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Personal Identity


(Text as at 12/08/2007 10:17:46)

(For other versions of this Note, see the tables at the end)

There are different interpretations, which I need to compare and contrast. My preferred option is Olson’s, namely, that animalism is the view that we are identical to human animals1 and that, since human animals don’t have any psychological properties essentially, neither do we. Olson is the prime candidate for an Animalist (others include: Snowdon, Blatti, William Carter, David Mackie and Hershenov2). The claim is not that there are no non-animal persons, but that human persons are essentially animals. I incline to agree, but need to press hard with thought experiments3 to see why we can’t separate the two. Is the distinction empirical or conceptual? Why can’t I copy my consciousness onto a machine4 and that machine be me? My intuition is that phenomenal consciousness5 essentially involves a brain-like infrastructure and copying a consciousness onto a machine isn’t identity-preserving, even if possible, but the creation of a simulacrum6. Basically, I reject functionalism7 and the idea of consciousness “hopping from one infrastructure to another”. Incidentally, I rather hope we can’t copy our phenomenal consciousness onto a machine, or the possibility of hell on earth unfolds. The nasty business of very extended torment could be delegated to another machine that neither knows nor cares what it is doing. Also, should we consider fetuses8 and the senile or those in a PVS9 as persons? See Baker who alleges that those who have, will have or have had the capacity for a first-person perspective10 should be accounted persons. But is this simply arbitrary retrofitting of philosophy to Christian doctrine?

Note that there are disagreements about the referent of “animal” – is it the organism or the body11? The key issue is with corpses12. Feldman thinks they are animals, but Olson thinks they aren’t. Death13 is central to the enquiry. Just when does the person or animal commence14 or cease to be? If he is resuscitated (or resurrected15 / reincarnated16, assuming these to be possible) what happens in the interregnum? I need to investigate the termini of human existence, and the issues they raise for the various views – the “fetus problem17” for the constitution view and the “corpse problem18” for animalism.

Live Version of this Archived Note

Date Length Title
30/11/2019 22:58:05 6328 Animalism

Table of the 4 Later Versions of this Note

Date Length Title
28/04/2018 00:07:12 8463 Animalism
22/01/2018 21:12:58 7592 Animalism
18/08/2009 20:39:50 3203 Animalism
26/11/2007 23:25:26 2595 Animalism

This version updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
12/08/2007 10:17:46 Animalism Research - Proposal

Summary of Notes Links from this Page

Animalism - Objections Animalists Animals Body Brain State Transfer
Consciousness Constitution View - Objections Corpses Death Duplication
Fetuses First-Person Perspective Functionalism Origins Persistent Vegetative State
Reincarnation Resurrection Thought Experiments    

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Summary of Note Links to this Page

Animalism - Objections, 2 Animals, 2 Biological View Bodily Continuity, 2 Logic of Identity, 2
Research - Proposal, 2 Status: Personal Identity (2007-September) Thesis - Current Position Thesis - Outline  

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