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Personal Identity

Brain

(Text as at 18/08/2009 20:39:50)

(For earlier versions of this Note, see the table at the end)


There is a view that we1 are really, most fundamentally, our brains. It seems to promise some good things from both the “psychological2 criterion” and “bodily3 criterion” camps, since the brain is indeed part of the body4, and, in the absence of a soul5, the source of all our psychological functions. However, we seem to be much more than our brains. After all, who would want to be a BIV6 (Brain in a Vat)? According to Johnston (see "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings"), BIVs are “maximally mutilated” human beings; which seems to be along the right lines. Note the important distinction between your surviving in a maximally mutilated state (as a brain) and you “really” being your brain.

This is an issue the Animalist has to contend with - whether a BIV is an animal. Snowdon claims (where7?) that no-one seems to think this, a view that Olson shares but on which he may be open to objection. He says that an animal with a prosthetic leg is a smaller animal with something non-animal attached. If this is admitted, don’t we end up with a sorites argument, that a BIV is a (very much) smaller animal; though not, I think, with any paradox?

The big question is whether an animal’s brain is just another organ (like its liver) or whether it has some other status. That it is somehow special can be presupposed if we start conceptually with the brain as the core from which other parts are shaved off. Whether this is the right approach depends, I think, on what the brain does for the animal, and where the animal is on the phylogenetic tree. The brain is a much more important organ in some animals than others; in some lower animals it has no psychological functions and (maybe) its regulatory functions aren’t essential (I need to check8 this).

Why is the Woody Allen expostulation about his brain (in Sleeper) “(is) my second favourite organ” amusing? Firstly, of course, because of the sexual innuendo and the ultimately strange prioritisation (since you can’t enjoy sexual excitement without a brain), but also, I think, because your brain isn’t an organ that you “have”. Without your brain, there’s no “you” at all, or at least this is a strong intuition.

You can obviously (given even today’s technology), do without a liver, and it seems that on a life-support machine your body can do without its brain – where the brain is looked upon merely as a regulator. But the reference of “you” is a bit slippery in these contexts. There is a sense in which you as an organism can do without a brain – on life support – but “you” as an essentially psychological being cannot. The animalists claim that you – being identical to an animal – have no essential psychological predicates; yet it is difficult to resist the intuition that there’s a reference of “you” that does have essential psychological predicates. This is to you as a person – but the big question is whether this person is a separate substance constituted by the human animal, or is just a way of describing the animal when possessed of the appropriate psychological predicates. Saying that you can’t do without your brain is just another way of saying that your psychological predicates are those most important to you (the animal); those without which the other predicates cannot be enjoyed.

The issue fundamentally concerns the integrity of organisms9. It is said that a brain isn’t an organism; but does an organism have to be self-supporting (the main reason for denying the status of organisms to disembodied brains)? After all, we seem to be allowing that an organism on life support is correctly described as an organism. We’ll discuss this further in its place.

These issues are especially important when we consider various Thought Experiments10, in particular Brain Transplants11. Transplantation12 of all sorts seems to involve fusion13, with its logical problems for identity14 (not just for persons).



Printable Versions:



Table of the Previous 2 Versions of this Note:

Date Length Title
26/11/2007 23:25:26 2918 Brain
12/08/2007 10:17:46 2537 Brain



Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
18/08/2009 20:39:50 Brain Physical Continuity

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Awaiting Attention (Personal Identity) Bodily Continuity Body Brain Transplants Brains in Vats
Fusion Logic of Identity Organisms Psychological Continuity Souls
Thought Experiments Transplants What are We?    

To access information, click on one of the links in the table above.




Summary of Note Links to this Page

Abbreviations Body Brain Criterion, 2 Brain State Transfer Cerebrum
Computers Constitution View Counting Persons Criteria of Identity Fission
Johnston - Human Beings Mereology Non-Human Persons Olson - Immanent Causation and Life After Death Organisms
Physicalism Teletransportation Thesis - Chapter 02 (What are We?) Thesis - Current Stance Thesis - Outline
Thisness (Haecceity) What are We?      

To access information, click on one of the links in the table above.




Authors, Books & Papers Citing this Note

Author Title Medium Extra Links Read?
Cerullo (Michael A.) Uploading and Branching Identity Paper Medium Quality Abstract    
Dainton (Barry) Self: Philosophy In Transit: Prologue Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Dennett (Daniel) Where Am I? Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Johnston (Mark) Human Beings Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Liao (S. Matthew) The Organism View Defended Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Olson (Eric) Animalism and the Remnant-Person Problem Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Olson (Eric) Immanent Causation and Life After Death Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Olson (Eric) Why We Need Not Accept the Psychological Approach Paper Medium Quality Abstract 2 Yes
Shoemaker (David) Personal Identity and Immortality Paper High Quality Abstract 2 Yes
Smith (Barry C.), Broks (Paul), Kennedy (A.L.) & Evans (Jules) What Does It Mean to Be Me? Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Abbreviations Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Body Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Brain Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Brain Criterion Paper Medium Quality Abstract 2 Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Brain State Transfer Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Cerebrum Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Computers Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Constitution View Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Counting Persons Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Criteria of Identity Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Current Position Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Fission Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Mereology Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Non-Human Persons Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Organisms Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Physicalism Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Teletransportation Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Thisness (Haecceity) Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes



References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Alvarez (Carlos J.) The Neural Substrate of Emotions and Emotional Processing Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 7 No
Anderson (Susan Leigh) Coconsciousness and Numerical Identity Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Philosophical Studies 30:1-10, 1976 No
Augustine (Keith) & Fishman (Yonatan I.) The Dualist’s Dilemma: The High Cost of Reconciling Neuroscience with a Soul Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 10 22%
Bailey (Andrew M.) The Priority Principle Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Journal of the American Philosophical Association (2014) 1–12 25%
Baker (Lynne Rudder) Are Beliefs Brain States? Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Explaining Beliefs: Lynne Rudder Baker and her Critics, Anthonie Meijers, ed. (Stanford: CSLI Publications, 2001): 17-38 8%
Baker (Lynne Rudder) Attitudes As Nonentities Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Philosophical Studies, 76:175–203, 1994 6%
Baker (Lynne Rudder) Reply to van Gulick Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Philosophical Studies, 76:217–21, 1994 No
Baker (Lynne Rudder) & Woodruff (David M.) Review of 'Consciousness and the Brain: A Scientific and Philosophical Inquiry' Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Neuropsychologia, 16, 1978 No
Bechtel (William) Decomposing the Mind-Brain: A Long-Term Pursuit Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Brain and Mind 3: 229–242, 2002 8%
Bess (Michael) Why upgrading your brain could make you less human Paper - By Subtopic Aeon, 08 February, 2017 Yes
Borst (C.V.) The Mind-Brain Identity Theory Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Borst (C.V.) - The Mind-Brain Identity Theory No
Brennan (Andrew) Persons and their Brains Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Analysis 30.1, 1969, pp. 27-30 No
Brierley (John) The Thinking Machine: Genes, Brain, Endocrines, and Human Nature Book - By Subtopic Brierley (John) - The Thinking Machine: Genes, Brain, Endocrines, and Human Nature No
Churchland (Patricia) The Brains Behind Morality Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person Yes
Cockburn (David) The Mind, the Brain and the Face Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Philosophy, Vol. 60, No. 234 (Oct., 1985), pp. 477-493 No
Crabbe (James), Ed. From Soul to Self Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Crabbe (James), Ed. - From Soul to Self 2%
Crane (Tim) The Mental States of Persons and their Brains Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person Yes
Dainton (Barry) From Phenomenal Selves to Hyper-Selves Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person Yes
Damasio (Antonio), Ed. The 'Scientific American' Book of the Brain: The Best Writing on Consciousness Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Damasio (Antonio), Ed. - The 'Scientific American' Book of the Brain: The Best Writing on Consciousness No
DeMyer (William) Neuroanatomy Book - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract DeMyer (William) - Neuroanatomy 1%
DeMyer (William) Neuroanatomy Paper - By Subtopic DeMyer - Neuroanatomy 1%
Dennett (Daniel) Brainstorms - Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Dennett (Daniel) - Brainstorms - Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology 43%
Dennett (Daniel) Where Am I? Paper - By Subtopic High Quality Abstract Dennett - Brainstorms - Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology, Chapter 17 Yes
Eccles (John) Evolution of the Brain, Creation of the Self Book - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Eccles (John) - Evolution of the Brain, Creation of the Self 3%
Edwards (Paul) Reincarnation: A Critical Examination Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Edwards (Paul) - Reincarnation: A Critical Examination Yes
Edwards (Paul) The Dependence of Consciousness on the Brain Paper - By Subtopic Edwards - Immortality, pp, 292-307 No
Edwards (Paul) The Dependence of Consciousness on the Brain Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Edwards - Reincarnation: A Critical Examination, 2002, Chapter 17 Yes
Edwards (Paul), Ed. Immortality Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Medium Quality Abstract Edwards (Paul), Ed. - Immortality 6%
Epstein (Robert) The empty brain Paper - By Subtopic Aeon, 18 May, 2016 Yes
Feinberg (Todd) Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Medium Quality Abstract Feinberg (Todd) - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self No
Feinberg (Todd) Auto-Bodies Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Feinberg - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, 2001, Chapter 5 No
Feinberg (Todd) Being and Brain Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Feinberg - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, 2001, Chapter 9 No
Feinberg (Todd) Deconstructing the Self Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Feinberg - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, 2001, Chapter 2 No
Feinberg (Todd) Introduction: Soul Searching Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Feinberg - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, 2001, Chapter 1 No
Feinberg (Todd) Journey to the Center of the Mind Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Feinberg - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, 2001, Chapter 7 No
Feinberg (Todd) Keeping It All Together Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Feinberg - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, 2001, Chapter 6 No
Feinberg (Todd) Missing Pieces; Familiar Places Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Feinberg - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, 2001, Chapter 3 No
Feinberg (Todd) Mything Persons Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Feinberg - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, 2001, Chapter 4 No
Feinberg (Todd) The Living Mind Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Feinberg - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, 2001, Chapter 10 No
Feinberg (Todd) The Nested Hierarchy of the Self and Mind Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Feinberg - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, 2001, Chapter 8 No
Gennaro (Rocco) & Fishman (Yonatan I.) The Argument from Brain Damage Vindicated Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 5 No
Grant (Angela) The bilingual brain: why one size doesn’t fit all Paper - By Subtopic Aeon, 13 March, 2017 Yes
Graziano (Michael) Build-a-brain Paper - By Subtopic Aeon, 10 July, 2015 Yes
Greenfield (Susan) Soul, Brain and Mind Paper - By Subtopic Crabbe - From Soul to Self 30%
Greenfield (Susan) The Greek Mind in the Modern World Paper - By Subtopic Backdoor Broadcasting Company No
Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) Aeon: C-F Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: C-F 26%
Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) Aeon: General & A-B Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: General & A-B 35%
Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) Aeon: G-K Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: G-K 25%
Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) Aeon: L-P Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: L-P 27%
Hines (Terence) Brain, Language, and Survival after Death Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 8 No
Horder (Jamie) The Brain that Doesn’t Know Itself: Persons Oblivious to their Neurological Deficits Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 9 No
James (William) Consciousness, the Brain and Immortality Paper - By Subtopic Edwards - Immortality, pp, 282-291 No
Johnston (Mark) Human Beings Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Journal of Philosophy, Volume 84, Issue 2 (Feb 1987), 59-83 Yes
Kandel (Eric R.) & Hawkins (Robert D.) The Biological Basis of Learning and Individuality Paper - By Subtopic Damasio - The "Scientific American" Book of the Brain: The Best Writing on Consciousness No
Kolak (Daniel) & Martin (Raymond), Eds. Self and Identity: Contemporary Philosophical Issues Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Medium Quality Abstract Kolak (Daniel) & Martin (Raymond), Eds. - Self and Identity: Contemporary Philosophical Issues No
Lewin (Roger) Is Your Brain Really Necessary? Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Science, New Series, Vol. 210, No. 4475 (Dec. 12, 1980), pp. 1232-1234 Yes
Lewis (Marc) The addiction habit Paper - By Subtopic Aeon, 14 December, 2016 Yes
MacKay (Donald) Brains, Machines & Persons Book - By Subtopic MacKay (Donald) - Brains, Machines & Persons Yes
Marsh (Henry) Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery Book - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Marsh (Henry) - Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery Yes
Marsh (Henry) Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery Paper - By Subtopic Marsh (Henry) - Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery Yes
Martin (L. Michael) & Augustine (Keith) The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Medium Quality Abstract Martin (L. Michael) & Augustine (Keith) - The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death 15%
McCormick (Matt) Dead as a Doornail: Souls, Brains, and Survival Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 2 No
Miller (Kenneth D.) Will You Ever Be Able to Upload Your Brain? Paper - By Subtopic NY Times, 11th October 2015 Yes
Napadow (Vitaly) Does acupuncture work by re-mapping the brain? Paper - By Subtopic Aeon, 04 October, 2017 Yes
Noe (Alva) Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness Book - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Noe (Alva) - Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness 23%
Obler (Loraine K.) & Gjerlow (Kris) Language and the Brain Book - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Obler (Loraine K.) & Gjerlow (Kris) - Language and the Brain 1%
O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. Mind, Self and Person Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person 34%
Olson (Eric) What are We? Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Medium Quality Abstract Olson (Eric) - What are We? 57%
Olson (Eric) What Are We? Brains Paper - By Subtopic High Quality Abstract What Are We? A Study in Personal Ontology, Chapter 4 (November 2007: Oxford University Press.) 22%
Piccinini (Gualtiero) & Bahar (Sonya) No Mental Life after Brain Death: The Argument from the Neural Localization of Mental Functions Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 6 No
Pinto (Yair) When you split the brain, do you split the person? Paper - By Subtopic Aeon, 26 September, 2017 Yes
Popper (Karl) & Eccles (John) The Self and Its Brain Book - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Popper (Karl) & Eccles (John) - The Self and Its Brain 3%
Puccetti (Roland) Brain Bisection and Personal Identity Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 24:339-355 (1973) No
Puccetti (Roland) Mr. Brennan on Person's Brains Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Analysis 31.1, 1970, pp. 30-32 No
Puccetti (Roland) Two Brains, Two Minds? Wigan's Theory of Mental Duality Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Kolak & Martin - Self and Identity: Contemporary Philosophical Issues No
Restak (Richard) The Modular Brain Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Medium Quality Abstract Restak (Richard) - The Modular Brain 2%
Restak (Richard) The Modular Brain: Introduction Paper - By Subtopic Restak - The Modular Brain, 1994, Introduction 33%
Rosenthal (David), Ed. The Nature of Mind Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Rosenthal (David), Ed. - The Nature of Mind 11%
Samuels (Richard) What Brains Won't Tell Us About the Mind: A Critique of the Neurobiological Argument Against Representational Nativism Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Mind and Language 13.4, Dec. 1998, pp. 548-570 No
Seifert (Josef) Is 'Brain Death' Actually Death Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract The Monist, Vol. 76, No. 2, Philosophical Aspects of Death and Dying (APRIL 1993), pp. 175-202 No
Shewmon (D. Alan) The Brain and Somatic Integration: Insights Into the Standard Biological Rationale for Equating “Brain Death” With Death Paper - By Subtopic High Quality Abstract Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Oct. 2001 26.5, pp. 457-478 No
Smart (J.C.C.) Further Remarks on Sensations and Brain Processes Paper - By Subtopic Borst - The Mind-Brain Identity Theory No
Smart (J.C.C.) Materialism Paper - By Subtopic Borst - The Mind-Brain Identity Theory No
Smart (J.C.C.) Sensations and Brain Processes Paper - By Subtopic Rosenthal - The Nature of Mind Yes
Smart (J.C.C.) The Mind/Brain Identity Theory Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy 12%
Steinhart (Eric) Persons Versus Brains: Biological Intelligence in Human Organisms Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Biology and Philosophy, Volume 16, Number 1, January 2001, pp. 3-27(25). Yes
Taylor (Richard) Metaphysics Book - By Subtopic (via Paper By Subtopic) Low Quality Abstract Taylor (Richard) - Metaphysics 7%
Taylor (Richard) Polarity Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract Taylor (Richard) - Metaphysics, Chapter 12 No
Theil (Stefan) Why the Human Brain Project Went Wrong - and How to Fix It Paper - By Subtopic Scientific American, 1st October 2015 Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Brain Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Brain Death Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Cerebrum Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Veatch (Robert M.) The Evolution of Death and Dying Controversies Paper - By Subtopic Low Quality Abstract The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 39, No. 3 (May - Jun., 2009), pp. 16-19 No
Veatch (Robert M.) The Impending Collapse of the Whole-Brain Definition of Death Paper - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Jul. - Aug., 1993), pp. 18-24 No
Wilkerson (T.E.) Minds, Brains and People Book - By Subtopic Medium Quality Abstract Wilkerson (T.E.) - Minds, Brains and People 4%



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