)


Authors' Abstract
  1. With the rapid development of artificial intelligence have come concerns about how machines will make moral decisions, and the major challenge of quantifying societal expectations about the ethical principles that should guide machine behaviour.
  2. To address this challenge, we deployed the Moral Machine, an online experimental platform designed to explore the moral dilemmas faced by autonomous vehicles. This platform gathered 40 million decisions in ten languages from millions of people in 233 countries and territories.
  3. Here we describe the results of this experiment.
    1. First, we summarize global moral preferences.
    2. Second, we document individual variations in preferences, based on respondents’ demographics.
    3. Third, we report cross-cultural ethical variation, and uncover three major clusters of countries.
    4. Fourth, we show that these differences correlate with modern institutions and deep cultural traits.
  4. We discuss how these preferences can contribute to developing global, socially acceptable principles for machine ethics.
  5. All data used in this article are publicly available.


COMMENT:



"Baggini (Julian) - When Derek Parfit published, it mattered"

Source: Prospect Magazine, 4th January 2017


Full Text
  1. It is impossible to sum up in a couple of hundred words the richness, subtlety and complexity of the philosophy of Derek Parfit, who died at the age of 74 on New Year’s Day. However, it takes just two words to capture what made him worthy of the respect and attention even of those who profoundly disagreed with him: “what matters.”
  2. This simple phrase appeared explicitly in his first masterpiece, Reasons and Persons (1984). In Part Three of that book, Parfit discussed the issue of personal identity over time. In the dry, academic terminology of that era, this was the question of what is logically required in order to state that person A at time t1 was identical with person B at time t2.
  3. As a rigorous, analytic thinker, Parfit never dismissed that question, but he was also, and primarily, concerned with the slightly different question of “what matters in survival.” If I were to be physically destroyed, for example, and reconstructed atom by atom elsewhere by some kind of teletransporter, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that a replica of me had been created rather than that I had been sent across space. But it would still be worth asking whether this replication had given me all that matters in survival. Identity is a property of logic, what matters is a property of human existence.
  4. Parfit’s determination and ability to keep a focus on what is existentially important is not as common in philosophy as it should be. Too often, even great philosophical minds take a problem and treat it as though it were a merely intellectual puzzle to be solved, neglecting to ask themselves whether their solution actually addresses the human question that gave rise to the problem in the first place.
  5. Many found such talk of “mattering” hopelessly vague and preferred to stick to what is. Such thinkers often gained in precision but lost what makes philosophy worth doing in the first place. Parfit always strove never to make a choice between rigour and relevance. If “what matters” seemed vague to others, he was always trying to make it as precise as possible. After all, if something matters in philosophy, making it as clear as possible matters too.
  6. Those two words reappeared when Parfit’s long awaited two-volume follow-up to Reasons and Persons appeared after 27 years, entitled On What Matters (2011). Described in the Times Higher Education as “the most eagerly awaited work in philosophy since Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations,” this hugely ambitious magnum opus defended an objective ethics that attempted to reconcile Kantian deontology, consequentialism, and contractarianism.
  7. Whether he succeeded or not, the manner of the book’s publication and indeed all of Parfit’s career is testimony to his complete dedication to what he believed mattered. Parfit is almost unique among his contemporaries in being simply “Mr Parfit,” having never completed a PhD and earning the title Dr or gaining a chair and the title of professor. Identified early on as an exceptional talent, All Soul’s College at Oxford made him a fellow in 1967 and allowed him the time and freedom to pursue his research without having to jump through the conventional career hoops.
  8. The work came slowly, but every time it finally arrived, it mattered. His seminal paper “Personal Identity” appeared in the Philosophical Review in 1971, and it took a further 13 years before he developed his ideas more fully in Reasons and Persons. In between his publications, Parfit was constantly discussing his work with his peers, seeking their criticisms, with drafts of chapters and papers circulating in the highest circles.
  9. A career like Parfit’s is unimaginable today. Producing an unreadable doctoral thesis is more of a priority that producing a readable book, and young researchers have a pressure always to keep publishing that promotes quantity over quality. We must hope that the recognition that the system today could not produce a Parfit will motivate the people in charge to change it.
  10. Parfit is one of the few philosophers who turned down my request for an interview when I was editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine. It wasn’t haughtiness that motivated this (he was happy to talk off the record to me over an All Soul’s lunch when I was writing The Ego Trick), but a desire to make sure that he only put on the record what he had precisely formulated after many years of careful thought. Getting it right was more important than getting it out, to the frustration of publishers and editors but to the long-term benefit of readers and scholars. When he published, it mattered, and so as a philosopher, he is one of the few of his generation who unquestionably mattered.


COMMENT:



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

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).

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

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


COMMENT:

Write-up51 (as at 17/04/2018 21:04:19): Baker - Persons and Bodies - Precis

This Note reviews a full and well-structured précis by Baker of her Book ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Precis of 'Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View'"), submitted to initiate an e-Symposium (see Link; logged as a pseudo-book – "Baker (Lynne Rudder), Etc. - E-Symposium on 'Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View'"), convened in 2001 to review "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View". I’ve included below the full text, with annotations as bullets below the numbered sections of Baker’s text. For standard abbreviations52, follow the link.
  1. Persons and Bodies develops and defends an account of persons and of the relation between human persons and their bodies. According to the Constitution View of human persons, as I call it, a human person is a person in virtue of having a first-person perspective, and is a human person in virtue of being constituted by a human body (or human animal).
    TT Notes
    • Note that Baker seems to think it a small matter whether it’s the animal or the body that constitutes the human person. Yet these would seem to have different persistence conditions, so are not the same sort. This distinction is important to Olson.
    • I’m tempted to equate organism and animal here, though others might not. This is what drives a wedge between bodies and animals, because animals are organisms, whereas bodies are not.
    • Baker’s book has “Bodies” in its title, rather than “Animals” or “Organisms”. How important is this (for Baker)?
  2. Thus, the Constitution View aims to give our animal natures their due, while recognizing what makes human persons ontologically distinctive. The Constitution View contrasts with two other leading accounts of human persons: Animalism and Immaterialism. Like Animalism but unlike Immaterialism, the Constitution View holds that human persons are material beings; like Immaterialism but unlike Animalism, the Constitution View holds that we are not identical to the animals that constitute us.
    TT Notes
    • The text terminated with a fragment here: “of course involve self-reference, but it is self-reference of a distinctive kind”. I’m not sure53 where, if anywhere, this was supposed to go. Presumably it should start with “This”.
    • As usual with Baker, “our animal natures” has a pejorative note. She doesn’t really accept that we are really special animals, so that what is ontologically distinctive is the animal, with its special properties, and not some other thing.
    • Does Baker define what she means by animalism? I take it that it’s the view that we are (identical to) animals, and may (at stages of our lives) be persons – a quality or property rather than an ontological kind. As such, we may at times have a first-person perspective (FPP).
    • Does Baker hold that human persons are essentially material beings, and essentially human?
    • What does Baker mean by immaterialism? Is it the psychological view (almost certainly not, as this can be materialist), dualist (pseudo-Cartesian?) or idealist? Or, since Baker doesn’t hold any of these views, does it not matter which?
  3. On the one hand, human persons are constituted by human animals, and hence cannot escape their animal natures; on the other hand, there is more to human persons than their animal natures. What sets human persons apart from other animals has nothing to do with anything immaterial; rather what sets us apart is the ability that underlies our asking, “What am I54?” That ability is a first-person perspective. First-person perspectives may well be the result of natural selection; but what is relevant here is not where they came from, but what they are and the difference that they make in what there is.
    TT Notes
    • Just what are the animal natures we can’t escape? Has this to do with sin?
    • Baker doesn’t take seriously the view that animals differ. Both slugs and elephants are animals, and it seems that elephants understand death – because they mourn (as do primates) – so how do we know they don’t anticipate their own deaths? Would baker be happy with non-human animal persons? If so, the contrast isn’t really with animals, but with non-persons; and this might just reduce – as previously noted – to personhood as a special property of animals (and maybe other beings).
    • Why is asking the question “What am I55?” so very (ontologically) distinctive? Do all (normal) human beings ask this question? What about feral children? Is it cultural? How do we know?
    • I agree that origins aren’t the issue; but it’s about whether we’re talking of a thing, or a property of a thing, however it came about.
  4. So, there are two theoretical ideas needed for the Constitution View of human persons: the idea of a first-person perspective, the property in virtue of which a being (human or not) is a person, and the idea of constitution, the relation between a human person and her body.
    TT Notes
    • So, Baker admits the FPP is a property of a (human) being.
    • Baker insists that the constitution relation is between a human person and her body, rather than animal.
    • Constitution is covered later, but it looks as though human persons have (according to Baker) lots of animal properties (derivatively). Are these aspects of their (human) personhood, or just of their animality?
    • Might I not accept all this – the ontological pretensions aside? Is a student constituted by anything; the animal or the person? Yet the whole view seems to give ontological priority to “something that’s not a thing at all”. The thing is the human being, which has the property of being a student.
    • Note that the “student” counter-example is raised by Olson, and rejected by Baker.
  5. Part I, “The Metaphysical Background” (Chapters 1-3), explores and defends the two theoretical ideas.
    Part II, “The Constitution View Explained” (Chapters 4-6), uses these two ideas to give an account of human persons.
    Part III, “The Constitution View Defended” (Chapters 7-9), argues for the coherence of the general idea of constitution-without-identity and the coherence of the application of that idea to the notion of human persons; finally, it argues directly for the Constitution View by contrasting it with its competitors, Animalism and Immaterialism. Now turn to Persons and Bodies in greater detail.
    TT Notes
  6. Chapter 1 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons in the Material World") sets out the task. Persons and Bodies will answer three questions: What I am56 most fundamentally? What is a person? How are human persons related to their bodies?
    TT Notes
    • Olson doesn’t like the “most fundamentally” rider. Is this question simply asking what is my primary kind? I think Baker uses this expression. So, Baker is saying that PERSON is a kind – but if so, wouldn’t all persons have the same persistence conditions? Maybe (for Baker) they do. Olson notes that gods and animals have different PCs, but this is qua gods and animals. Qua person, according to Baker, they persist as long as they maintain the same FPP. Of course, it’s obscure just what this sameness of FPP consists in.
  7. Chapter 2 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Very Idea of Constitution") provides a technical account of the idea of constitution. The basic idea of constitution is this: when certain kinds of things are in certain kinds of circumstances, things of new kinds, with new kinds of causal powers, come into existence. For example, when a certain combination of chemicals is in a certain environments, a thing of a new kind – an organism – comes into existence. A world without organisms, even if it contained the “right” combination of chemicals but in the “wrong” environment, would not have the same things in it as a world with organisms. So, constitution makes an ontological difference. It guarantees ontological plurality.
    TT Notes
    • So – according to Baker – an organism is “constituted by” its chemicals? It’s true that an organism is not identical to its chemicals – because it can lose or gain matter. So, while it is constituted by chemicals, it is not constituted by any bunch of chemicals in particular (though it is constituted by certain types of chemicals).
    • While “new causal powers” is important to constitution, it’s a thorny issue. I suspect that there are different forms of causation that are confused. For instance:-
    • What causal powers do (human) persons have over and above those of the (human) animals that constitute them.
    • Do statues have any causal powers over and above the matter that constitutes them. No doubt Baker thinks that they “cause” people to steal them, on account of their relation to an art-world. But are the causative powers really in them, or in the world in which they are embedded? It certainly seems to be different from the causative powers of an animal, which does things using its own resources. Tied in with agency / patiency and the philosophy of action generally?
    • Note that "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons" denies existence to proposed entities without (extra) causal powers; statues being one kind rejected.
  8. The relationship of constitution is ubiquitous. It is not peculiar to human persons and their bodies. It holds between rivers and aggregates of water molecules, between statues and pieces of marble, between genes and groups of DNA molecules, between stop signs and octagonal pieces of metal. If x constitutes y at t, then x and y are spatially coincident at t, but they not identical. If x constitutes y at t, then x and y have different persistence conditions. Identity is a necessary relation; constitution is contingent. (Indeed, I use the notion of constitution to solve problems that others try to solve by notions of contingent identity, temporal identity, relative identity and so on. The idea of constitution has an advantage over these other views in that the idea of constitution does not compromise the classical notion of identity in its strict Leibnizian form.) I provide a definition of ‘x constitutes y at t’ in order to show that the idea of constitution-without-identity does not suffer from obvious incoherence.
    TT Notes
    • I suspect that there are lots of different meanings that can be given to constitution, some less objectionable than others.
    • Just what is supposed to be going on? Is this some sort of emergence of properties? Is constitution “matter plus organisation” or “thing plus further organisation”?
    • Rivers are not constituted by their water molecules, but additionally by their sediments, not to mention their banks, beds and locations. Also, as they are vague objects, there may be conventional elements (just where does the Nile start?). I’m not sure how pervasive these issues are.
    • Note (as usual) that the constitution relation between statues and marble can involve pieces or portions – portions have their parts essentially, while pieces don’t. Can statues be said to be constituted by either?
  9. If x constitutes y at t, then x and y share many of their properties: x weighs 100 lbs. at t if and only if y weighs 100 lbs. at t; x is worth $10,000 at t if and only if y is worth $12,000 at t. Each of these properties has its source in either x or y. If a piece of bronze constitutes a statue at t, then what exists at t is a statue-constituted-by-a-piece-of-bronze, whose weight has its source in its being (constituted by) a piece of bronze, and whose value (usually) has its source in its being a statue. This observation leads to the notion of ‘having properties derivatively.’ The piece of bronze has its weight nonderivatively; the statue has its weight derivatively. The statue has its value nonderivatively; the piece of bronze has its weight derivatively. To have a property derivatively is to constitute, or be constituted by, something that has the property independently of its constitution-relations. Only some properties are subject to being had derivatively. All this is spelled out in two definitions. The notion of having a property derivatively explains why if x and y both weigh 100 lbs. at t, and x and y are not identical, it does not follow that there is an object that weighs 200 lbs. where x is at t.
    TT Notes
    • There appear to be a couple of textual corruptions in the above paragraph. Most obviously the trailing “where x is at t”. And Baker wants to say that “The statue has its value nonderivatively; the piece of bronze has its value derivatively” (not weight).
    • Does the piece of bronze have its value derivatively in two senses?
      1. Because the piece is made of bronze (if it was made of something slightly different, or if the bottom dropped out of the market for bronze, its value would differ).
      2. In virtue of constituting a statue.
    • But surely, the bronze isn’t worth the value of the statue, derivatively or not? It’s worth its scrap value, considered as a piece of bronze – ie. in the absence of an art-market that values this statue. It’s true (I think) that what is constituted inherits some of its properties from whatever constitutes it, but it’s not clear to me that the converse is true, and hence that the “iff” in Baker’s claim is incorrect. However, maybe Baker has to insist on this claim to avoid the charge that there are really two things present. She wants her constitution relation to be almost identity, but not quite.
    • The whole issue of value is thorny. Value is a relational rather than intrinsic property. The value of a statue can change without any change to the statue itself. But the properties of persons seem to be intrinsic (though they may also be valued). Isn’t the first-person perspective intrinsic to the person (and to the animal)?
    • Note, however, that Baker’s definition only claims sharing of “many” properties, not all – so if she wants she can exclude values.
  10. The idea of constitution is decidedly nonreductive. As long as x constitutes y, x has no independent existence. If x continues to exist after the demise of y, then x comes into its own, existing independently. But during the period that x constitutes y, “what the thing really is” – y, constituted by x – is determined by the identity of y. So, what is in front of you when you go to a museum is a statue (constituted, perhaps, by a piece of bronze). What the thing most fundamentally is a statue; but it is constituted by a piece of bronze.
    TT Notes
    • What does Baker mean by “nonreductive”? That the constituting thing is not more important than the constituted? It’s as though the constituted thing “takes over” the constituting thing. This is reductive in the wrong direction (maybe). It seems to be the wrong way round. Surely the piece of bronze still exists when it constitutes the statue – and independently of the statue. The statue only exists because people appreciate it as such.
    • It’s not clear to me how good a model artefacts are for Baker’s other candidates – particularly persons.
    • Can we really take seriously the idea that as an animal (in the normal course of maturation) develops a first-person perspective, it cease to be primarily an animal and becomes primarily a person?
    • There seem to be two levels of constitution in the case of the bronze. It is constituted mereologically and structurally by an ordered collection of atoms – a different collection at different times. This is what is normally meant by “constitution”. Then there’s Baker’s sense, where the piece of bronze constitutes a statue (she says), but all of a piece. The only real difference between the statue and the bronze piece is evaluative. That is, if the piece (qua piece) can have any shape you like. In Gibbard’s TE, we’re allowed to mould Lump1 into a ball, and it still exists, though Goliath doesn’t. See "Gibbard (Allan) - Contingent Identity".
    • How does constitution work if we don’t know what the thing is. Is Baker a universalist (or whatever the term is) with respect to things? Ie. does the contents of any disconnected agglomeration of spacetime segments constitute a thing?
  11. Chapter 3 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The First-Person Perspective") develops the notion of a first-person perspective. A first-person perspective is the ability to think of – to conceive of – oneself in the first-person without recourse to any name or description or demonstrative. A first-person perspective is necessary for any form of self-consciousness, and is sufficient for some forms of self-consciousness. Evidence that a being has a first-person perspective comes from the person’s ability to think a thought expressible as, e.g., “I wonder how I shall die.” The second occurrence of ‘I’ in a first-person sentence, with a psychological or linguistic verb and an embedded first-person sentence indicates that the being has a first-person perspective.
    TT Notes
    • Note the importance of “I” rather than a name. Is there (at most) a single FPP per human animal? Is “multiple occupancy” a problem for Baker – can a human animal constitute more than one person at a time (or – a different question – serially)?
  12. Nonhuman animals are conscious (some chimpanzees may even be able to refer to themselves), but as far as we can tell, they do not have first-person perspectives in the sense. They don’t wonder how they will die, or hope that they have a painless death or any other such thing. I argue for the irreducibility of the first-person perspective, and argue that other views of self-consciousness (e.g., Rosenthal’s, Armstrong’s, Dennett’s) are inadequate.
    TT Notes
  13. Chapter 4 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Constitution View of Human Persons") applies the notions of constitution and of a first-person perspective to the issue of human persons. A person is a being with first-person perspective; a human person (at t) is a person constituted by a human body (at t). Human persons are essentially embodied; they can never exist without some body or other, but they do not necessarily have the bodies that in fact constitute them. E.g., it is possible that parts of a person’s human body are replaced by bionic parts until the person is no longer human; still the same person would continue to exist (now constituted by a bionic body) as long as the first-person perspective stayed intact.
    TT Notes
    • I think this is all wrong; there’s no mention of the brain here, nor of “paring down” a human organism until we’re left with a brain. Just where does the FPP arise? Mostly in the brain, even though this might be disputed. How much of an animal can be replaced before it ceases to be an animal? Is the brain more important than other bits? If the brain were siliconized (for instance) would it retain a FPP? In particular, would it remain phenomenally conscious, or would be have a zombie? Is this an empirical or conceptual question? Could we ever know the answer, other than from the inside, and how could that person convince anyone else, given that a zombie would be as persuasive?
    • What’s the motivation for human persons being essentially embodied? Are human persons essentially human? Baker allows for a human person to be bionicised – and says (in the next paragraph) that while such a being remains a person, it would no longer be a human person. HUMAN PESON is some form of compound kind for Baker, I think58. What makes having a body essential to a human person, if it’s not essential that they have a human body? Bodies aren’t essential to persons as such, by Baker’s lights.
    • Baker’s view about persistence is that it’s sameness of FPP that individuates a person, so why is bodily continuity necessary – Baker’s examples involve gradual change of one body into another. Is this critical, or does Baker allow for immaterial gaps in the same person?
  14. So, although a human person cannot exist unembodied, she may come to be constituted by a different body from the one that actually constitutes her. If she came to be constituted by a bionic body, she would no longer be a human person. But she would still be a person as long as she existed. A human person is most fundamentally a person, not an animal—just as a bronze statue is most fundamentally a statue, not a piece of bronze. Two separate human persons that exist at the same time are individuated by their bodies. A human person’s body at a time distinguishes her from all other separate persons at that time.
    TT Notes
    • Baker says that a human person is most fundamentally a person and not an animal (ie. “a human”). So is it only human persons that are essentially embodied – is it the case (for Baker) that the person that is currently a human person might ultimately be incorporeal? As a Christian, she would no doubt allow the human person to become a spiritual person, with a spiritual body (whatever that is). What about a spirit? Persons as such don’t need to be embodied – God is a person and is not embodied – so could the same FPP that once belonged to a human person be exemplified by a being that is not embodied? If not, why not? And what would then constitute that person? Is constitution something that only matter can do?
    • Bodies individuate human persons – OK. So, Baker is committed to denying the existence of MPD – at least if this implies a multiplicity (as is claimed) of FPPs? And what individuates the person that is currently a human person, when later she may be a person of some other kind? Again, the body; some other body? Is that why it is essentially embodied? What individuates spirits?
    • What maintains the FPP of a human person? If the brain, what would make that very same FPP hop from one brain to another?
    • Isn’t the statue most fundamentally a piece of bronze? The disappearance of the art-world is a mere Cambridge-change from the perspective of the piece of bronze. Are we to suppose that the statue – that very same statue – could come to be constituted by something else? Maybe – if the changes are gradual enough? Though surely what is valuable about an art-work is not its form, but its body? Monetary value, that is. We value the fact that it’s the very object that some great artist produced. If it’s gradually repaired over time so that none of it is the work of the master, isn’t its value diminished? Cf. Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
  15. A human person and the body that constitutes her are a unity, in the same way that a bronze statue and the piece of bronze that constitutes it are a unity. Unlike the statue, however, I have a first-person relation to my body. Properties that my body has nonderivatively are my properties derivatively. E.g., I have the property of being left-handed and of having brown eyes derivatively; the nonderivative bearer of these properties is my body. When I attribute to myself such properties, I am thinking of myself-as-my-body. On the other hand, I have the property of being employed or of having asked a question nonderivatively; my body is the derivative bearer of these properties. When I attribute to my body properties that I have nonderivatively, I am thinking of my-body-as-myself.
    TT Notes
    • Is the unity-relation between statues and their pieces of bronze really the same as that between the person and her body – given that the persistence conditions of artefacts and organisms – and the factors that make for a statue or a person – are so different? Is this a fair analogy? Statues are statues in virtue of something else external to themselves. Are persons such in virtue of something external?
    • What is a “first person relation” in this context? I have a first person relation to my statue, if I own it, but it’s not the same as the relation I bear to my body (in Baker’s – or most people’s – opinion). What does Baker mean?
    • This paragraph is important for indicating what Baker means by the having of properties derivatively and non-derivatively. But we need to press the examples.
    • We can understand, I think, that a person – if personhood is taken to be fundamentally a psychological concept – is left-handed in virtue of her body. But is it right to define persons in virtue of FPPs and psychology? Isn’t a ballet-dancer the person she is partly in virtue of her body, and isn’t she diminished as a person if maimed? Has her FPP changed? I think it has, but has remained the same FPP, so Baker can accommodate this.
    • Eventually, maybe, I will not have any of the corporeal properties I now have – nor most of the mental ones. The question is how best to account for this within the context of a single persistent entity. The FPP is (I think) under-described by Baker, and its persistence conditions are not made clear. Baker has it that it is irreducible (see above). Does this mean it’s an all-or-nothing thing? Identity is, indeed, all or nothing. But, as I’ve said before, the persistent thing with psychological properties is the brain – the Cheshire Cat – and not the FPP, which is simply the Cheshire Cat’s smile.
    • Just who or what is employed? If I’m employed in some role that doesn’t demand a FPP, or worries about immanent death, isn’t it the human animal that’s employed. If I employ a washer-up, do I care whether she has a FPP? And if that FPP somehow migrates away, do I then employ what then constitutes it, even if it’s not then fit for purpose? Aren’t our legal commitments motivated by the human predicament? So, do employment laws apply to non-humans – immortals with no bodily worries, for instance?
    • Can the distinction between myself-as-my-body and my-body-as-myself really be maintained without relative identity?
  16. Chapter 5 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Personal Identity Over Time") discusses the vexing problem of personal identity over time. In virtue of what is a person P1 at t1 the same person as a person P2 at t2? I canvass candidate answers to this question, and show that each fails:
    1. Sameness of person consists in sameness of body,
    2. Sameness of person consists in sameness of living organism (Animalism),
    3. Sameness of person consists in sameness of brain,
    4. Sameness of person consists in psychological continuity,
    5. Sameness of person consists in sameness of immaterial soul.
    TT Notes
    • Well, each of these proposals needs to be taken on its merits, and Baker’s objections reviewed. Then, the best candidate needs to be compared with Baker’s alternative. The pros and cons as understood by Baker can only be considered by detailed consideration59 of her arguments in the book, which are not summarised here.
    • It is interesting, though, that Baker here correctly distinguishes between bodies and organisms. Why then – given that she appreciates the distinction – does she focus on bodies elsewhere in this discussion (and in the title of her book) when her target (Animalism) insists that we are organisms?
    • Note that, by Olson’s lights, she begs the question by insisting that the entity at the t1/t2 termini is in both cases a person.
    • That is, is (as Olson insists and Markosian60 agrees) the question of personal identity distinct from that of our identity?
  17. Then, I discuss my own view: sameness of person consists in sameness of first-person perspective. Alas, my own view does not provide an informative criterion either. Although I can characterize noncircularly what it is to have a first-person perspective at a time, I know of no noncircular characterization of sameness of first-person perspective over time. Since nobody has an adequate and informative criterion of personal identity over time, I conclude that there is no adequate and informative criterion of personal identity over time: Sameness of person is not reducible to sameness of anything nonpersonal.
    TT Notes
    • I see this as the main weakness in Baker’s position (apart from the ontological rants). She admits that she can provide no informative criterion. She adds “either”. But, surely, at least some of these alternative accounts can provide at least some sort of criterion of identity – though it may run into difficulties with vagueness.
    • So, I might agree that psychological criteria, and immaterial souls, are no better off than Baker’s proposals. But what’s wrong with the physical ones? Brains, bodies or organisms.
    • Bodies are a little bit problematical – because the persistence criteria of live ones seem to differ from those of dead ones, and if considered as mere localised hunks of matter, it doesn’t seem that they persist at all. It may be significant that Baker focuses on bodies as the main alternative to her view – choosing a view that’s obviously distinct, yet not very sound?
    • Lots of philosophers are convinced they have principled reasons for thinking that organisms exist, even when they deny the existence of bodies, or undetached proper parts of organisms – brains, for instance.
    • There is room for debate as to just when an organism becomes so mutilated or adulterated as to no longer exist (as an organism) but to have ceased to be and been replaced by something else. While we might admit that we are not brains, if a brain on life support is all that’s left of one of us, we can argue whether it is still an organism; I would say that it is, but one that is “maximally mutilated”.
    • What does "Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities" have to say?
    • I need to read "Olson (Eric) - Review of Jack Wilson's 'Biological Individuality: The Identity and Persistence of Living Entities'" to get Olson’s views.
    • "Wilson (Jack) - Personal Identity Naturalized: Our Bodies, Our Selves" is particularly interesting as a contrast to Baker’s view, though Wilson’s ideas on the persistence conditions of organisms are developed earlier in the book – "Wilson (Jack) - Individuality and Equivocation" might be best.
    • Olson does admit that he has no watertight account of the persistence conditions of animals, but is happy to accommodate61 any suggestions as friendly improvements to his theory of personal identity.
  18. Nevertheless, construing personal identity in terms of sameness of first-person perspective has its advantages. First, it avoids problems besetting the other views (e.g., species chauvinism, the duplication problem). Second, it accords well with our self-understanding: there is a fact of the matter whether some future individual is I, and that fact of the matter does not depend on the nonexistence of someone else. Finally, the idea of sameness of first-person perspective ties what it is to be a person over time with what it is to be a person in the first place.
    TT Notes
    • Species Chauvinism: I cannot see what necessary connection the other views have to this stance. However, as a matter of fact, some proponents of the “immaterial soul” view have denied souls to animals; and Wiggins has taken “person” and “human being” as synonyms (Olson points this out somewhere62).
    • Duplication Problem: just why is the CV view immune to this – or indeed not more exposed to the problem than some other views? Just what sort of thing is a FPP that prevents its duplication? If there are two qualitatively identical human bodies, won’t the FPPs be qualitatively identical. Or, even logically identical, depending on what a FPP is? Baker insists (above) that human persons are individuated by their bodies - but their FPPs are what really matter. How does she deal with idempotent half-brain transplant TEs? Won’t she have the same problem as brain-theorists? Won’t both halves equally support a FPP? And which one was me – or was I two all along, or did I bud a twin in the process of creating the idempotency? There may be answers to these questions, but the CV seems no better off than the brain view.
    • Facts of the Matter: crumbs. Without saying a lot more about how FPPs are individuated, how can this alleged fact be established? How can it be known? If Baker’s point about reduplication is unsound, then first person evidence is insufficient, as it is in any reduplication TE. It can seem to you that you are the same person, but you are deceived.
    • “Only x or y” : this is the principle opponents of closest-continuer theories adopt – so Baker’s view is not unique.
    • What it is to be the same x is what it is to be an x in the first place: this, again, isn’t unique to Baker’s view, but is the standard reason why criteria of identity are useful for helping to define what sort a thing falls under.
  19. Chapter 6 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Importance Of Being a Person") discusses the importance of personhood. Only persons can be moral agents or rational agents. Persons have many cognitive and practical abilities that beings lacking first-person perspectives lack. Only beings with first-person perspectives can know that they are going to die; only such beings can envisage alternative possibilities for their own futures, or seek self-understanding. Only beings with first-person perspectives can have ideals or can try to change themselves to conform better to their ideals. Human persons are not only the products of evolution, but (unlike any other finite beings) only human persons can deliberately change the course of evolution—not only by artificial breeding, but more directly by genetic engineering.
    TT Notes
    • There seems to be a sudden slide in the above from persons to human persons.
    • I need to look at Baker’s arguments for her assertion that “Only persons can be moral agents or rational agents”. Are there any – or is it just “obvious”?
    • What is said of persons is analytic/tautological – as this is just how Baker defines a person in the first place. No-one doubts that personhood is important – at least to those who qualify as persons.
    • In what sense of “know” is it that only those with a FPP can know they are going to die? Do sci-fi robots without phenomenal consciousness know such things? How do they obey Asimov’s Laws otherwise? All sorts of feedback loops are possible for self-improvement without a sense of self. All that’s required is that one be a self, not tat one knows that you are one.
    • What has rationality got to do with a FPP? Isn’t a chess-playing machine rational? Aren’t lots of persons highly irrational?
    • Why – as a matter of logic rather than fact – are human persons the only beings that could – rather than have – affect the course of evolution – and why does this matter in this context? In any case, is it the human person or the human animal that has done this. Couldn’t the Matrix’s Sentinels do it? I agree that how FPPs arose is irrelevant.
  20. Chapter 7 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Coherence Of the Idea of Material Constitution") defends the coherence of the general idea of constitution (without identity) from a number of published criticisms. Here are two examples:-
    • 1. First is the criticism that two things consisting of the same atoms (e.g., a statue and a piece of bronze) cannot differ in kind; this criticism is answered by a discussion of essential properties.
    • 2. Second is the criticism from counting: that if x is spatially coincident with y, and x not= y, and x is a statue and y is a statue, then where x is there are two statues. The second criticism is answered by a discussion of the distinction between having a property derivatively and having a property nonderivatively.
    Also, Chapter 7 discusses criticisms stemming from mereology and supervenience63.
    TT Notes
  21. Chapter 8 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Coherence Of the Constitution View of Human Persons") defends the coherence of the application of the idea of constitution to human persons. I discuss the misleading conception of constitution (which I have spelled out in detail) as mere coincidence of two different thing, another version of the “how many” problem, a charge of linguistic incoherence stemming from the reference of ‘I’. I show at length that the Constitution View has a coherent account of the relation between an early-term fetus and the person that it comes to constitute later. Finally, I reply to a counterexample concerning ghosts made of ectoplasm.
    TT Notes
    • Olson merely ignores Baker’s arguments against “mere coincidence” and insists on double-counting. I need to check carefully whether Baker’s arguments really are persuasive.
    • Baker claims not to have a “fetus problem” – another of Olson’s complaints against her. I think it is right that Baker doesn’t have the problem in the way that other psychological views might. Baker just claims that the fetus doesn’t constitute a person, so she doesn’t need it to suddenly pop out of existence to be replaced by something else. The animal continues from conception (or maybe implantation) to death, but the person is only constituted by that animal for a temporal segment (or, possibly a collection thereof).
    • What is the ghost/ectoplasm objection? It sounds like a misunderstanding of anything Baker might hold.
  22. Chapter 9 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - In Favour Of the Constitution View") concludes the book with reasons to accept the Constitution View. It really is a materialistic view. It can accomplish almost everything that a dualist wants without the burden of dualism. It takes persons seriously in a specified sense: Being a person is relevant to the fundamental kind of individual that one is; elimination of any person would be elimination of an individual; having mental states is relevant to what a person is. No other materialist view takes persons seriously in all three of these respects.
    TT Notes
  23. The Constitution View explains how it is that, although we are set apart by our first-person perspectives, we are still animals. Hence, the Constitution View locates human persons in the material world. The general idea of constitution (without identity) allows for a metaphysics that is both materialistic and nonreductive. This general conception of constitution supports an ontological pluralism that honors the genuine variety of kinds of individuals in the world.
    TT Notes
    • Nothing much to add here, except to repeat that all the benefits of the CV would seem to be available if we say that human persons are human animals, distinguished from other animals by having the special, though temporary, property of being a person.
    • Of course, this doesn’t satisfy Baker’s hidden agenda, of wanting an account of human persons that allows for resurrection or some other form of eternal existence.




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

Footnote 51:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (17/04/2018 21:04:19).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.



"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Reply to Garrett"

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).


COMMENT:

Write-up3 (as at 14/07/2019 18:05:46): Baker - Persons and Bodies - Response to Garrett

  1. This Note is currently work in progress4, and sadly does not yet include any of my own work.
  2. It discusses a response to a review of submitted to an e-Symposium, convened in 2001, to review See Link; logged as a pseudo-book at
  3. I’ve included below the full text of Baker’s reply to Garrett, with (in due course) annotations as bullets below the numbered sections of Baker’s text. The numbering is indexed to Garrett’s paper. Not all of Garrett’s Sections received a comment from Baker:-


    Introduction
      I want to thank Brian Garrett for his careful and detailed comments on "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View". I’ll respond to as many of his comments as I can. (They make me look forward to reading his "Garrett (Brian) - Personal Identity and Self-consciousness".)
  1. Section 1
      I use the term ‘the Constitution View’ simply as a name of the view of human persons that I work out. I began by thinking about the relation between persons and bodies, and started with the idea of constitution-without-identity. In one way, I think that the idea of constitution is the more important of the two central ideas (the other of which is the idea of the first-person perspective), because the idea of constitution has general metaphysical application for understanding the whole material world. That’s how I came to call my view ‘the Constitution View.’ Granted, ‘the Constitution and First-Person Perspective View’ would be more descriptive, but ‘the Constitution View’ is snappier.
  2. Section 2
      I use Castañeda’s ‘*’ device to illustrate what I think is an important distinction—namely, that between consciousness (which infants and higher nonhuman animals have) and self-consciousness (which, as far as we know, is unique to human persons).
  3. Section 3
    1. Garrett mentions that I need not invoke the ‘*’ device since an I*-thought is just an iterated I-thought, and we could say that “being able to think iterated ‘I’-thoughts is the hallmark of self-consciousness.”
    2. Garrett notes that Castañeda made his point with ‘he*’, not ‘I*.’ Right, but I couldn’t illustrate the point that I want to make in terms of ‘he*’. Castañeda’s ‘he*’ is used to attribute a first-person reference. But a first-person reference, on my view, does not always manifest a first-person perspective. In ‘the dog believes that he* is about to be attacked,’ we are attributing to the dog a belief that (if he could speak) he would express as ‘I am about to be attacked.’ But this (pretend) speech would not indicate a first-person perspective. The dog is conscious, and thus has a perspective, the origin of which is always himself. For a dog, the (pretend) ‘I’ is just a default marker for the origin of his perspective. In a given context, we can often tell whether or not ‘he*’ attributes just a (pretend) first-person reference of a dog or a real first-person perspective. But since ‘he*’does not always doesn’t distinguish between attribution of a (pretend) first-person reference and a real first-person perspective, ‘he*’ would not serve my purposes in the way that ‘I*’ does.
    3. Perhaps, as Garrett suggests, we should not say that a dog is involved in any (even low-grade) first-person phenomena. I disagree, because all consciousness, it seems to me, is perspectival. (The bone is over here, not there.) The dog is the origin of the perspective. (The bone is over here, not there, and I want it.) But, lacking a first-person perspective, the dog does not know that it is only the center of a perspective, not the center of the universe. He can’t realize that there are other perspectives. The dog has a perspective (and thus engages in low-grade first-person phenomena); but the dog does not realize that he* has a perspective.
    4. Garrett thinks that having a perspective is not sufficient for attributing ‘I’-thoughts. Missiles may “have in-built maps with themselves as origin and can modify their speed and direction in sophisticated ways. But missiles don’t have ‘I’-thoughts.” Garrett challenges me to say how I treat missiles differently from animals and infants. Here’s how: infants and animals are conscious and the way that a conscious being “adjusts its behavior to fit its goals” is by inferences relying on essential indexicals. The analogue of reasoning and inferring for the missile presumably can be described without using indexicals at all. ((Pretend) use of ‘I’ attributed to a missile would be exactly like our use of ‘now’ in a Minkowski diagram.) But (pretend) use of ‘I’ attributed to animals or infants marks use of indexical thoughts; (pretend) use of ‘I’ is not (pretend) use of the full-fledged ‘I’ of a first-person perspective. Attribution of (pretend) use of ‘I’ to animals and infants just marks the center of a perspective from which the infant or animal has indexical thoughts.
  4. Section 4: No comment from Baker.
  5. Section 5
      Garrett notes that I “give some credence to the Russell-Geach view that first-person reference is eliminable from simple, direct-discourse ‘I’ sentences.” What I was thinking of was that for animals that have an egocentric perspective ‘I am in pain’ = ‘There is pain.’ This is really just the point that I was making before about beings that are conscious, but not self-conscious: They can’t conceive of the difference between attributing a property to themselves and attributing it to others. Hence, all pain is their pain, etc. I agree with Garrett that, in general, ‘I’ is ineliminable from even simple, direct-discourse sentences.
  6. Section 6
      I certainly share Garrett’s view that self-consciousness can’t be given a reductive analysis. Garrett says parenthetically, “I assume that in the present discussion we’re talking only of the concept of self-consciousness, not the property it’s a concept of. That property presumably is some kind of neural property (in us). It’s only the concept that irreducible.” I’m not sure (yet) how to respond to this, but I think that in the end, I will not share the view of the relation between concepts and properties that this suggests. (In "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Saving Belief: A Critique of Physicalism" and in "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - A Farewell to Functionalism" I argue against functionalism in philosophy of mind.)
  7. Section 7
      Garrett sees no advantage in my separation of a sameness-of-body criterion of personal identity from a sameness-of-living-organism criterion. But traditionally, these are distinct. Aristotle (and Aquinas) would accept the latter, but not the former. He also notes that I didn’t argue against his psychological view of personal identity, but my objection to any view that faces the duplication problem (and hence requires non-branching), I think, applies to his view as well.
  8. Section 8
      Garrett makes an interesting point about circularity: “A circular analysis can still be illuminating, provided it makes vivid the connections between the target concept and some other range of concepts.” Yes! Good point!
  9. Section 9
    1. Garrett criticizes my claim that we cannot give (noncircular) informative sufficient conditions for sameness of person over time without presupposing sameness of person.
    2. I meant “informative” in the sense of helping us understand sameness of person. If someone produced informative sufficient conditions in this sense, I’d be surprised....and I would be proved wrong.
    3. Garrett suggests: “If my brain, body, and psychological stream continue as normal, and there’s no duplication, fission, fusion, teletransportation, etc., then I will occupy this body tomorrow.” Whether I deny this or not depends on the ‘etc.’ Would the ‘etc.’ rule out Locke’s Prince and the Cobbler case? If not, then the Prince and the Cobbler case is a counterexample to the conditional. If so, then the ‘etc’ seems to function as an open-ended ceteris paribus clause that makes the account uninformative.
    4. Garrett also sees an epistemic problem here: “Even in a normal everyday case, how is a person supposed to know at t2 that he existed in the same body at t1?” I know that I exist in the same body (=am constituted by the same body) that I had yesterday, because it looks the same (warts and all). Also, had I been videotaped throughout the time between yesterday and today, no changes in my body would have been observed.
    5. I said: “Every morning when I wake up, I know that I am still existing – without consulting my mirror, my memory, or anything else.” Garrett responds: “But, given Baker’s no-constraints view of the first-person perspective, how can she tell?” My first-person perspective is essential to me. If there is any experience that I am aware of, then I (with my first-person perspective) exist. If I’m having an experience, there can be no question of whose first-person perspective is involved. (The only question that can arise is which body constitutes me at that time.)
    6. The question of how I know that my first-person perspective persisted through the night makes no sense on my view: If I have any experience at all—indeed, if I have any property at all—then I exist; and if I exist, I have a particular first-person perspective.
    7. Let me try to put it another way: Suppose that: (1) S wakes up and has an experience of being glad that she’s alive; (2) I know without evidence that someone is having an experience of being glad that she’s alive. Then it follows that (i) I exist (having my first-person perspective); (ii) I am identical to S.
    8. I think that there is much more to develop here, and I hope to turn to this kind of issue.
  10. Section 10: No comment from Baker.
  11. Section 11
    1. Re: Indeterminacy. Vagueness is a general problem, about which I have no good solution. All the solutions known to me—supervaluation, the epistemic view, degrees of truth, multi-valued logic—either fail to solve the problem or are patently absurd (to me, anyway).
    2. But I do think that it is a defect in a criterion of personal identity to admit of vagueness. (Maybe I read too much Chisholm.) I simply can’t imagine partly existing and partly not existing. I either exist or not. It’s only from a third-person point of view that vagueness seems possible. If there is a thought, then (pace Parfit) someone is having it. Whoever is having it has to exist.
  12. Section 12
    1. The point of condition (T)—a criterion of sameness of human person over time—is to show that even though I can’t give an informative criterion for identity of persons (embodied or not) over time, the fact that human persons are necessarily embodied (de re) does allow me to give an informative criterion for identity of human persons over time. Since the focus of the book is human persons, it seemed useful to show that I could give (noncircular) necessary and sufficient conditions for sameness of human persons over time, even if I couldn’t give (noncircular) necessary and sufficient conditions for sameness of persons generally over time.
    2. Human person is what I called a hybrid kind. Person is the dominant sortal. x at t1 is the same human person as y at t2 iff x is a person, y is a person, x is human at t1, y is human at t2 and x = y.
  13. Section 13
      (T6) is just essential embodiment of human persons. Garrett says: “[I]f immaterial substances are a logical possibility (as even many materialists think), then Baker should not be endorsing (T6).” I disagree. From my claim that human persons are essentially embodied, it does not follow that everything that exists is essentially embodied. Perhaps there are essentially unembodied beings.
  14. Section 14
    1. Garrett says that my conditions for taking persons seriously5 are idiosyncratic.
    2. I clearly specified the sense in which I am claiming that other materialistic views fail to take persons seriously6. Conditions for taking persons seriously7 (in the sense specified) are these: (1) Being a person is relevant to the fundamental kind of individual that one is; (2) Elimination of any person is elimination of an individual; (3) Having mental states is relevant to what a person is. These conditions do not seem idiosyncratic to me—of course, they wouldn’t.
    3. A lot of philosophers share Garrett’s view that my conditions on taking persons seriously8 are idiosyncratic. (But he is the first one I know of who suggests that this conception of taking persons seriously9 should be denounced!) I want to hold my ground. I have a paper10 read at the Chisholm Memorial Conference at Brown University, "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Ontological Status of Persons", forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. In it, I develop further and argue for this construal of taking persons seriously11.




In-Page Footnotes ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Reply to Garrett")

Footnote 3:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (14/07/2019 18:05:46).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
Footnote 10: Baker had the title as “The Ontological Significance of Persons”.



"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Reply to Noonan"

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).


COMMENT:

Write-up3 (as at 17/04/2018 21:04:19): Baker - Persons and Bodies - Response to Noonan

  1. This Note is currently work in progress4, and sadly does not yet include any of my own work.
  2. It discusses a responseto a review of submitted to an e-Symposium, convened in 2001 to review see Link; logged as a pseudo-book at
  3. I’ve included below the full text, with (in due course) annotations as bullets below the numbered sections of Baker’s text:-


    Introduction
      I very much appreciate the sympathetic account that Noonan gives of (some of) my views – especially my case against Animalism. I also appreciate Noonan’s suggestion for replying to the Many Minds Objection.
  1. Section 1
    1. It is certainly true, as Noonan says, that I take persons to be ontologically different from animals. This is one of the most controversial aspects of my view. Persons necessarily have first-person perspectives, and these first-person perspectives provide the persistence conditions of persons. The persistence conditions of animals stem from the purely biological properties (like metabolism, circulation, and so on).
    2. Noonan agrees that the first-person perspective has “fundamental significance in our view of ourselves” and, I think, he recognizes a “gap between ourselves and non-human animals on which Baker insists,” but, he goes on, “the move to the claim that it has ontological significance is not compelling.” But I do not see that Noonan offers any real argument here. Granted, I have no demonstrative argument, but I do give a number of considerations in favor of my view. I have developed this theme further in "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Ontological Status of Persons", forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
  2. Section 2
      My book tries to situate persons in a comprehensive nonreductive view of the material world. The idea of constitution-without-identity is a general idea, of which the idea of constitution of persons by bodies is a species. One of the novel features of my general view (and ipso facto of my view of persons) is a turn away from a traditional ontological assumption. Traditionally, philosophers have assumed that what something most fundamentally is depends on what it is made of. Underlying my view, by contrast, is a conviction that what something most fundamentally is often depends more on what it can do than what it is made of. I think that new technologies—e.g., replacing damaged body parts with inorganic parts, building micro-machines from organic matter—blur the lines between what is “natural” and what is artifactual. And this, in turn, suggests that the traditional view should be replaced. What something is made of is often not as revealing of its nature as what it can do. Hence, two entities with similar constitutions (say, you and a gorilla) are ontologically less similar than two persons with very different constitutions (say, you and a Martian person (if there were any)).
  3. Section 3
    1. Some philosophers reject the idea of constitution-without-identity in favor of contingent identity. To the example (from Lewis) of the dishpan and the piece of plastic, I have two replies. Before giving them, I must mention that on p. 22, I state three basic assumptions of the book. The first is materialism of the natural world. The second is that all identity is strict identity; if x and y differ in their modal properties, they are nonidentical. (p. 22) The third is three-dimensionalism. I do not consider temporal parts. I shall continue to assume three-dimensionalism here. (As I mention on p. 22, if you take issue with any of my three assumptions, then regard my book as a conditional argument that shows how much ground can be covered under the assumptions.) Now to the replies to the dishpan example:
    2. First, Noonan’s treatment of this example (like Lewis’s) depends on contingent identity, which I clearly reject on p. 22. [For an argument, see my "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Why Constitution is Not Identity": 599-621.]
    3. Second, if you take the dishpan and the piece of plastic that makes it up, where the dishpan and the piece of plastic begin and end at the same time, to be (contingently) identical, you have to give a different account of the relation between dishpan and the piece of plastic that makes it up when they do not begin and end at the same time. Suppose that both the dishpan and the piece of plastic come into existence at 9:00, and that the piece of plastic makes up the dishpan from 9:00 until noon. Case 1: At noon, a terrorist bomb blows the dishpan made of the piece of plastic to bits, and both piece of plastic and dishpan go out of existence. Case 2: At noon, the terrorist bomb merely blows a sizable hole in the dishpan, which at 1:00 is repaired by placing a new piece of plastic in the hole. From 9:00 until 12:00, the dishpan was made up of the piece of plastic.
    4. Now the advocate of contingent identity will say that the dishpan and the piece of plastic are identical in Case 1, but not in Case 2. So, the contingent-identity theorist will need two theories of the relation between the dishpan and the piece of plastic: one for Case 1 (contingent identity) and a separate one for Case 2. It seems to me clearly better to have a unified theory of the relation between the dishpan and the piece of plastic that covers both cases—as the constitution view does. According to the constitution view, the relation between the dishpan and the piece of plastic is the same in both Cases: constitution, not identity. (For more on the dishpan case, see Ch. 7.)
    5. I think that the idea of constitution-without-identity can accomplish what the idea of contingent identity is supposed to accomplish without introducing a kind of ersatz “identity” that falls short of genuine identity—strict, necessary, Leibnizian identity.
  4. Section 4
      By the way, I would not say that “no actual human person is identical with any actual human being.” As I said in Chapter 1, the term ‘human being’ has been used ambiguously (long before I came on the scene): both to name a partly psychological kind, and to name a purely biological kind. So, I try to avoid the term. When I use it, I usually mean ‘human person.’
  5. Section 5
      I started with the question, “What am I5?” The answer that I gave is that I am most fundamentally a person, and I am constituted by a human body. Only later did I consider the much-fought-over question of personal identity over time. (I found "Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity" useful in thinking about this issue.) I can only agree with Noonan that I do not have a satisfactory account of personal identity over time; but neither, as I argued in Chapter 5, does anyone else. The reason, I think, is that personal identity over time cannot be analyzed in nonpersonal terms; hence, any account is circular. It is clear to me (but obviously not to everybody) that there is a fact of the matter about whether a particular person is I or not. I hope to pursue this topic further later on.




In-Page Footnotes ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Reply to Noonan")

Footnote 3:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (17/04/2018 21:04:19).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.



"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Reply to Olson"

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).


COMMENT:

Write-up3 (as at 18/11/2019 18:15:50): Baker - Persons and Bodies - Response to Olson

  1. This Note is currently work in progress4, and sadly does not yet include any of my own work.
  2. It discusses a responseto a review of submitted to an e-Symposium, convened in 2001 to review see Link; logged as a pseudo-book at
  3. I’ve included below the full text, with (in due course) annotations as bullets below the numbered sections of Baker’s text:-


  1. Section 1
    1. Olson seems to think that my view of persons rests on thought experiments about changing bodies. It does not. But the view rests on what I claim to be a difference in persistence conditions between persons and animals. Granted, Locke’s Prince/Cobbler case and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis5,” discussed briefly in Ch. 5 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Personal Identity Over Time"), illustrate the difference in persistence conditions; but reasons to accept the Constitution View come from considerations like these:
    2. (a) The Constitution View situates human persons in a comprehensive metaphysics of the material world. The material world is characterized by ontological diversity—by statues as well as by pieces of marble, by meteors as well as by molecules. Persons are part of the natural world—material beings--yet ontologically different from other things.
    3. (b) The Constitution View does justice to our uniqueness, as well as to what we have in common with animals. Animalism has nothing to say about our uniqueness.
  2. Section 2
      As I argued in Ch. 5 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Personal Identity Over Time"), I reject the psychological-continuity views of personal identity over time. My answer (such as it is) to the diachronic question of personal identity over time takes a back seat to my answer to the synchronic question of what makes something a person in the first place.
  3. Section 3
    1. “Animalism is not a contender.” One big difference between the Constitution View and Animalism is that on the Constitution View [nonderivative] persons are essentially persons.
    2. (a) Why, Olson asks, should we accept that? We have lots of essential properties that don’t determine our identity conditions, e.g., being such that the number 5 is odd. I argue that being a person (i.e., having a first-person perspective) determines our persistence conditions. Having first-person perspectives is what is distinctive of us; being such that the number 5 is odd is shared with all other entities.
    3. (Later on, Olson says that on my view, “you have your identity conditions not by virtue of being a person, but by virtue of being a person essentially.” This isn’t right. If x has its identity conditions by being an F, then x is an F essentially. Identity conditions depend on essential properties.)
    4. (b) I say that if persons were not essentially persons, then “every person could be eliminated without eliminating a single individual.” Olson professes to see an ambiguity in ‘eliminate.’ There is no ambiguity: If F is an essential property of [nonderivative] Fs, then to eliminate a [nonderivative] F is to bring it about that something ceases to exist altogether, not just that something ceases to be an F. (See Chapter 2 - "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Very Idea of Constitution".) This is a matter of definition. There is no ambiguity. So, it is simply false to say that “by ‘eliminating’ a person Baker means just causing her to stop being a person.” On my view, to stop being a person is to stop existing altogether. And it is obviously question-begging to criticize my view by assuming that persons are not essentially persons.
    5. (c) Yes, “students as such [have] no ontological significance.” But of course they have ontological significance as persons. On the Animalist view, students as such have no ontological significance either, and neither do persons. On the Animalist view, a person has ontological significance only as an animal, not as a person. On the Constitution View, a person has ontological significance in virtue of being a person. (See my forthcoming "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Ontological Status of Persons" in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.)
  4. Section 4
      To say “Animals are brutish” seems like a slur, and certainly one that I never made. I think that a first-person perspective makes an ontological difference in the world. I certainly agree that human animals and chimpanzees are genetically, physiologically, and psychologically similar. But the differences in the abilities of beings with first-person perspectives and of beings without first-person perspectives is so striking as to be an ontological difference. (One way that I differ from typical metaphysicians (and from Animalists) is that I think that in some cases what something most fundamentally is depends more on what it can do than what it is made of. See my reply to Noonan6.)
  5. Section 5
      The Corpse Problem. I think that an animal, whether it constitutes a person or not, still exists as a corpse. I think that the animal that constitutes me exists from implantation (about 2 weeks after conception) until disintegration. Part of that time it constitutes me. So, I am constituted by an animal that will be a corpse (presumably), but I am not identical to that animal. So, the Constitution View faces no corpse problem that is analogous to the one faced by Animalism (on Olson’s interpretation).
  6. Section 6
    1. A human person comes into existence when a human organism develops to the point that its brain can support!a first-person perspective. To have a first-person perspective is not a matter of having a brain in a certain state. To have a first-person perspective is to have a conceptual ability; to exercise a first-person perspective is to exercise a conceptual ability. This conceptual ability is the ability to think of (conceive of) oneself as oneself. And it is an ability had by a person, not by a brain. A sufficiently developed brain is a materially necessary condition for having this ability.
    2. Of course animals think. Dogs think. Dogs are animals. Therefore, animals think. (But animals cannot think the same kinds of thoughts that we can. Animals can’t wonder how they’re going to die.)
    3. Much of what Olson says is caricature. For example, I carefully distinguish between having a property derivatively and having a property nonderivatively. I say that constitution is so close to identity that my body is a person derivatively in virtue of constituting me. (For elaborate detail, see Chapter 2.) Without mentioning the distinction, Olson says: “But if the animal is a person, then people come in two kinds: animal people, who are identical with animals and have the identity conditions of animals; and people constituted by but not identical with animals....” Not at all. To have a property F derivatively is not be to a different kind of F. It is to be an F in virtue of constitution relations to something that is an F independently.

    Section 7
    1. Assorted charges of overpopulation: In my book, I dealt with these as clearly as I could—i.e., by setting out valid arguments in Chapters 6 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Importance Of Being a Person") and 7 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Coherence Of the Idea of Material Constitution"). Olson does not mention any of these arguments.
    2. Charging that my view has various absurd consequences, Olson assumes throughout that if x and y are non-numerically-identical, then x and y are “two things,” and if x is an F and y is an F and x and y are non-numerically-identical, then there are two Fs. His strategy is: Infer from nonidentity of x and y, where x constitutes y, to “two things” or two Fs, then point out the absurdity of supposing that there are “two things” or two Fs in the circumstances. However, as I’ll show, where constitution is at issue, the inference from nonidentity to “two things” or two Fs is always question-begging.
    3. First, note that what’s at issue here is notnumerical identity”7 in the sense of strict, Leibnizian identity; what’s at issue is rather ‘non-numerical-identity.’ Olson assumes that there is only one variety of nonidentity; my view holds that there are two varieties of nonidentity: constitution and separate existence. Since constitution has an intermediate position between identity and separate existence, what is true of nonidentity in cases of separate existence may not be true of nonidentity cases of constitution.
    4. I have gone to great lengths to show that “nonidentity” subsumes two different relations: If x and y are nonidentical at t, then either x and y are constitutionally related at t, or x and y have separate existence at t (where x and y have separate existence at t iff there is no F such that x and y are the same F at t). Where there is nonidentity in the sense of separate existence, then there are “two things” or two Fs (if Fs are in question) there. Where there is nonidentity in the sense of constitution, then there are not “two things” or two Fs there. Since that is my view, it begs the question to infer from non-numerical-identity to “two things” or two Fs.
    5. Moreover, there is another problem with the “two things” idea: Olson insists on counting things as things. (He might say ‘numerically-identical things.’) I think that this is incoherent. The question, “How many things are there in this room (not to mention in the universe)?” makes no sense. How many pencils, yes; how many persons, yes; how many animals, yes, how many things, no. This is not a “linguistic trick,” but would be agreed to by philosophers from Aristotle to Putnam.
    6. Here are a couple of examples of Olson’s illicit inference from nonidentity of Fs to two Fs:
    7. (a) Olson takes as a premise in an argument against me that if x is a person and y is a person and x and y are not “numerically identical,” then there are two persons. This cannot be a premise in a non-question-begging argument since it is just a denial of one of my premises (see (P1) on p. 173 of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Coherence Of the Idea of Material Constitution").
    8. (b) Without the question-begging assumption that if x is an F and y is an F and x and y are non-numerically-identical, then there are two Fs, Olson cannot even raise the question, “How do I know which of the two numerically different people who share my location I am?” This question – as well as his final question about two thinkers of the same thought and the facetious “Are you the animal philosopher or the person philosopher?” – simply ignores my discussion of ‘the same F’ (p. 174 of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Coherence Of the Idea of Material Constitution"), and my answers to similar objections by Snowdon (pp. 198-202 of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Coherence Of the Constitution View of Human Persons").
    9. All of Olson’s objections that my view entails too many thinkers, philosophers, thoughts, etc. rest on a tendentious use of ‘non-numerical-identity.’ In light of the fact that I have gone to considerable lengths to make clear what constitution is, objections cannot legitimately lump together the two kinds of non-numerical-identity that I have carefully distinguished, and then charge me with absurd conclusions.




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

Footnote 3:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (18/11/2019 18:15:50).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.



"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Technology and the Future of Persons"

Source: The Monist, Vol. 96, No. 1, Constitution and Composition (January, 2013), pp. 37–53


Author’s Introduction
  1. Futurologists believe that we are on the verge of merging with our technology. Techno-guru Ray Kurzweil has predicted that by the 2020s, we will have reverse-engineered the entire brain, and nanobots will be operating our consciousness. (Kurzweil 2005)
  2. But we need not venture into the world of science fiction to be staggered by the accelerating pace of technology today. We have already become familiar with cochlear implants that, by stimulating the auditory nerve, allow babies born deaf to hear; and we know something about computer-chip-sized devices that can take brain signals and rout them to robotic limbs, thereby allowing amputees’ thoughts to control their movement. We are nearing the development of retinal implants to treat blindness. I have just read about research at the University of Florida on a new kind of neural implant that does not just receive instructions, but learns along with the brain. (Unattributed 2008)
  3. […]
  4. As a Practical Realist, what interests me in these examples is that they are real-life cases. They are not merely imagined. We do not have to indulge in long-range prediction or in outré thought experiments1 about zombies2 in order to be astonished by the melding of the biological with the nonbiological. And it is no surprise that these technological developments have raised anew the question of what we really are.
  5. I want to ask: What’s to become of us? Do these dizzying advances presage a future in which persons — traditionally conceived as self-understanding moral and rational agents — have disappeared?


COMMENT:



"Barker (Jonathan) - Debunking Arguments and Metaphysical Laws"

Source: Philosophical Studies (Forthcoming as of March 2019)


Author’s Abstract
  1. Moral beliefs, mathematical beliefs, religious beliefs, and beliefs about which composite objects exist have all been the target of so-called “debunking” arguments. Debunking arguments typically begin with the claim that there is a debunking explanation of some type of belief we hold. A debunking explanation is a complete causal explanation of the origins of some type of belief, which makes no reference to the facts that are those beliefs’ putative subject matter. Once we concede the existence of such an explanation, the debunker contends, we thereby lose our justification for holding those beliefs.
  2. In this paper I shall argue that one’s views about which “metaphysical laws” obtain — such as the laws about what is identical with what, about what is reducible to what, and about what grounds what — can be used block the epistemic threat posed by debunking arguments.
  3. I will develop the proposed strategy by using a well-known debunking argument in the metaphysics of material objects as a case study. Then, after defending the proposed strategy from the charge of question-begging, I shall argue that certain moral realists can use the proposed strategy to reply to the evolutionary debunking arguments in meta-ethics. I will conclude by outlining the strategy in its most generalized form.


COMMENT: See Barker - Debunking Arguments and Metaphysical Laws.



"Barua (Ankur) - Revisiting the Rationality of Reincarnation-Talk"

Source: International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, 2015


Author’s Abstract
  1. A survey of the key arguments that have been developed for and against the rationality of belief in reincarnation shows that often the central dispute is not over what the ‘data’ are but how to assess the ‘data’ from specific metaphysical-hermeneutical horizons.
  2. By examining some of these arguments formulated by Hindu thinkers as well as their critiques – from the perspectives of metaphysical naturalism and Christian theology – we argue that one of the reasons why these debates remain intractable is that the ‘theory’ is underdetermined by the ‘data’, so that more than one set of the latter can be regarded as adequate explanations of the former.


COMMENT: See Link



"Bauer (Rudolph) - The Direct Experience of Our Ontological Sense of Being as Self"

Source: Retrieved from Academia.edu, 14th August 2018


Author’s Abstract
  1. This paper describes the self-liberating power of a person being in the transitional space of awareness. By being in the transitional space of awareness, we are able to directly experience the field of Being and to experience our embodied sense of the field of Being. We are directly able to experience our sense of self as the ongoing continuity of embodied Being.
  2. This paper explores the sources and dimensions of our lack of Being and the natural resource that brings forth our simultaneous experience of the duality of beings and our direct sense of the non-duality of Being within the duality of beings.
  3. The paper illuminates the drama of our direct knowing of Being and our knowing of the indivisible experience of the Being of phenomena.


COMMENT:
  • Full Text at Link.
  • I have to say that this paper looks like complete tripe, redolent of the Sokal hoax, but I've added it to my list of stuff to read on Buddhism1.



"Baxter (Donald L.M.) - Temporary and Contingent Instantiation as Partial Identity"

Source: International Journal for Philosophical Studies, 26 (5):763-780 (2018)


Author’s Abstract
  1. An apparent objection against my theory of instantiation as partial identity is that identity is necessary, yet instantiation is often contingent.
  2. To rebut the objection, I show how it can make sense that identity is contingent.
  3. I begin by showing how it can make sense that identity is temporary.
  4. I rely heavily on Andre Gallois's formal theory of occasional identity1, but argue that there is a gap in his explanation of how his formalisms make sense that needs to be filled by appeal to my theory of Aspects.


COMMENT: See Baxter - Temporary and Contingent Instantiation as Partial Identity.



"Beckwith (Francis J.) - Potentials and burdens: a reply to Giubilini and Minerva"

Source: Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 39, No. 5 (May 2013), pp. 341-344


Author’s Abstract
  1. This article responds to "Giubilini (Alberto) & Minerva (Francesca) - After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?".
  2. Giubilini and Minerva argue for the permissibility of 'after-birth abortion1', based on two conjoined considerations:
    1. the fetus2 or newborn, though a 'potential person', is not an actual person, because it is not mature enough to appreciate its own interests, and
    2. because we allow parents to terminate the life of a fetus3 when it is diagnosed with a deformity or fatal illness because of the burden it will place on the child, parent, family or society we should also allow parents to do the same to their newborn, since it is no more a person than the fetus4.
  3. The author critiques this case by pointing out
    1. the metaphysical ambiguity of potential personhood and
    2. why the appeal to burdens is irrelevant or unnecessary.


COMMENT: Response to "Giubilini (Alberto) & Minerva (Francesca) - After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?"



"Bilgrami (Akeel) - Notes toward the Definition of 'Identity'"

Source: Daedalus, Vol. 135, No. 4, On Identity (Fall, 2006), pp. 5-14


Author’s Introduction
  1. The extremity of Identity' politics in many parts of the globe during the last few decades has given rise to widespread use of the term 'identity' as well as to a glamorous theoretical interest in the concept. However, there has been little clarity or rigor in its theoretical deployment. This brief essay will make a very small effort at correcting that.
  2. My main concern will be how we use 'identity' in the context of identity politics, not how the word surfaces in discussions of metaphysics, about which philosophers have already produced a flourishing and interesting literature. In politics, when we say an individual has a certain identity, we mean that he be longs to a certain type relevant to what we commonly call 'identity politics.'
  3. For some years now, in various essays, I have tried to impose some theoretical order on the concept by distinguishing at the outset between the 'subjective' and 'objective' aspects of identity. Your subjective identity is what you conceive yourself to be, whereas your objective identity is how you might be viewed in dependently of how you see yourself. In other words, your objective identity is who you are in light of certain biological or social facts about you.
  4. Of course, subjective identity and objective identity are often closely related. It is neither routine nor plausible, at least in a political sense, to conceive of yourself as something you manifestly are not. Could I, born of Indian parents, think of myself as an African American? I suppose I could. One can imagine all sorts of things that go beyond reality. But since we are interested in the notion of identity in the realm of identity politics, we would be sensible to put aside self-conceptions that amount to fantasies.
  5. But while the two aspects of identity are closely linked, there can be asymmetry between them. Subjective identity - when it is not mere fantasy - presupposes some proximate objective version of that identity, but not vice versa. For instance, one might be a Jew or an Indian objectively - born to a Jewish mother or to Indian parents - but not identify subjectively as a Jew or an Indian.
  6. It is worth spending time discussing both subjective and objective identities, since they raise very different philosophical issues and ought to be analyzed in very different ways. But before doing so let me quickly register another distinction.
  7. On the question of political identity, one can take either a normative angle or a descriptive one. A normative perspective asks if it is good to have identity or to engage in a politics based on one's cultural, national, racial, or other forms of identity. Much writing about identity politics takes this perspective, with a view to arguing either that identities should not be left out of politics or that infecting politics with identitarian issues is dangerous and wrong.
  8. By contrast, a descriptive treatment of the subject merely tries to analyze what it means to have an identity in the con text of identity politics. Of course, a descriptive angle on identity can observe that those who have a certain subjective identity themselves often think that it is a good thing. However, the theorist of identity, in taking a descriptive approach to the subject, does not take a position either way. This distinction between the normative and the descriptive is important. Too often, an author's normative stance drives his description of identity, skewing the analysis in one direction or the other. Rather than taking a normative approach to identity politics, this brief essay merely tries to examine 'identity' descriptively.



"Blackburn (Simon) - How can we teach objectivity in a post-truth era?"

Source: New Statesman, 18th February 2019


Full Text
  1. I believe that cows chew cud, pigs can't fly, and night is darker than day, and also that there is water between Dover and Calais. When I believe these things, I believe them to be true. And I certainly hope that you believe them, too.
  2. Any of us could continue the list indefinitely for ourselves. Some might put things on the list that others doubt, but there will inevitably be a great deal of overlap. Even Donald Trump has not tweeted that the USA lies north of Canada.
  3. Scepticism about common-sense things has been on the agenda of philosophers for centuries, but only as a plaything confined to the study. It does not spill into everyday life. So, what on earth do people mean when they say we are living in a "post-truth" world?
  4. It might suggest a worry that people are too credulous, or too quick to form attachments to outlandish beliefs. There are, after all, conspiracy theorists, fantasists, and ideologues who believe just about anything, provided that it is unlikely enough.
  5. There is also the opposite vice of being too cautious, refusing to listen to expert opinion in areas where expert opinion has earned its authority and ought to be respected.
  6. A person can easily exhibit both vices, being too ready to believe whatever comes across on Twitter or Facebook, and too dismissive of a consensus achieved by careful, patient, skilled investigation by trained scientists, historians or even scrupulous journalists.
  7. Both vices tend to emerge when emotion comes into play, so that people believe what they want to believe, however flimsy or non-existent the evidence, and refuse to believe what they don't want to believe, however well attested it is. This blight is scarcely new. It was lamented by Francis Bacon in the seventeenth century, and no doubt before that.
  8. Perhaps our era is distinguished by a slightly different malaise. It is not so much the idea that there exists a truth about things that comes under attack, as the notion that there can be any such thing as objective inquiry into it.
  9. So-called young-earth creationists may have dotty views about the age of the earth. But they will agree with orthodox science that there is a truth about it. They are not "post-truth," as such. Rather, their scepticism is directed at the authority of the scientific methods of establishing what the truth actually is—a scepticism nourished by a well-protected ignorance of what those methods are and why they deserve the authority they have.
  10. Religious conviction perverts judgement. But the inability to assess evidence properly is everywhere. In fact, the tendency to overlook or misinterpret evidence appears to be a permanent feature of human nature. Behavioural economics, for example, has found many varieties of it.
  11. One of the most sinister is the "availability cascade," defined as a self-reinforcing process of collective belief formation, a chain reaction in which particular stories or bits of evidence balloon into common certainties, often helped on its way by activists or "availability entrepreneurs."
  12. In other words, the madness of crowds, whereby a few simple memorable stories, "my child had an MMR jab and now has autism", have greater influence than a whole library of well- conducted blind tests showing that the one has nothing to do with the other. Once caught up in a cascade or chain reaction, people refuse to listen to evidence. They ground themselves in bubbles or silos, only listening to voices like their own. And there is no certain way of curing people who wear such blinkers.
  13. In science, history, law, economics, or politics, the only way to recover from particular wrong turns is to go over the ground again, more carefully. Yet those who are already taken in by one particular version of the truth are unlikely to pay attention to this. As with young-earth creationists, it is the very idea of an objective inquiry that they dismiss. Applying more objective inquiry will not cure that.
  14. Yet when somebody decries the very idea of objective inquiry, it is good to ask whether, if they were falsely accused of possessing and using counterfeit currency, they would prefer the investigation to be careful, patient, open-minded and thorough, or the reverse of all these things.
  15. Of course, care, patience, and flexible-thinking are key features of objective inquiry. In fact, such inquiry is the only way we know about our susceptibility to error. So, we only know who possesses counterfeit banknotes when a thorough investigation shows the difference between them and real banknotes.
  16. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget this if we talk in purely abstract terms, stoking up emotions about "Western science" or "the establishment" or "capitalism", forgetting that under these vast umbrellas there are many different things, some of which are better established and worthy of much more respect than others.
  17. Indeed, there is something comical about using the extraordinary results of either Western science or commercial activity—results such as iPhones, email, or even Facebook—in order to decry the very enterprises that, over centuries of hard-won economic, technological, and scientific progress, made them possible.
  18. In any event, the growth of social media clearly facilitates cascades of misinformation. And even if these chain reactions speak to a permanent tendency in human nature, the power of Twitter and Facebook to spread untruths is part of what characterizes our objective inquiry denying a "post-truth" world.
  19. But there are two more ideas at work in our "post-truth" era. These are not heavyweight philosophical ideas such as truth itself, or its associated tools, inquiry and objectivity. Rather, they are the moral ideas that have to do with the decline of trust and trustworthiness, and the associated idea of a loss of shame in those who parade their indifference to truth. In a small towns and societies, it is a serious thing to be thought untrustworthy. It leads to a loss of reputation and a loss of social standing. And in the case of close-knit communities, lying and obfuscation require expiation, and a suitable and sincere expression of shame and repentance.
  20. Alas, as society grows and become more anonymous, we get the rise of a character David Hume called a "sensible knave": a person who seizes the advantage gained by dishonesty when they suppose they can avoid being caught out and thus avoid suffering any penalty.
  21. Now in an age of global internet connectivity, social media offers impressionable teenagers and innumerable troll factories an unprecedented opportunity for mischief and immunity to its consequences. As a result, we begin to live in a world in which more and more people are untrustworthy more of the time.
  22. The natural response to this is to trust people less. And in turn the natural response to that is to feel no shame when caught out, since you can readily convince yourself that many other people, perhaps all, are no better. Indeed, you can look at your social media feed and tell yourself; "That's just politics or advertising. It is what everybody does."
  23. Quite possibly serial, brazen, astonishing liars such as Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin think that their reputations for honesty are no lower than those of other public figures, and this is a self-deception which it may be difficult to shift, especially in the light of the serious competition now flourishing in London.
  24. Perhaps in the political bubble, what people say should be treated like the declamations of actors on the stage—not serious attempts to communicate truths or make promises, but mere imitations, noises demanded by the script. After all, the actor who says that he is the ghost of Hamlet's father is not lying or even being careless with the truth. He is in a different game altogether.
  25. This would be a reassuring interpretation of what goes on in London, Washington, or Moscow. But in the theatre when the lights go out and the actors and audience go home, the make-believe gives way to the serious business of living, and truth and reason regain their sovereignty.
  26. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like this in politics. Untruths and "acting" spill out of the political theatre, infecting everything. It is only fun and games until things stop working, the food banks multiply, and people start marching, or dying.
  27. So, what is the cure? The only remedy for bad ideas and bad mental habits is the cultivation of better ones. We need leaders to set better examples and we need to raise people good at distinguishing what is trustworthy from what is not.
  28. Clearly, this is not going to be achieved by a Gove-like instilling of facts, or formulae, or grammar, which merely trains children in the bovine receptivity that is the very opposite of any active, intelligent, and critical response to the world.
  29. What we need is an education system that encourages cautious scepticism and an imaginative open-mindedness, allied with the sensible assessments of probabilities. We also need to develop dispositions towards decency and civil debate.
  30. In a "post-truth" world characterised by cascades of misinformation and politicians with no shame, we ought to bring the practices of philosophy into our classrooms.
  31. What a subversive thought! But then as the saying goes, if you think knowledge is expensive, try ignorance.
  32. Simon Blackburn is a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is the author of "Blackburn (Simon) - Truth: A Guide for the Perplexed" and Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy.
  33. This article is part of the Agora series, a collaboration between the New Statesman and Aaron James Wendland. Aaron is assistant professor of philosophy at the Higher School of Economics and the co- editor of Wittgenstein and Heidegger and Heidegger on Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @ajwendland.


COMMENT:



"Blatti (Stephan) - Animalism (SEP)"

Source: Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, 2014


Author’s Introduction
  1. Among the questions to be raised under the heading of “personal identity” are these:
    → “What are we1?” (fundamental nature question) and
    → “Under what conditions do we persist through time?” (persistence question).
  2. Against the dominant neo-Lockean approach to these questions, the view known as animalism2 answers that each of us is an organism of the species Homo sapiens and that the conditions of our persistence are those of animals.
  3. Beyond describing the content and historical background of animalism3 and its rivals, this entry explores some of the arguments for and objections to this controversial account of our nature and persistence.

Sections
  1. Formulating Animalism4
    → 1.1 Our Fundamental Nature
    → 1.2 Our Persistence
  2. The Lockean Legacy
    → 2.1 Locke's Human/Person Distinction
    → 2.2 Animalism5 and the Human/Person Distinction
    → 2.3 Animalism(s)6 vs. Neo-Lockeanism(s)
  3. Arguments for and Objections to Animalism7
    → 3.1 Thinking Animal Argument8
    → 3.2 Replies to the Thinking Animal Argument9
    → 3.3 Animal Ancestors Argument
    → 3.4 Further Objections, Implications, and Questions
  4. Bibliography


COMMENT:
  • First published Mon Apr 7, 2014
  • See Link.



"Blatti (Stephan) - We Are Animals"

Source: Philosophy for Us, ed. Lenny Clapp (Cognella, 2018), 73-82


Sections
  1. Introduction
  2. What Animalism1 Does and Doesn’t Say
  3. Arguments for Animalism2
    Thinking Animal Argument3
    → Animal Ancestors Argument
  4. Death and Immortality

Notes
  1. Introduction
    • This paper comes from a book Philosophy for Us4.
    • The Chapter starts with a motivation for animalism5 with a ruse where the death and subsequent decay of a 10-year-old at the teeth of a grizzly bear is described in detail, until6 it is revealed that the individual is an elk.
    • Blatti claims that the reader had no difficulty imagining himself the subject of this drama, thereby imagining that he was:-
      1. The evolutionary descendent of animals,
      2. A creature with a biological life,
      3. A creature subject to the same diseases7 and predations as other animals,
      4. An organism that ceases to exist at death, and
      5. The progenitor of a corpse subsequently consumed by other animals and bacteria.
    • We had no difficulty imagining ourselves in this story, despite all the above being characteristics of an animal.
    • Blatti seems to suggest that we’ve been imaging ourselves as an elk – so how much easier to imagine ourselves as human animals8. But this is nonsense – we didn’t imagine ourselves as elks, but as human beings facing death and decay.
    • Blatti tries to milk this delusion, mistakenly in my view. To be clear: we didn’t know this drama involved an elk until we were told. So, we never thought of ourselves as an elk, or as “inhabiting an elk’s body”. So, the story doesn’t show either that we are animals or that we might be non-animals inhabiting an animal body (our own, considered as separate to “us”).
    • But, Blatti is right – the idea of “inhabiting” one’s body is a popular idea. So, in this case:-
      → Just what would your nature be? An immaterial soul?
      → How is the “inhabiting” supposed to work?
      But, more importantly (he says),
      → what would happen to “the elk itself”, from its perspective, if this took place?
    • Blatti is right to press this Thought Experiment9. His point is that maybe there’s no “elk itself” to be displaced, or have its body shared with a human interloper. But if the elk just is its body, why isn’t the
  2. What Animalism10 Does and Doesn’t Say
  3. Arguments for Animalism11
  4. Death and Immortality

Author’s Conclusion
  1. There is much to recommend organic animalism13, not least that it jibes with many of our practices and concerns regarding the dead and beliefs regarding our nonexistence. We describe the deceased as being “gone.” At a funeral service for a deceased loved one, we do not fret that we are burying her when we bury her corpse or cremate her remains. Friends and family do not rush to death beds for no reason: the moment when one of us dies is a moment of great consequence. How could anyone deny that you will cease to exist whenever you breathe your last breath?
  2. Well, imagine the moment when your grandfather eventually passes away: his heart rate slows, his blood pressure drops, his breathing becomes increasingly shallower, until finally, quietly, he expires. Now imagine the very next moment after that. What do you see on the hospital bed? Not your grandfather, according to organic animalism14, for he quite literally disappeared from the realm of existence the moment before. Nor, even, do you see a human animal15, as strictly speaking, on this view, there is no such thing as a “dead animal.”
  3. This has struck some animalists16 as an implausible upshot of organic animalism17. To be sure, they say, death is a significant moment, but nothing literally goes out of existence when it occurs. Accordingly, and in contrast to organic animalism’s18 claim that continued life is both sufficient and necessary for human persistence, those who endorse “somatic animalism”19 — so called because it emphasizes the bodily aspects of the human animal20 — deny that continued life is necessary. On this view, a human animal21 persists just in case its parts remain sufficiently intact as to be apt for life. In other words, vital processes like metabolism and respiration need not actually continue for an organism to persist. All that is required is that the internal structure of its body remain organized enough as to be explicable only by appeal to the animal body’s being, or having once been, alive. What this means in the case of your imaginary grandfather is that he quite literally survives his own death: he continues existing even after all of his vital functions cease.
  4. In this way, somatic animalism22 can, whilst organic animalism23 cannot, countenance the possibility of postmortem survival. It is interesting, then, that both views can allow for the possibility of immortality. If, immediately after dying, your grandfather was cryogenically preserved in a way that maintained the functional organization of his body’s internal structure, then according to somatic animalism24, he would properly be said to persist so long as he remained in this state — perhaps forever. Likewise, according to organic animalism25, if it were possible to induce human animals26 into a protracted state of hibernation — wherein one’s vital processes are slowed dramatically without stopping, but where this state is maintained indefinitely — we could achieve “eternal life” of a kind. Neither organic nor somatic animalism27 could accommodate the religious idea of persisting eternally as an immaterial being in heaven or hell. But nor does either view rule out the possibility of immortality altogether.


COMMENT: See Link




In-Page Footnotes ("Blatti (Stephan) - We Are Animals")

Footnote 4:
  • Philosophy for Us is a fairly general undergraduate introduction to “doing” philosophy. The chapters are by some famous names, and the book looks to be of good quality, but is necessarily of an elementary level.
  • It is somewhat brief, and inordinately expensive, though a positive is that it was recenty published - in Novenber 2017 (by Cognella Inc.).
  • As I don't intend to buy it, I note its virtues and contents here.
  • I only have two of the papers - this one by Blatti, and that by Oppy.
  • The Editor’s introduction reads as follows:-
    1. When selecting a textbook instructors of introductory philosophy courses face a dilemma. On one horn is the lamentable fact that many introductory college students are incapable of reading and comprehending original philosophical texts, whether these texts be classics of the ancient or modern periods, or more contemporary works. That such texts are inaccessible to introductory students is not necessarily indicative of a shortcoming on the part of the students: original texts are written by philosophers and for philosophers, and thus they often presuppose a lot of specialized background knowledge and use many unfamiliar archaic and/or technical terms. On the other horn is the widely accepted pedagogical attitude that learning philosophy requires doing philosophy; the pedagogical goals of most instructors of introductory philosophy courses primarily concern the development of critical thinking skills, and only secondarily concern acquiring knowledge of significant philosophical theories. Achieving this primary goal of developing students’ critical thinking skills is not well served by texts that merely attempt to summarize, from “an objective point of view,” the opinions and theories of influential philosophical figures. Rather, achieving the primary goal seems to require engaging with texts that are written with the objective of persuading the reader to adopt a particular philosophical position.
    2. Philosophy for Us resolves this dilemma. This anthology contains short papers written by philosophers who really endorse the views they arguing in support of, but the papers are written for contemporary introductory students. Thus all technical terms are defined when they are introduced, and no familiarity with other philosophical texts is presupposed. The result is a collection of short papers that introductory students will find both comprehensible, and, I hope, philosophically engaging.
    3. The text consists of five sections, each of which is devoted to a different philosophical issue. The issues addressed are all comprehensible to introductory students; they are the kinds of issue that minimally reflective students will have already thought about, though perhaps not in a careful and systematic way. Each section begins with a very brief introduction presenting a philosophical issue, followed by 2–4 short papers addressing it. Each paper is written by a contemporary philosopher who is attempting to establish a particular philosophical position with regard to the issue. As the positions defended in the papers are incompatible, students are compelled to engage in the process of critical inquiry and determine which of these positions—if any—they themselves endorse. The objective of Philosophy for Us is to motivate and inspire introductory students to do philosophy.
  • Contents:-
    1. Does God Exist? 1
      1. "Oppy (Graham) - An Argument for Atheism From Naturalism" - 3
        → Graham Oppy, Monash University
      2. The Case for Divine Creation from Cosmic Fine-tuning - 15
        Robin Collins, Messiah College
      3. An a Priori Argument for the Existence of God: The Ontological Argument - 25
        Trent Dougherty, Baylor University
    2. Do We Have Free Will? 37
      1. An Argument for Free Will Skepticism - 39
        Derek Pereboom, Cornell University
      2. Agent Causation and Free Will: A Case for Libertarianism - 49
        → Thad Botham, Arizona State University
      3. A Compatibilist Account of Free Will - 59
        Tomis Kapitan, Northern Illinois University
    3. What Am I? 71
      1. "Blatti (Stephan) - We Are Animals" - 73
        → Stephan Blatti, University of Maryland
      2. The Psychological Approach to Personal Identity - 83
        Marya Schechtman, University of Illinois at Chicago
      3. On Behalf of Mind-Body Dualism - 91
        William Hasker, Huntington University
      4. An Argument for Eliminativism Regarding Persons - 99
        Jim Stone, University of New Orleans
    4. Are There Objective Moral Truths? 111
      1. Morality from God - 113
        → Christian Miller, Wake Forest University
      2. In Defense of Theism-Independent Moral Realism - 125
        → Erik Wielenberg, DePauw University (for Wielenberg , see "Morriston (Wes) - Omnipotence and the Power to Choose: A Reply to Wielenberg")
      3. The Unbelievable Truth About Morality - 135
        → Bart Streumer, University of Groningen
      4. A Brief Explanation and Defense of Expressivism - 145
        → Steven Daskal, Northern Illinois University (for Daskal, see "McKenzie (Peter) - The Christians: Their Practices and Beliefs"?)
    5. Is It Morally Permissible To Eat Meat? 155
      1. The Commonsense Case for Ethical Vegetarianism: Why It Is Morally Wrong to Eat Animals - 157
        → Mylan Engel Jr., Northern Illinois University
      2. Some Permissible Meat Eating - 169
        Ted Warfield, University of Notre Dame
Footnote 6:
  • Actually, the game is given away when it is remarked that “your animal ancestry can be traced back more than 12 million years to East Asia”.
Footnote 7:
  • The hero’s mother had died of a wasting disease, progressive encephalopathy.
Footnote 9:
  • See this Note.
  • But, as noted previously, we didn’t imagine ourselves as elks in the first place, though maybe this doesn’t matter. He could have asked us to do so and we might have thought we’d succeeded.
  • That said, there’s a tradition of denying we can do any such thing – consider Nagel’s bat and Wittgenstein’s lion.



"Bostrom (Nick) - The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant"

Source: Journal of Medical Ethics (2005) Vol. 31, No. 5, pp. 273-277


Author’s Abstract
  • Recounts the Tale of a most vicious Dragon that ate thousands of people every day, and of the actions that the King, the People, and an assembly of Dragonologists took with respect thereto.

Notes
  • This is a parable about our acceptance of death.
  • It’s been translated into 10 languages, so must be popular!


COMMENT: For the full text, see Bostrom - The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant.



"Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry with Dr Sophie Botros"

Source: YouTube Video, prepared by Bloomsbury Academic Publishing


Full Transcript1
    Introduction
        The past is very important to us. It is where we find the origins of our culture as well as our own roots. There is a whole industry involved in finding out about the past. Bookshops are full of history books. Universities all have history departments. But we can never go back. We shall never know how the flowers smelled in the garden of Epicurus. Everything past is no more; it has fallen into the dark backward and abysm of time. How then do we know anything about it at all? How do we know whether a particular event has even happened? Philosopher Sophie Botros addresses these complex issues in her new book - "Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: A Philosophical Enquiry". As she considers these matters, she finds herself forced to wonder whether the past exists at all.
  1. Truth
    • Once we begin to think about it we may be struck by what a queer idea the apparently ordinary idea of the past existing actually is. It’s an idea played on in Orwell’s 1984 when O’Brien2 – an Inner Party member – tries to persuade the hapless everyman3 – Winston – that the past isn’t set in stone but is infinitely manipulable by present interests4. O’Brien asks “Do you really think there exists somewhere or other a place – a world of solid objects – where the past is still happening5?” This disorienting feeling that the past may be a non-entity can even affect our sense of the present. Consider that eerie feeling sometimes elicited by the sound of a ticking clock at the dead of night. Everything is in flux – a relentless succession of present moments endlessly processing toward annihilation6.
    • In the first two parts of my book I argue that the past – at least as an independent entity – does not exist7 – that there is only the present.
        The past does not exist independently of the present”.
    • To start, I will use a simple thought experiment – I call it the “moving platform” …
        Imagine yourself sitting in a room when your friend enters from your left, passes in front of you, and ends up on your right. From a fixed position in space, it seems8 you can track her movements smoothly, continuously from left to right. It is possible to observe a moving object while not oneself being in motion. If we consider time, however, the situation is quite different. There is no analogous freedom in time to remain stationary yourself while your friend moves. The clock continues to tick for all of us. It is as if, when it comes to time, all observers are constrained to remain on a moving platform which is the present – the now. There seems to be a discontinuity here that does not assail space.
    • If we object that I can obviously remember how she looked just a moment ago – how she moved her arms and such-like – but these are present memories, and however direct they may seem, are subject to time and change just like any other evidence9. They cannot assure us that past events have stayed unchanged10 while time flows on.
    • Realists11 would anyway themselves object to this way of using memory to shore up the past. But they would say it gets things the wrong way round. For them it is past events themselves – by their existence12 – that guarantee(s) the genuineness of our memories, not vice-versa.
      • Sceptics might – for the sake of argument – agree with us realists13 that with a present-tensed statement such as “there is a violent rainstorm today” – its truth-conditions – the sheets of rain driving diagonally across the sky, the splashing and thudding of water-drops on the bird-bath – which for us the statement is about – which make it true – are just what we would point to if anyone asked for its meaning.
          There is a violent rainstorm today. Truth conditions: Rain-lashed street. Dark whirling clouds. Raindrops in the birdbath …
      • But take the past-tensed statement “there was a violent rainstorm yesterday”. Here, sceptics will point out, that it is the puddles lying in the street today – our memories today – of yesterday’s rainstorm that we would recognise as supporting the truth of the statement. But realists will protest that they are merely evidence from which we infer yesterday’s rainstorm. They are not what makes it true – that can only be yesterday’s rainstorm. But yesterday’s rainstorm is no longer there for us to point to. It cannot drench us14 – it has vanished for ever.
          There was a violent rainstorm yesterday. Puddles today. Today’s memories of yesterday. Damp coat in the hall today …
    • In order to save the notions of truth and meaning – the sceptic demands that we take the puddles and memories to be themselves15 what the statement is about, what makes it true, what gives it meaning. And we would be indignant16. Sceptics have apparently robbed us of the dark whirling clouds, of the raindrops falling in the birdbath … and substituted a pale concoction of present evidence.
        Sceptics demand: That today’s puddles are what the statement “there was a rainstorm yesterday” is about.
        Sceptics claim ‘There was a rainstorm yesterday” is not about yesterday’s storms … it is about today’s evidence of storms.
    • There is one last stand for realists. We can, they will insist, have a conception of truth conditions independently of any evidence we might have – or even if we have no direct contact with the conditions. The secret – they would say – lies in the truth-value link, a principle of enormous intuitive power that anyone would deny at their peril. Today I am making this video and I know with absolute certainty that “I was making this video a year ago today” will be true in a year’s time. It will be true whatever the conflicting evidence states then17.
    • It is just conceivable that – suppose some catastrophe – that all our memories had been wiped out, including my own, and that the video was destroyed on completion. The sceptics who are confined to evidence existing then will have therefore to deny this obvious truth18.
        Sceptics would have to concede: ‘No memories … no video … mean that Sophie was not making a video a year ago’
    • But the sceptic will reply that you have merely used a rule – the transformation of a present-tensed statement made now into a past-tensed statement envisaged as being made in the future. What makes you suppose that this gives you ingress into the past? Your representing of the past19 isn’t the past at all. It’s the present; it’s me, making this video, now. You can’t assume that the transformation sanctioned by the truth-value link will hold in the future20 when we actually arrive there, and so give us access to a past such as it will reveal itself then. The debate is inconclusive. It depends on how we weigh the truth-value link against moving platform considerations which, as we have seen, suggest very strongly that we cannot view other times from some timeless viewpoint other than the present. So we cannot vindicate the truth-value link claim that our true present-tense statement may also serve as a true statement about the past when made in the future.
    • In my view, the belief that the past has some independent existence must – in the end – be given up. You might find this a little frightening, but I hope that I’ve persuaded you that trying to keep it gives us – gives philosophers – some problems and in fact getting rid of it solves some outstanding problems21.
  2. Time
    • So long as we believe in the past as existent we’re unable to resolve a paradox inherent in the almost banal idea of things persisting through change. Consider a green leaf turning brown in autumn. You will agree that it has to be the same leaf that was green that is now brown. If it was a different leaf – a brown leaf – it could not be said to have lost its greenness. But the great philosopher Leibniz22 stipulates – surely incontrovertibly – that a thing cannot be itself and yet have divergent properties. So it seems that the leaf must be the same leaf in order to lose its greenness; but, in order to be the same leaf it must retain its greenness, which is a paradox. Some people will say “well, this is just philosophers’ problems”. Of course things persist within limits, depending on the kind of thing they are. But to this, it will be replied, are you suggesting that it requires less than identity23 to persist?
    • These are deep and difficult questions. All I will say here is that in my view identity is an atemporal relation. It cannot accommodate the unidirectionallity of time’s arrow. After much argument, I conclude in my book that the paradox can only be resolved if the leaf’s having been green is accorded less reality than the leaf’s being green now. This leads me finally to demote the past and to conclude that only present things exist.
    • But how does this help with the contradiction?
      1. On one version of presentism, presently existing entities such as the leaf are bearers of past-tensed properties – such as “having been green” – and present-tensed properties – such as “being brown”. The contradiction is apparently resolved because – for presentists – “having been green” is no more like “being green” than “not being green”. But this is difficult to comprehend.
      2. On another version of presentism, past times are thought of as existing in the present as stories, but this is metaphysically cumbersome.
  3. History
    • My proposal – which accords a crucial role to historians – affirms realism as regards presently-existing objects, including historical texts – the tomes you see lying on bookshelves – but suspends it as regards the non-existent past, which is their subject matter.
        A Realist Present and a Coherentist Past”.
    • I’m influenced here by the celebrated philosophers of history – who are also historians in their own right – R. G. Collingwood and Michael Oakeshott – who – being idealists – thought of truth24 as a function of interpretation, not of what actually existed in the past.
        A treatment of fictional truth may illuminate. For example, the answer to the question “how can a proposition ‘Romeo loves Juliet’ be true since neither person exists?” It is plausibly replied “because it is actually about Shakespeare’s play, and that does exist.” This reply satisfies the realist demand for an existent truth-maker for the fictional statement, but refuses to follow realists in breaking down the statement into its component parts: subject “Romeo”, object “Juliet”, relation “loves”. Seeking truth-makers for all of them would just be a misunderstanding of literary discourse.
    • This is analogous to how I approach a historical text. From one viewpoint it can function as a truth-maker, acceptable to presentists for the claims it contains. For example, “Henry V was the victor of Agincourt” is in my view about the historical text in which it figures. It would be a misunderstanding of historical discourse to insist on breaking this claim down and seeking truth-makers for its component elements. Its content, I suggest, is governed by coherentist principles.
        Historical Texts as Truthmakers”.
    • When realists protest “‘Henry V was the victor of Agincourt’ is about a real historical personage and a real battle and that history isn’t fiction or otherwise historians could make up whatever they liked”, I reply “that is not so; historians are held to extremely rigorous standards25 in interpreting their evidence.” And in any case, how can it possibly help to refer to that shadowy realm that O’Brien mocked, which no historian has ever been able to access, in order to check a single of his conclusions?
    • My proposal asks you to respect the text in and for itself, not to look through it. It asks you to assess the coherence of the interpretations – to observe how compendious descriptions such as “The Hundred Years’ War” anticipate their outcome. To note the narrative art that is used in shaping and pacing events, bringing to the past its depth and resonance.
    • Historians, I suggest, by both their narrative techniques and their intellectual powers play a crucial role in the creation and construction of the historical past, and perhaps the past more generally.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry with Dr Sophie Botros")

Footnote 1:
  • This Transcript was arrived at by (repeatedly) listening to (a downloaded copy of) the video. It is hopefully fully accurate.
  • Passages uttered by the narrator are indented.
  • I’ve made my own decision as to how the text spoken by Sophie Botros should be segmented into paragraphs, though this is usually obvious from the video.
  • The transcript cannot recreate the full audio-visual effect. The video is professionally done, and very helpful as regards understanding the import of the book – "Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: A Philosophical Enquiry" – as a whole.
  • Occasionally clarificatory text appears on-screen in the video. I’ve added this to the transcript – within quotation marks and in italics – where it doesn’t simply repeat what’s been said in the audio.
  • The reason I’ve made this transcript is twofold:-
    1. To check that the audio can be fully heard and understood – which it can be! Occasionally, I couldn’t catch a word or phrase, but managed to iron out all these difficulties with a bit of repeat listening.
    2. To provide a convenient way of commenting on and criticising the exposition and argument within the video. Of course, serious discussion of the argument must address the text of the book, but this is at least a start in that direction.
  • My comments appear as footnotes, and are in general directed towards Sophie rather than the general reader.
Footnote 2:
  • Isn’t O’Brien something of a monster in 1984? A member of the thought police. See Wikipedia: 1984 - O'Brien.
  • Isn’t it certain, therefore, that Orwell disagrees with what O’Brien has to say about history. Indeed, Winston Smith (Wikipedia: 1984 - Winston Smith) works in the Ministry of Truth rewriting history to bring it into conformity with the Party’s propaganda message.
  • So, is it wise to quote O’Brien and this whole process in support of your case?
  • Of course, it is an ad hominem fallacy to object to what is said merely on the basis of who said it, but in this case Orwell seems to suggest that the very idea that “the past … is infinitely manipulable by present interests” be viewed with horror.
  • I thought there was an interesting parallel in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Therein, Macbeth makes the famous and demoralising speech on hearing of the suicide of Lady Macbeth …
      She should have died hereafter;
      There would have been a time for such a word.
      — To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
      Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
      To the last syllable of recorded time;
      And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
      The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
      Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
      That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
      And then is heard no more. It is a tale
      Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
      Signifying nothing.
    → Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)
  • Are we supposed to go along with this? Is the fact that it is said by a monster about to get his comeuppance supposed to make us view it as sour grapes, or might this really be Shakespeare’s view, placed in the mouth of a monster for fear of the Jacobean thought police? It is wonderfully expressed, of course, and there are a lot of tropes that resonate with your book.
Footnote 3:
  • You make Winston Smith sound like Norman Wisdom out of character in a tragedy.
  • He’s only a “hapless everyman” in the sense that Lucky Jim is. He’s not a Prole, but is a member of the Outer Party, and is not of “paralysing stupidity” like his neighbour and colleague Tom Parsons.
  • “Everyman” is an interesting term. I think it’s restricted by context – to the ideal readership of the novel (other old Etonians, maybe; or at least those of Orwell’s social and intellectual set; not that Orwell used the term, I don’t think – it’s applied by critics).
  • Anyway, I didn’t like the epithet “hapless everyman”, as it seemed to manipulate the viewer into accepting O’Brien’s take on the past.
Footnote 4:
  • “History” is indeed infinitely manipulable by those unconcerned about what actually happened. But “the past” – what actually happened – is just that, whatever happened.
Footnote 5:
  • Isn’t this a travesty of what eternalists think is the case?
  • Isn’t it rather like a video-recording? Videos (or their contemporary equivalents) aren’t always playing, but could be played by someone with the equipment to do so?
  • Now admittedly, this is beyond the powers of human beings in general – and historians in particular. But traditionally past events have been thought to be written in a book – the recording technology of the time – in which everyone’s deeds were recorded, and which God could call to mind … or not … depending on his mercy.
  • Have you read "Lebens (Samuel) & Goldschmidt (Tyron) - The Promise of a New Past"? The paper is on-line, available from the link on my page. The credits thank Hud Hudson and Dean Zimmerman for helpful discussions. There’s also a critique of Dummett’s foray into criticism of the Mishnah (actually a rather vague allusion to “Jewish theology”) – which he thinks claims that “it is logically impossible to alter the past, so to utter a retrospective prayer is to mock God by asking Him to perform a logical impossibility”) in his "Dummett (Michael) - Bringing About the Past".
  • I came across Sam Lebens when we were research students at Birkbeck. A fellow research student was delivering a paper critical of "Wegner (Daniel) - The Illusion of Conscious Will", and Sam thought the book so obviously wrong it wasn’t worth reviewing. Not that he’d read it; it just disagreed with Sam’s theology.
Footnote 6:
  • I have to say I’ve not felt this, and initially misunderstood what you were saying. It’s the “ticks” or moments that go to oblivion.
  • It sounded more like a worry about the inevitability of future doom – and reminiscent of Macbeth’s speech cited above.
  • How you feel in the dead of night no doubt reflects your beliefs and preoccupations, rather than being a guide to them.
Footnote 7:
  • Even if we deny that the past exists, this doesn’t imply that what and who existed in the past is identical to the best current evidence for these events and entities.
  • Metaphysics is separate from epistemology. More on this later.
Footnote 8:
  • Well, it might seem that you can, but the present – if that’s all that exists – doesn’t allow you to track your friend without relying on memory. Still, almost everyone is agreed that you can stop still in space – at least relative to other objects moving with the same velocity – and take a look around, while the same isn’t true of time – you can’t look at different temporal parts of an object without waiting for time to tick on.
  • Of course, you can look back in time and see things across the cosmos as they were billions of years ago; things that will have faded into non-existence during the time it’s taken for light to get from them to us.
  • Physicists seem to be agreed that – given special and general relativity – there’s no such thing as a universal present. If you and I are looking at one another, given the finiteness of the speed of light – let alone the sluggishness of our mental processes – what we each see is the image of someone who no-longer exists, if only the present exists. My present is your past, and vice versa.
  • Have you read anything by Carlo Rovelli? He’s a bit of a pop star amongst the physicists – the Italian equivalent of Brian Cox. His technical stuff is – like all mathematical physics – inaccessible to non-specialists, and his popular stuff is rather loosely put together philosophically-speaking, but what he believes to be the case with respect to time is summarised in Chapter 13 of "Rovelli (Carlo) - The Order of Time".
Footnote 9:
  • Agreed; but all this says is that our knowledge of the past – such as it is – is always subject to revision, and becomes less and less secure the more remote in time the past events are.
Footnote 10:
  • I agree that nothing can “assure us” that the past is as we remember it or as the current evidence suggests – because – as you rightly say – we can’t go back to check. But the fixedness of the past is one of our strongest intuitions – probably based on the nexus of cause and effect; you can’t tinker with anything without it having a ripple effect; so, if the past had changed, so would the present. Also, what could cause the past to change, if it doesn’t exist?
Footnote 11:
  • Realists about the past. Not the same as “us realists” later on.
  • It may be worth remembering that terms like “realist” and “idealist” are technical terms within philosophy, and risk being misunderstood by lay watchers of your video, should there be any.
Footnote 12:
  • Is this so? It’s the past events that caused our memories – even though these memories may now be incorrect; other past and present events affect our memories of particular past events. But do these past events need to still exist to ground this causal chain. Isn’t this just inference to the best explanation?
Footnote 13:
  • Realists about the present, that is.
  • It doesn’t seem like much of a claim to be a realist about the present, but it might not even be a coherent notion. Just what do you mean by it? Which segment of time is “the present”? Today? The present instant?
Footnote 14:
  • This reminds me of discussions of computer simulations. A simulation of the weather “cannot drench us”, but can a simulation of the mind think?
  • I see a vague parallel here. Yesterday’s weather did drench people. Today’s evidence cannot.
Footnote 15: You make three claims for the statement “There was a violent rainstorm yesterday” vis-à-vis today’s evidence: intentionality (“aboutness”), truth and meaning.
  • Intentionality: Our statement is about yesterday’s rainstorm. It’s just not about today’s puddles. Metaphysics just has to make way for this fact, even though we can’t quite make out how it works if the past doesn’t exist – or we might just have to admit that the aboutness must imply that the past must exist somehow. Similarly, Euclid’s thoughts about the equality of the base angles of an equilateral triangle were about that general triangle – an abstract object, not one drawn in the sand.
  • Truth: no doubt it depends on your theory of truth. A minimalist theory would just say that the proposition (or statement) that “There was a violent rainstorm yesterday” is true just if there was a violent rainstorm yesterday. This says nothing about puddles, though our rational belief in (the truth of) this statement might do so.
  • Meaning: I really don’t buy this. “Rainstorm” means “rainstorm” whenever that rainstorm was. It doesn’t mean “puddle”.
Footnote 16:
  • Well, “we” would be – but presumably “you” wouldn’t be?
Footnote 17:
  • But, you don’t believe this if you deny the fixity of the past and think that the past “just is” the then current evidence for it.
  • Of course, this video is expository, and you say various things to lead the viewer on that you subsequently deny.
Footnote 18:
  • You are one of these sceptics, of course, so the truth is presumably not “obvious”.
Footnote 19:
  • What “representing” is going on here?
  • The evidence for what happened in the past is only accessible in the present. But what has happened has happened – and is immutable.
Footnote 20:
  • I agree that this is an assumption, but the fixity of the past is one of the most firmly embedded and will take a lot of argument to dislodge.
  • The usual complain it that it would involve backward causation, but this is not a worry in your case, since the past doesn’t exist.
Footnote 21:
  • Maybe it does, but like Lewis’s modal realism, maybe the cost is too great to bear.
Footnote 22:
  • I don’t think it’s been proved that Leibniz ever stated his Law (the indiscernibility of identicals), but this doesn’t matter because it’s not accepted on his authority when it is.
  • It is a very useful principle of synchronic identity and motivates all the discussions about constitution – the statue can’t be identical to its constituting clay because the clay has different modal (and maybe actual) properties to the statue – which can’t survive squashing, though the clay can. All very controversial, of course, and it depends on a belief that some things sometimes persist through time.
  • Have you read "Kurtz (Roxanne) - Introduction to Persistence: What’s the Problem?", the introduction to "Haslanger (Sally) & Kurtz (Roxanne), Eds. - Persistence : Contemporary Readings"? It’s available on-line (Kurtz: Introduction to Persistence: What’s the Problem?) and I’ve summarised it and commented on it extensively here.
  • In her Introduction, Roxanne Kurtz summarises the debate on Persistence by claiming that there are three non-negotiable theses: Non-contradiction, Change and Persistence which are in tension, especially when supplemented by three further “negotiable theses”: Alteration, Survival and Atemporal Instantiation.
  • She does mention philosophers who deny one or other of the non-negotiable theses, but treats them as outside the main debate. I think (agreeing with Kurtz) that denying that some things persist though change does such violence to our common-sense and practical view of the world that giving it up has to be the very last option.
  • She also thinks that the various options for the metaphysics of time are orthogonal to issues of persistence, though I wasn’t convinced.
Footnote 23:
  • Well, Derek Parfit notoriously said the “identity is not what matters in survival”.
  • I noted that you have no reference to Parfit either in the text or the Bibliography of your book.
Footnote 24:
  • Historical truth only, or all truth?
Footnote 25:
  • I think this is the weakest part of your argument.
  • While it’s true that at certain times and places historians have followed the evidence, this is a contingent fact when it is one.
  • What people are worried about is when this rosy view is misplaced. You’ve quoted 1984 where Winston Smith’s job is to falsify history by adulterating back copies of The Times.
  • I quote an extract where Winston worries about the falsification of history:-
    • The frightening thing, he reflected for the ten thousandth time ... was that it might all be true. If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened - that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?
    • The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed - if all records told the same tale - then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control', they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink'.
      → Winston Smith, Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Annotated Edition, Penguin Classics, 2013, p. 40.
  • And again,
    • Comrade Ogilvy, who had never existed in the present, now existed in the past, and when once the act of forgery was forgotten he would exist just as authentically, and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.
      → Winston Smith, ibid, p. 55.
  • And again,
    • Do you realise that the past, starting from yesterday, has been actually abolished? If it survives anywhere, it's in a few solid objects with no words attached to them, like that lump of glass there. Already we know almost literally nothing about the Revolution and the years before the Revolution. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been re-written, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been re-named, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. I know, of course, that the past is falsified, but it would never be possible for me to prove it, even when I did the falsification myself. After the thing is done, no evidence ever remains. The only evidence is inside my own mind, and I don't know with any certainty that any other human being shares my memories. Just in that one instance, in my whole life, I did possess actual concrete evidence after the event - years after it.
      → Winston Smith to Julia, ibid, p. 178.
  • And again,
    • The mutability of the past is the central tenet of Ingsoc. Past events, it is argued, have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon. And since the Party is in full control of all records, and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it. It also follows that though the past is alterable, it never has been altered in any specific instance. For when it has been recreated in whatever shape is needed at the moment, then this new version is the past, and no different past can ever have existed. This holds good even when, as often happens, the same event has to be altered out of recognition several times in the course of a year. At all times the Party is in possession of absolute truth, and clearly the absolute can never have been different from what it is now. It will be seen that the control of the past depends above all on the training of memory. To make sure that all written records agree with the orthodoxy of the moment is merely a mechanical act. But it is also necessary to remember that events happened in the desired manner. And if it is necessary to re-arrange one's memories or to tamper with written records, then it is necessary to forget that one has done so. The trick of doing this can be learned like any other mental technique. It is learned by the majority of Party members, and certainly by all who are intelligent as well as orthodox. In Oldspeak it is called, quite frankly, 'reality control'. In Newspeak it is called doublethink, though doublethink comprises much else as well.
      → Emmanuel Goldstein, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, Chapter 1 “Ignorance is Strength”, ibid, pp. 243-4



"Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry with Dr Sophie Botros (Shortened Version)"

Source: Amazon Video, prepared by Bloomsbury Academic Publishing


Full Transcript1
    Introduction
        The past is very important to us. It is where we find the origins of our culture as well as our own roots. There is a whole industry involved in finding out about the past. Bookshops are full of history books. Universities all have history departments. But we can never go back. We shall never know how the flowers smelled in the garden of Epicurus. Everything past is no more; it has fallen into the dark backward and abysm of time. How then do we know anything about it at all? How do we know whether a particular event has even happened? Philosopher Sophie Botros addresses these complex issues in her new book - "Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: A Philosophical Enquiry". As she considers these matters, she finds herself forced to wonder whether the past exists at all.
  1. Truth
    • Once we begin to think about it we may be struck by what a queer idea the apparently ordinary idea of the past existing actually is. It’s an idea played on in Orwell’s 1984 when O’Brien – an inner Party member – tries to persuade the hapless everyman – Winston – that the past isn’t set in stone but is infinitely manipulable by present interests. O’Brien asks “Do you really think there exists somewhere or other a place – a world of solid objects – where the past is still happening?”
    • Today I am making this video and I know with absolute certainty that “I was making this video a year ago today” will be true in a year’s time. It will be true whatever the conflicting evidence states then.
    • It is just conceivable that – suppose some catastrophe – that all our memories had been wiped out, including my own, and that the video was destroyed on completion. The sceptics who are confined to evidence existing then will have therefore to deny this obvious truth. The debate is inconclusive. It depends on how we weigh the truth-value link against moving platform considerations which, as we have seen, suggest very strongly that we cannot view other times from some timeless viewpoint other than the present. So we cannot vindicate the truth-value link claim that our true present-tense statement may also serve as a true statement about the past when made in the future.
    • In my view, the belief that the past has some independent existence must – in the end – be given up. You might find this a little frightening, but I hope that I’ve persuaded you that trying to keep it gives us – gives philosophers – some problems and in fact getting rid of it solves some outstanding problems.
  2. Time
    • So long as we believe in the past as existent we’re unable to resolve a paradox inherent in the almost banal idea of things persisting through change. Consider a green leaf turning brown in autumn. You will agree that it has to be the same leaf that was green that is now brown. If it was a different leaf – a brown leaf – it could not be said to have lost its greenness. But the great philosopher Leibniz stipulates – surely incontrovertibly – that a thing cannot be itself and yet have divergent properties. So it seems that the leaf must be the same leaf in order to lose its greenness; but, in order to be the same leaf it must retain its greenness, which is a paradox. Some people will say “well, this is just philosophers’ problems”. Of course things persist within limits, depending on the kind of thing they are. But to this, it will be replied, are you suggesting that it requires less than identity to persist?
  3. History
    • My proposal – which accords a crucial role to historians – affirms realism as regards presently-existing objects, including historical texts – the tomes you see lying on bookshelves – but suspends it as regards the non-existent past, which is their subject matter.
        A treatment of fictional truth may illuminate. For example, the answer to the question “how can a proposition ‘Romeo loves Juliet’ be true since neither person exists?” It is plausibly replied “because it is actually about Shakespeare’s play, and that does exist.”
    • This is analogous to how I approach a historical text. From one viewpoint it can function as a truth-maker, acceptable to presentists for the claims it contains. For example, “Henry V was the victor of Agincourt” is in my view about the historical text in which it figures. It would be a misunderstanding of historical discourse to insist on breaking this claim down and seeking truth-makers for its component elements. Its content, I suggest, is governed by coherentist principles.
    • When realists protest “‘Henry V was the victor of Agincourt’ is about a real historical personage and a real battle and that history isn’t fiction or otherwise historians could make up whatever they liked”, I reply “that is not so; historians are held to extremely rigorous standards in interpreting their evidence.” And in any case, how can it possibly help to refer to that shadowy realm that O’Brien mocked, which no historian has ever been able to access, in order to check a single of his conclusions?
    • My proposal asks you to respect the text in and for itself, not to look through it. It asks you to assess the coherence of the interpretations – to observe how compendious descriptions such as “The Hundred Years’ War” anticipate their outcome. To note the narrative art that is used in shaping and pacing events, bringing to the past its depth and resonance.
    • Historians, I suggest, by both their narrative techniques and their intellectual powers play a crucial role in the creation and construction of the historical past, and perhaps the past more generally.
    • A Realist Present and a Coherentist Past”.


COMMENT: For the video, see Amazon: Sophie Botros Author Page.




In-Page Footnotes ("Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry with Dr Sophie Botros (Shortened Version)")

Footnote 1:
  • This is the Transcript of the shortened version of "Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry with Dr Sophie Botros" which has been placed on Sophie’s Amazon Author’s page (Amazon: Sophie Botros Author Page).
  • Passages uttered by the narrator are indented.
  • I’ve made my own decision as to how the text spoken by Sophie should be segmented into paragraphs, though this is usually obvious from the video.
  • The transcript cannot recreate the full audio-visual effect. The video is very professionally done, and very helpful as regards understanding the import of the book – "Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: A Philosophical Enquiry" – as a whole.
  • Occasionally clarificatory text appears on-screen in the video. I’ve added this to the transcript – within quotation marks and in italics – where it doesn’t simply repeat what’s been said in the audio.
  • The reason I’ve made this transcript differs from that for the full version: it is just to check that the video hangs together given the absence of the excised material.



"Braddon-Mitchell (David) & Miller (Kristie) - How To Be A Conventional Person"

Source: Monist, Oct2004, Vol. 87 Issue 4, p457-474, 18p;


Philosophers’ Index Abstract
  1. Focuses on the concepts of becoming a conventional person.
  2. Use of realism about personal identity to refer to the view that personal identity over time is not a matter of convention;
  3. Contrast between conventionalism and realism about personal identity;
  4. Changes needed to casually instigate more changes of convention until such time as enough have changed.

Authors’ Introduction
  1. It is an increasingly influential view that personal identity across time is in part a matter of the attitudes or desires of the entities that constitute persons. Thus some talk of "person-directed practices" – practices of reasonable self-regard that entities have for some of their continuants. In some versions, these practices are social as well as personal.
  2. On these views a person's identity over time is, at least in part, determined by the various person-directed practices of the individual and/or of the community. These practices include the attribution of blame and reward for past actions, encouragement for future actions, the transmission of property, the attitude of anticipation or self-regard for future continuants and so forth.
  3. On this view someone survives some event just if, given her person-tracking practices, or those of her community, the being that exists prior to the event is treated in the same person-directed way as the being that exists after the event. Yet had these practices been somewhat different, she would have failed to survive the event even though, as it was, she did survive.
  4. We will sometimes call these person-directed practices 'conventions of identity', and later come back to discuss whether 'convention' is exactly the right term. If these practices are conventions, then it seems that personal identity is sometimes, at least in part, a matter of convention. Call such a view conventionalism about identity.
  5. The job of this paper is to defend the coherence of this view, and in particular to defend it from some important recent criticisms by Trenton Merricks.

Authors’ Conclusion
  1. Perhaps some of the resistance that many have to conventionalism – and especially logical conventionalism – has to do with the idea that if conventionalism were true, our personhood would be a matter of mere convention. But there is all the difference in the world between convention and mere convention. Mere convention is where we must make a decision between a number of options, but it does not matter to us which option we choose. Or it is where we operate on a particular convention, but see that, if we all switched to another convention, matters would be just as good; and as a result, we do not much care for our convention except insofar as we see we have to have one or another.
  2. Our personhood, though, is something we care about deeply. We operate on certain conventions, but care greatly about them. Some of the most interesting issues in personal identity in fact arise from seeing that there are cases where we care enormously about certain conventions, even while seeing that there is nothing in nature that makes our caring about those conventions any more rational than caring about some other conventions.
  3. In puzzle cases, the psychological-continuity theorists and the physical-continuity theorists continue to fight it out in metaphysics class, even when they realise there is no further fact that could settle the issue. We should not let this blind us to the fact that most of us have as settled convention that we have self-regard for future entities that are both psychologically and physically continuous. Nor that that settled convention – or perhaps the disjoined version – mattes a lot to us. Most of us are human beings, but that is not all that we care about in ourselves. We care about caring about things: and that is why our concept of person determines that there are persons only when these conventions of care are instantiated. Being merely human is not enough.
  4. Showing that our concept does work this way is of course a bigger job than we can attempt here, though it is begun in much of the conventionalist literature. Our task is to show how it could work that way: to show how to be a conventional person, and to show how to be a logical conventionalist.

References1
  1. "Bickerton (Derek) - How Protolanguage Became Language",
  2. "Braddon-Mitchell (David) - Masters of Our Meanings",
  3. "Braddon-Mitchell (David) & West (Caroline) - Temporal Phase Pluralism",
  4. "Chalmers (David) - The Foundations of Two-Dimensional Semantics",
  5. "Frankfurt (Harry) - Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person",
  6. "Heller (Mark) - The Ontology of Physical Objects: Four-Dimensional Hunks of Matter",
  7. "Jackson (Frank) - Why We Need A-Intensions",
  8. "Johnston (Mark) - Relativism and the Self",
  9. "Lewis (David) - Convention",
  10. "Merricks (Trenton) - Realism About Personal Identity Over Time",
  11. "Merricks (Trenton) - No Statues",
  12. "Nozick (Robert) - Philosophical Explanations",
  13. "Olson (Eric) - Relativism and Persistence",
  14. "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons",
  15. "Perry (John) - Can the Self Divide?",
  16. "Robinson (Denis) - Failing To Agree Or Failing To Disagree?: Personal Identity Quasi-Relativism",
  17. "Sider (Ted) - Criteria of Personal Identity and the Limits of Conceptual Analysis",
  18. "Unger (Peter) - Identity, Consciousness and Value",
  19. "Tooley (Michael) - Abortion and Infanticide",
  20. "Williams (Bernard) - Are Persons Bodies?",


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Braddon-Mitchell (David) & Miller (Kristie) - How To Be A Conventional Person")

Footnote 1:
  • Omitting the “classics”.



"Broome (John) - Indefiniteness in Identity"

Source: Analysis, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Jan., 1984), pp. 6-12


Author’s Introduction
  1. A club is constituted by its rules and society's conventions, and these may not be enough to determine everything about it. The rules and conventions, for instance, may not specify the procedure for removing a dishonest treasurer. And they may not determine precisely what counts as the club's demise. Consequently, circumstances can arise that make it unclear whether or not a club started at some date is the same as a club that exists at some later date. (Suppose, for example, that the club has no meetings for a long time and then some people, including perhaps a few of the original members, start to meet again under the same name.) The indefinite- ness here is not merely epistemological. Even if we knew everything there is to be known about the case we might still not know whether the clubs are the same or different. The question of identity has no answer; the facts do not determine one. The club's constitution leaves this particular question unsettled.
  2. This account of the matter - that it is indeterminate whether or not the club existing earlier is the same as the one existing later - seems perfectly transparent; nothing about it is hard to understand. But an alternative account is possible. We could say that the act of creating an object, such as a club, is incomplete unless the object is defined in enough detail to settle all questions of identity; unless its constitution has this much precision no club has been created. This account, though, is obscure. Few actual clubs can have such precise constitutions, so according to this account most people who think they belong to a club must actually not do so. Indeed they must not belong to anything, not even an uncompleted club, because the same unsettled questions of identity will arise about uncompleted clubs as arise about clubs. It is hard, then, to understand what exactly is supposed to be the condition of these people who think they belong to a club.
  3. A third possible account insists that if this matter of identity appears to be indeterminate then the clubs must in fact be definitely different, or perhaps definitely the same. This too is obscure. For we can describe cases that plainly amount to the continued existence - or the revival - of the same club, and we can describe cases that plainly amount to the dying of one club and the creation of another, and by varying the conditions gradually we can arrive at cases that are intermediate between these two. It is hard to under- stand what could make a sharp division between them, as this account insists there must be.
  4. So we have, at least, a good prima facie example of indefinite identity.



"Broome (John) - The Badness of Death and the Goodness of Life"

Source: Bradley (Ben), Feldman (Fred) & Johansson (Jens) - The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Death


Author’s Introduction
  1. What harm does death do you? To put the question differently: when you die, what do you lose by dying? To put it differently again: when you do not die, what do you gain by continuing to live? The question of what harm death does you is the same as the question of what good is done you by living. It is the question of the goodness of your life.
  2. Two extreme answers can be given. One is “everything”; we might think that, for you, your life is everything, and by dying you lose everything. Another is “nothing”; we might think that you lose nothing by dying. I shall start by rejecting these extreme answers. Then I shall go on to the moderate, quantitative answer that I favor.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. When you die, what you lose is neither nothing nor everything. It is the rest of your life. The badness of this loss is, seen differently, the goodness of rest of your life. More accurately, it is the difference between the goodness of the longer life you would have led, had you survived, and the shorter life you do lead. So the question of how bad is death transmutes into the question of how good is life.
  2. I have not tried to answer this latter question, but I have outlined and classified some of the answers that are available.


COMMENT:



"Buchanan (Rachael) - The battle to separate Safa and Marwa"

Source: BBC Website, July 2019


Note
  • This is an interesting and moving account of a highly complex series of operations. It’s not clear why it’s come to public prominence, as it’s by no means the first case of its kind, even by the same team of surgeons (nor is it likely to have as good a prognosis as that previous case, though this couldn’t have been known when filming started).
  • The surgeons claim that they would not have gone ahead with the operations without a very high chance of success. It struck me that there were many critical steps in the process, any of which could have gone tragically wrong, so that the series of operations overall was very risky. Also, it depends just what counts as “success”. It looked to me that the separated twins suffered cognitive deficits they didn’t have prior to separation. Of course, this deficit has to be offset against lives that would have had to be lived lying down, and likely very short because the heart of one twin was feeding blood to the brain of the other, and therefore under strain.
  • Mitigating the risk was the fact that the same team had successfully performed separation of pairs of craniopagus conjoined twins on previous occasions. It seems that this case was more complex because of the age of the twins (over two years by the time the operations were completed) – it took time to find a donor to fund the operation – and the fact that their brains were intertwined.
  • This case is relatively uninteresting from the perspective of my research into Personal Identity – much less so than the cases of dicephalus1, where there is more significant sharing of body-parts.
  • Early on in the article, it’s claimed that Conjoined twins develop from one fertilised egg and so are always identical. I wasn’t aware of this, and need to check whether it is true – if all conjoined twins, not just craniopagus. The article gives the alternatives:-
      There are two theories about why they are fused together - either the split into two embryos happens later than usual, and the twins only partially divide, or, following the split, parts of the embryos remain in contact and those body parts merge as they grow. When it occurs, twins are more commonly connected at the chest, abdomen or pelvis.
  • If the various conditions are caused by incomplete fission2, this claim would be metaphysically necessary, but not in the case of fusion3. There seems to be some debate about just how the cases arise, but – according to "Wikipedia - Craniopagus twins" – even in the case of fusion it arises from incomplete fusion of previously fissioned (twinned) products from a single fertilised egg, though this doesn’t seem to be metaphysically necessary4.
  • However, there are more complex cases where the brains of the twins, rather than simply being intertwined, are – to one degree or another – shared.
  • See:-
    → "Wikipedia - Craniopagus twins" (cited above), and
    → "Stone (James L.) & Goodrich (James T.) - The craniopagus malformation: classification and implications for surgical separation"
    for further information on craniopagus.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Buchanan (Rachael) - The battle to separate Safa and Marwa")

Footnote 4:
  • But it is probably nomologically necessary, as – I imagine – the developing immune systems of fused non-identical twins would try to reject one another.



"Camosy (Charles) - Concern for our vulnerable prenatal and neonatal children: a brief reply to Giubilini and Minerva"

Source: Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 39, No. 5 (May 2013), pp. 296-298


Author’s Abstract
  1. This is a response to Giubilini and Minerva arguing that, on the basis of the similar moral status of the fetus1 and infant, infanticide is justifiable for many of the same reasons that justify abortion2.
  2. It argues that, although the authors are correct in claiming the logical connection between abortion3 and infanticide, they are mistaken in their moral anthropology and so misunderstand which way the reasoning should cut.
  3. It concludes with an exhortation - especially to fellow pro-lifers - to have a different kind of discourse on these matters


COMMENT: Response to "Giubilini (Alberto) & Minerva (Francesca) - After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?"



"Catterson (Troy) - Introduction to Synthese Special Issue on Personal Identity"

Source: Synthese, Vol. 162, No. 3 (Jun., 2008), pp. 309-311


Notes
  • Contributors “from all sides of the debate” – both established and new names – are asked to submit their own work in the light of "Kolak (Daniel) - I Am You: The Metaphysical Foundations for Global Ethics".
  • Catterson has made a contribution to the volume ("Catterson (Troy) - Changing the subject: on the subject of subjectivity"), which betrays a stance – the simple view1 – that may have biased his “take” on the state of the debate, which is far from what I had taken it to be.
  • Catterson sees the sides in the debate as split between2:-
    1. Those who claim there is no self, or that personal identity is at heart an empty question”, and
    2. Those who deny this claim and view the self as a substance that cannot be reduced to more basic ontological categories”.
  • Catterson claims that the issue is epistemological, which strikes me as a bit odd as he’s just claimed it to be metaphysical.
  • The issue has to do with whether knowledge has to be objective, and that we must understand ourselves as part of nature that exists irrespective of us and our perspective on it. This seems the default stance, so any attack on it is important (if irritating).


COMMENT: Introduction to "Catterson (Troy), Ed. - Synthese Special Issue on Personal Identity".




In-Page Footnotes ("Catterson (Troy) - Introduction to Synthese Special Issue on Personal Identity")

Footnote 2:
  • This is a rather pejorative way of describing those who adopt a reductionist view of PID.
  • Hardly anyone takes the nihilist view that “we don’t exist”.
  • What reductionists claim is that “we” are most fundamentally something other than persons.
  • They – in general – would deny – I would have thought – that they adopted either of the stances predicated of them.



"Chalmers (David) - The Meta-Problem of Consciousness"

Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25, No. 9–10, 2018, pp. 6–61


Philos-List Abstract
  1. The meta-problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why we think and say there is a hard problem of consciousness. The meta-problem of consciousness is in principle one of the easy problems, but it bears a special relation to the hard problem, which suggests that finding a solution to it could shed light on the hard problem itself.
  2. Chalmers’ new paper introduces the meta-problem, lays out an interdisciplinary research program for addressing the meta-problem, and evaluates possible solutions.
  3. Chalmers also uses the meta-problem to pose a challenge for many popular scientific and philosophical theories of consciousness, and discusses whether it can be used to “debunk” our beliefs in consciousness and to support a sort of illusionism.


COMMENT: See Chalmers: The Meta-Problem of Consciousness



"Colen (J.A.) - In Memoriam Derek Parfit (1942-2017)"

Source: Ethical Perspectives 23, no. 2 (2018): 321-338


Author’s Introduction
  1. Derek Antony Parfit’s death occurred a little more than one year ago on January 1st 2017. His theories have stayed with us. Several major books, authored by both him and many of his contenders (and sometimes friends), were published in the very same year of his death, almost at the same time as large numbers of lengthy and deeper than usual obituaries came to print ("Edmonds (David) - Obituary: Derek Parfit" 2017; "McMahan (Jeff) - Obituary of Derek Parfit" 2017; "O'Grady (Jane) - Derek Parfit obituary" 2017, etc.).
  2. Among the many books and essays on Parfit’s moral theories, the volumes edited by "Dancy (Jonathan), Ed. - Reading Parfit" (1997), Simon Kirchin (2017), "Singer (Peter), Ed. - Does Anything Really Matter? Essays on Parfit on Objectivity" (2017), together with the volume authored and edited by Parfit himself – "Parfit (Derek) - On What Matters: Volume Three" (2017b), are among those that go deeper into the problem that Parfit left unresolved.
  3. This unresolved problem concerning his peculiar engagement in meta-ethics, is not, as will be argued here, the problem of the practical applications of the theory. The real problem is that he never answers –and tries hard to avoid answering – the question of how we can understand, respond and eventually act driven by (non-natural) reasons (2011, 31).
  4. Before articulating the problem more fully, we are in profound need of a map to the largely unexplored field of moral inquiry set by Parfit. This mass of recent literature may help us to draw a provisional balance of his contributions to moral philosophy, which is unfortunately left incomplete by his death. He promised a fourth volume, which he will no longer be able to write, but whose content is not difficult to guess. It would have pursued the broad lines defined in the final pages of his last book: “One thing that greatly matters is the failure of we rich people to prevent, as we so easily could, much of the suffering and many of the early deaths of the poorest people in the world […]. What now matters most is how we respond to the various risks to the survival of humanity” (2017b, 436).
  5. After a very brief biographical note, I will start by describing the path to progress in moral theory that Derek Parfit follows in his earlier work, comparing his method with those of some of his ‘nemeses’, Bernard Williams and Robert Nozick, in order to clarify why the problem of our response to moral reasons cannot be solved in Parfit’s own terms. I will try to make it explicit why he turned to meta-ethical inquiry at the core of his triple theory and, to conclude, I will point out the most important questions discussed in the works now made available.
  6. Scholars in recent moral literature express major reservations about – or entirely dismiss – Parfit’s claim that there are objective normative truths irreducible to the natural world. This text explores the application of his peculiar method of ethics and articulates the question that is at the root of this prevailing scepticism. At the root of the unsolved problem is his peculiar method of ethics, which rests on moral intuitions that may simply be ‘revised’ or refined common sense, made more consistent – that is, unless some explanatory problems that are ‘genuine and real’ are addressed.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 10th May 2019



"Conolly (Oliver) & Haydar (Bashar) - The Good, the Bad and the Funny"

Source: The Monist, Vol. 88, No. 1, Humor (January 2005), pp. 121-134


Authors’ Introduction1
  • Funniness, a property the nature of which is both seemingly obvious and yet resistant to analysis, has been the object of intermittent attention in philosophy since Plato. Sometimes this attention has taken the form of an investigation into the nature of laughter and the humorous. Sometimes it has taken comic art-forms as its object, though tragedy has received a good deal more attention from philosophers. And sometimes it has focused on jokes and put-downs in their considerable variety, and ethical questions associated with them. All these inquiries are, of course, interlinked. In this paper, we focus on the ethics of jokes, but will then draw connections between that issue and the question of the ethical dimension of humor in put-downs (a distinct category, we argue) and in art. Our inquiry is thus part of a larger investigation in aesthetics on the relation between artistic and moral value generally.
  • […]
  • We define our position on the ethics of jokes with reference to two antithetical positions on the question: ethicism and immoralism.
    1. The ethicist about jokes holds that the immorality of a joke always counts against its funniness but does not necessarily extinguish it since a joke may be funny in virtue of non-moral qualities, such as inventiveness and the capacity to surprise.
    2. This distinguishes ethicism from moralism, the view that if a joke manifests ethically bad attitudes, it is therefore unfunny, and hence fails as a joke.
    3. The immoralist about jokes holds that sometimes, but not always, the immorality of a joke enhances its funniness.
    4. We will argue for amoralism, the view that jokes are neither moral nor immoral.




In-Page Footnotes ("Conolly (Oliver) & Haydar (Bashar) - The Good, the Bad and the Funny")

Footnote 1:
  • Extracts; copious footnotes omitted.



"Correia (Fabrice) & Rosenkranz (Sven) - Unfreezing the Spotlight: Tense Realism and Temporal Passage"

Source: Analysis, published online on 26 June 2019


Authors’ Abstract
  1. Realism about tense is the view that the contrast between what was, what is and what will be the case is real, and not merely a projection of our ways of thinking.
  2. Does this view entail realism about temporal passage, namely the view that time really passes, in the same sense of ‘real’?
  3. We argue that the answer is affirmative for many versions of tense realism, and indeed for all sensible versions.
  4. We thereby address an important conceptual issue regarding these two forms of realism and rebut recent claims that tense realism is compatible with anti-realism about temporal passage.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 25th July 2019



"Costa (Damiano), Gilmore (Cody) & Calosi (Claudio) - Relativity and Three Four-Dimensionalisms"

Source: Philosophy Compass, 11:2, 2016, 102-120


Authors’ Abstract
  1. Relativity theory is often said to support something called ‘the four-dimensional view of reality’. But there are at least three different views that sometimes go by this name.
    1. One is the B-theory of time, according to which the past, present, and future are all equally real and there is nothing metaphysically special about the present.
    2. A second is ‘spacetime unitism’ (as we call it), according to which there is a spacetime manifold, and if there are such things as points of space or instants of time, these are just spacetime regions of different sorts: thus space and time are not separate manifolds.
    3. A third is perdurantism, according to which persisting material objects (rocks, trees, human beings) are made up of different temporal parts located at different times.
  2. We sketch routes from relativity to the B-theory and to unitism. We then discuss some routes to perdurantism, via the B-theory and via unitism.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 21st August 2019



"Cottingham (John) - Why we are not 'persons'"

Source: Eidos: A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 1:3 (2018), pp. 5-16


Author’s Introduction
  1. “I know that I exist”, says Descartes’s meditator, in the Second Meditation, “but I do not yet know what I am.” Actually, of course, all of us know perfectly well what we are – we are human beings. And Descartes, too, knew this perfectly well. Writing outside the artificial and rarefied context of the Meditations, he was perfectly clear that each of us is a creature of flesh and blood, with arms and legs, able to move around the world, see and hear, using our eyes and ears, and all the rest of it. I am a specimen of a certain biological species that we now call homo sapiens. I’m not some incorporeal spirit mysteriously lodged in a body like a sailor in a ship (and indeed Descartes himself went on to make just this point in the Sixth Meditation); on the contrary, I am a genuine human being, un vrai homme, as Descartes elsewhere put it, or, in Latin, verus homo.
  2. Given that we all know quite well that we are human beings, why do so many philosophers today prefer to use a different term, and say that we are “persons”. It’s amazing how quickly professional philosophers get used to special bits of jargon, and cease to hear them as jargon. A good example is “normativity”, now standardly used to refer to evaluative or prescriptive language, to the special authoritative force of moral principles – we’ve got so used to it that we have forgotten how opaque this term is to ordinary educated speakers of English who are not professional philosophers. Jargon should in my view always be avoided in philosophy, partly because it’s so often employed (whether consciously or not) in order to intimidate, and partly because it encourages the delusion that philosophy is like a science, aimed at acquiring technical or specialized knowledge, instead of being about understanding – fitting the knowledge we already have into an intelligible framework.
  3. You may think that “person” is not a piece of jargon, but a perfectly ordinary English word. So it is, in ordinary usage, as when we say “she’s a very nice person” But notice that the plural of this ordinary innocuous term is “people”, as in “the teachers at this university are very nice people”. People in this sense are simply human beings – we are back to the basic common-sense meaning of the term ‘person’, which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘an individual human being, man, woman or child’.
  4. But “person”, as a piece of philosophical jargon is different, and the difference is signalled by the fact that its plural is not “people” but “persons”. Lawyers, those other great lovers of jargon, sometimes use this term in drafting rules “persons proceeding beyond this point do so at their own risk” – but that’s probably just a piece of pompous grandiloquence: “people proceeding beyond this point” would do just as well (though there are other legal contexts, for example when corporations are treated for certain purposes as “persons”, where the jargon may have some point). Outside of the law, the other main setting I can think of where “person” has a technical sense is in the faintly absurd English class system of the early part of the twentieth century (as depicted for example in the novels of P. G. Woodhouse or Dorothy Sayers), where “person”, plural “persons” was used to indicate people of supposedly inferior social rank who therefore did not qualify as gentlemen or ladies.

TT Comments1
  1. It is interesting – and sensible – that Cottingham thinks it’s obvious that we are2 human beings3.
  2. In case we might be worried by what “human beings4” are, he clarifies this as “members of the species homo sapiens5”, adding in a footnote that discoveries about our origins raise interesting philosophical questions about what it is to be human which “merit further discussion”, though he doesn’t say where6.
  3. He rightly dislikes needless jargon in philosophy, as it leads to opacity for educated non-philosophers, and thinks the philosophical use of “person7” is a case in point. In particular he dislikes the plural “persons” rather than “people”.
  4. I disagree – as I do with Eric Olson’s usage. If “person8” is simply equated with “human being”, in a dictionary sense, we lose an important philosophical distinction. Cottingham admits – in a footnote – that “Person” and “Human Being” are not synonymous for the usual two reasons:
    1. There are the specialised uses about to appear, and
    2. There can be non-human persons, such as aliens and mythological creatures.


COMMENT: For the full text, see Cottingham - Why we are not 'persons'.




In-Page Footnotes ("Cottingham (John) - Why we are not 'persons'")

Footnote 1:
  • This isn’t a balanced appraisal as I’ve ignored – and intend to ignore – anything not strictly relevant to my concerns, interesting though it may be.
Footnote 4: Footnote 6:



"Craig (William Lane) - McTaggart's Paradox and the Problem of Temporary Intrinsics"

Source: Analysis, Vol. 58, No. 2 (Apr., 1998), pp. 122-127


Author’s Introduction
  1. McTaggart's Paradox is so well-ploughed a field that one might doubt whether anything fresh can be said about it. But sometimes new light can be shed on a problem by stepping back and seeing it within a conceptual framework which has hitherto gone unnoticed.
  2. For example, David Lewis ("Lewis (David) - Prisoners' Dilemma is a Newcomb Problem", 1979) sought to illuminate the Prisoners' Dilemma by his insight that the puzzle is actually an instance of Newcomb's Paradox.
  3. In the same way, I believe that McTaggart's Paradox is actually a special case of what Lewis has called the Problem of Temporary Intrinsics – a conceptual contextualization of the paradox which, to my knowledge, has gone unnoticed in the philosophical literature. A realization of the proper conceptual context of the paradox will serve to advance our analysis of it.
  4. The Problem of Temporary Intrinsics is the problem of identity and intrinsic change. The question is, how can an object be self-identical at two different times if it possesses different intrinsic properties at those times?
  5. […]



"Damschen (Gregor), Gomez-Lobo (Alfonso) & Schonecker (Dieter) - Sixteen Days? A Reply to B. Smith and B. Brogaard on the Beginning of Human Individuals"

Source: Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Apr. 2006, 31.2, pp. 165-175


Author’s Abstract
  1. When does a human being begin to exist? Barry Smith and Berit Brogaard have argued that it is possible, through a combination of biological fact and philosophical analysis, to provide a definitive answer to this question. In their view, a human individual begins to exist at gastrulation, i. e. at about sixteen days after fertilization.
  2. In this paper we argue that even granting Smith and Brogaard's ontological commitments and biological assumptions, the existence of a human being can be shown to begin much earlier, viz., with fertilization.
  3. Their interpretative claim that a zygote1 divides immediately into two substances and therefore ceases to exist is highly implausible by their own standards, and their factual claim that there is no communication between the blastomeres has to be abandoned in light of recent embryological2 research.


COMMENT:



"Davies (Sally) - Women’s minds matter"

Source: Aeon, 30 May, 2019


Author’s Introduction
  1. We are shackled to the pangs and shocks of life, wrote Virginia Woolf inThe Waves (1931), ‘as bodies to wild horses’. Or are we? Serge Faguet, a Russian-born tech entrepreneur and self-declared ‘extreme biohacker’, believes otherwise. He wants to tame the bucking steed of his own biochemistry via an elixir of drugs, implants, medical monitoring and behavioural ‘hacks’ that optimise his own biochemistry. In his personal quest to become one of the ‘immortal posthuman gods that cast off the limits of our biology, and spread across the Universe’, Faguet claims to have spent upwards of $250,000 so far – including hiring ‘fashion models to have sex with in order to save time on dating and focus on other priorities’.
  2. It’s easy to roll our eyes at such outré displays of entitlement, seemingly endemic in the Silicon Valley set. Beyond Faguet, ‘transhumanist’ true believers awaiting their version of the rapture include the entrepreneur1 Elon Musk, the Googler Ray Kurzweil and the philosopher2 Nick Bostrom. Their transhumanist ideal resembles a late-capitalist rendering of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian man: an individual super-human, armed with a wealth of cognitive and physical enhancements, elevated to a state of unassailable strength and power, devoid of all dependency, and, often enough, endowed with the ability to reproduce without the inconvenience of women. As they describe it, ‘immortality’ sounds like nothing so much as manspreading into the future.
  3. What’s most instructive about transhumanism, though, isn’t what it exposes about the hubris of rich white men. It’s the fact that it represents a paradigm case of what happens when a particular cast of mind, made from the sediment of centuries of philosophy, gets taken to its logical extreme. Since Plato, generations of philosophers have been gripped by a fear of the body and the desire to transcend it – a wish that works hand-in-hand with a fear of women, and a desire to control them. In the dialogue Timaeus, Plato likens the force of his ideal, immaterial forms to a disciplinarian father, imposing order on all this unwieldy material stuff that was nonetheless ‘the mother and receptacle of all created and visible and in any way sensible things’. Here Plato deploys a well-worn technique for suppressing corporeal angst: carving off the mind (rational, detached, inviolable, symbolically male) from the body (emotional, entangled, weak, symbolically female).


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Feminists never bought the idea of the computational mind set free from its body. Cognitive science is finally catching up."
  • For the full text, see Aeon: Davies - Women’s minds matter.




In-Page Footnotes ("Davies (Sally) - Women’s minds matter")

Footnote 1: Footnote 2:



"DeGrazia (David) - Are we essentially persons? Olson, Baker, and a reply"

Source: Philosophical Forum; Winter2002, Vol. 33 Issue 1, p101, 20p
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).

Abstract 12
  1. Recently, Eric Olson and Lynne Rudder Baker have vigorously debated the question of our essence: What are we3, most fundamentally: human animals4, persons, or something else?
  2. After reconstructing Olson's critique of the standard view – according to which we are essentially persons and our identity over time consists in psychological continuity5 – I argue that Baker goes some distance towards meeting his challenge to account plausibly for the relationship between persons and human animals6.
  3. Then I contend that her version of the standard view has major difficulties: a "newborn problem"; a dubious ontology; and a problematic account of personal identity.

Abstract 2
  1. Discusses the fundamental essence of a person.
  2. Comments on the Standard View;
  3. Theories that define persons in terms of psychological capacities;
  4. Reply of Lynne Rudder Baker on the comments of Eric Olson to the Standard View;
  5. Criticism to Baker's view.

For my thoughts, Click here for Note.

Write-up7 (as at 14/07/2019 18:05:46): DeGrazia - Are We Essentially Persons?

  1. This write-up is (or will be) a review of "DeGrazia (David) - Are we essentially persons? Olson, Baker, and a reply".
  2. The Abstract8 is:-
    • Recently, Eric Olson and Lynne Rudder Baker have vigorously debated the question of our essence: What are we9, most fundamentally: human animals, persons, or something else?
    • After reconstructing Olson's critique of the standard view – according to which we are essentially persons and our identity over time consists in psychological continuity – I argue that Baker goes some distance towards meeting his challenge to account plausibly for the relationship between persons and human animals.
    • Then I contend that her version of the standard view has major difficulties: a "newborn problem"; a dubious ontology; and a problematic account of personal identity.



Sections10
  1. Introduction
  2. Olson’s Challenge to the Standard View
    • The Fetus Problem
    • The problematic relation between the person and the early human organism
    • The problematic relation between the person and your PVS successor
    • The problem of implying that we are not animals.
  3. Baker’s Reply to Olson’s Challenge
  4. A Critique of Baker’s View
    • The Newborn Problem
    • A Dubious Ontology
    • A Problematic View of Personal Identity
  5. Concluding Reflections



Bibliography Notes
  1. Introduction
    • Three distinct issues, the last brought to prominence by Olson & Baker:-
      1. What is the nature of personhood; ie. what is a person12?
      2. Personal Identity: what are the persistence conditions13 of persons over time?
      3. What is our essence? What are we14 most fundamentally: human animals, persons, or something else?
    • Olson contends that (what he calls) the Standard View (SV) of personal identity – which requires some kind of psychological continuity15 – has highly implausible implications.
    • Olson claims that the SV holds that we are essentially persons16, and instead posits that we are essentially (living17) human animals18, members of the species Homo sapiens19 with biological20 persistence conditions.
    • Olson claims that the SV has no plausible account of the relation between the person and the associated human animal. Baker – who accepts “person essentialism” seeks to provide this account with her Constitution View21. We human persons22 are constituted23 by, but are not identical to, human animals.
    • DeGrazia’s plan is to:-
      1. Reconstruct Olson’s critique of the SV
      2. Argue that Baker goes a long way towards meeting Olson’s challenge
      3. Contend that Baker’s CV24 nevertheless has three major difficulties:-
        1. The “newborn problem”
        2. A dubious ontology
        3. A problematic account of personal identity
  2. Olson’s Challenge to the Standard View
    • 2.1 The Fetus Problem
    • 2.2 The problematic relation between the person and the early human organism
    • 2.3 The problematic relation between the person and your PVS successor
    • 2.4 The problem of implying that we are not animals
  3. Baker’s Reply to Olson’s Challenge
  4. A Critique of Baker’s View
    • 4.1 The Newborn Problem
    • 4.2 A Dubious Ontology
    • 4.3 A Problematic View of Personal Identity
  5. 5. Concluding Reflections

→ Further details to be supplied25




In-Page Footnotes ("DeGrazia (David) - Are we essentially persons? Olson, Baker, and a reply")

Footnote 2:
  • I’m not sure where these abstracts came from.
  • One is no-doubt from the Philosophers Index.
Footnote 7:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (14/07/2019 18:05:46).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
Footnote 8:
  • I’m not sure where this came from!
Footnote 10:
  • Some of these headings are the Author’s. Others, and the numbering, are mine.
Footnote 11:
  • He actually quotes an earlier article from Bioethics 13, (1999), 385-6, which I don’t have. It may be the same text.
Footnote 17:
  • This (bracketed) word is in the text.
  • Olson denies that we will ever be corpses, thereby courting the “corpse problem” for animalism.



"Deng (Natalja) - One Thing After Another: Why the Passage of Time is Not an Illusion"

Source: Forthcoming in The Illusions of Time: Philosophical and Psychological Essays on Timing and Time Perception, Adrian Bardon, Valtteri Arstila, Sean Power & Argiro Vatakis (eds.), Palgrave Macmillan


Author’s Abstract
  1. Does time seem to us to pass, even though it doesn’t, really?
  2. Many philosophers think the answer is ‘Yes’ – at least when ‘time’s (really) passing’ is understood in a particular way. They take time’s passing to be a process by which each time in turn acquires a special status, such as the status of being the only time that exists, or being the only time that is present (where that means more than just being simultaneous with oneself).
  3. This chapter suggests that on the contrary, all we perceive is temporal succession, one thing after another, a notion to which modern physics is not inhospitable. The contents of perception are best described in terms of ‘before’ and ‘after’, rather than ‘past’, ‘present, and ‘future’.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 19th June 2019



"Dennett (Daniel) - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul: Introduction"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Full Text
  1. You see the moon rise in the east. You see the moon rise in the west. You watch two moons moving toward each other across the cold black sky, one soon to pass behind the other as they continue on their way. You are on Mars, millions of miles from home, protected from the killing frostless cold of the red Martian desert by fragile membranes of terrestrial technology. Protected but stranded, for your spaceship has broken down beyond repair. You will never again return to Earth, to the friends and family and places you left behind.
  2. But perhaps there is hope in the communication compartment of the disabled craft you find a Teleclone Mark IV teleporter and instructions for its use. If you turn the teleporter on, tunes its beam to the Telecone receiver on Earth, and then step into the sending chamber, the teleporter will swiftly and painlessly dismantle your body, producing a molecule-by-molecule blueprint to be beamed to Earth, where the receiver, its reservoirs well stocked with the requisite atoms, will almost instantaneously produce, from the beamed instructions – you! Whisked back to Earth at the speed of light, into the arms of your loved ones, who will soon be listening with rapt attention to your tales of adventures on Mars.
  3. One last survey of the damaged spaceship convinces you that the Teleclone is your only hope. With nothing to lose, you set the transmitter up, flip the right switches, and step into the chamber. 5 4, 3, 2, 1, FLASH! You open the door in front of you and step out of the Teleclone receiver chamber into the sunny, familiar atmosphere of Earth. You’ve come home, none the worse for wear after your long-distance Telecone fall from Mars. Your narrow escape from a terrible fate on the red planet calls for a celebration, and as your family and friends gather around, you notice how everyone as changed since you last saw them. It has been almost three years, after all, and you’ve all grown older. Look at Sarah, your daughter, who must now be eight and a half. You find yourself thinking “Can this be the little girl who used to sit on my lap?” Of course it is, you reflect, even though you must admit that you do not so much recognize her as extrapolate from memory and deduce her identity, She is so much taller, looks so much older, and knows so much more. In fact, most of the cells in her body were not there when last you cast eyes on her. But in spite of growth and change, in spite of replacement cells, she’s still the same little person you kissed goodbye three years ago.
  4. Then it hits you: “Am I, really, the same person who kissed this little girl goodbye three years ago? Am I this eight year old child’s mother or am I, actually a brand-new human being, only several hours old, in spite of my memories – or apparent memories – of days and years before that? Did this child’s mother recently die on Mars, dismantled and destroyed in the chamber of a Teleclone Mark IV?
  5. Did I die on Mars? No, certainly I did not die on Mars, since I am alive on Earth. Perhaps, though, someone died on Mars – Sarah’s mother. Then I am not Sarah’s mother. But I must be” The whole point of getting into the Teleclone was to return home to my family! But I keep forgetting; maybe I never got into that Teleclone on Mars. Maybe that was someone else – if it ever happened at all. Is that infernal machine a tele-porter – a mode of transportation – or, as the brand name suggests, a sort of murdering twinmaker? Did Sarah’s mother survive the experience with the Teleclone or not? She thought she was going to. She entered the chamber with hope and anticipation, not suicidal resignation. Her act was altruistic, to be sure – she was taking steps to provide Sarah with a loved one to protect her – but also selfish – she was getting herself out of a jam into something pleasant. Or so it seemed. How do I know that’s how it seemed? Because I was there; I was Sarah’s mother thinking those thoughts; I am Sarah’s mother. Or so it seems.
  6. In the days that follow, your spirits soar and plummet, the moments of relief and joy balanced by gnawing doubts and soul searching. Soul searching. Perhaps, you think, it isn’t right to go along with Sarah’s joyous assumption that her mother’s come home. You feel a little bit like an imposter and wonder what Sarah will think when some day she figures out what really happened on Mars. Remember when she figured out about Santa Claus and seemed so confused and hurt? How could her own mother have deceived her all those years?
  7. So, now it’s with more than idle intellectual curiosity that you pick up this copy of The Mind’s I and begin to read it, for it promises to lead you on a voyage of discovery of the self and the soul. You will learn, it says, something about what and who you are.
  8. You think to yourself. Here I am reading page 5 of this book; I see my hands holding this book. I have hands. How do I know they’re my hands? Silly question: they’re fastened to my arms, to my body. How do I know this is my body? I control it. Do I own it? In a sense I do. It’s mine to do with it as I like, so long as I don’ harm others. It’s even a sort of legal possession, for while I may not legally sell it to anyone so long as I am alive, I can legally transfer ownership of my body, to, say a medical school once it is dead.
  9. If I have this body, then I guess I’m something other than this body. When I say “I own my body” I don’t mean “This body owns itself” - probably a meaningless claim. Or does everything that no one else owns own itself? Does the moon belong to everyone, to no one, or to itself? What can be an owner of anything? I can, and my body is just one of the things I own. In any case, I and my body seem both intimately connected and yet distinct. I am the controller, it is the controlled. Most of the time. Then The Mind’s I asks you if in that case you might exchange your body for another, a stronger or more beautiful or more controllable body. You think that this is impossible. But, the book insists, it is perfectly imaginable, and hence possible in principle.
  10. You wonder whether the book has in mind reincarnation of the transmigration of souls, but, anticipating the wonder, the book acknowledges that while reincarnation is one interesting idea, the details of how this might happen are always left in the dark, and there are other more interesting ways it might happen. What if your brain were to be transplanted into a new body, which it could then control? Wouldn’t you think of that as switching bodies? There would be vast technical problems, of course, but, given our purposes, we can ignore them.
  11. It does seem hen (doesn’t it?) that if your brain were transplanted into another body, you would go with it. But, are you a brain? Try on two sentences, and see which one sounds more like the truth to you:
    → I have a brain.
    → I am a brain.
    Sometimes we talk about smart people being brains, but we don’t mean it literally. We mean they have good brains. You have a good brain, but who or what, then, is the you that has the brain? Once again, if you have a brain, could you trade it in for another? How could anyone detach you from your brain in a brain switch, if you are always go with your brain in a body switch? Impossible? Maybe not, as we shall see. After all, if you have recently returned from Mars, you left your old brain behind, didn’t you? So suppose we agree that you have a brain. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself how you know you have a brain? You’ve never seen it, have you? You can’t see it, even in a mirror, and you can’t feel it. But of course you do know you have a brain. You know it because you know that you’re a human being and all human beings have brains. You’ve read it in books and been told it by people you trust. All people have livers too, and strangely enough what you know about your own brain is rather like what you know about your own liver. You trust what you’ve read in books. For many centuries people didn’t know what their livers were for. It took science to discover the answer. People haven’t always known what their brains were for either. Aristotle is said to have thought that the brain was an organ for cooling the blood – and of course it does cool your blood quite efficiently in the course of its operations. Suppose our livers had been in our skulls and our brains were snuggled into our ribcages. As we looked out at the world and listened, do you think we might have found it plausible that we thought with our livers? Your thinking seems to happen behind your eyes and between your ears – but that is because that’s where your brain is, or is that because you locate yourself, roughly, at the place you see from? Isn’t it in fact just as mind boggling to try to imagine how we could think with our brains – those soft grayish cauliflower shaped things – as to imagine how we could think with our livers – those soft reddish brown liver shaped things?
  12. The idea that what you are is not simply a living body (or a living brain) but also a soul or spirit seems to many people to be unscientific, in spite of its ancient tradition. “Souls,” they might want to say, “have no place in science and could never fit into the scientific world view. Science teaches us that there are no such things as souls. We don’t believe in leprechauns and ghosts any more, thanks to science, and the suspect idea of a soul inhabiting a body – the ‘ghost in the machine’ – will itself soon give up the ghost.” But not all versions of the idea that you are something distinct from your purely physical body are so vulnerable to ridicule and refutation. Some versions, as we shall see, actually flourish in the garden of science.
  13. Our world is filled with things that are neither mysterious and ghostly nor simply constructed out of the building blocks of physics. Do you believe in voices? How about haircuts? Are there such things? What are they? What, in the language of the physicist, is a hole – not an exotic black hole, but just a hole in a piece of cheese, for instance? Is it a physical thing? What is a symphony? Where in space and time does “The Star Spangled banner” exist? Is it nothing but some ink trails on some paper in the Library of Congress? Destroy that paper and the anthem would still exist. Latin still exists, but it is no longer a living language. The language of the cave people of France no longer exists at all. The game of bridge is less than a hundred years old. What sort of thing is it? It is not animal, vegetable or mineral.
  14. These things are not physical objects with mass, or a chemical composition, but are not purely abstract objects either – objects like the number π, which is immutable and cannot be located in space and time. These things have birthplaces and histories. They can change and things can happen to them. They can move about – much the same way a species, a disease, or an epidemic can. We must not suppose that science teaches us that everything anyone would ever want to take seriously is identifiable as a collection of particles moving about in space and time. Some people may think it is just common sense (or just good scientific thinking) to suppose you are nothing but a particular living, physical organism – a moving around of atoms – but in fact this idea exhibits a lack of scientific imagination, not hard-headed sophistication. One doesn’t have to believe in ghosts to believe in selves that have an identity that transcends any particular living body.
  15. You are Sarah’s mother, after all. But is Sarah’s mother you? Did she die on Mars, or was she moved back to Earth? It seems to you she returned to Earth – and of course it seemed to her before she stepped into the teleporter that she would return to Earth. Was she right? Maybe, but what would you say about the results of using the new, improved Teleclone Mark V? Thanks to the miracles of non-invasive CAT-scanning techniques, it obtains its blueprint without destroying the original. Sarah’s mother stil might decide to push the button and step into the chamber -- for Sarah’s sake, and in order to get the full story of her tragedy back to earth in the words of an eloquent spokeswoman – but she would also expect to step out of the chamber and find herself still on Mars. Could someone – some one – literally be in two places at once? Not for long, in any case, but soon the two would accumulate different memories, and different lives. They would be as distinct as any two people could be.

  16. Private Lives: What makes you you, and what are your boundaries? Part of the answer seems obvious – you are a centre of consciousness. But what in the world is consciousness? Consciousness is both the most obvious and the most mysterious feature of our minds. On the one hand, what could be more certain or manifest to each of us that that he or she is a subject of experience, an enjoyer of perceptions and sensations, a sufferer of pain, and entertainer of ideas, and a conscious deliberator? On the other hand, what in the world can consciousness be? How can living physical bodies in the physical world produce such a phenomenon? Science has revealed the secrets of many initially mysterious natural phenomena – magnetism, or photosynthesis or digestion are in principle equally accessible to any observer with the right apparatus, but any particular case of consciousness seems to have a favored or privileged observer, whose access of any others – no matter what apparatus they may have. For his reason and others, so far there is no good theory of consciousness. There is not even agreement about what a theory of consciousness would be like. Some have gone so far as to deny that there is any real thing for the term “consciousness” to name.
  17. The mere fact that such a familiar feature of our lives has resisted for so long all attempts to characterize it suggests that our conception of it is at fault. What is needed is not just more evidence, more experimental and clinical data, but a careful rethinking of the assumptions that lead us to suppose there is a single and familiar phenomenon, consciousness, answering to all the descriptions licensed by our everyday sense of the term. Consider the baffling questions that are inevitably raised whenever one turns one’s attention to consciousness. Are other animals conscious? Are they conscious in the same way we are? Could a computer or a robot be conscious? Can a person have unconscious thoughts? Unconscious pains or sensations or perceptions? Is a baby conscious at or before birth? Are we conscious when we dream? Might a human being harbour more than one conscious subject or ego or agent within one brain? Good answers to these questions certainly will depend heavily on empirical discoveries about the behavioural capacities and internal circumstances of the various problematic candidates for consciousness, but about every such empirical finding we can ask: what is its bearing on the question of consciousness and why? These are not directly empirical questions but rather conceptual ones, which we may be able to answer with the help of thought experiments.
  18. Our ordinary concept of consciousness seems to be anchored to two separable sets of considerations that can be captured roughly by the phrases “from the inside” and “from the outside.” From the inside, our own consciousness seems obvious and pervasive, we know that much goes on around us and even inside our bodies of which we are entirely unaware or unconscious, but nothing could be more intimately know to us than those things of which we are, individually, conscious. Those things of which I am conscious, and the ways in which I am conscious of them, determine what it is like to be me. I know in a way no other could know what it is like to be me. From the inside, consciousness seems to be an all-or-nothing phenomenon – an inner light that is either on or off. We grant that we are sometimes drowsy or inattentive, or asleep, and on occasion we even enjoy abnormally heightened consciousness, but when we are conscious, that we are conscious is not a fact that admits of degrees. There is a perspective, then, from which consciousness seems to be a feature that sunders the universe into two strikingly different kinds of things, those that have it and those that don’t. Those that have it are subjects, beings to whom things can be one way or another, beings it is like something to be. It is not like anything at all to be a brick or a pocket calculator or an apple. These things have insides, but not the right sort of insides – no inner life, no point of view. It is certainly like something to be me (Something I know “from the inside”) and almost certainly like something to be you (for you have told me, most convincingly, that it is the same with you), and probably like something to be a dog or a dolphin (if only they could tell us!) and maybe even like something to be a spider.

  19. Other Minds: When one considers these others (other folk and other creatures), one considers them perforce from the outside, and then various of their observable features strike us as relevant to the question of their consciousness. Creatures react appropriately to events within the scope of their senses; they recognize things, avoid painful experiences, learn, plan, and solve problems. They exhibit intelligence. But putting matter this way might be held to prejudge the issue. Talking of their “senses” or of “painful” circumstances, for instance suggests that we have already settled the issue of consciousness -- for note that had we described a robot in those terms, the polemical intent of the choice of words would have been obvious (and resisted by many). How do creatures differ from robots, real or imagined? By being organically and biologically similar to us – and we are the paradigmatic conscious creatures. This similarity admits of degrees, of course, and one’s intuitions about what sorts of similarity count are probably untrustworthy. Dolphins’ fishiness subtracts from our conviction that they are conscious like us, but no doubt should not. Were chimpanzees as dull as sea-slugs, their facial similarity to us would no doubt nevertheless favour their inclusion in the charmed circle. If houseflies were about our size, or warm-blooded, we’d be much more confident that when we plucked off their wings they felt pain (our sort of pain, the kind that matters). What makes us think that some such considerations ought to count and not others?
  20. The obvious answer is that the various “outside” indicators are more or less reliable signs or symptoms of the presence of that whatever-it-is each conscious subject knows from the inside. But how could this be confirmed? This is the notorious “problem of other minds.” In one’s own case, it seems, one can directly observer the coincidence of one’s inner life with one’s outwardly observable behaviour. But if each of us is to advance rigorously beyond solipsism, we must be able to do something apparently impossible: confirm the coincidence of inner and outer in others. Their telling us of the coincidence in their own cases will not do, officially, for that gives us just more coincidence of outer with outer; the demonstrable capacities for perception and intelligent action normally go hand-in-hand with the capacity to talk, and particularly to make “introspective” reports. If a cleverly designed robot could (seem to) tell us of its inner life, (could utter all the appropriate noises in the appropriate contexts), would we be right to admit it to the charmed circle? We might be, but how could we ever tell we were not being fooled? Here the question seems to be; is that special inner light really turned on, or is there nothing but darkness inside? And this question looks unanswerable. So perhaps we have taken a misstep already.
  21. My use of “we” and “our” in the last few paragraphs, and your unworried acceptance of it, reveals that we don’t take the problem of other minds seriously – at least for ourselves and the human beings with whom we normally associate. It is tempting to conclude that insofar as there is a serious question yet to be answered about the imagined robot (or about some problematic creature) it must turn out to be answerable by straightforward observation. Some theorists think that once we have better theories of the organization of our brains and their role in controlling our behaviour, we will be able to use those theories to distinguish conscious entities from nonconscious entities. This is to suppose that somehow or other the facts we get individually “from the inside” reduce to facts publicly obtainable from the outside. Enough of the right sort of outside facts will settle the question of whether or not some creature is conscious. For instance, consider neurophysiologist E.R. John’s recent attempt to define consciousness in objective terms.
      .. a process in which information about multiple individual modalities of sensation and perception is combined into a unified multidimensional representation of the state of the system and its environment, and integrated with information about memories and the needs of the organism, generating emotional reactions and programs of behaviour to adjust the organism to its environment.
  22. Determining that this hypothetical internal process occurs in a particular organism is presumably a difficult but empirical task in the province of a new science of neural information processing. Suppose that with regard to some creature it were completed successfully; the creature is by this account, conscious. If we have understood the proposal correctly, we will not find any room to wonder further. Reserving judgment here would be like being shown in detail the operations of an automobile engine, and then asking, “But is it really an internal combustion engine? Might we not be deluded in thinking it was?
  23. Any proper scientific account of the phenomenon of consciousness must inevitably take this somewhat doctrinaire step of demanding that the phenomenon be viewed as objectively as accessible, but one may still wonder if, once the step is taken, the truly mysterious phenomenon will be left behind. Before dismissing this skeptical hunch as the fancy of romantics, it would be wise to consider a striking revolution in the recent history of thinking about the mind, a revolution with unsettling consequences.

  24. Freud’s Crutch: For John Locke and many subsequent thinkers, nothing was more essential to the mind than consciousness, and more particularly self-consciousness. The mind in all its activities and processes was viewed as transparent to itself; nothing was hidden from its inner view. To discern what went on in one’s mind one just “looked” – one “introspected” – and the limits of what one thereby found were the very boundaries of the mind. The notion of unconscious thinking or perceiving was not entertained, or if it was, it was dismissed as incoherent, self-contradictory nonsense.
  25. For Locke, indeed, there was a serious problem of how to describe all one’s memories as being continuously in one’s mind when yet they were not continuously “present to consciousness.” The influence of this view has been so great that when Freud initially hypothesized the existence of unconscious mental processes, his proposal met widely with stark denial and incomprehension. It was not just an outrage to common sense, it was even self-contradictory to assert that there could be unconscious beliefs and desires, unconscious feelings of hatred, unconscious schemes of self-defense and retaliation. But Freud won converts. This “conceptual impossibility” became respectably thinkable by theorists once they saw that it permitted them to explain otherwise inexplicable patterns of psychopathology.
  26. The new way of thinking was supported by a crutch, one could cling to at least a pale version of the Lockean creed by imagining that these “unconscious” thoughts, desires, and schemes belonged to other selves within the psyche. Just as I can keep my schemes secret from you, my id can keep secrets from my ego. By splitting the subject into many subjects, one could preserve the axiom that every mental state must be someone’s conscious mental state and explain the inaccessibility of some of these states to their putative owners by postulating other interior owners for them. This move was usefully obscured in the mists of jargon so that the weird question of whether it was like anything to be a superego, for instance, could be kept at bay.
  27. Freud’s expansion of the bounds of the thinkable revolutionized clinical psychology. It also paved the way for the more recent development of “cognitive” experimental psychology. We have come to accept without the slightest twinge of incomprehension a host of claims to the effect that sophisticated hypothesis testing, memory searching, inference – in short, information processing – occurs within us though it is entirely inaccessible to introspection . It is not repressed unconscious activity of the sort Freud uncovered, activity driven out of the sight of consciousness, but just mental activity that is somehow beneath or beyond the ken of consciousness altogether. Freud claimed that his theories and clinical observations gave him the authority to overrule the sincere denials of his patients about what was going on in their minds. Similarly the cognitive psychologist marshals experimental evidence, models, and theories to show that people are engaged in surprisingly sophisticated reasoning processes of which they can give no introspective account at all. Not only are minds accessible to outsiders, some mental activities are more accessible to outsiders than to the very “owners” of those minds. In the new theorizing, however, the crutch has been thrown away.
  28. Although the new theories abound with metaphors – subsystems like little people in the brain sending messages back and forth, asking for help, obeying and volunteering -- the actual subsystems, are deemed to be unproblematic nonconscious bits of organic machinery, as utterly lacking in a point of view or inner life as a kidney or kneecap. (Certainly the advent of “mindless” but “intelligent” computers played a major role in this further dissolution of the Lockean view.)
  29. But now Locke’s extremism has been turned on its head, if before the very idea of unconscious mentality seemed incomprehensible, now we are losing our grip on the very idea of conscious mentality. What is consciousness but, if perfectly unconscious, indeed subjectless, information processing is in principle capable of achieving all the ends for which conscious minds were supposed to exist? If theories of cognitive psychology can be true of us, they could also be true of zombies, or robots and the theories seem to have no way of distinguishing us. How could any amount of mere subjectless information processing (of the sort we have recently discovered to go on in us) add up to that special feature with which it is so vividly contrasted? For the contrast has not disappeared. The psychologist Karl Lashley once suggested provocatively that “no activity of the mind is ever conscious,” by which he meant to draw our attention to the inaccessibility of the processing that we know must go on when we think. He gave an example: If asked to think a thought in dactylic hexameter, those who knew which rhythm that is can readily oblige. For instance: How in the world did this case of dactylic hexameter come to me? How we do it, what goes on in us to produce such a thought, is something quite inaccessible to us. Lashley’s remark might seem at first to herald the demise of consciousness as a phenomenon for psychological study, but its true effect is just the opposite. It draws our attention unmistakably to the difference between all the unconscious information processing – without which, no doubt, there could be no conscious experience – and the conscious thought itself, which is somehow directly accessible. Accessible to what or to whom? To say that it is accessible to some subsystem of the brain is not yet to distinguish it from the unconscious activities and events, which are also accessible to various subsystems of the brain. If some particular special subsystem is so constituted that that its traffic with the rest of the system somehow makes it the case that there is one more self in the world, one more “”thing it is like something to be,” this is far from obvious.
  30. Strangely, enough, this problem is the old chestnut, the problem of other minds, resurrected as a serious problem now that cognitive science has begun to analyze the human mind into its functional components. This comes out most graphically in the famous split-brain cases. (See “Further Reading” for details and references.) There is nothing very problematic in granting that the people who have undergone severing of the corpus callosum have two somewhat independent minds, one associated with the dominant brain hemisphere, and another associated with the non-dominant brain hemisphere. This is not problematic, for we have grown used to thinking of a person’s mind as an organization of communicating subminds. Here the lines of communication have simply been cut, revealing the independent character of each part particularly vividly. But what remains problematic is whether both subminds “have an inner life.” One view is that there is no reason to grant consciousness to the non-dominant hemisphere, since all that has been shown is that that hemisphere, like many unconscious cognitive subsystems, can process a lot of information and intelligently control some behaviour. But then we may ask what reason there is to grant consciousness to the dominant hemisphere, or even to the whole, intact system in a normal person. We had this thought this question frivolous and not worth discussing, but this avenue forces us to take it seriously again. If on the other hand we grant full “inner life” consciousness to the non-dominant hemisphere (or more properly to the newly discovered person whose brain is the non-dominant hemisphere), what will be said about all the other information-processing subsystems posited by current theory? Is the Freudian crutch to be taken away again at the expense of populating our heads, quite literally, with hosts of subjects of experience?
  31. Consider, for example, the striking discovery by the psycholinguists James Lackner and Merril Garrett (see “Further Reading”) of what might be called an unconscious channel of sentence comprehension. In dichotic listening tests, subjects listen through earphones to two different channels and are instructed to attend to just one channel. Typically they can paraphrase or report with accuracy what they have heard through the attended channel but usually they can say little about what was going on concomitantly in the unattended channel. Thus, if the unattended channel carries a spoken sentence, the subjects typically can report they heard a voice, or even a male or female voice. Perhaps they even have a conviction about whether the voice was speaking in their native tongue, but they cannot report what was said. In Lackney and Garrett’s experiments subjects heard ambiguous sentences in the attended channel, such as “He put out the lantern to signal the attack.” Simultaneously, in the unattended channel one group of subjects received a sentence that suggested the interpretation of the sentence in the attended channel (e.g. “He extinguished the lantern), while another group had a neutral or irrelevant sentence as input. The former group could not report what was presented through the unattended channel, but they favoured the suggested reading of the ambiguous sentences significantly more than the control group did. The influence of the unattended channel on the interpretation of the attended signal is processed all the way to a semantic level – that is, the unattended signal is comprehended – but this is apparently unconscious sentence comprehension! Or should we say it is evidence of the presence in the subject of at least two different and only partially communicating consciousnesses? If we ask the subjects what it was like to comprehend the unattended cannel, they will reply, sincerely, that it was not like anything to them – they were quite unaware of that sentence. But perhaps, as is often suggested about the split brain patients, there is in effect someone else to whom our question ought to be addressed – the subject who consciously comprehended the sentence and relayed a hint of its meaning to the subject who answers our questions.
  32. Which should we say, and why? We seem to be back to our unanswerable question, which suggests we should find different ways of looking at the situation. A view of consciousness that does justice to the variety of complications will almost certainly demand a revolution in our habits of thought. Breaking bad habits is not that easy. The fantasies and thought experiments collected here are games and exercises designed to help.

  33. Plan
    • In Part I the exploration begins with some swift forays into the territory, noting a few striking landmarks but mounting no campaigns.
    • In Part II our target, The Mind’s I, is surveyed from the outside. What is it that reveals the presence of other minds, other souls to the searcher?
    • Part III examines the physical foundation – in biology -- of the mind, and then from this foundation moves up several levels of complexity to the level of internal representations. The mind begins to emerge as a self-designing system of representations, physically embodied in the brain. Here we encounter our first roadblock – “The Story of a Brain.” We suggest some paths around it, and
    • in Part IV we explore the implications of the emerging views of the mind as software or program – as an abstract sort of thing whose identity is independent of any particular physical embodiment. This opens up delightful prospects, such as various technologies for the transmigration of souls, and Fountains of Youth, but it also opens a Pandora’s box of traditional metaphysical problems in untraditional costumes,
    • which are confronted in Part V. Reality itself is challenged by various rivals: dreams, fictions, simulations, illusions. Free will, something no self-respecting mind would be caught without, is put under an unusual spotlight. In “Minds, Brains, and Programs” we encounter our second roadblock, but learn from it
    • how to press on, in Part VI, past our third roadblock, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” into the inner sanctum, where our mind’s-eye view affords us the most intimate perspectives on our target, and allows us to relocate our selves in the metaphysical and physical world. A guide to further expeditions is provided in the last section.

→ D.C.D.


COMMENT:



"Deutsch (Diana) - Absolute Pitch"

Source: "Absolute pitch" In D. Deutsch (Ed.), The psychology of music, 3rd Edition: 141–182


Author’s Introduction
  1. This passage1 furnishes a good characterization of absolute pitch (AP)—otherwise known as perfect pitch — the ability to name or produce a note of a given pitch in the absence of a reference note. AP possessors name musical notes as effortlessly and rapidly as most people name colors, and they generally do so without specific training. The ability is very rare in North America and Europe, with its prevalence in the general population estimated as less than one in 10,000. Because of its rarity, and because a substantial number of world-class composers and performers are known to possess it, AP is often regarded as a perplexing ability that occurs only in exceptionally gifted individuals. However, its genesis and characteristics are unclear, and these have recently become the subject of considerable research.
  2. In contrast to the rarity of AP, the ability to name relationships between notes is very common among musicians. Most trained musicians have no difficulty in naming the ascending pattern D-Fx as a major third, E-B as a perfect fifth, and so on. Further, when given the name of one of these notes, they generally have no difficulty in producing the name of the other note, using relative pitch as the cue. Yet most musicians, at least in Western cultures, are unable to name a note when it is presented in isolation.
  3. The rarity of AP presents us with an enigma. We can take color naming as an analogy: When we label a color as red, we do not do so by comparing it with another color (such as blue) and determining the relationship between the two colors; the labeling process is instead direct and immediate. Consider, also, that note naming involves choosing between only 12 possibilities—the 12 notes within the octave. Such a task should be trivial for musicians, who typically spend thousands of hours reading musical scores, playing the notes they read, and hearing the notes they play. In addition, most people have no difficulty naming well-known melodies, yet this task is considerably more complex than is naming a single note. It appears, therefore, that the lack of AP is analogous to color anomia, in which patients can recognize and discriminate colors, yet cannot associate them with verbal labels.


COMMENT: See Link.




In-Page Footnotes ("Deutsch (Diana) - Absolute Pitch")

Footnote 1: On Mozart, aged 7.



"Deutsch (Diana) - The Enigma of Absolute Pitch"

Source: Acoustics Today, 2006, 2 (4): 11–18


Author’s Introduction
  1. This passage1 provides a good characterization of absolute pitch — the ability to name or produce a note of a given pitch in the absence of a reference note. This ability, which is also known as “perfect pitch,” is very rare in our culture, with an estimated overall prevalence of less than one in ten thousand. People with absolute pitch name musical notes as rapidly and effortlessly as most people name colors. Yet absolute pitch is often regarded as a mysterious endowment that is available only to a few gifted individuals. This impression is strengthened by the fact that most famous musicians, such as Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Menuhin, Toscanini, Boulez, and so on, were known to possess this ability.
  2. In contrast with the rarity of absolute pitch, the ability to judge one musical note in relation to another is very common. So, for example, most musicians, when presented with the note F and given its name, have no difficulty in naming the note two semitones higher as G, the note four semitones tones higher as A; and so on. (A semitone is the pitch relation formed by two adjacent notes on a keyboard, and corresponds to a frequency ratio of approximately 18:17.) What most people, including most musicians, cannot do is name a note when they hear it out of context.
  3. As someone with absolute pitch, it has always seemed puzzling to me that this ability should be so rare. When we name a color, for example as green, we do not do this by viewing a different color, determining its name, and comparing the relationship between the two colors. Instead, the labeling process is direct and immediate. Consider, also, that note naming involves choosing between only 12 possibilities; namely the 12 notes within the octave (termed pitch classes). Such a task should not be difficult; indeed, it should be trivial for professional musicians, who spend many thousands of hours reading musical scores, playing the notes they read, and hearing the notes they play. As another point most people can easily identify well-known melodies when they hear them; yet the amount of information required to do this is vastly greater than is required to name a single note. A lack of absolute pitch, viewed from this perspective, appears akin to the syndrome of color anomia, in which the person can recognize and discriminate between colors, yet cannot associate them with verbal labels. So the real mystery of absolute pitch is not why some people possess this ability, but instead why it is so rare.


COMMENT: See Link.




In-Page Footnotes ("Deutsch (Diana) - The Enigma of Absolute Pitch")

Footnote 1: On Mozart, aged 7.



"Deutsch (Diana), Henthorn (Trevor) & Dolson (Mark) - Absolute Pitch, Speech, and Tone Language"

Source: Music Perception, Spring 2004, Vol. 21, No. 3, 339–356


Author’s Abstract
  1. Absolute pitch is generally considered to reflect a rare musical endowment; however, its characteristics are puzzling and its genesis is unclear.
  2. We describe two experiments in which native speakers of tone languages — Mandarin and Vietnamese — were found to display a remarkably precise and stable form of absolute pitch in enunciating words. We further describe a third experiment in which speakers of English displayed less stability on an analogous task.
  3. Based on these findings, and considering the related literatures on critical periods in speech development, and the neurological underpinnings of lexical tone, we propose a framework for the genesis of absolute pitch. The framework assumes that absolute pitch originally evolved as a feature of speech, analogous to other features such as vowel quality, and that speakers of tone language naturally acquire this feature during the critical period for speech acquisition.
  4. We further propose that the acquisition of absolute pitch by rare individuals who speak an intonation language may be associated with a critical period of unusually long duration, so that it encompasses the age at which the child can take music lessons.
  5. We conclude that the potential to acquire absolute pitch is universally present at birth, and that it can be realized by enabling the infant to associate pitches with verbal labels during the critical period for speech acquisition.


COMMENT:
  • "Some Experiments and a Proposed Framework."
  • See Link.



"Deutsch (Diana), Li (Xiounuo) & Shen (Jing) - Absolute pitch among students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music"

Source: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 134: 3853–3859


Author’s Abstract
  1. This paper reports a large-scale direct-test study of absolute pitch (AP) in students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Overall note-naming scores were very high, with high scores correlating positively with early onset of musical training. Students who had begun training at age <6 yr scored 83% correct not allowing for semitone errors and 90% correct allowing for semitone errors. Performance levels were higher for white key pitches than for black key pitches.
  2. This effect was greater for orchestral performers than for pianists, indicating that it cannot be attributed to early training on the piano. Rather, accuracy in identifying notes of different names (C, C#, D, etc.) correlated with their frequency of occurrence in a large sample of music taken from the Western tonal repertoire. There was also an effect of pitch range, so that performance on tones in the two-octave range beginning on Middle C was higher than on tones in the octave below Middle C.
  3. In addition, semitone errors tended to be on the sharp side. The evidence also ran counter to the hypothesis, previously advanced by others, that the note A plays a special role in pitch identification judgments.


COMMENT:
  • "A large-scale direct-test study."
  • See Link.



"Difrisco (James) & Mossio (Matteo) - Diachronic Identity in Complex Life Cycles: An Organizational Perspective"

Source: Dupré, J. (ed.): Biological Identity: Perspectives from Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Biology, (History and Philosophy of Biology), Routledge, In press.


Authors’ Abstract
  1. What does it mean to be the same organism over time? This chapter develops an understanding of diachronic identity of organisms from an organizational perspective.
  2. We argue that a necessary condition for diachronic identity is organizational continuity, i.e., the presence of a continuous causal1 process linking successive organizational regimes, irrespective of material and functional changes.
  3. Organizational continuity is not a sufficient condition, however, because it cannot discriminate between the development of the same individual and the reproduction of a new individual.
  4. We therefore suggest that there are temporal boundaries of identity when there are changes in the number of continuous organized systems, which occurs through fission2, fusion3, or a combination of the two.
  5. We discuss the utility of the resulting organizational view, as well as its relations with other approaches to biological individuality.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 26th July 2019



"Dorato (Mauro) - Presentism / Eternalism and Endurantism / Perdurantism: why the unsubstantiality of the first debate implies that of the second"

Source: Forthcoming in Philosophia Naturalis


Author’s Abstract
  1. The main claim that I want to defend in this paper is that there are logical equivalences between eternalism and perdurantism1 on the one hand and presentism and endurantism2 on the other.
  2. By “logical equivalence” I mean that one position is entailed and entails the other.
  3. As a consequence of this equivalence, it becomes important to inquire into the question whether the dispute between endurantists and perdurantists is authentic, given that Savitt (2006), Yuval Dolev (2006) and Dorato (2006) have cast doubts on the fact that the debate between presentism and eternalism is about “what there is”.
  4. In this respect, I will conclude that also the debate about persistence in time has no ontological consequences, in the sense that there is no real ontological disagreement between the two allegedly opposite positions: as in the case of the presentism / eternalism debate, one can be both a perdurantist and an endurantist, depending on which linguistic framework is preferred.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 7th July 2019



"Dorato (Mauro) - Presentism and the Experience of Time"

Source: Forthcoming in TOPOI


Author’s Abstract
  1. Presentists have typically argued that the Block View is incapable of explaining our experience of time.
  2. In this paper I argue that the phenomenology of our experience of time is, on the contrary, against presentism.
  3. My argument is based on a dilemma: presentists must either assume that the metaphysical present has no temporal extension, or that it is temporally extended. The former horn leads to phenomenological problems. The latter renders presentism metaphysically incoherent, unless one posits a discrete present that, however, suffers from the same difficulties that the instantaneous present is prone to.
  4. After introducing the main phenomenological models of our experience of time that are discussed in the literature, I show that none of them favors presentism.
  5. I conclude by arguing that if even the phenomenology (besides the physics) of time sides against presentism, the latter metaphysical theory has no scientific evidence in its favor and ought to be dropped.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 7th July 2019



"Dorato (Mauro) - The Irrelevance of the Presentist / Eternalist Debate for the Ontology of Minkowski Spacetime"

Source: Philosophy and Foundations of Physics: The Ontology of Spacetime, D. Dieks (Editor), Chapter 5, 2006, Elsevier


Author’s Abstract
  1. I argue that the debate between the so-called presentists and eternalists either lacks substance or is merely pragmatical.
  2. Consequently, I show that such a debate has no implications whatsoever both for our understanding of Minkowski spacetime and for notions like change, persistence and becoming.
  3. In particular, becoming should not be construed as presupposing an ontological asymmetry between past (or present) and future, but as the successive occurrence of timelike-related events, an issue related to the various arrows that have been taken to mark the asymmetry of time.


COMMENT:



"Doyle (Robert O.) - Abstract Entities"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:



"Doyle (Robert O.) - Change (Being and Becoming)"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:
  • Bob Doyle styles himself "The Information Philosopher".
  • For this page on his website, see Bob Doyle: Change.



"Doyle (Robert O.) - Coinciding Objects"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:



"Doyle (Robert O.) - Composition (Parts and Wholes)"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:
  • Bob Doyle styles himself "The Information Philosopher".
  • For this page on his website, see Bob Doyle: Composition.



"Doyle (Robert O.) - David Wiggins"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:



"Doyle (Robert O.) - Identity"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:
  • Bob Doyle styles himself "The Information Philosopher".
  • For this page on his website, see Bob Doyle: Identity.



"Doyle (Robert O.) - Material Constitution"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:



"Doyle (Robert O.) - Persistence (Perdurance and Endurance)"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:
  • Bob Doyle styles himself "The Information Philosopher".
  • For this page on his website, see Bob Doyle: Persistence.



"Doyle (Robert O.) - The Growing Argument"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:
  • Bob Doyle styles himself "The Information Philosopher".
  • For this page on his website, see Link.



"Doyle (Robert O.) - The Problem of Individuation"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:



"Doyle (Robert O.) - The Problem of the Many"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:



"Doyle (Robert O.) - The Sorites Puzzle of the Heap"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:
  • Bob Doyle styles himself "The Information Philosopher".
  • For this page on his website, see Bob Doyle: Sorites.



"Doyle (Robert O.) - The Statue and the Clay"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:



"Doyle (Robert O.) - Tibbles, the Cat"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:



"Doyle (Robert O.) - Vagueness"

Source: Personal Website

COMMENT:
  • Bob Doyle styles himself "The Information Philosopher".
  • For this page on his website, see Bob Doyle: Vagueness.



"Duncan (Matt) - A Challenge to Anti-Criterialism"

Source: Erkenntnis (1975-), Vol. 79, No. 2 (April 2014), pp. 283-296


Author’s Abstract
  1. Most theists believe that they will survive death. Indeed, they believe that any given person will survive death and persist into an afterlife while remaining the very same person.
  2. In light of this belief, one might ask: how — or, in virtue of what — do people survive death? Perhaps the most natural way to answer this question is by appealing to some general account of personal identity through time. That way one can say that people persist through the time of their death in the same way that people persist through time in general. Then the obvious question is: how — or, in virtue of what — do people persist through time in general?
  3. Many different answers to this question have been proposed.
    1. Some philosophers think that personal identity through time consists in something, such as psychological or biological continuity. They think that there are informative necessary and sufficient conditions — i.e., criteria — for personal identity through time. These philosophers are criterialists.
    2. Other philosophers are anti-criterialists. Anti-criterialists believe that people persist through time, but they deny that there are any informative criteria for personal identity through time.
  4. In this paper I develop a challenge to anti-criterialism.
    1. I begin by spelling out the commitments of anti-criterialism.
    2. Then I argue that there are good reasons for anyone to reject anti-criterialism.
    3. And then I argue that theists have special reasons to reject anti-criterialism (This is particularly important and noteworthy because a substantial portion of those who defend anti-criterialism are theists. Examples include [but may not be limited to] Trenton Merricks, Richard Swinburne, Joseph Butler, and Thomas Reid).
  5. I conclude that there is an informative criterion for personal identity through time and death, even if we haven't heard of it yet.



"Duncan (Matt) - A Renewed Challenge to Anti-Criterialism"

Source: Erkenntnis, 2018, pp. 1-18


Author’s Abstract
  1. Some things that exist today will exist tomorrow. They may change, sure, but they’ll keep right on existing. The question is: How? In virtue of what will they persist through time? Are there criteria of their identities through time?
  2. Anti-criterialists say no, there aren’t any criteria of identity through time. They grant that things persist, but then insist that there are no informative metaphysically necessary and sufficient conditions for their persistence.
  3. One prominent challenge to anti-criterialism comes in two steps.
    1. The first step is to show that anti-criterialists are committed specifically to the claim that there are no informative metaphysically sufficient conditions for identity through time.
    2. The second step is to show that this commitment yields absurd results.
  4. Each step of this challenge is open to objection. Indeed, each step has been objected to. However, in what follows, I will refortify this challenge to anti-criterialism — thus providing a renewed challenge to anti-criterialism — by offering new reasons to take each step. I’ll thus block a path that may have looked open.


COMMENT:
  • 'This is the penultimate version of an article forthcoming in Erkenntnis'.
  • Downloaded from academia.edu, 19th July 2019



"Duncan (Matt) - Dualists Needn’t Be Anti-Criterialists (Nor Should They Be)"

Source: Philosophical Studies, April 2017, Volume 174, Issue 4, pp 945–963


Author’s Abstract
  1. Sometimes in philosophy one view engenders another. If you hold the first, chances are you hold the second. But it’s not always because the first entails the second. Sometimes the tie is less clear, less clean.
  2. One such tie is between substance dualism and anti-criterialism. Substance dualism is the view that people are, at least in part, immaterial mental substances. Anti-criterialism is the view that there is no criterion of personal identity through time. Most philosophers who hold the first view also hold the second. In fact, many philosophers just assume that substance dualists ought to, perhaps even have to, accept anti-criterialism.
  3. But I aim to show that this assumption is baseless. Substance dualism doesn’t entail, suggest, support, or in any way motivate anti-criterialism, and anti-criterialism confers no benefit on dualism. Substance dualists have no special reason — and, indeed, no good reason at all — to accept anti-criterialism. Or so I shall argue.
  4. My aim isn’t to defend substance dualism, nor is it to attack anti-criterialism. My aim is to show that, contrary to a long-standing trend, dualists needn’t be anti-criterialists. Nor, as it will turn out, should they be.


COMMENT: Pre-print downloaded from academia.edu, 19th July 2019.



"Duncan (Matt) - I Think, Therefore I Persist"

Source: Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Volume 93, 2015 - Issue 4, Pages 740-756


Author’s Introduction
  1. Suppose that you’re lying in bed. You just woke up. But you’re alert. Your mind is clear and you have no distractions. As you lie there, you think to yourself, ‘2+2=4’. The thought just pops into your head. But wanting to be sure of your mathematical insight, you once again think ‘2+2=4’, this time really meditating on your thought.
  2. Now suppose that you’re sitting in an empty movie theatre. The lighting is normal and the screen in front of you is blank. Then at some point an image of a peach is flashed on the screen. The image isn’t up there for long. In fact, it’s only on the screen for what seems like an instant — just long enough for you to see it.
  3. These two scenarios are a bit mundane. But, as I will show, reflection on them can yield significant results concerning the nature of persons and their persistence through time.
    1. First I will show that thought and perception have temporal constraints whereby your thinking or perceiving in the above scenarios implies that you exist through a temporally extended interval.
    2. Then I will argue that this allows us to rule out several prominent theories of Personal Identity1.

Sections
    Abstract
  1. Thought and Perception
  2. Personal Persistence
  3. Conclusion

Notes
    Abstract
    1. Matt Duncan rightly claims that certain actions – those chosen being (logical) thinking and (visual) perceptions – take time to perform (for beings such as us). The reason being that our brains are somewhat sluggish – though presumably were they ever so fast, these actions would still take some time to perform.
    2. From these rather ordinary observations, Duncan deduces that “we” must persist during the period of their performance. Why should anyone quibble about this – though whether this argument has any implications for our longer term persistence is moot, and "Maurer (Nicholas) - Too Many Persons, or None At All?" takes Duncan to task on this account.
    3. More interesting from my perspective is Duncan’s claim that his TEs2 (when augmented to focus on the theories in hand) act as disproofs of certain popular theories of PID. My interest is focused on the alleged disproof of Animalism3.
    4. Later in the paper, Duncan is insistent that it’s important that the actions ensuring persistence are mental ones, though I’m suspicious that this may beg the question as to what we are4.
  1. Thought and Perception:
    1. Duncan gives a detailed account of his TEs. I have no reason to disagree here. I agree that thinking and perceiving5 take time.
    2. So, he comes up with his Thought Claim and his Perceptual Claim that – respectively – for you to think or perceive you need to persist for the duration of the thought or perception.
    3. He claims that his observation that “you” persist during these episodes does not rest on “you” being a Cartesian Ego6 or some such. Still, it takes time to kick a football, but he doesn’t use that sort of example.
  2. Personal Persistence:
    1. Duncan alleges that his two modest Claims have a significant philosophical pay-off in undermining popular theories of PID. He briefly outlines a couple7, involving physical or biological continuity. His aim is to come up with possible (if not plausible) scenarios arise in which your thinking or perceiving goes on but – by the lights of these theories of PID – you do not persist during the episodes, so contradicting his two Claims.
    2. He now spends a page setting up (what seems to be to me to be) a Straw Man – a “toy” theory of PID held by no-one – the combination of physicalism – the view that persons are wholly physical – and mereological essentialism – the view that a thing cannot survive the loss of any of its parts.
      • Well, it’s an easy task to show that a person subjected to such constraints would not persist from one second to the next, so would not persist long enough to think or perceive, so violating his two Claims. While no-one has ever held this hybrid view, he thinks it illustrates his argumentative strategy.
      • Interestingly, he does discuss mereological essentialism – of which he’s only discussing the 3D variant – in a footnote, and finds adherents8 though claims that such adherents are non-physicalists. He doesn’t discuss the possibility that a committed mereological essentialist9 might allow an object to become increasingly scattered10, though I doubt any such view would have much going for it.

  3. Conclusion:



COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Duncan (Matt) - I Think, Therefore I Persist")

Footnote 1:
  • Hereafter “PID”.
Footnote 5:
  • He has – what seems to me to be – a confused discussion of a computer pre-processing an image and instantaneously presenting it to you.
  • He denies that in that situation you’d be perceiving anything, only seeming to do so.
  • I care nothing about such logic-chopping. The TE is under-specified, and I have no doubt that when fleshed out the brain’s processing of the pre-processed computer image would take time.
Footnote 7:
  • He uses the standard t / t* logic to set up these persistence claims, as he did for his own two Claims, but it’s not necessary to reproduce any of that here.
Footnote 8: Footnote 9:
  • See my Notes on Mereology and Essentialism for whatever I have to say on the topic.
  • All this is connected to the alleged distinction between “loose and popular” and “strict and philosophical” accounts of identity. Duncan alludes to Butler and Reid in this regard.
  • I’ve quite a lot on this topic, which is collected under the Note Logic of Identity.
Footnote 10:



"Edmonds (David) - Obituary: Derek Parfit"

Source: The Times, 4th January 2017


Author’s Introduction
  1. “Dear David. I hope you won’t be too disappointed. But I’m writing to ask you not to publish this article.”
  2. David Edmonds, the philosopher and broadcaster, was not disappointed. He was distraught. He had spent days researching and writing a draft of a long piece (for Prospect magazine) about the unusual marriage of Derek Parfit and his wife, also an important philosopher, Janet Radcliffe Richards. Parfit had been unhappy with a few aspects of a New Yorker profile of him, and so Edmonds thought it wise to fact-check his effort. Parfit said that Edmonds had committed numerous errors, which he then detailed over two pages.
  3. As Edmonds went through them, he realised that he had emailed a document containing his half-formed ideas and jottings by mistake. Only Derek Parfit could have believed that this gobbledegook was intended for publication. If you told him that a set of rambling non sequiturs was to appear in a prestigious periodical, that was what he believed.
  4. Parfit was one of the most important — if not the most important — moral philosophers in the world. Some of his contemporaries go further, making a compelling case that Parfit belongs to an elite canon alongside three other British philosophers in the utilitarian tradition: Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and Henry Sidgwick.


COMMENT:



"Edmonds (David) - Reason and romance: The world’s most cerebral marriage"

Source: Prospect Magazine, 17th July 2014


Author’s Introduction
  1. In the 1980s there was a seminar held regularly in the wood-panelled Old Library at All Souls College in Oxford. It was known informally as “Star Wars.” Four giants of moral and political philosophy would take turns to lead the discussion and spend the best part of two hours sparring with each other at one end of the room, which would be packed mostly with eager, awestruck postgraduate students. I was one of them and attended for a term.
  2. The four philosophers were Derek Parfit, Amartya Sen, Ronald Dworkin and GA “Jerry” Cohen (Gerald A. Cohen), all of them in their scholarly prime. In 1982, Janet Radcliffe Richards, who had just moved to Oxford, decided to go along to see for herself what everyone agreed was the best show in town — dazzling, preening intellectual pyrotechnics. She was then in her late thirties, and a lecturer in philosophy at the Open University. She had recently published a book entitled The Sceptical Feminist.
  3. Sen, who would go on to win a Nobel Prize in economics, already knew Radcliffe-Richards and after the seminar went over to greet her. “Who was that?” Parfit asked him. After extracting her name and being told that she had recently separated from a partner1, Parfit wrote her a letter, which she says she will publish one day. “The most remarkable chat up letter in history,” Radcliffe-Richards calls it. He’d bought The Sceptical Feminist as, according to her, “a sort of audition” and proceeded to pursue her assiduously, oblivious to the fact that he was in competition with four other men.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Edmonds (David) - Reason and romance: The world’s most cerebral marriage")

Footnote 1:
  • I’ve a feeling this was – rather improbably - Ted Honderich.



"Eklund (Matti) - The Existence of Personites"

Source: Philosophical Studies, 2019


Author’s Abstract
  1. Mark Johnston and Eric Olson have both pressed1 what Johnston has dubbed the personite2 problem.
  2. Personites3, if they exist, are person-like entities whose lives extend over a continuous proper part of a person’s life. They are so person-like that they seem to have moral status if persons do. But this threatens to wreak havoc with ordinary moral thinking.
  3. For example, simple decisions to suffer some short-term hardship for long-term benefits become problematic. And ordinary punishment is always also punishment of the innocent, since it punishes personites4 that didn’t exist when the crime was committed.
  4. An initially attractive way around the personite5 problem may be to simply deny that personites6 exist. But as I discuss in this talk, relating to contemporary discussions in metaontology (the doctrine of quantifier variance, and Ted Sider’s ontological realism7), this response for principled reasons doesn’t work.
  5. The problems I discuss illustrate the significance of metaontological considerations for issues in ethics and metaethics, and generalize widely beyond the personite8 problem.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 12th May 2019




In-Page Footnotes ("Eklund (Matti) - The Existence of Personites")

Footnote 1: See:- Footnote 7:



"Ellis (Rachel) - Dry January"

Source: Daily Mail, 3rd January 2017

COMMENT:



"Ettenberg (Jodi) - Silence and Spiders at a 10-Day Vipassana Meditation Course"

Source: Legal Nomads Website

COMMENT:



"Everett (Daniel) - Did Homo erectus speak?"

Source: Aeon, 28 February, 2018


Author’s Introduction
  1. What is the greatest human technological innovation? Fire? The wheel? Penicillin? Clothes? Google? None of these come close. As you read this, you are using the winning technology. The greatest tool in the world is language. Without it there would be no culture, no literature, no science, no history, no commercial enterprise or industry. The genus Homo rules the Earth because it possesses language.
  2. But how and when did we build this kingdom of speech? And who is ‘we’? After all, Homo sapiens is just one of several species of humans that have walked the Earth. Does ‘we’ refer to our genus, Homo, or to our species, sapiens?


COMMENT:



"Fenwick (Cody) - Derek Parfit, Renowned Philosopher of Ethics, Mind and Metaphysics, Dies at 74"

Source: Patch, 3rd January 2017


Full Text1
  1. "I became a philosopher so that I would have more time to think about what matters," he wrote.
  2. Derek Parfit, an academic philosopher known for his influential thinking and arguments on issues including ethics, personal identity, the meaning and importance of time, the promise of philosophy, attitudes toward death, our duties to future generations, the nature of reality and the origins of all existence, died on Sunday. He was 74.
  3. He was an emeritus fellow at the prestigious All Souls College at the University of Oxford and a global distinguished professor of philosophy at New York University. He also held positions at Harvard University and Rutgers University.
  4. He was known as an eccentric individual, and he was widely regarded as intensely brilliant. Both within the world of philosophy and without, he is best known for his book "Reasons and Persons." A dense work of rigorous and compelling philosophy, it brings to life many deeply puzzling philosophical questions with engrossing thought experiments that students and academics have pondered since its publication in 1984.
  5. Are we obligated to bring about the best possible consequences with every choice we make? How much faith should we put in our common-sense moral intuitions? Is the person we are at age 10 the same person who exists at age 40? Should we prefer to fulfill whatever our desires presently compel us to do, or should we consider what would be best for our future selves? How should we weight the value of future populations in our moral calculus?
  6. Though his work is an undisputed pillar of the contemporary canon of Western analytic philosophy, he was happy to note the similarities between his thought and Buddhist teachings. He argued provocatively that there is no "deep further fact" about who we are apart from the psychological connections and continuity that exist between us and any future selves, which may have been what Buddha meant when he said, "There exists no individual, it is only a conventional name given to a set of elements."
  7. While the question of the self's nature is of deep philosophical import, Parfit also took his answer to have great personal significance. Because he saw his interest in continuing to live as depending on psychological connections, like the persistence of certain memories, attitudes, desires, beliefs and dispositions, rather than on some fundamental core that was "Derek Parfit," death became less frightening to him.
  8. "Instead of saying, 'I shall be dead,' I should say, 'There will be no future experiences that will be related, in certain ways, to these present experiences,'" he wrote in "Reasons and Persons."
  9. "Because it reminds me what this fact involves, this redescription makes this fact less depressing."
  10. He did not believe in afterlives or souls, and many find his reductionist view of the self depressing in its own terms. But for Parfit, his arguments showed not that we've lost something for not having a soul, but that the very idea is less compelling than it seems. There are things more important than this kind of survival, such as the projects we pursue and the connections we make to other people.
  11. This view transformed his own perspective on life:
  12. My life seemed like a glass tunnel, through which I was moving faster every year, and at the end of which there was darkness.When I changed my view, the walls of my glass tunnel disappeared. I now live in the open air. There is still a difference between my life and the lives of other people. But the difference is less. I am less concerned about the rest of my own life, and more concerned about the lives of others.
  13. To draw out the reader's intuitions on these issues, he memorably asked them to imagine how they would respond to the technology of a "tele-transportation" device — not unlike those conceived in the series "Star Trek."
  14. If this machine were to break down your molecules piece by piece, and rebuild a completely identical replica of you on Mars, would this be just a more efficient method of travel than a spaceship? Would that really be "you" who ended up on Mars, or just an exact copy who "thinks" it's you?
  15. Parfit thought we should hop in the tele-transporter, even if it makes us nervous. In his view, there's no significant difference between you and your identical copy. You should be happy to live on as either (or even, perhaps, as both).
  16. But many readers who found his arguments compelling were still wary enough to opt for the shuttle instead.
  17. Beyond his interest in personal survival and death, Parfit was deeply concerned with ethics and reasons for action. When he thought about our obligations to future generations, he discovered philosophical puzzles he was never able to solve to his own satisfaction.
  18. Consider: Would it be better to have a future human population of 10 billion, all of whom are extraordinarily happy, or a population of 1 trillion, all of whom live very difficult lives that are only barely worth living?
  19. Most people think we should prefer the smaller, happier population. But in "Reasons and Persons," Parfit showed through extensive arguments that it is very difficult to defend this position under scrutiny. Parfit dubbed this the "Repugnant Conclusion," because his arguments force us to believe that we should plan for future populations to be as large as possible, as long as their lives are just barely worth living.
  20. Though his arguments led him to this conclusion, Parfit did not accept it. He hoped someone would discover a theory that could explain why the "Repugnant Conclusion" was not required.
  21. After "Reasons and Persons" was published in 1984, Parfit was established as a philosophical heavyweight, and his work was immediately destined to be scrutinized for decades to come. Volumes of secondary literature already exist, parsing his words and dissecting his arguments.
  22. It wasn't until 2011 that "Reasons and Persons" would have company on its shelf — though Parfit published many essays in the meantime — this time in a two-volume set called "On What Matters." The arguments and chapters that make up "On What Matters" were circulated among academics long before publication and were wrestled over with students and colleagues in seminar rooms.
  23. "On What Matters" marks a distinct shift in focus from "Reasons and Persons." The first volume analyzes the moral theories of consequentialism, Kantian theory and contractualism, and attempts to merge them into one "Triple Theory" of Kantian consequentialism.
  24. It states, in its briefest form: "An act is wrong just when such acts are disallowed by some principle that is optimific, uniquely universally willable, and not reasonably rejectable."
  25. He argued that the primary contenders for universal moral theories were all essentially aiming at the same endpoint, or as he put it in an intriguing metaphor, their theorists were climbing different sides of the same mountain. Other philosophers have been reticent to accept these claims and arguments, and many argue that the disparate moral theories are inherently in tension.
  26. The second volume of "On What Matters" largely focuses on a related, but conceptually distinct, meta-ethical question: What grounds the truth value of moral statements?
  27. The topic of meta-ethics to which he turned, which focuses on the fundamental nature of moral truths rather than on prescriptions about how to live, is relatively obscure and esoteric, mostly attended to by those who make philosophy their life's work. Parfit was deeply drawn to these questions and felt they required persuasive answers. But he also felt he should explain why he wanted to answer them.
  28. "Though I became a philosopher so that I would have more time to think about what matters," he wrote, "much of this book is about other questions. It may be worth explaining why."
  29. Some of what matters is relatively obvious, Parfit notes, such as alleviating suffering and injustice in the world. "Reasons and Persons" discussed issues that were important, but less obviously so.
  30. He had intended to explore those ideas in further detail in his next book. By the time he wrote "On What Matters," however, his priorities had changed.
  31. "I became increasingly concerned about certain differences between my views and the views of several other people," he wrote. "We seemed to disagree not only about what matters, but also about what is would be for things matter, and about whether anything could matter."
  32. He was troubled in particular by philosophers, many of whom were close friends, who argued that moral reasons were derivative of desires, somehow subjective, incoherent or otherwise not universally applicable. Many popular views make these kinds of claims, such as post-modernism, subjectivism, relativism, desire theory, emotivism and expressivism.
  33. So he argued for the bulk of the 700-page tome that radical skepticism about moral claims is not warranted. Moral claims are coherent and meaningful. They are not reducible to other kinds of facts; they have their own jurisdiction.
  34. In his view, this is not provable, but it is not rationally doubted.
  35. If you were to stick your hand into an open flame, he points out, you would have a very good reason to withdraw it: It would cause you intense suffering.
  36. What does it mean for the suffering to be a reason to withdraw your hand? It means that it counts in favor of this action.
  37. And could anyone deny that the suffering caused by a burning flame counts in favor of, or is a reason for, withdrawing your hand?
  38. Parfit argued that, rationally, they could not. It is a simple, yet deeply important, fact. For him, this fact elucidates the nature of reasons, and reasons are the foundation of all morality.
  39. "After many thousands of years of responding to reasons in ways that helped them to survive and reproduce, human beings can now respond to other reasons," Parfit wrote. "We are a part of the Universe that is starting to understand itself. And we can partly understand, not only what is in fact true, but also what ought to be true, and what we might be able to make true."
  40. He hoped his work would contribute to the clarification of what is true and what matters.
  41. In addition to his work in philosophy, he was also an accomplished photographer. His own photographs served as the cover art for his books.
  42. Parfit is survived by his spouse, Janet Radcliffe Richards, a philosopher and lecturer at the University of Oxford specializing in feminism and bioethics. The world will have reason to miss him.


COMMENT: For the full text, see Patch: Derek Parfit.




In-Page Footnotes ("Fenwick (Cody) - Derek Parfit, Renowned Philosopher of Ethics, Mind and Metaphysics, Dies at 74")

Footnote 1:
  • By Cody Fenwick, Patch National Staff | Jan 2, 2017 3:48 pm ET | Updated Jan 3, 2017 5:29 pm ET



"Ferguson (Matthew) - Bart Ehrman and Jodi Magness on the Burial of Jesus and the Empty Tomb"

Source: Ferguson (Matthew) - Κέλσος, 20 January 2018

COMMENT:



"Ferguson (Matthew) - Numismatic Evidence that Corroborates Suetonius’ Life of Otho and Contradicts the Gospels"

Source: Ferguson (Matthew) - Κέλσος, 12 January 2018

COMMENT:



"Ferguson (Matthew) & Luke (Trevor) - Dialogue with Classicist Trevor Luke on Roman Imperial Ideology and the Miracles of Jesus"

Source: Ferguson (Matthew) - Κέλσος, 17 December 2017

COMMENT:



"Fischer (Florian) - Philosophy of time: A slightly opinionated introduction"

Source: Kriterion – Journal of Philosophy, 2016, 30(2): 3–28


Author’s Abstract
  1. There are several intertwined debates in the area of contemporary philosophy of time.
  2. One field of inquiry is the nature of time itself. Presentists think that only the present moment exists whereas eternalists believe that all of (space-)time exists on a par.
  3. The second main field of inquiry is the question of how objects persist through time. The endurantist claims that objects are three-dimensional wholes, which persist by being wholly present, whereas the perdurantist thinks that objects are four-dimensional and that their temporal parts are the bearers of properties.
  4. The third debate in the field of contemporary philosophy of time is about tense versus tenseless theory. Tensers are at odds with detensers about the status of the linguistic reference to the present moment.
  5. Florian Fischer: Post-Doc at the University of Siegen and President of SPoT (Society for Philosophy of Time). Areas of specialization: Laws of Nature, Dispositions, Persistence. Florian is currently investigating the intersection of powers and change. The contemporary debate about change focuses solely on avoiding a contradiction in the context of Leibniz’ Law. A positive account of how change is brought about was neglected. In a separated research field powers have been studied intensively. Powers are envisaged to bring about the changes in the world. The connection between powers and persistence is notoriously understudied, however. Florian investigates whether processes can provide the link between powers and persistence. His working hypothesis is that the manifestations of powers are processes and that these processes, in turn, are the basis for persistence.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 9th August 2019



"Frauenfelder (Mark) - 'I forgot my PIN': An Epic Tale of Losing $30,000 in Bitcoin"

Source: Wired, 29th October 2017

COMMENT:



"Frederick (Shane) - Time Preference & Personal Identity"

Source: Personal Page, Yale University Website; Time and Decision, 2003


Author’s Introduction
  1. Economists usually regard time preference as they view any other type of preference. A preference for current utility over future utility is treated like the preference for an apple over an orange – an issue of personal taste, whose rationality cannot be disputed. There is an important difference, however. Choosing an apple over an orange is compatible with utility maximization: While one cannot be certain that the apple conferred more utility than the orange, it seems reasonable to assume so. Such an assumption is not tenable in the case of time preference: someone who chooses a smaller amount of utility now over a greater amount in some future period is clearly not maximizing utility over that interval.
  2. Because time preference runs counter to utility maximization, it requires more justification than other types of preferences. Many have argued that no such justification can be found; that there is no good reason to care less about future utility than current utility (see, e.g., Jevons 1871; Sidgwick, 1874; Pigou, 1920; Ramsey, 1928; Lewis, 1946; Rawls, 1971; Elster 1986; Broome, 1991). Those who advocate temporal neutrality argue that one should want their life, as a whole, to go as well as possible, and that counting some parts of life more than others interferes with this goal. On this view, it is irrational to prefer a smaller immediate pleasure over a greater future pleasure (or a greater future pain over a smaller immediate pain), because now and later are equally parts of one life, and choosing the smaller good or the greater bad reduces the quality of one's life, as a whole.
  3. The belief that a person should weight all utility the same, regardless of its temporal position implicitly assumes that all parts of one's future are equally parts of oneself; that there is a single, enduring, irreducible entity to whom all future utility can be ascribed. However, some philosophers – most notably Derek Parfit (1971, 1984) – deny this assumption. They argue that a person is nothing more than a succession of overlapping selves related to varying degrees by physical continuities, memories, and similarities of character and interests. On this view, the separation between selves may be just as significant as the separation between persons, and discounting one's "own" future utility may be no more irrational than discounting the utility of someone else.
  4. To illustrate this argument with an extreme example1, consider the plight of Seth Brundle, the main character in the movie "The Fly." In a scientific experiment gone awry, Seth becomes genetically fused with a housefly and gradually metamorphoses2 into "Brundlefly" (a human-fly hybrid). Under these exceptional circumstances, it seems rational for Seth to discount "his" future utility – to give less weight (perhaps no weight at all) to the future utility of Brundlefly.
  5. The foregoing example lends credibility to the idea that it could, at least under some circumstances, be rational to discount future utility. Of course, it leaves open the questions of exactly which types of changes justify diminished concern for future selves and what degree of discounting might ordinarily be appropriate.
    1. This chapter will explore these issues in two different contexts.
    2. Section 2 summarizes philosophical positions on the nature of personal identity and sketches the most common philosophical critiques of Parfit’s3 view.
    3. Section 3 presents a descriptive study that assesses individual’s perceptions about the intertemporal stability of their identity, and assesses whether these perceptions can account for interpersonal variability in implicit discount rates.
    4. Section 4 concludes.


COMMENT:



"Friebe (Cord) - Eternalism and the Temporal Content of Persistence"

Source: Philosophia Naturalis, 2012


Author’s Introduction
  1. The metaphysics of persistence and the problem of change have recently attracted philosophers of spacetime physics.
  2. The intuition is that relativity, especially special relativity (SR), confronts them with peculiar difficulties, challenges certain views like endurantism, and adds fruitful aspects to the debate.
  3. I am in doubt on that: I intend to argue that, given eternalism, the different views of persistence and change are on a par for Minkowski spacetime.
  4. The problem, however, is that the concept of “eternalism” or the “block view” is ambiguous if applied to spacetime theories: There are, I think, essentially two different views of the block universe; a tenseless but temporal view on the one hand and a timeless one on the other.
  5. In the first part I will spell out this difference.
  6. The second part presupposes the temporal tenseless block universe view and argues with this underlying eternalist hypothesis that perdurantism1 is as “dynamical” as endurantism2 and therefore equally adequate (or, of course, equally inappropriate) for SR.
  7. So, in fact, it is only argued that, given the temporal block universe view, the different views of persistence and change are on a par, but I strongly suggest that this is the more interesting view. Therefore the timeless view is out of consideration in the second part of the paper.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 1st August 2019



"Friebe (Cord) - Metametaphysics: the Ontology of Spacetime and the Presentist/Eternalist Debate"

Source: Academia.edu, 2014


Author’s Introduction
  1. The analytic metaphysics of time is characterized by some conceptual distinctions such as “tensed” vs. “tenseless” and “A-series” vs. “B-series” which leads to many opposing views being apparently substantial and metaphysical in character (see, for instance: Mellor, 1998; Smith, 1993; Tooley, 1997).
  2. As in other fields of ontology, however, the debates within the philosophy of time seemingly have a common fate: at the beginning, two or more intuitively profoundly different positions are spelled out philosophically, a long-lasting debate starts, people defend their views vigorously and with highly sophisticated arguments, but after some decades the dispute reaches a stalemate.
  3. Then, the question arises whether there really is a substantial ontological distinction, or whether in fact the dispute is merely verbal, dissolvable by disambiguation of the relevant concepts.
  4. The dispute between presentists and eternalists is one paradigmatic example of this sort.


COMMENT: Downloaded from academia.edu, 1st August 2019



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

Source: Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, 2001, e-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).

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


COMMENT:

Write-up8 (as at 14/07/2019 18:05:46): Garrett - Persons and Bodies - Response

This Note is currently work in progress9. It discusses a review ("Garrett (Brian) - The Story of I: Some Comments on L.R.Baker 'Persons & Bodies'") of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Precis of 'Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View'", submitted to an e-Symposium , convened in 2001 to review "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View" (see Link; logged as a pseudo-book at "Baker (Lynne Rudder), Etc. - E-Symposium on 'Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View'"). I’ve included below the full text, with annotations as bullets below the numbered sections of Garrett’s text. For standard abbreviations, follow this link10.

Section 1
  1. In her thorough and comprehensive study "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View", Lynne Rudder Baker argues for what she calls the Constitution View of persons. This view comprises two strands.
    1. According to one strand, persons are constituted by, but not identical with, their bodies.
    2. According to the other strand, persons are essentially self-conscious beings with a distinctively first-person perspective on the world.
    The book is basically an elucidation and defence of these two strands.
  2. I am pretty much in agreement with Baker on both strands.
    1. I agree, contra the Animalists, that persons are not identical to their bodies/brains, but reject Dualism; so I agree that the relation between a person and his body is constitution-without-identity. And
    2. I agree that persons are distinctively and uniquely self-conscious beings, with a first-person perspective on themselves and the world.
    My own views on these matters, for what they’re worth, are set out in my short book "Garrett (Brian) - Personal Identity and Self-consciousness" (Routledge, 1998).

    TT Notes
    • Garrett is a bit lax on what Animalism is – he seems to confuse it with other physicalist views (though he himself is a physicalist of some sort). Olson doesn’t think persons are identical to their bodies/brains, and doesn’t think persons as such are what we should focus attention on – but us, who are Animals, and may for parts of our existence, qualify as persons. See "Garrett (Brian) - Animalism and Reductionism" for his rather dismissive account11 of Animalism. Indeed, this chapter is quite important – amongst other things, it discusses the view of persons as phased sortals12 – and is worth addressing in detail soon13.
    • Persons are “uniquely” self-conscious because self-consciousness is definitive of what a person is – any self-consciousness being is a person.
  3. However, I found it a bit odd that both these strands were described as comprising the Constitution View, as if the two strands formed a unified view. I would have thought that ‘Constitution View’ is really only a name for the first, metaphysical, strand; after all, many different metaphysical conceptions of the relation between a person and his body could agree that there is an intimate link between personhood and self-consciousness. But this may just be a book-keeping point. What of more substantial issues? I have no intention of discussing every issues Baker raises, and will confine my comments largely to claims made in:-
    → Chapter 3 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The First-Person Perspective"),
    → Chapter 5 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Personal Identity Over Time") and
    → Chapter 9 ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - In Favour Of the Constitution View").

    TT Notes
    • I agree – but Baker describes her whole view as the CV, even though only part of it is strictly constitutional. She might argue that it’s the (alleged) metaphysical (ie. ontological) implications of “taking persons seriously”14 – based on the importance of the FPP – that binds the two themes together.

Section 2
  1. Baker begins her discussion of self-consciousness by distinguishing “two grades of first-person phenomena: weak and strong” (p. 61). Only subjects of strong first-person phenomena have a first-person perspective (and are self-conscious). Why draw this distinction? Because many creatures (animals, infants, etc) have an egocentric perspective on the world, and much of their behaviour can only be explained from that perspective. (As Baker puts it: if a “dog could speak, he might say … ‘There’s a bone buried there in front of me, and I want it.’” (p. 61)). Yet they nonetheless lack a first-person concept and are not self-conscious (not persons). Creatures who exhibit weak first-person phenomena can distinguish between first and third person standpoints, but cannot conceptualise that distinction (cannot “conceive of oneself as oneself” (p. 64, my italics).)
    TT Notes
    • Might it not be that there are selves that don’t know they are selves. Is the issue therefore that consciousness and being a self together are insufficient – a person has to be conscious of its self.
    • Is this Lockean approach to the definition of a person the only possible one?
  2. The distinction between weak and strong first-person phenomena can also be characterised linguistically: subjects of weak first-person phenomena can make first-person attributions (‘I am tall’), whereas subjects of strong first-person phenomena can also attribute first-person reference to themselves (‘I believe that I am tall’). The latter kind of sentence Baker, drawing on ideas of Castañeda, calls an ‘I*’ sentence. Thus thinking ‘I think that I* am F’ “is an indication that one is entertaining an I* thought” (p. 65) and hence has a first-person perspective. On this view, ‘I’ and ‘I*’ express different concepts – a toddler, for example, may possess the former but not the latter. “For a being without a concept of itself as itself*, ‘I’ is just a marker of perspective. Acquisition of a first-person perspective brings with it a genuine self-concept …” (p. 69).
    TT Notes

Section 3
  1. Now I‘m not totally unsympathetic to the spirit of this, but let me make a couple of comments. First, even on her own terms, I don’t see the need for Baker to invoke the ‘*’ terminology. Nor am I sure I understand what ‘I think that I* am F’ is supposed to mean if it means anything other than ‘I think that I am F’. Why didn’t Baker just put her point this way: beings with just a weak first-person perspective can think basic or non-iterated ‘I’-thoughts (‘I am F’), whereas beings with a strong first-person perspective (self-conscious beings, persons) can also think iterated ‘I’-thoughts (‘I think that I am F’). So being able to think iterated ‘I’-thoughts is the hallmark of self-consciousness, and there is no need to make any Castañeda-style comment on, or supplement to, the second occurrence of ‘I’ in such iterations.
  2. Perhaps I can fill out this point. When Castañeda introduced the ‘*’ terminology he did so with respect to the pronoun ‘he’ (not ‘I’). And for good reason. A sentence like ‘John believes that he is bald’ is at least three-ways ambiguous. It could mean that John believes that Bill is bald (because ‘he’ refers to Bill in that context); or it could mean that John believes that John is bald (without realising that he is the John in question); or finally it could be that John is having a fully self-conscious thought about himself, that we would express perspiculously by saying: John believes that he himself is bald. Castañeda’s ‘*’ just marks the ‘himself’ spot, indicating a fully self-conscious thought. Now here the ‘*’ terminology has a point and marks a contrast. But there simply is no such contrast to be drawn in the case of ‘I’: ‘I’ could not but be ‘I*’, so to speak. Could Baker re-phrase her point in terms of ‘he*’? What would her concession to animals and toddlers be then: the dog believes that he* is about to be attacked? But then how would the dog contrast with us? She could say: no, all we can say is that the dog believes that he is about to be attacked. But how do we now characterise the low-grade first-person perspective allegedly had by the dog? (That is, what now makes it worth calling a first-person phenomenon?)
  3. Second, I want anyway to disagree with Baker’s starting point here. I don’t think beings who have perspectives on the world, and can modify their behaviour in response to input from their environment, should thereby be attributed ‘I’-thoughts. Rather, my view would be: there is a simple connection between having ‘I’-thoughts and being self-conscious, viz., a being is self-conscious (has a first-person perspective) iff that being has, or is capable of having, ‘I’-thoughts. Animals and toddlers don’t have ‘I’-thoughts (even though they have some sort of egocentric perspective on the world), hence they’re not self-conscious.
    TT Notes
    • Is Garrett misunderstanding what Baker means by a FPP? The Perspective per se is not really relevant – all minds have a perspective on the world. It’s whether they have a perspective on themselves that seems to count towards personhood – and this perspective has to treat themselves as in some way special (not as some other party that might as well be distinct from themselves).
    • How do we know that dogs and toddlers don’t have ‘I’-thoughts?
    • Just why am I worried about dying? Because I anticipate a bad experience, or a cessation of good experiences? What is fear other than this? Don’t toddlers and dogs experience this emotion – and anticipate other nasty things coming to them from those who are habitually cruel to them (and anticipate goods from those who are habitually kind?).
    • Is it just that persons worry about the future, even when it’s not specifically threatening, because they think it’s their responsibility to provide for themselves. Isn’t this attitude considered a vice in some religions?
    • What’s the issue here between Garrett and Baker? They both think there’s something special about persons, and that dogs and toddlers are not persons. Are they disagreeing about that this special something is, or how it ought best to be described?
  4. Why prefer my account to Baker’s? First, I would not want to attribute ‘I’-thoughts to any old thing that has a perspective on the world and is capable of adjusting its behaviour to fits its goals. Doubtless certain kinds of missile have in-built maps with themselves as origin and can modify their speed and direction in sophisticated ways. But missiles don’t have ‘I’-thoughts. This point is hardly knock-down, but the onus is now on Baker to say how she can treat missiles differently, in this respect, from animals and toddlers. Second, it’s not obvious to me why a being who can have non-iterated ‘I’-thoughts is not also capable of having iterated ‘I’-thoughts. If a thinker can think ‘I think that p’ why can’t he also think ‘I think that I think that p’? Baker would have to insist that iteration involves a massive and qualitative conceptual leap. The trouble is that it doesn’t seem to at all. Third, it seems to make sense to attribute a being present-tense ‘I’-thoughts (‘I am F’) only if it also makes sense to attribute to that being past and future (and maybe counterfactual) ‘I’-thoughts (‘I was F’, ‘I will be F’, ‘I might have been F’). But it’s surely implausible to attribute the latter types of thought to animals and toddlers; so it’s also implausible to attribute to them simple present-tense ‘I’-thoughts.
    TT Notes
    • So we have a hierarchy of intentional beings – with persons at the top and crudely-intelligent machines at the bottom. There are distinctions (of value?) all the way up, and neither Garrett nor Baker want to lump dogs and toddlers with either the machines or the persons (or, presumably) with one another; and want to come up with the best principled way of doing this.
    • All this just goes to show how silly it is to make some sort of ontological (rather than “important property possession”) distinction between persons and non-persons.
  5. In sum, I don’t think that the difference between subjective perspective and self-consciousness is usefully understood in terms of a distinction between basic and iterated ‘I’-thoughts.
    TT Notes
    • This, then, is the issue. Some very basic (even inanimate) entities have perspectives on the world – but these perspectives are not plausibly taken to be ‘I’-thoughts. Higher beings that are not persons don’t have ‘I’-thoughts at all.

Section 4
  1. Baker then makes some comments about some features of the first-person perspective (pp. 69 – 76). I agree with her that all uses of ‘I’ are immune to reference-failure. However, I don’t think that Wittgenstein meant to imply that ‘as object’ uses of ‘I’ are not so immune (if that’s what Baker thinks). The distinction between ‘as subject’ and ‘as object’ uses was, I think, meant to be an epistemic distinction, corresponding to features of different ways of knowing truths about oneself. (Again see Chapters 7 & 8 of my book, and references therein to Evans’ work.)
    TT Notes
  2. Baker then defends an argument to show that the first-person perspective is relational in a certain sense (pp. 72 – 76). I would have liked more discussion of premise (2) of that argument (“x can think of herself as herself* only if x has concepts that can apply to things different from x”). This is presumably supposed to be a necessary truth, but is it obvious that it is? The fact that developmental psychologists accept it is hardly relevant to the question of its necessity. Is it metaphysically or logically impossible for there to be a Solitary Egotistical God? (Issues to do with private language bear here too.)
    TT Notes

Section 5
  1. In pp. 76 – 79 Baker argues for the indispensability of the first-person perspective. The first sort of ineliminability concerns language: “First-person reference is not eliminable from I* sentences, whether it is eliminable from simple, direct-discourse ‘I’ sentences or not.” (p. 76) Leaving to one side my earlier qualms about the ‘*’ notation, I agree with this remark. But Baker is willing to give some credence to the Russell-Geach view that first-person reference is eliminable in direct discourse. I am not (and our disagreement here doubtless leads back to Baker’s willingness to attribute basic ‘I’-thoughts to animals and infants). There are (at least) two ways in which the ‘I’ in ‘I am F’ might be eliminated: ‘I’ might be replaced by (e.g.,) a name OR ‘I’ might be replaced by a quantifier, yielding ‘there is F’ (the Russell-Geach proposal).
    TT Notes
  2. The first way strikes me as implausible. If ever there was a reason for believing in referential opacity, it’s in the case of indexicals. I can surely think ‘I am F’ but not think ‘Garrett is F’ (because I’m amnesiac, say). But then, with Frege, we should think that ‘I am F’ (uttered by me) and ‘Garrett is F’ (uttered by anyone) do not have the same content; so the former cannot be eliminated in favour of the latter. The Russell-Geach proposal is open to a different worry. Suppose I am thinking of Paris and you are thinking of Vienna. It would not be enough to re-write these indexical truths as ‘there is thinking of Paris’ and ‘there is thinking of Vienna’, for this would leave out the fact that I was thinking of Paris and you were thinking of Vienna. So the quantified sentences would need to be relativised to persons. So my thought ‘I am thinking of Paris’ would be rendered either ‘there is thinking of Paris (me)’ or ‘there is thinking of Paris (Garrett)’. If the first, we seem to have simply another way of writing ‘I am thinking of Paris’ (so ‘I’ has not been eliminated). If the second, the earlier opacity objection re-surfaces: ‘there is thinking of Paris (Garrett)’ simply does not capture what I think when I think ‘I am thinking of Paris’.
    TT Notes
  3. So all ‘I’-sentences are ineliminable, in my view. This makes them indispensable in one sense: viz., if someone is thinking an ‘I’-thought, and we want to give a complete inventory of their mind, we must include that very ‘I’-thought in our inventory. But equally, if someone thinks ‘Tully is F’ and ‘Cicero is G’, we must cite those very thoughts in our inventory (at least for those of us, like myself, who believe in opacity quite generally). So there’s nothing special about ‘I’-thoughts in this regard. Given all this, I obviously agree with Baker about her second way in which first-person reference is indispensable: for psychological explanation.
    TT Notes

Section 6
  1. I had a general worry about Baker’s account of self-consciousness, but I’m not sure it’s much of an objection. There is something unsatisfying about it, as if, at the end of it, we still don’t know what self-consciousness really amounts to. She drew some reasonable and familiar distinctions, and laid down some plausible constraints that any account of the concept of self-consciousness must respect, but I didn’t feel that the concept of self-consciousness had been mined particularly deeply. The reason this may not be an objection is that it’s not clear that there is much to be said. It’s not that I think that only a reductive analysis can be satisfying (I don’t). Indeed, it’s pretty clear that the concept of self-consciousness cannot be given any reductive analysis. That is, we cannot analysis ‘self-consciousness’ as ‘consciousness + X’, where X can be characterised independently of the concept of self-consciousness. I take this to be one moral of Anscombe’s example of the ‘A’-users in her thoughtful article ‘The First Person’. (I assume that in the present discussion we’re talking only of the concept of self-consciousness, not the property it’s a concept of. That property presumably is some kind of neural property (in us). It’s only the concept that’s irreducible.)
    TT Notes
  2. It’s something to be told that self-consciousness consists in having a first-person perspective which, in turn, consists in being able to entertain ‘I’-thoughts. Some light is cast. But then the question arises: what is it to have ‘I’-thoughts?, and merely distinguishing ‘I’ thoughts from other kinds of thought, thus showing that ‘I’ thoughts are unique and ineliminable, somehow does not provide much of an answer. Still, this is not an objection to Baker if no one can do any better. I think a bit more can be said about the concept of self-consciousness and its link with the ‘as subject’ use of ‘I’ (see Chapters 7 & 8 of my book), but I agree I don’t say much.
    TT Notes

Section 7
  1. In Chapter 5, Baker discusses the traditional question of personal identity over time. Her own view is that personal identity over time is not analysable in terms of anything more basic. She motivates this view by considering attempts at such analyses, and showing how they fail. She considers a number of familiar criteria of personal identity — sameness of body, sameness of living organism, sameness of brain, psychological continuity, and sameness of soul — and finds them all wanting.
    TT Notes

  2. I agree with many of the points she makes against these criteria. One additional point I would make is that the sameness of living organism criterion really has no advantage over the sameness of body criterion. One objection to the sameness of body criterion is that, according to it and absurdly, I am identical to my corpse. This absurdity is supposed to be avoided if we identify the person with the living organism, rather than the body. But is it? The following question now comes to the fore: is the organism when alive identical to the organism when dead? If ‘yes’, there is no advantage over the body criterion. If ‘no’ (on the grounds that there is no organism after death), then my body now is not identical to my human organism (since my body does exist after death). But that seems an absurd duplication. Either way then, no advantage is gained by moving to the living organism criterion.
    TT Notes

  3. Baker objects to the psychological criterion that it cannot handle cases of branching in a satisfactory way. I have argued that it can (see my book, Chapter 4), but will not press the point here. One point worth making is that the criteria of personal identity that Baker criticises do not exhaust the field. She looks at purely physical criteria and at purely psychological criteria, without looking at mixed criteria of the sort advocated by myself and (I think) Parfit. The view I endorse, for example, says that A at t1 is the same person as B at t2 iff A and B stand to each other in the relation of non-branching psychological continuity, where the cause of the continuity is either normal or physically continuous with the normal cause. Baker will not like this way of avoiding the duplication objection, but it’s at least worth considering mixed views in general.
    TT Notes

Section 8
  1. Another point. Baker seems to think (see especially p. 131) that the various criteria she criticises are intended as reductive accounts of personal identity. I don’t see them that way, at least not in the first instance. In my criterion above, for example, ‘A’ and ‘B’ occur in the RHS, and these names are introduced via the sortal person. There is nothing reductive about the criterion as stated. Of course, if Parfit is right, it may be possible to eliminate reference to persons in the RHS, but that is a further, and controversial, claim.
    TT Notes

  2. Are non-reductive criteria not open to the charge of circularity? Yes, but this is not necessarily an objection. There are circles, and there are circles. A circular analysis can still be illuminating, provided it makes vivid the connections between the target concept and some other range of concepts. For example, it’s circular and useless to be told, as an analysis of the concept red: x is red iff x is red. But it is circular and illuminating (if true) to be told: x is red iff x looks red to normal human observers in normal lighting conditions. This is circular because ‘red’ appears in the RHS, but illuminating because it links red with other concepts (normal human observer, normal lighting conditions). (Wiggins is good on the general point. See Sameness and Substance, pp. 49 – 55.) Anyway, Baker’s objection to the criteria she criticises is not that they are circular, but subject to more straightforward faults.
    TT Notes

Section 9
  1. Now Baker concludes from her critique of standard views that the concept of personal identity is unanalysable or primitive. One cannot “give informative sufficient conditions for sameness of person over time without presupposing sameness of person.” (p. 119) However, and following on from her discussion of the first-person perspective, Baker does feel she can say: P1 at t1 is the same person as P2 at t2 iff P1 and P2 have the same first-person perspective, though she concedes that this condition is not terribly informative.
    TT Notes

  2. However, it soon becomes clear that Baker’s view of personal identity is very radical indeed. (She insists on calling it the Constitution View. Fair enough, it’s a free country. But nothing she says in this chapter (Chapter 5) draws on the metaphysical account of the constitution relation she outlines elsewhere. So it just seems misleading to me.) She seems to think there are no a priori constraints on personal identity over time (i.e., on identity of first-person perspective). In a case of fission, for example, Baker thinks that I could be identical to one of the off-shoots, or to the other, or to neither (even though all other facts remain the same in these three possible scenarios).
    TT Notes

  3. She also says (p. 137) that if either off-shoot had my first-person perspective, I would know it. But how? Both off-shoots would think they were me, and neither would have information the other lacked. How could one know and the other not? Both would believe they were me, and one would be wrong. (I found a number of Baker’s comments on pp. 136 – 8 puzzling, appearing to confuse the synchronic triviality that for any person P at t1, P knows at t1 that he is himself, with some non-trivial diachronic identity claim. There is transparency in the synchronic case, but surely not in the diachronic case. See below.)
    TT Notes

Section 10
  1. Now Baker’s no-constraints view is very radical (though she has an ally in Colin McGinn, The Character of Mind, Chapter 6), and does not follow from her rejection of the standard criteria of personal identity. Let’s take the second point first. Consider an analogy with knowledge. Let’s agree that there is no neat set of necessary and sufficient conditions for ‘S knows that P’. All the standard accounts are open to counterexamples. Does it follow that there is no sufficient condition (however weak) for ‘S knows that P’ specifiable without using the concept of knowledge? Well, no, or not obviously. Isn’t it plausible that (necessarily) if S has a justified true belief, reliably caused in a certain way, counterfactually sensitive to P’s truth-value in other worlds (add in your favourite condition …) then S knows that P? That seems plausible to me; or at least, its falsity does not follow simply from the concession that there is no set of necessary and sufficient conditions for ‘S knows that P’. And I would make exactly the same point against Baker: from the failure of attempts to give informative conditions necessary and sufficient for ‘A at t1 is the same person as B at t2’ it doesn’t follow that there is no set of sufficient conditions.
    TT Notes
  2. And now the first point. Baker’s view (like McGinn’s) is so radical as to be unacceptable. To start with it just seems pretty obvious that there is a (weak) sufficient condition for my identity over time: if my brain, body, and psychological stream continue as normal, and there’s no duplication, fission, fusion, teletransportation, etc., then I will occupy this body tomorrow. But Baker has to deny this, otherwise she would be embracing an informative sufficient condition for personal identity over time. She must think that a different first-person perspective (different person) could occupy my body tomorrow, even though everything else just continues as normal. This strikes me as bizarre.
    TT Notes
  3. The bizarreness shows up epistemically. On Baker’s view, in a case of fission, I could be B or C or neither. Suppose I’m B. Since, ex hypothesi, everything is the same from the perspectives of B and C, neither would know that they were me. Moreover, the fact that I am B would be completely unknowable (by anyone): no one could ever know it. (B would know that he is himself, but that is a triviality.) You might say: so what, maybe some truths are unknowable? (See p. 134.) But the trouble is that the scepticism generalises. Even in a normal everyday case, how is a person supposed to know at t2 that he existed in the same body at t1? He can know that if he knows that the same first-person perspective persisted in the same body from t1 to t2. But how is he supposed to know that, given that he has no privileged access to identity of first-person perspective over time, and given that identity of first-person perspective is not fixed by the facts he does have access to (sameness of body/brain and psychological continuity)? This is an objection to Baker’s view since we do not feel any sceptical qualms when we regularly re-identify our friends and acquaintances. (Remember this discussion is not taking place in the context of Cartesian scepticism.)
    TT Notes
  4. To re-iterate an earlier point: Baker makes it seem that there is no epistemological problem here, but only, I think, by projecting features of synchronic self-identification (criterionless, no identification of a subject, etc) onto diachronic self-identifications (which do not have these features). For example, she writes: “The following seem to me to be incontrovertible facts, easily discernible from a first-person perspective: Every morning when I wake up, I know that I am still existing – without consulting my mirror, my memory, or anything else. I can tell.” (p. 136). But, given Baker’s no-constraints view of the first-person perspective, how can she tell? Remember we’re not concerned with the synchronic, indexical triviality that any person can say the sentence “I am me” and thereby speak the truth (cf. ‘I am here’ and ‘the time is now’). So Baker must be saying that she can tell now (in the morning) that the same first-person perspective has persisted through the night. But how can she tell, on her view? On that view, all the psychological facts (memory, etc.) and physical facts (identity of brain/body) do not fix identity of first-person perspective. Nothing fixes the latter, for Baker, so how can its persistence be known (immediately or otherwise)?
    TT Notes

Section 11
  1. A different point. Baker thinks it’s an advantage of her view that it does not allow for indeterminacy in personal identity over time. But it’s unclear to me both why this would be an advantage and why her view doesn’t allow for indeterminacy. Take the second issue first. What one would expect is that the necessity of such determinacy would flow from the nature of the first-person perspective. But, as noted earlier, Baker doesn’t really say much about the first-person perspective, so the requirement of determinacy just looks like a stipulation on her part. If we think of a case in the middle of Parfit’s Combined Spectrum, where I have half my cells removed and replaced, and have my many of my psychological states altered radically, it’s far from obvious to me that it would be wrong to say: it’s vague or indeterminate whether one and the same first-person perspective has survived. Why would this be an absurd thing to say?
    TT Notes
  2. As to the first issue, I don’t see why it’s a defect in a criterion of personal identity that it allows for indeterminate cases. A belief, quite generally, in the possibility of indeterminate cases arises from the most benign of motives. One simply judges that certain small changes would not destroy the identity of an F, whereas other, bigger, changes would, and so concludes that in cases in the middle range it is indeterminate whether the same F persists. (The only alternative description is that there is a sharp cut-off point. But, like many, I find the idea that a small change could make the difference between identity and non-identity implausible.) For example: I know that changing one plank will not destroy a ship, but that changing all but one plank will (I’ll then have dismantled one ship, and rebuilt another). So in cases in the middle, the sentence ‘the earlier ship is the later ship’ is indeterminate in truth-value. (It’s controversial what the source of this indeterminacy is – language or the world – but that’s a different issue.)
    TT Notes
  3. I think it’s unfair of Baker to characterise the indeterminacy theorist as saying: the resulting ship (person) is partly one ship (person), partly another. A belief in indeterminacy does not involve that kind of incoherence. (Even in the case of colours it would be wrong to describe grey as ‘partly white, partly black’. Grey is a new colour which results from combining white and black. Something is ‘partly white, partly black’ iff it has a white part and a black part.) So I don’t see that it’s a point against a theory of personal identity that it allows for indeterminate cases.
    TT Notes

Section 12
  1. Although it may not be worth mentioning, I really didn’t follow pp. 138 – 40, and couldn’t see what the point of condition (T) was supposed to be.
    TT Notes
  2. Perhaps I can say a bit more. Baker is offering us a sufficient condition for sameness of human person over time. But since Baker (and me) think that ‘person’ and ‘human’ are sortals associated with different criteria of identity, the phrase ‘same human person’ sounds a bit odd. The only way I can understand ‘x is the same human person as y’ is with one or other of the sortals as dominant. That is, either ‘x is the same human person as y’ is true iff x is the same person as y and both are human or ‘x is the same human person as y’ is true iff x is the same human being as y and both are persons. Now we’ve been assuming that the truth-condition of ‘x is same human as y’ is not problematic, and Baker has been telling us what she thinks can be said about the truth-condition of ‘x is the same person as y’, so what new issue is being raised in these pages?
    TT Notes

Section 13
  1. On p. 214, Baker says that “although human persons are not essentially human (they may have [i.e., survive in] inorganic bodies), anything that begins existence as a human person is essentially embodied.” But (on her view) why? We are referred to Chapter 4, presumably principle (T6) of that chapter, but I couldn’t see what the argument for this principle was supposed to be. The reason I’m mentioning this is that I would have thought that anyone with Baker’s views would reject, or at least not endorse, (T6). According to Baker, what makes for personal identity over time is the continuation of the (primitive, unanalysable) first-person perspective. This can continue in non-human bodies, or silicon bodies, or what have you. Fine. But if immaterial souls are a logical possibility, why should it not be logically possible for my first-person perspective to continue in an immaterial soul? I can’t see why Baker would deny this possibility, given her views. Of course, if she thinks that immaterial substances in general are logically impossible (I don’t get the impression she does), that’s obviously a reason to deny that my first-person perspective could continue in an immaterial soul. Even then, though, this denial wouldn’t be a consequence of her theory of personal identity, but of more general views about immaterial substances. Anyway, if immaterial substances are a logical possibility (as even many materialists think), then Baker should not be endorsing (T6).
    TT Notes

Section 14
  1. Finally, can I just observe that I find Baker’s conditions for failing “to take persons seriously”15 (p. 218 – 222) somewhat idiosyncratic. To take persons seriously16, I would have thought, is to agree that persons are valuable beings, whose lives are typically to be valued much more than those of other animals or material possessions. Someone who believes that we are not essentially persons can still take persons seriously17, in this sense of the phrase. And if Baker also wants to understand “taking persons seriously”18 as “regarding persons as irreducible, ineliminable elements of the universe”, then Reductionists, like Parfit, should just turn round and denounce that idiosyncratic sense too.
    TT Notes




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

Footnote 8:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (14/07/2019 18:05:46).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.



"Giubilini (Alberto) & Minerva (Francesca) - After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?"

Source: Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 39, No. 5 (May 2013), pp. 261-263


Author’s Abstract
  1. Abortion1 is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus2' health.
  2. By showing that
    1. both fetuses3 and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons,
    2. the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and
    3. adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people,
    the authors argue that what we call 'after-birth abortion4' (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion5 is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.


COMMENT: See "Giubilini (Alberto) & Minerva (Francesca) - Clarifications on the moral status of newborns and the normative implications" for clarifications.



"Gomez-Lobo (Alfonso) - Sortals and Human Beginnings"

Source: Medicine and Metaphysics Conference, University of Buffalo, November, 2004


Author’s Introduction
  1. When did I begin to exist?
  2. This is a question that has been asked many times in the past and is now asked again with renewed urgency. The reply I will give is certainly not new, but it will be reached invoking a piece of relatively recent evidence that I hope will also allow me to provide a fresh insight into the phenomenon of twinning. My main goal in this paper is critically to examine the thesis vigorously argued by Barry Smith and Berit Brogaard (S&B1) that sixteen days after fertilization marks the inception of a human individual.
  3. I shall first introduce some of the terms that I will be using.
  4. An adequate reply to the question about my beginning is a function of the proper sortal under which I fall. If “married person” is a proper sortal for me then I began to exist in 1963 (with the welcome consequence that my beloved wife began to exist at the same time I did). But “married person” surely stands for a phase sortal. It is a sortal such that someone who ceases to fall under it does not necessarily cease to exist. People, of course, exist before and after being married persons.
  5. On the other hand, a proper sortal (or “substance sortal”, as Michael Lockwood calls it) is coextensive in time with the object that falls under it. Before beginning to fall under a proper sortal the object did not exist, and after it ceases to fall under this sortal it ceases to exist. To begin to fall under a proper sortal is called in Aristotelian metaphysics “generation” or “coming-to-be”, one of the two forms of substantial change. The other one is “corruption” or “passing-away.” For the change from one phase sortal to another, that is, for a change in non-substantial attributes, the term employed is “alteration”. I will use it in the broad sense in which it is not limited to the category of quality. Growth, for example, a change in quantity, will count as an alteration. Alteration does not entail loss of identity whereas substantial change does. A change that drastically modifies the nature of a thing will count as a substantial change.
  6. Finally, I would like to add that I will call “thing” or “substance” something that can exist in its own right and “attribute’ or “property” something that can only exist insofar as it inheres in a substance. A person who walks is a substance, but walking is an attribute of a substance. Walking cannot exist by itself.


COMMENT: See Gomez-Lobo - Sortals and Human Beginnings.




In-Page Footnotes ("Gomez-Lobo (Alfonso) - Sortals and Human Beginnings")

Footnote 1:



"Gopnik (Alison) - Finding Our Inner Scientist"

Source: Daedalus, Vol. 133, No. 1, On Learning (Winter, 2004), pp. 21-28


Author’s Abstract
  1. In 1946, the philosopher of science Karl Popper had a fateful meeting with the philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein at the Cambridge Philosophy Club. In a talk to the Club, with Wittgenstein in the audience, Popper described several "philosophical problems" - important, difficult questions that he thought would one day be answered. Here Popper was issuing a direct challenge to Wittgenstein, who had argued that philosophy could only analyze linguistic puzzles - not solve any real problems. The visit has become most famous for the subsequent controversy among eye witnesses over whether or not Wittgenstein's response to this challenge was to angrily brandish a fireplace poker1 at Popper. But there is a more interesting aspect to the story. One of the problems Popper described was the problem of causal induction: How is it possible for us to correctly infer the causal structure of the world from our limited and fragmentary experience? Popper claimed that this problem would one day be solved, and he turned out to be right2. Surprisingly, at least part of the solution to the problem comes from a source about as far removed from the chilly Cambridge seminar room of fifty years ago as possible - it comes from babies and young children. The past thirty years have been a golden age for the study of cognitive development. We've learned more about what babies and young children know, and when they know it, than we did in the preceding two thousand years. And this new science has completely overturned traditional ideas about what children are like.




In-Page Footnotes ("Gopnik (Alison) - Finding Our Inner Scientist")

Footnote 1: Footnote 2:



"Grimes (William) - Derek Parfit, Philosopher Who Explored Identity and Moral Choice, Dies at 74"

Source: New York Times, 6th January 2017


Full Text
  1. Derek Parfit, a British philosopher whose writing on personal identity, the nature of reasons and the objectivity of morality re-established ethics as a central concern for contemporary thinkers and set the terms for philosophic inquiry, died on Monday at his home in London. He was 74.
  2. Janet Radcliffe Richards, his wife, said the cause had not been determined.
  3. Mr. Parfit, who was associated with All Souls College at Oxford for his entire career, rose to pre-eminence with the publication of his first paper, “Personal Identity,” in 1971.
  4. He developed a theory of identity that downgraded the notion, and the importance, of an irreducible self — the “deep further fact,” as he called it” — in terms not dissimilar to Buddhism.
  5. He argued that we continue to exist over time by virtue of certain relations among mental states at different times, such as the relation between an experience and the memory of it, or the formation of a desire and the satisfaction of it.
  6. “It was a revolutionary paper, and it made him a philosophic celebrity instantly,” Jeff McMahan, a professor of moral philosophy at Oxford and one of Mr. Parfit’s former students, said in an interview.
  7. “Reasons and Persons,” published in 1984, was greeted as the most important work of moral philosophy since Henry Sidgwick’s “The Method of Ethics” in 1874. In it, Mr. Parfit elaborated his ideas on identity and explored issues in moral choice that reanimated the field of ethics, which had descended into abstruse technical analyses of moral terms like “ought,” “good” and “right.”
  8. “A whole generation of moral philosophers was inspired by the questions it asked, the way it asked them and the methods it employed to answer them,” Mark Schroeder, a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, wrote in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews in 2011.
  9. The two volumes of “On What Matters,” published in 2011, dealt with the theory of reasons and morality, arguing for the existence of objective truth in ethics.
  10. In one grand flourish, which he called the triple theory, Mr. Parfit tried to reconcile three competing theories of morality — one based on the idea of a hypothetical contract, another based entirely on the consequences of action and yet another based on Kant’s conception of duty. Philosophers of all three schools, he argued, were actually “climbing different sides of the same mountain.”
  11. The book included articles by other leading philosophers criticizing Mr. Parfit’s ideas, along with his replies to them. It was a format that echoed a good part of Mr. Parfit’s professional activity. He was renowned as a commentator, offering extensive, detailed critiques of work sent to him in manuscript.
  12. In the introduction to his book “The Rejection of Consequentialism: A Philosophical Investigation of the Considerations Underlying Rival Moral Conceptions,” Samuel Scheffler wrote that Mr. Parfit’s notes on the work in progress were longer than the book itself.
  13. “With no other philosopher have I had such a clear sense of someone who had already thought of every objection I could make, of the best replies to them, of further objections that I might then make, and of replies to them too,” the philosopher Peter Singer wrote recently on the philosophy website Daily Nous.
  14. Derek Antony Parfit was born on Dec. 11, 1942, in Chengdu, China. His father, Norman, and his mother, the former Jessie Browne, were doctors teaching preventive medicine at Christian missions. They returned to England when Derek was still an infant and settled in Oxford, where Derek attended the Dragon School.
  15. After graduating from Eton, he spent a year in New York visiting his older sister, Theodora, and working briefly as a researcher at The New Yorker. He enrolled in Balliol College, Oxford, and earned a degree in modern history in 1964. While on a Harkness Fellowship at Harvard and Columbia after graduation, he began attending lectures on philosophy and changed course.
  16. “What interests me the most are those metaphysical questions whose answers seem to be relevant — or to make a difference — to what we have reason to care about and to do, and to our moral beliefs,” Mr. Parfit told the journal Cogito in 1995.
  17. He was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls, and by 1984 had become a senior research fellow. For many years he was a visiting lecturer at Harvard, Rutgers and New York University. In 2014, he was awarded the Rolf Schock Prize by the Royal Swedish Academy, philosophy’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
  18. He published seldom, but to great effect. His two major works were compendious and staggeringly ambitious.
  19. “Reasons and Persons” was four books in one. The first part dealt with morality and rationality, the second part with a theory of individual rationality rejecting the idea that self-interest requires people to be equally concerned about all parts of their future. In Part 3, Mr. Parfit expanded his ideas about personal identity.
  20. Part 4, devoted to moral thinking about future generations and the morality of bringing other humans into existence, offered a number of paradoxes and puzzles challenging traditional moral thinking. In so doing he opened up a new field of inquiry, population ethics.
  21. “On What Matters,” much of it based on the Tanner Lectures he delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2002, was similarly wide ranging, with multiple sections, each worthy of its own book, and concluding with a magisterial monograph on meta-ethics.
  22. In February, Oxford University Press plans to publish a third volume of “On What Matters.” It consists in part of responses to criticism of his work by leading philosophers, which will appear in a companion volume, edited by Mr. Singer, titled “Does Anything Really Matter?”
  23. In addition to his wife, Mr. Parfit is survived by his sister, Theodora Ooms. In addition to his home in London, he had one in Oxford.
  24. On Daily Nous, Mr. Singer offered a snippet from Mr. Parfit’s new work: “Life can be wonderful as well as terrible, and we shall increasingly have the power to make life good. Since human history may be only just beginning, we can expect that future humans, or supra-humans, may achieve some great goods that we cannot now even imagine.
  25. “In Nietzsche’s words, there has never been such a new dawn and clear horizon, and such an open sea.”


COMMENT: For the full text, see New York Times: Obituary - Derek Parfit.



"Grossman (Neal) - Four Errors Commonly Made by Professional Debunkers"

Source: Journal of Near Death Studies, 2008, 26, 231-8


Author’s Abstract
  1. In an editorial previously published in this Journal (Grossman, 2002), I coined the term "fundamaterialist" to characterize a person whose attitude towards materialism is the same as the fundamentalist's attitude towards his or her religion. In each case, the attitude is one of unwavering certainty towards the chosen ideology.
  2. For fundamaterialists, materialism does not appear to be an empirical hypothesis about the real world; it appears to be a given, an article of faith, the central tenet of his web of belief, around which everything else must conform. As all philosophers know, it is always logically possible to hold onto any a priori belief, no matter what the evidence to the contrary, by making enough ad hoc assumptions; so I am not at all surprised that Keith Augustine, in his recent articles in this Journal (2007a, 2007b, 2007c) was able to sustain his faith in materialist ideology even in the face of near-death experiences1 (NDEs).
  3. This letter will not be a response to anything Augustine wrote, but rather is directed more to the scientists who might be "taken in" by some of the fallacious reasoning that he and other debunkers customarily employ. I will discuss four such fallacies, three briefly, the other at greater length.


COMMENT: See Link



"Gunaratana (Bhante Henepola) - What Exactly Is Vipassana Meditation?"

Source: Tricycle Website (Buddhism for Beginners)


Full Text
  1. Vipassana or insight meditation is a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens.
    1. The distinction between Vipassana meditation and other styles of meditation is crucial and needs to be fully understood. Buddhism addresses two major types of meditation. They are different mental skills, modes of functioning or qualities of consciousness. In Pali, the original language of Theravada literature, they are called Vipassana and Samatha.
    2. Vipassana can be translated as “Insight,” a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens. Samatha can be translated as “concentration” or “tranquility.” It is a state in which the mind is brought to rest, focused only on one item and not allowed to wander. When this is done, a deep calm pervades body and mind, a state of tranquility which must be experienced to be understood.
    3. Most systems of meditation emphasize the Samatha component. The meditator focuses his mind upon some items, such as prayer, a certain type of box, a chant, a candle flame, a religious image or whatever, and excludes all other thoughts and perceptions from his consciousness. The result is a state of rapture which lasts until the meditator ends the session of sitting. It is beautiful, delightful, meaningful and alluring, but only temporary. Vipassana meditation addresses the other component, insight.
    4. In Vipassana mediation, the meditator uses his concentration as a tool by which his awareness can chip away at the wall of illusion that cuts him off from the living light of reality. It is a gradual process of ever-increasing awareness into the inner workings of reality itself. It takes years, but one day the meditator chisels through that wall and tumbles into the presence of light. The transformation is complete. It’s called Liberation, and it’s permanent. Liberation is the goal of all Buddhist systems of practice. But the routes to the attainment of that end are quite diverse.
  2. THE OLDEST BUDDHIST MEDITATION PRACTICE
    1. Vipassana is the oldest of Buddhist meditation practices. The method comes directly from the Satipatthana Sutta [Foundations of Mindfulness], a discourse attributed to the Buddha himself. Vipassana is a direct and gradual cultivation of mindfulness or awareness. It proceeds piece by piece over a period of years. The student’s attention is carefully directed to an intense examination of certain aspects of his own existence. The meditator is trained to notice more and more of his own flowing life experience.
    2. Vipassana is a gentle technique. But it also is very, very thorough. It is an ancient and codified system of training your mind, a set of exercises dedicated to becoming more and more aware of your own life experience. It is attentive listening, mindful seeing and careful testing.
    3. We learn to smell acutely, to touch fully, and to really pay attention to the changes taking place in all these experiences. We learn to listen to our own thoughts without being caught up in them. The object of Vipassana meditation practice is to learn to see the truth of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness of phenomena.
    4. We think we are doing this already, but that is an illusion. It comes from the fact that we are paying so little attention to the ongoing surge of our own life experience that we might just as well be asleep. We are simply not paying enough attention to notice that we are not paying attention. It is another Catch-22.
  3. MEDITATION AS DISCOVERY
    1. Through the process of mindfulness, we slowly become aware of what we really are down below the ego image. We wake up to what life really is. It is not just a parade of ups and downs, lollipops and smacks on the wrist. That is an illusion. Life has a much deeper texture than that if we bother to look, and if we look in the right way.
    2. Vipassana is a form of mental training that will teach you to experience the world in an entirely new way. You will learn for the first time what is truly happening to you, around you and within you. It is a process of self-discovery, a participatory investigation in which you observe your own experiences while participating in them as they occur.
    3. The practice must be approached with this attitude: “Never mind what I have been taught. Forget about theories and prejudices and stereotypes. I want to understand the true nature of life. I want to know what this experience of being alive really is. I want to apprehend the true and deepest qualities of life, and I don’t want to just accept somebody else’s explanation. I want to see it for myself.”
    4. If you pursue your meditation practice with this attitude, you will succeed. You’ll find yourself observing things objectively, exactly as they are - flowing and changing from moment to moment. Life then takes on an unbelievable richness which cannot be described. It has to be experienced.
  4. VIPASSANA & BHAVANA
    1. The Pali term for Insight meditation is Vipassana Bhavana. Bhavana comes from the root bh, which means to grow or to become. Therefore Bhavana means to cultivate, and the word is always used in reference to the mind. Bhavana means mental cultivation. Vipassana is derived from two roots. Passana means seeing or perceiving. Vi is a prefix with a complex set of connotations. The basic meaning is “in a special way.” But there also is the connotation of both “into” and “through.”
    2. The whole meaning of the word is looking into something with clarity and precision, seeing each component as distinct, and piercing all the way through so as to perceive the most fundamental reality of that thing. This process leads to insight into the basic reality of whatever is being inspected. Put it all together and Vipassana Bhavana means the cultivation of the mind, aimed at seeing in the special way that leads to insight and to full understanding.
    3. The method we are explaining here is probably what Gotama Buddha taught his students. The Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha’s original discourse on mindfulness, specifically says that one must begin by focusing the attention on the breathing and then go on to note all other physical and mental phenomena which arise.
    4. We sit, watching the air going in and out of our noses. At first glance, this seems an exceedingly odd and useless procedure. Before going on to specific instructions, let us examine the reason behind it.
  5. WHY FOCUSING IS IMPORTANT
    1. The first question we might have is why use any focus of attention at all? We are, after all, trying to develop awareness. Why not just sit down and be aware of whatever happens to be present in the mind? In fact, there are meditations of that nature. They are sometimes referred to as unstructured meditation and they are quite difficult.
    2. The mind is tricky. Thought is an inherently complicated procedure. By that we mean that we become trapped, wrapped up, and stuck in the thought chain. One thought leads to another which leads to another, and another, and another, and so on. Fifteen minutes later we suddenly wake up and realize we spent that whole time stuck in a daydream or sexual fantasy or a set of worries about our bills or whatever.
    3. We use breath as our focus. It serves as that vital reference point from which the mind wanders and is drawn back. Distraction cannot be seen as distraction unless there is some central focus to be distracted from. That is the frame of reference against which we can view the incessant changes and interruptions that go on all the time as a part of normal thinking.
  6. TAMING WILD ELEPHANTS
    1. Ancient Pali texts liken meditation to the process of taming a wild elephant. The procedure in those days was to tie a newly captured animal to a post with a good strong rope. When you do this, the elephant is not happy. He screams and tramples, and pulls against the rope for days. Finally it sinks through his skull that he can’t get away, and he settles down.
    2. At this point you can begin to feed him and to handle him with some measure of safety. Eventually you can dispense with the rope and post altogether, and train your elephant for various tasks. Now you have got a tamed elephant that can be put to useful work.
    3. In this analogy the wild elephant is your wildly active mind, the rope is mindfulness, and the post is our object of meditation, our breathing. The tamed elephant who emerges from this process is a well-trained, concentrated mind that can then be used for the exceedingly tough job of piercing the layers of illusion that obscure reality. Meditation tames the mind.
  7. WHY BREATHING?
    1. The next question we need to address is: Why choose breathing as the primary object of meditation? Why not something a bit more interesting? Answers to this are numerous. A useful object of meditation should be one that promotes mindfulness. It should be portable, easily available, and cheap. It should also be something that will not embroil us in those states of mind from which we are trying to free ourselves, such as greed, anger, and delusion.
    2. Breathing satisfies all these criteria and more. It is common to every human being. We all carry it with us wherever we go. It is always there, constantly available, never ceasing from birth till death, and it costs nothing.
    3. Breathing is a non-conceptual process, a thing that can be experienced directly without a need for thought. Furthermore, it is a very living process, an aspect of life that is in constant change. The breath moves in cycles - inhalation, exhalation, breathing in, and breathing out. Thus, it is a miniature model of life itself.
    4. Breath is a phenomenon common to all living things. A true experiential understanding of the process moves you closer to other living beings. It shows you your inherent connectedness with all of life. Finally, breathing is a present-time process.
    5. The first step in using the breath as an object of meditation is to find it. What you are looking for is the physical, tactile sensation of the air that passes in and out of the nostrils. This is usually just inside the tip of the nose. But the exact spot varies from one person to another, depending on the shape of the nose.
    6. To find your own point, take a quick deep breath and notice and point just inside the nose or on the upper tip where you have the most distinct sensation of passing air. Now exhale and notice the sensation at the same point. It is from this point that you will follow the whole passage of breath.
  8. NOT ALWAYS EASY
    1. When you first begin this procedure, expect to face some difficulties. Your mind will wander off constantly darting, around like a bumble bee and zooming off on wild tangents. Try not to worry. The monkey mind phenomenon is well known. It is something that every advanced meditator has had to deal with. They have pushed through it one way or another, and so can you.
    2. When it happens, just note the fact that you have been thinking, day-dreaming, worrying, or whatever. Gently, but firmly, without getting upset or judging yourself for straying, simply return to the simple physical sensation of the breath. Then do it again the next time, and again, and again, and again.
    3. Essentially, Vipassana meditation is a process of retraining the mind. The state you are aiming for is one in which you are totally aware of everything that is happening in your own perceptual universe, exactly the way it happens, exactly when it is happening; total, unbroken awareness in present time.
    4. This is an incredibly high goal, and not to be reached all at once. It takes practice, so we start small. We start by becoming totalIy aware of one small unit of time, just one single inhalation. And, when you succeed, you are on your way to a whole new experience of life.


COMMENT:
  • Vipassana or insight meditation is a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens.
  • See Link.
  • While this is nothing to do with "Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: G-K" I’ve filed an annotated copy with the Aeon papers for want of a better home.



"Hales (Steven D.) - Evidence and the Afterlife"

Source: Philosophia, vol. 28, nos. 1-4, pp. 335-346


Author’s Abstract
  1. Several prominent philosophers, including A.J. Ayer and Derek Parfit, have offered the evidentiary requirements for believing human personality can reincarnate, and hence that Cartesian dualism is true.
  2. At least one philosopher, Robert Almeder, has argued that there are actual cases which satisfy these requirements.
  3. I argue in this paper that even if we grant the empirical data – a large concession – belief in reincarnation is still unjustified.
  4. The problem is that without a theoretical account of the alleged cases of reincarnation, the empirical evidence alone does not license giving up materialist theories of the mind.


COMMENT: See Link



"Hales (Steven D.) - Reincarnation Redux"

Source: Philosophia, vol. 28, nos. 1-4, pp. 359-367


Author’s Abstract
  1. This paper is a rejoinder to Robert Almeder's "On Reincarnation: A Reply to Hales".
  2. I argue that even if we stipulate the case studies of the reincarnationists to be good data, the explanatory hypothesis of reincarnation is a deus ex machina.
  3. Without a comprehensive scientific or philosophical theory of the mind that embeds the reincarnation hypothesis, the view should not be taken seriously.
  4. The fact that reincarnation is the first explanation of the case studies that comes to mind says more about us and our culture than it does about which explanations are the most probable ones.
  5. Robert Almeder offers a host of arguments in response to "Hales (Steven D.) - Evidence and the Afterlife". I’ll first address three of his smaller objections, and then look at his primary challenge to my views. All three of these initial criticisms were discussed in my original paper but, hydra-like, bear further applications of the sword.


COMMENT: See Link



"Halkin (Hillel) - Blurry 'Vision of Gabriel'"

Source: The New York Sun, July 2008

COMMENT:



"Hauskeller (Michael) - Reflections from a Troubled Stream: Giubilini and Minerva on 'After-Birth Abortion'"

Source: The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 42, No. 4 (July-August 2012), pp. 17-20


Author’s Conclusion
  1. If there is such a thing as a "right to life," then a newborn has as much of it as you and I, and the fact that it lacks our abilities is irrelevant. Holding this view does not make us irrational — or at least not less rational than anyone who believes that certain things are wrong and ought not to be done or allowed.
  2. It is a mistake to demand that moral convictions be always justifiable in terms of a narrow conception of rationality. Indeed, it is the very fact that morality often requires us to defy the seemingly rational that makes it so important. This tends to be forgotten by a bioethical tradition whose style of thinking has its roots in analytical philosophy, leading to results that should give us pause.
  3. When people want to describe the horrors of war, the wanton killing of young children is often cited as the clearest expression of human depravity. We believe not only that, without question, they have a right to life, but also, because they represent human life at its most vulnerable stage, that they need and deserve our protection then more than at any other time and that, consequently, harming and killing them is even worse and more unforgivable than harming and killing an adult.
  4. This view is about as essential to our shared ethical self-understanding as a position can get. If a philosophical argument, such as the one presented by Giubilini and Minerva, calls this into question, we should not be swayed by its appearance of rationality, but rather take it as our cue to rethink the way we practice philosophical ethics.


COMMENT: Response to an on-line pre-print of "Giubilini (Alberto) & Minerva (Francesca) - After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?"



"Hawley (Katherine) - Almost Identical, Almost Innocent"

Source: Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements, Volume 82 (Metaphysics) - July 2018, pp. 249-263


Author’s Abstract
  1. In his book "Lewis (David) - Parts of Classes" (1991), David Lewis discusses the idea that composition is identity, alongside the idea that mereological overlap is a form of partial identity1. But this notion of partial identity2 does nothing to help Lewis achieve his goals in that book. So why does he mention it?
  2. I explore and resolve this puzzle, by comparing Parts of Classes with Lewis’s invocation of partial identity3 in his 1993 paper "Lewis (David) - Many, But Almost One", where he uses it to address Peter Unger’s problem of the many4.
  3. I raise some concerns about this way of thinking of partial identity5, but conclude that, for Lewis, it is an important defence against accusations of ontological profligacy.


COMMENT: (To be) annotated hard copy filed in "Various - Papers in Desk Drawer".



"Hawley (Katherine) - Persistence and Determination"

Source: Philosophy 83 supplement 62 (2008), 197-212 (special issue on Being: Developments in Contemporary Metaphysics)


Author’s Introduction
  1. Roughly speaking, perdurantism is the view that ordinary objects persist through time by having temporal parts, whilst endurantism1 is the view that they persist by being wholly present at different times. (Speaking less roughly will be important later.) It is often thought that perdurantists have an advantage over endurantists2 when dealing with objects which appear to coincide temporarily: lumps, statues3, cats, tail-complements, bisected brains, repaired ships, and the like. Some cases – personal fission, for example – seem to involve temporary coincidence between objects of the same kind. Other cases – a cat and its flesh, a statue4 and its lump – seem to involve objects of different kinds.
  2. When two objects temporarily coincide, they are indiscernible in many basic, temporary respects, but they are discernible in respect of their future careers or past histories. How can this be? How can indiscernibility in all sorts of immediate, ordinary respects fail to guarantee indiscernibility in every respect? This is the ‘temporal grounding problem’.
  3. According to perdurantists, temporary coincidence is mere sharing of (temporal) parts. Whilst the objects coincide, they share temporal parts, but when they diverge they do not. The spatial analogy is familiar: these chunks of tarmac right here are parts of both High Street and the Great North Road, those chunks of tarmac over there are parts of the Great North Road but not of High Street. Moreover, we do not expect High Street and the Great North Road to be indiscernible merely because they share a few parts: there is no ‘spatial grounding problem’. The partial-overlap account of temporary coincidence is commonly taken to solve the temporal grounding problem, and thereby to secure some advantage for perdurance theory over endurance theory.
  4. This advantage is not conclusive: perdurantism and endurantism5 compete on various fronts, and if endurantists6 triumph elsewhere, they may simply accept that some differences between temporary coincidents are ungrounded, or else argue that temporary coincidence never occurs. Moreover, the perdurantist story about partial overlap does not apply where objects appear to coincide permanently: here perdurantists and endurantists7 have similar resources available. Nevertheless, a straightforward account of temporary coincidence is a valuable prize, not least because it provides the ontological resources for an epistemicist or a semantic-indecision account of vagueness in persistence: such accounts standardly require hordes of almost-indiscriminable temporarily-coincident objects.
  5. Ryan Wasserman has challenged the idea that perdurantists have any advantage in accounting for temporary coincidence (Matthew McGrath makes a similar point, to which I will return below; see also "Lowe (E.J.) - Material Coincidence and the Cinematographic Fallacy: A Response to Olson" (2002)). "Wasserman (Ryan) - The Standard Objection to the Standard Account" (2002) argues that, insofar as perdurantists may invoke the fact that temporarily coincident objects differ mereologically at other times, endurantists8 may invoke a similar fact. Temporarily coincident enduring objects differ in their spatial parts at times when they do not coincide; trivially so if one of them goes out of existence. If other-time differences in temporal parts can ground differences between temporarily-coincident perduring objects, then surely other-time differences in spatial parts can do the same job for temporarily-coincident enduring objects. There is, Wasserman suggests, nothing exclusively perdurantist about grounding present differences in other-time mereological differences. What makes these coincident objects distinct? Why, the fact that they will have different parts in the future!
  6. It is of course true that, if two enduring objects coincide temporarily, then they differ in what parts they have at some other time, and that this is a mereological difference between the two. Why then did anyone ever think that endurantists9 had a special difficulty with the temporal grounding problem? And exactly how was the perdurantists’ invocation of mereological difference between temporary coincidents supposed to solve the problem? To recover the advantage for perdurantists, we need to examine questions of grounding or determination. If we could describe the world without commitment to facts about persistence or identity, endurantists10 and perdurantists would agree on that description: if they disagreed about this, we could hope to rule out one of them empirically. The temporal grounding problem concerns determination or dependence, not just correlation or supervenience11 (so does the analogous modal12 problem, as "Bennett (Karen) - Global Supervenience and Dependence" (2004) and "Shagrir (Oron) - Global Supervenience, Coincident Entities and Anti-Individualism" (2002) have shown); it challenges us to identify a qualitative ground for differences between the temporarily coincident objects in question.
  7. So if there is a special difficulty for endurantists13 here, it is because endurantists14 have a special reason to think that facts about number, identity or sort must be determined by temporally intrinsic facts, a reason which does not apply to perdurantists. And indeed a special reason does seem to present itself. An enduring object is wholly present whenever it exists. The notion of ‘being wholly present at’ a region has resisted uncontroversial clarification, but must involve localness somehow: if an object is wholly present at a region, then important facts about it are determined by what’s going on within that region. In contrast, if an object is only partially present at a region, then we do not expect the central facts about it to be exhausted by what’s going on in that region.
  8. The main goal of this paper is to substantiate the thought that endurantists15 and perdurantists should differ about what determines what, that they should disagree about temporal intrinsicness.
    • First, I will clarify the temporal grounding problem, distinguishing two versions of it (section 2).
    • Then, I will examine the differences between endurantism16 and perdurantism (section 3), and
    • Show how perdurantism is better placed with respect to the temporal grounding problem (sections 4 and 5).
    • Finally, and briefly, I will make some connections between the temporal grounding problem and ‘metaontological’ scepticism about the distinction between perdurantism and endurantism17 (section 6).

Sections
  1. Introduction
  2. Two Temporal Grounding Problems
  3. Temporal Extent and Temporal Parts
  4. The Region-Focused Temporal Grounding Problem
  5. Object-Focused Temporal Grounding Problems
  6. Distinguishing Endurantism18 and Perdurantism


COMMENT: See Link, St. Andrews' Website



"Hershenov (David) - Review of David DeGrazia’s Human Identity and Bioethics"

Source: National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, 8:4, Winter 2008


Author's Introduction
  1. David DeGrazia has penned an ambitious book that brings recent work in the metaphysics of personal identity as well as the “non-metaphysical” notion of narrative identity1 to bear on contemporary bioethics issues.
  2. While I am sympathetic to the metaphysical account of animal identity that DeGrazia borrows from Eric Olson, he doesn’t seem to realize a major weakness, which Olson himself admitted. This has to do with the possibility of thinking entities embedded within the organism.
  3. He also seems unaware, or, at least, indifferent to rival religious-inspired soul theories of our identity that avoid this problem - as well as have other merits.
  4. His summary dismissal of such soul theories and his defense of abortion2 and embryonic3 stem cell research will not endear him to most readers of NCBQ. Despite these qualms, the book is worth reading. The chapter on advance directives may become the starting point for future discussions.


COMMENT:



"Heyes (Cecilia M.) - Grist and mills: on the cultural origins of cultural learning"

Source: Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Vol. 367, No. 1599, New thinking: the evolution of human cognition (5 August 2012), pp. 2181-2191


Author's Abstract
  1. Cumulative cultural evolution is what 'makes us odd'; our capacity to learn facts and techniques from others, and to refine them over generations, plays a major role in making human minds and lives radically different from those of other animals.
  2. In this article, I discuss cognitive processes that are known collectively as 'cultural learning' because they enable cumulative cultural evolution. These cognitive processes include reading, social learning, imitation, teaching, social motivation and theory of mind.
  3. Taking the first of these three types of cultural learning as examples, I ask whether and to what extent these cognitive processes have been adapted genetically or culturally to enable cumulative cultural evolution.
  4. I find that recent empirical work in comparative psychology, developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience provides surprisingly little evidence of genetic adaptation, and ample evidence of cultural adaptation.
  5. This raises the possibility that it is not only 'grist' but also 'mills' that are culturally inherited; through social interaction in the course of development, we not only acquire facts about the world and how to deal with it (grist), we also build the cognitive processes that make 'fact inheritance' possible (mills).



"Heyes (Cecilia M.) - Introduction: New thinking: the evolution of human cognition"

Source: Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Vol. 367, No. 1599, New thinking: the evolution of human cognition (5 August 2012), pp. 2091-2096


Author's Abstract
  1. Humans are animals that specialize in thinking and knowing, and our extraordinary cognitive abilities have transformed every aspect of our lives. In contrast to our chimpanzee cousins and Stone Age ancestors, we are complex political, economic, scientific and artistic creatures, living in a vast range of habitats, many of which are our own creation.
  2. Research on the evolution of human cognition asks what types of thinking make us such peculiar animals, and how they have been generated by evolutionary processes. New research in this field looks deeper into the evolutionary history of human cognition, and adopts a more multi-disciplinary approach than earlier 'Evolutionary Psychology'. It is informed by comparisons between humans and a range of primate and non-primate species, and integrates findings from anthropology, archaeology, economics, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, philosophy and psychology.
  3. Using these methods, recent research reveals profound commonalities, as well striking differences, between human and non-human minds, and suggests that the evolution of human cognition has been much more gradual and incremental than previously assumed.
  4. It accords crucial roles to cultural evolution, techno-social co-evolution and gene-culture co-evolution. These have produced domain-general developmental processes with extraordinary power — power that makes human cognition, and human lives, unique.



"Heyes (Cecilia M.) - Simple minds: a qualified defence of associative learning"

Source: Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Vol. 367, No. 1603, Animal minds: from computation to evolution (5 October 2012), pp. 2695-2703


Author's Abstract
  1. Using cooperation in chimpanzees as a case study, this article argues that research on animal minds needs to steer a course between 'association-blindness' - the failure to consider associative learning as a candidate explanation for complex behaviour - and 'simple-mindedness' - the assumption that associative explanations trump more cognitive hypotheses.
  2. Association-blindness is challenged by the evidence that associative learning occurs in a wide range of taxa and functional contexts, and is a major force guiding the development of complex human behaviour. Furthermore, contrary to a common view, association-blindness is not entailed by the rejection of behaviourism.
  3. Simple mindedness is founded on Morgan's canon, a methodological principle recommending 'lower' over 'higher' explanations for animal behaviour. Studies in the history and philosophy of science show that Morgan failed to offer an adequate justification for his canon, and subsequent attempts to justify the canon using evolutionary arguments and appeals to simplicity have not been successful.
  4. The weaknesses of association-blindness and simple-mindedness imply that there are no short cuts to finding out about animal minds. To decide between associative and yet more cognitive explanations for animal behaviour, we have to spell them out in sufficient detail to allow differential predictions, and to test these predictions through observation and experiment.



"Heyes (Cecilia M.) - Theory of mind in nonhuman primates"

Source: Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (1): 101-134


Author's Abstract
  1. Since the BBS article in which Premack & Woodruff (1978) asked "Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind?", it has been repeatedly claimed that there is observational and experimental evidence that apes have mental state concepts, such as 'want' and 'know'.
  2. Unlike in research on the development of theory of mind in childhood, however, no substantial progress has been made through this work with nonhuman primates. A survey of empirical studies of imitation, self-recognition, social relationships, deception, role-taking and perspective-taking suggests that in every case where nonhuman primate behavior has been interpreted as a sign of theory of mind, it could instead have occurred by chance or as a product of nonmentalistic processes such as associative learning or inferences based on nonmental categories.
  3. Arguments to the effect that, in spite of this, the theory of mind hypothesis should be accepted because it is more parsimonious than alternatives, or because it is supported by convergent evidence, are not compelling. Such arguments are based on unsupportable assumptions about the role of parsimony in science, and either ignore the requirement that convergent evidence proceed from independent assumptions, or fail to show that it supports the theory of mind hypothesis over nonmentalist alternatives.
  4. Progress in research on theory of mind requires experimental procedures that can distinguish the theory of mind hypothesis from nonmentalist alternatives.
  5. A procedure that may have this potential is proposed. It uses conditional discrimination training and transfer tests to determine whether chimpanzees have the concept 'see'.
  6. Commentators are invited to identify flaws in the procedure and to suggest alternatives.

Contents
  • Paper: Theory of mind in nonhuman primates; pp. 101-114
  • Open Peer Commentary; pp. 115-134
  • Author's Response; pp. 134-144
  • References; pp. 144-148



"Hodgkin (Adam) - Derek Parfit, typesetting and marmalade"

Source: Adam Hodgkin's Blog, 2nd January 2017


Full Text
  1. Derek Parfit, who was an extraordinary and ingenious philosopher and a fascinating and delightful conversationalist, critic and friend to many, has died and will be sorely missed. I knew him reasonably well for about five years whilst I was encouraging him to publish his book Reasons and Persons with Oxford University Press. I was the philosophy editor at that time, and I was convinced that it was most important that his book should appear through the Press. The OUP philosophy list was not then the pre-eminent philosophy publisher that it is now and it seemed to me quite possible that Derek’s book would be snapped up by Duckworth, Blackwells, or  —  heaven help us  —  Cambridge where his friends Bernard Williams and Tom Nagel were published. Persuading Derek was not too difficult, and it certainly was not a matter of offering him exceptional terms  —  except perhaps in guaranteeing that the book would not be too expensive in spite of its considerable length. I think All Souls was putting some pressure on him to produce an important book (had it been an implicit condition of awarding him a second long-term research fellowship?), and all his friends knew that the typescript that he had been cultivating for several years should be published, and that if it were published it would be much read.
  2. But Derek was not in all ways an easy author. Always delightful and interesting but by no means easy. This period (the early 1980’s) was just the time when word processing was becoming so much a normal feature of scholarly writing that most academics believed that books could be produced much more efficiently and cheaply if the work was ‘typeset’ directly from the word processing files. I had been able to persuade R M Hare that it would be quite impractical to produce his latest book from the 8" floppy disks that he proudly delivered to my office from the Corpus Christi office Xerox 860. Derek was not so easily shepherded and was convinced that his book should be published with maximum efficiency, so with the help of Catherine Griffin (the wife of his friend Jim Griffin), the book’s copy editor, Angela Blackburn, and one or two others who worked long hours as the Oxford University Computing Service, camera-ready copy was generated from the author’s keystrokes. The Computing Service had recently acquired a typesetting machine capable of complex and multi-lingual work, and Catherine Griffin was the expert in charge. I cannot now remember whether the Press paid anything for this work (probably a small charge would have been levied), but I suspect that the process was a lot more finicky and time-consuming than either Catherine or Derek would have allowed for. Derek would not have been good at forswearing the temptation to make further corrections and improvements to the text that had already been signed off. Furthermore, the typesetting computer had an impressive array of fonts in various languages but it did not at that time have a satisfactory program for hyphenation, and so we have the uneven spacing we see in the final work. And not a single hyphenated line ending.
  3. Derek’s personal presence and slightly eccentric manner, was wonderful. Two memories that have stayed with me, rather deviate from his fondness for philosophical innovation and thought experiments. About matters of taste he was surprisingly conservative. Perhaps he changed, but at that time he insisted that the only thing he would eat at breakfast was toast with marmalade. He had some years earlier realised and decided that the taste and the meal was just right and resolved always to stick to that policy. Similarly, he had decided that Venice in October and St Petersburg (it must then have been Leningrad) in late January or early February, was just perfect for a holiday and for some years those were the holidays he took. One year he was insistent that my wife and I should join him in Leningrad. He was not then married and he liked having companions on these holidays, but since the main attraction of Leningrad for him was taking photographs of the frozen river and the spectacular buildings in their snowy setting, I wonder whether his companions began to stamp their feet and push for more time at the Hermitage. We had very young children and this was before the days of Ryanair so we decided not to go. It would have been ….
  4. My boss at OUP at that time, a scientist, used to tease me about the importance of Parfit’s book. He was amused and bemused that I thought it was so vital that the book should be published by us. The sales after all were good, but by no means spectacular. It might be a much better book than most philosophy books, but how come, if it were so important, the sales were not spectacular, as for example the sales for Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, which the Press had published a few years earlier? But I was always unrepentant and confident that the book would have a lasting impact. We cannot be sure that Parfit will still be widely read 100 years from now, but he was an impressive teacher and a powerful thinker. Along with JL Austin’s How to Do Things with Words, HLA Hart’s The Concept of Law, Reasons and Persons is one of the best books to come from the Oxford school of philosophy in the twentieth century. It would have been published any way, but I am glad to have helped it on its way.


COMMENT: For the full text, see Adam Hodgkin: Derek Parfit, typesetting and marmalade.



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid - A Metaphorical Fugue on Minds and Machines in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll"

Source: Hofstadter - Godel, Esher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid - A Metaphorical Fugue on Minds and Machines in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll

COMMENT: (Soon to be) annotated printout of the Contents analysis filed in "Various - Papers in Desk Drawer".



"Jackson (Frank) - Grue"

Source: Journal of Philosophy 72.5, Mar. 1975, pp. 113-131
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Since Nelson Goodman's 1946 paper, it has been almost universally supposed that the inductive rule: certain fs being g supports other fs being g, needs to be restricted to "projectible" predicates and hypotheses.
  2. I argue against this view, and suggest three sources of it:
    1. a tendency to conflate three different ways of defining 'grue';
    2. a lack of precision about just how, in detail, the 'grue' paradox is supposed to arise; and
    3. a failure to note a counterfactual condition which governs the vast majority of our applications of the SR2.


COMMENT:

Write-up4 (as at 04/01/2018 13:36:29): Jackson - Grue

This note provides my detailed review of "Jackson (Frank) - Grue".

Currently, this write-up is only available as a PDF. For a précis, click File Note (PDF). I am in the process of converting this to Note, as below:-



Detailed analysis