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Personal Identity - Research - Proposal

The topic1 I wish to research2 is “Personal Identity”, with the focus3,4,5,6 on the ontology7 of, and persistence criteria for, human persons8 and related sortals9. Since it is a contingent fact that all existents that are universally agreed to be persons are members of the species homo sapiens10, we must start with human beings in deciding what persons are.

I will scrutinise certain basic assumptions that I accept. Firstly, that the “identity” involved in personal identity is the ordinary logical notion11. Secondly, that some form of physicalism12 in the philosophy of mind is true and central to the topic. Thirdly, while it is analytic that survival involves identity, that what matters in survival13 is both physical14 & psychological15 continuity16.

In considering what a person is, I will need to consider somatic17, forensic18 and psychological19 issues, and, in particular, focus on self-consciousness20 and the first-person perspective21. I will need to consider semantic and conceptual22 issues as well as ontological issues.

I will focus on two views, namely Animalism23 and the Constitution View24. I must consider just what Baker and others mean by “constitution”, and evaluate the cogency of the supposedly knock-down “too many minds” argument25 that Olson and others have raised against it.

Key questions are whether or not the concept of a person is a natural kind concept26, and whether the various views take persons sufficiently seriously27. That is, are persons no more than phase sortals28 of certain animals29 or are they ontological novelties, as Baker suggests?

I will consider the usual problem cases, whether obtained from clinical observation30 or thought experiment31, including brain transplant, fission32, fusion33, duplication34, replication35 and metamorphosis36. In particular, I want to compare forward37 and backward psychological continuity and the role of normal causality38 in preserving identity. However, I need to consider whether all talk of first-person perspectives depends on a, presumably non-existent, Cartesian Ego39.

Since I’m particularly averse to “closest continuer”40 theories, I am tempted by four-dimensionalism41 and shared person-stages as a solution to some of the paradoxes where, otherwise, awkward choices have to be made. Since there are acknowledged difficulties for the perdurantist in not being able to count42 tokens of persons and other sortals, I need to address the attempted solutions43.44

I conclude this document (by way of an end-note) by considering the thought experiment of teletransportation45 to rehearse the key issues. I would need to repeat this exercise for all the favourites, including Unger’s Siliconisation46 and Williams’s backup/restore47.48

Note last updated: 26/09/2007 20:41:17

Footnote 1: (Background)

This study originated as a discussion document for my first (and only) tutorial when I was registered for the MPhilStud in 2005. I’ve resurrected it as a research proposal, and added a fair amount of material, but the notes probably attempt too much at this stage. Additionally, I’ve forgotten where the references are from, and haven’t had time to hunt them out. The first few pages are probably important in the context of my current application. The notes are very much “work in progress”. I’ve removed all the acknowledgements of muddle that appeared in the immediately previous edition, but they are to be understood passim.

Note last updated: 12/08/2007 10:17:46

Footnote 2: (Research - Internet Technology)

Another of my interests is a metaphilosophical project to use internet technology in the service of philosophy. Already in this little document I have felt the need for many levels of footnoting. I wish to use this course of study as an experiment in implementing some ideas and developing some technology that’s easy to use and freely available. It strikes me that any philosophical proposition is embedded in a host of other propositions held dear by its espouser, or depends on reasoning that's difficult to display in print. Cascading hyperlinks, contextual pop-ups and the like come to mind as potential aids to lucidity. Making such functions easy to generate and maintain would be difficult, so I see some prototyping coming along as part of my PhD scratch-work. Maybe the whole idea depends on epistemological foundationalism, but I think it’s consistent with coherentism. Either way, it would rather mercilessly expose one's ignorance and biases. I understand that the thesis will have to be written up traditionally.

Note last updated: 12/08/2007 10:17:46

Footnote 3: (Research - Focus)

Vastly more will be researched and written up than can be included in a 70,000-word thesis, though maybe some of this surfeit can be included in a book and in the above-mentioned internet site.

The issues in general philosophy that will require investigation in support of this research include:-

  • Concepts
  • Causation
  • Change
  • Consciousness
  • Free Will
  • Intuition and Thought Experiments
  • Modality
  • Natural Kinds
  • Psychopathology
  • Substance
  • Time
  • Vagueness
  • Etc ….
Additionally, this project overlaps somewhat with a more ambitious one in the Philosophy of Religion.

Note last updated: 12/08/2007 10:17:46

Footnote 4: (Research - Distractions)

While I’m admitting to potential distractions, I must mention another, which is to get an MSc in mathematics by the time I’m 60. While this wouldn’t start until I’d completed my PhD, a fair amount of “warming up” would be required in parallel. I'd like to do some philosophy of mathematics one day, but my handling of the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos was a complete disaster, so abject that I'm in need of some rehabilitation (on the grounds that those that can’t do shouldn’t philosophise). I'd been tempted to return to chess and bridge, but these are fundamentally a waste of time, and I'm hopeful that mathematics (pursued at a much more leisurely pace than the cracking one Cambridge required of its unfortunate undergraduates) might press the same buttons. Maybe being good at mathematics (in the "Cambridge" sense), like being able to play the violin in tune, is just a special skill that some people have and others can never acquire; and that if you don't have it, you should just concentrate on the talents you do have. What worries me is that philosophy is much less constrained by the merciless exposure of falsehoods or rewarded by the discovery of certain truths, and that the discipline of mathematics might be a good foil. Yet people who've excelled in both mathematics and philosophy (eg. Pascal, Leibniz, Russell) don’t seem to have treated philosophy as a poor relation. The two disciplines involve, however, completely different ways of thinking - from the narrowest to the widest possible focus.

Note last updated: 12/08/2007 10:17:46

Footnote 5: (Thesis - Method & Form)

Form of the Argument

  1. The thesis will present an abductive argument (as in my BA Dissertation “Poverty of Stimulus Arguments for Innate Grammar”), that is, an inference to the best explanation of the data.
  2. That’s why I have to consider so many aspects of the subject, so many thought experiments and so much clinical2 data. Into which story does it all best fit?
  3. I may have to reject some recalcitrant thought experiments as ill-formed, but I do not wish to ignore anything significant.
  4. For some time, I have considered Animalism as the most likely account of what human beings are, and I propose this thesis to evaluate the arguments for and against it, using the rival “Constitution View” as a foil.

  • Over the years I have read a lot of books and papers on the topic of Personal Identity.
    1. For some, I have made extensive on-line write-ups.
    2. For others, the write-up is incomplete, or sketchy.
    3. For yet others, I have (more or less) extensively annotated the margin (in so doing ruining many an expensive volume!).
    4. Finally, some have simply been read (and probably forgotten).
  • I have also written numerous Notes on almost every aspect of the subject, though many of them are place-holders awaiting filling-out. These Notes link to the Books and Papers, either explicitly or thematically, and to one another.
  • Follow this Link for an explanation of the various Objects in my Research database, though the Note needs updating in the light of changes since 2010.
  • All this has resulted in a huge unfocussed cobweb of material, which needs to be subjected to some order and completeness. This has started by outlining the Chapters of the Thesis, and specifying the limited subset of the problem I intend to address in detail.
  • For most Chapters, my approach to producing the first draft of the Chapter will be as follows:-
    1. Determine which Notes that I have written are relevant to this Chapter.
    2. Fill out any Note-place-holders with whatever’s in my head!
    3. Use the reading lists associated with these Notes to establish a limited reading list for the Chapter.
    4. Review whatever I’ve written, in whatever format, on the items in the derived reading lists, and make necessary cosmetic changes in the process of evaluating the items.
    5. Segregate6 this reading list into:-
      … Higher versus lower priority,
      … Read versus unread,
      … Annotated (by hand) versus unannotated
      … Those with an Abstract or Note Write-up versus those without
    6. Cull items that are unlikely to be addressed in the next two years and list them as specifically excluded. I may pick up on these at a later stage of the project, but in the short term the culling process will be essential for making across-the-board progress.
    7. Determine why the residue are important and relevant – if they are – and briefly document the reasons.
    8. Migrate any Book or Paper Abstracts that I have written (as distinct from copied from elsewhere) to Write-Up Notes.
    9. If the Book or Paper is important enough, migrate any hand-written annotations to a Write-Up Note, and complete any important incomplete Write-Up Notes.
    10. Write and maintain a Chapter Summary, motivating and summarising the Chapter. Use this to ensure I don’t get side-tracked.
    11. Incorporate the key points of Write-Up Notes into the Topic Notes.
    12. Incorporate the highest level thoughts from the Topic Notes into the Main Text of the Chapter.
  • In principle, these actions should be effected in number sequence, though there will be some iteration, particularly with the last point, which presents my research findings in their most accessible form for outside interested parties.
  • There are many important papers that are on the reading lists that I have not read. At this stage, I do not intend to read them until I have processed all those papers that I have read. This will require discipline!
  • Most of the “detailed working” of the Chapter should be retained in the topic Notes and Write-ups. The Chapter should be fairly high-level at this stage, with hyperlinks to more detailed or supportive work.
  • I need to have some method of evidencing how far along this trial I have got for each Chapter, but this can wait until there is some progress to report.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 2: I am unsure how much of this I have actually attended to – but it is important to keep it in mind.

Footnote 6: I need to develop a method for this – one probably variable depending on the length of the list.

Note last updated: 22/07/2014 22:23:31

Footnote 6: (Thesis - Current Stance)

The purpose of this Note is to provide a periodic refocusing of what my thoughts and beliefs about the topic of Personal Identity currently are. Previous versions can be found from the list below. This version has links to the various other Notes that expand further on the issues raised, and supply extensive reading lists. While very often these Notes are of the “promissory” variety, the links will remind me to improve them as needed.

  1. What are we? This is one of the most important questions we need to ask ourselves. Just what kind of things are we? The question is closely related to a similar one: just what sort of adventures can individuals such as ourselves survive? This second question sheds light on the first for if there are certain contingencies that we think we would – or would not – survive, when a typical member of that kind would not – or would – survive, then that kind may not represent what we really think we are. Of course, we might be wrong in our estimations, but at least this will raise the question.
  2. Why is this not a trivial question? If we look at a dog, say, and ask what it is, the answer to such a question is obvious – it’s a dog! It may be our pet – with a name – a particular individual, but when we ask what kind of thing it is, it’s a member of the species canis lupus. So, when we look at ourselves, the obvious answer is that we are human beings – specifically human animals, members of the species homo sapiens. That is the answer posited by the Animalists, amongst whose number – broadly speaking – I place myself, who accept the biological view of personal identity.
  3. If this is true, then our persistence conditions – the necessary and sufficient conditions for us to continue in existence – are the same as those of other animals – the great apes, say, under which category we fall, biologically speaking. Why is this not the end of the story? Well, this is because – despite being a species of great ape – human beings are special in that we have enhanced cognitive capacities. We are morally accountable. In sum, we are persons, and have a “first person perspective” (FPP) on the world – something most philosophers deny to other animals – and care about our futures and – wantons apart – agonise over our past mistakes. Lynne Rudder Baker claims this perspective makes an ontological difference, rather than being – as I think – a special property of human beings that may or may not be had in particular cases. Baker accuses the animalists of not taking persons seriously. I might just note that there’s a facile and confusing answer to what we are, that is “people”. You may have noticed that I used the technical term “persons” as the plural of “person”. Some philosophers annoyingly use the term “people”, but this confuses the issue. When we say there are ten people in the room, while it is clear in normal circumstances what we mean – dogs don’t count, for instance – but if there happened to be a Klingon and a visiting angel, would they count as people or not? They are – we may suppose – persons, but they are not human persons
  4. Since at least John Locke, this fact of our mental exceptionalism has tempted philosophers to say that it’s our psychological continuity that is more important for our identity-preservation than our physical continuity. This view still has its supporters – not only for those such as Dean Zimmerman and Richard Swinburne who believe in immaterial souls – but for the many who think that psychological continuity and connectedness is constitutive of the identity of persons. It is also implicit in the ideas of the Transhumanists who think that – come the Singularity – we might be capable of being uploaded to computers and thereby live almost forever.
  5. Before proceeding further we have to say something brief and sketchy about identity and persistence. “Identity” – in the sense of “numerical identity” – is a relation a thing holds to itself and to nothing else. A is identical to B if A and B are the very same thing. It is an equivalence relation, being transitive, reflexive and idempotent; and, many of the sticking points in the philosophy of personal identity arise from this fact.
    1. It has nothing to do with “identity” as a sociological concept such as national identity, sexual identity or identification with a particular group.
    2. Also, John may be said “not to be the same person” since he took heroin, but he is still John and still the same individual; it’s just that his personality has changed.
    3. It also has nothing to do with “narrative identity” which is the story we tell about ourselves in an attempt to make sense of our lives.
    4. Finally, it has nothing to do with “exact similarity”: my television may be “identical” to yours, but that doesn’t mean I can have yours if mine breaks. They are – or were, when manufactured – exactly similar, but are distinct.
  6. “Persisting” is what a thing does in continuing in existence. As we noted above, there are what are called “persistence conditions” – specific to a kind of thing – that set out what vicissitudes a thing can survive if it is to remain that very same thing. There are sometimes hard cases, and there can seem sometimes that there is an element of convention: is a particular club still the same clubs after it has lost all its original members, changed its name, and so on? But we can’t accept that our own existence is a matter of convention, though this could seem the case with the once-dominant psychological view of personal identity: just how much psychological connection could I lose with my former self – philosophers wondered – and still be me? However, things seem simpler and more objective for organisms, which persist despite exchanging material with the environment and changing many of their properties, provided they are caught up in a complex and hopefully long drawn-out event (or process) known as a “life”.
  7. In the above I have assumed at least three things.
    1. Firstly, that “things” – or at least some things – exist. There’s a philosophical position known as “Process Metaphysics” (or “Naturalised Metaphysics”) that gives the focus to process rather than ontology, particularly in the case of organisms. I’m not sure how fatal this is to my approach, since I admit that animals are individuated by their lives, which are processes.
    2. Secondly, that we exist. This would seem hardly worth mentioning, other than that certain philosophers – nihilists – have argued that we (whatever we are) or – for similar reasons – various common things like hands – don’t exist.
    3. Finally, I assume that things do indeed persist, at least some of the time.
    I can’t really address these foundational issues here, but will just say a few words on the second issue. There are a lot of interconnected issues to do with the philosophy of time and change, in particular the problem of temporary intrinsics. How can the leaf that was green yesterday be the same leaf if it is brown today? How can the old bald bloke I am today be the same individual as the hirsute teenager all those years ago?
    1. Some philosophers – the exdurantists – say that there’s no relation of identity across time, but merely a weaker counterpart relation analogous to that between an individual and its counterpart in another possible world.
    2. Others – in particular Derek Parfit – have said that even if there is identity across time, it’s not what matters.
    In what follows, I assume that we exist and that we continue to exist self-identically across time and that this identity relation is important. We could not carry on our lives without these assumptions even if – philosophically-speaking – they were false; but I think they are true: I don’t want to distinguish the “strict and philosophical” from the “loose and popular” senses of identity first raised by Joseph Butler. I also assume the standard logic of identity and reject all heretical accounts that are invented from time to time as radical solutions to the difficult questions of persistence. In particular, I reject the view – known as occasional identity that – while (say) I am not identical to my younger self – yet I was that person, just not any more.
  8. Now back to the main thread. Most Anglophone philosophers these days are physicalists (though maybe most non-philosophers are unreflective dualists). This gives physicalist philosophers a problem if they have hopes of post-mortem survival. If the human organism is totally destroyed – eg. by cremation, explosion, or eating of worms – just how does the very same individual get from this life to the next? Christian Materialists have had a go at thinking this through, and acknowledge the difficulties. Peter Van Inwagen attempted to show that it is at least logically possible by having God snatch away the dying body immediately pre-mortem, replacing it with a simulacrum. Dean Zimmerman – while himself a dualist – has suggested a “falling elevator” model to help out his materialist friends, whereby there is immanent causation (by some unknown natural or supernatural process) between the dying body and the resurrection one so that the dying individual escapes in the nick of time to the next world without loss of numerical identity. Others claim that God’s omnipotence is sufficient and is sovereign even over the laws of logic, so that problems raised by identity being an equivalence relation can be overcome by brute force. Maybe so, but without the constraints of logical possibility, we have no way of arguing the matter, so let’s not bother.
  9. However, most Christian materialists prefer an alternative. They recognise that getting from here to the next world with temporal or spatial gaps raises difficult questions as to whether the numerical identity of the individual is preserved but adopt an alternative solution – the Constitution View. On this thesis, the person is distinct from the human animal – “just as” the statue is distinct from its constituting marble – so that the very same person – tagged by the unique “first person perspective” noted above – can be constituted first by its earthly body, and subsequently by its heavenly one.
  10. Some Animalists have what they think of as a knock-down argument against the Constitution View. Eric Olson calls it the “Thinking Animal” argument. If the person and the animal are distinct things, albeit co-located, there are too many thinkers – because the animal can certainly think, as can the person, so we have two thinkers where we thought we had one – which is one problem; and there’s another – how do we know which we are, the person or the animal? I’m not impressed by this argument. There are several “multiple occupancy” conundrums that have been claimed at one time or another to deny the existence of things we are sure do exist. Dion and Theon, Tib and Tibbles, the “problem of the many” and so on. We just need to sort out our rules for counting. Also, the whole question of three- versus four-dimensionalism (4D) – whether a persisting thing is wholly present at a time – or whether only a temporal part is present, the thing as a whole being a “space-time worm” – bears on the question of counting. If different things can share stages – say the person and the human animal, or the statue and the clay – then we have to be careful how we count. In the case of a future fission – whereby two space-time worms share their past stages, but will ultimately diverge – we might not know how many to count at a time, but this will often not matter for practical purposes.
  11. I think the idea of a first-person perspective is important. It is this that provides the pull against animalism when linked to various thought experiments (TEs) that we’ll come on to presently. However, I still don’t like the Constitution View. My objection is that the FPP is a property of something else – like a smile – in this case of a human animal, though the smile might belong to a cat. You can’t take the very same smile from one cat and place on another (it would be at best an exactly similar smile) – let alone have a disembodied smile like that of the Cheshire Cat. Similarly, you can’t take the very same FPP from one body and plop it onto another. True, it might be a qualitatively exactly similar FPP, but not the same one. What’s to stop that FPP being plopped on several resurrection bodies? Which would be numerically identical to me, given that they can’t all be, in the absence of 4D?
  12. What are the temptations for not sticking with the animalist approach – which ought these days to be the default position in the absence of anything more compelling? As noted, the apparent lack of rational expectation of an afterlife is one incentive to look elsewhere, so “elsewhere” is a favourite for those who can’t bear the thought of their selves expiring with their bodies. We’ve noted the Christian dualists and materialists, but what about the Transhumanists? There’s the relatively metaphysically uninteresting case of cryoscopy followed by repair and resuscitation; there we have material continuity, and no possibility of reduplication, though some might claim there is too much outside interference for identity to be preserved. But, what about the “hope” of “you” being uploaded to a computer? There seems to be an idea about that “we” are really software (or data), when we are clearly material beings. If we are software, it is said, then we might “run” on different hardware. I have two issues with this, apart from the immense technical obstacles to be overcome both in “scanning” the “real you” and providing a computer of sufficient power to run your program and the virtual world for you to experience, Matrix-like.
    1. Firstly, what sort of thing is a program? It’s an interesting question whether a program has persistence conditions. Is Windows 10 the same program as Windows 0? Whatever the answer to this question is, a program would seem to be a kind of universal rather than a particular, and “we” are particulars.
    2. This leads to the second issue – a reduplication objection. Say we developed a sophisticated program that could run on an open-ended number of exactly similar robots. No two of these would be numerically identical to one another – they would be distinct, though exactly similar. So, were the program to be a simulation of your brain, it could run – presumably – on an open-ended number of computers – and these computers (or computer partitions) would not be identical to one another, so none of them could be you, as you could only be one of them, and there’s no principled way of saying which. The same objection prevents Star Trek-like teletransportation – were it possible – being identity-preserving. I might also add that no “program” is – in itself – conscious, though a machine that runs it might conceivably be. Mind you, there are arguments here as well – originated by John Searle – at least for digital computers.
    Incidentally, the transhumanists seem to imagine unending computer life as a secular heaven, but it could just as easily be a secular hell.
  13. So, I remain wedded to my view that we are human animals with the persistence conditions of such. “Person” is not a substance term, but an honorific that refers to some substance during some periods of its existence when it has the requisite mental and moral properties to qualify. “Person” is a Phase Sortal (like “teacher”) that – in the case of “person” – applies to most humans most of the time, but need not apply to all humans all the time. There are ethical consequences for this view, but they are not as dramatic as is sometimes urged. Non-persons don’t have moral responsibilities, as is already recognised for demented or infant humans, and all non-human animals. The obverse – that persons allegedly have no moral obligations towards non-persons – or that non-persons have no rights – is the sticking point, and ought to be reflected in a more humane treatment of all non-persons rather than that we might contemplate sending human non-persons as well as non-human non-persons to the slaughter-house.
  14. So, what are the problems for animalists? There are several. Some – like the so-called “corpse problem” (is my corpse me – only dead – if not, where does it come from? It doesn’t have the persistence conditions of an organism) are probably relatively easy to overcome. Recently, I’ve discovered that animalists – like (but for different reasons) those who think we are essentially persons – allegedly have a “fetus problem”. Animalists – saying that we are essentially animals – have (it seems) to say that we were once foetuses – which appears to be what our animal once was. But was this fetus once a proper part of its mother? There’s work currently going on to suggest that this is so – and if so, just when did the new human animal come into existence? However, I don’t think any of this seriously threatens animalism. Maybe animalists should have considered the problem more than they have, but animals do come into existence sometime – presumably by the time of birth at the latest – and that’s enough for an animalist.
  15. The real problems for animalism stem from the force of thought experiments such as the “brain transplant intuition”. An animalist seems forced to say that I would not “go with my brain” in the circumstance where my brain is transplanted into another body, when it seems to most people that I would. The alleged reason for this is that at least some animalists consider the brain to be “just another organ” that we might lose like we might lose a kidney, provided the animal is kept alive. Doubts about this have led some to think that we are not “really” whole human animals but proper parts thereof, maybe not brains as such, but brains and a few other bits. This does seem comical. Just how large am I – would I fit into a hat-box, as Olson asks?
  16. My view is as follows. I am currently (thankfully) a whole human animal. My wife worked in the NHS with amputees, and I think it is right to say that they also are whole human animals, though they lack parts that most of us have. No doubt they could lose more parts – and some diabetics sadly do. So, we might view a “brain in a vat” – one ready for transplant – as a “maximally mutilated” human animal. Maybe – in the case of a brain transplant – a prior animal has fissioned (divided into two) when the brain is extracted and we now have a case of the fusion of two animals (the brain from one fusing with the body of the other). It might be argued that our identity-logic isn’t quite up to deciding who is who in such circumstances, but the stakes seem high enough to demand an answer, for which read on.
  17. I doubt whether the transhumanist hopes of augmenting our physical or mental attributes by effectively converting us into cyborgs is much of a threat to animalism. We don’t worry about our spectacles or our mobiles phones making us any less mammalian. Closer integration with AI applications is only the next step for the extended mind.
  18. So, is there any purchase in thought experiments that putatively have my first person perspective persisting in cases where there is no identity preservation. Could it be the case that “it seems to me” that I have survived some vicissitude – a cerebrum transplant, say – but I am mistaken? Some philosophers argue that this happens every night – I go to sleep, and when I wake up I just assume that I am identical to the individual who got into bed, but how do I know? I might be intellectually convinced by third parties – those other than the sleeper and the waker – one way or another, but how would this affect how it seems to me? Take the teletranportation case. Because of the reduplication objection (unless we are 4-dimensionalists), we should say that numerical identity is not preserved. But – if the technology works, and I am the teletransportee – the individual (or 77 duplicates) would (all) wake up convinced they were me, yet they must be deceived. Thankfully, reduplication is not a problem for whole-brain transplants, but it is for idempotent half-brain transplants, though I think the identity problem there occurs during the fissioning process rather than when the half-brains are implanted.
  19. I continue to think that there is a distinction to be made between forward and backward psychological continuity, though I don’t see how third parties – or even first or second parties – could tell the difference. It makes all the difference to me if I go to sleep and someone else wakes up thinking they are me – as against the normal case where I go to sleep and I wake up. In the former case – for me – there’s just an endless nothingness, of which I know nothing, while in the latter case my experiential life carries on. However, backward psychological continuity – what it feels like looking back – is the same for a survivor and one who only thinks he’s survived.
  20. In the case of the split brain transplant, however, how is it all supposed to work, experientially? Neurosurgery is – even today – carried out on substantially conscious patients, as that way there’s a quick feedback loop to tell the surgeon whether he’s destroying any important areas of cognitive function. What would it be like to “fission”? Maybe I lack the imagination, but it seems to me that my First Person Perspective would go along with whatever was the dominant hemisphere, assuming this “seat of consciousness” is initially located in one hemisphere or the other. If it is not, then it would presumably be destroyed and two new ones would be created in this miracle operation. Either way, this would sit comfortably with the logic of identity which would not be violated, as at most one of the recipients would be me. I can imagine being ripped apart psychologically, but I can’t imagine going two ways.
  21. Of course, there are physical and metaphysical issues with the whole idea of brain transplants – the physical structure of the brain reflects “its” body, and mental faculties are not fully localised, so it’s not just the immensely complex task of “wiring up” the brain to its new body that presents a challenge. Half-brain transplants are even more problematical as in the TEs the brain stem is not split, but only the cerebra are supposed to be transplanted. It’s not clear to me whether there is pervasive confusion here and that these thought experiments are underspecified to the degree of incoherence. Some philosophers – eg. Kathleen Wilkes – think TEs are unhelpful in the philosophy of personal identity, and that our concepts are not up to being probed in this way. I’m not so sure – the TEs are about us, not our concepts.
  22. There is finally the question whether there is any such thing as “the Self”, which is what is supposed to have this FPP. Some contemporary philosophers argue that the Self is an illusion that the brain generates. Others – such as David Hume – have argued; and others – such as Galen Strawson – do argue that when they introspect they find no evidence of a persisting Self. I don’t know where they are coming from, as I can’t think of anything more certain. But a Buddhist-inspired “no-self” view makes the animalist’s task easier, if maybe less interesting.

Note last updated: 05/01/2018 00:11:31

Footnote 7: (Ontology)

What persons really are. Maybe it’s best to step back, with Locke, consider the sorts of thing that persist and establish the persistence conditions for these sorts: bodies, animals, human beings. The ontological question is whether persons are extra to this list. Baker holds the view that when a person comes into existence, so does a new entity, of a new kind. A world without persons would be ontologically impoverished. But is this so, or do existing entities simply gain new properties? We must even (on certain definitions of PERSON) ask whether there are any, or whether the term can be eliminated. See "Unger (Peter) - Why There Are No People" and "Unger (Peter) - I Do Not Exist". Since his sorites arguments eliminate all material entities with parts, not just persons, (and indeed only persons on the assumption that they are material entities with parts) I, along with the later Unger, wish to reject such conclusions.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 8: (Person)

I must first consider whether the debate on personal identity has been hijacked by a term (whose meaning has changed over time) that can now be dispensed with? Wiggins claims that the Greeks had no term for “person” (I need to re-read the paper by "Trendelenberg (Adolf) - A Contribution to the History of the Word Person" to double-check this). Have we always secretly been talking about human animal identity (probably referring to human beings rather than human animals) when we thought we were talking about something separate, namely persons?

I need to start with some conceptual analysis, though this may lead to somewhat arbitrary (ie. merely semantic or culture-relative) conclusions if PERSON isn’t a natural kind concept. I accept Locke’s conceptual distinction between Human Beings (“Men”), Persons and Substances. I accept Locke’s assertion that the rational parrot would be a person, but not a man – the latter essentially involving particular physical characteristics, the former specific mental characteristics.

Can any purely mentalistic definition of the concept PERSON, such as Locke’s definition of a person as …

  • “a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places” ("Locke (John) - Of Identity and Diversity" - Essay II.27.2),
… be correct? I suspect not, because of the corporeal aspects we take as being essential to our self-image. But, when we think of ourselves in this corporeal way, is this qua ANIMAL or qua PERSON. But then, this “qua-ing” can lead to relative identity, and shows how difficult it is for me, at least, to maintain the strict logic of identity in these discussions. Some further, fairly random, thoughts:-
  • We must not ignore potential differences between the Person, the Self and the Individual.
  • I doubt the truth of the contention that one’s Self is the sum of one’s projects, one’s individual “identity”.
  • We must also note the potential for degrees of personhood.
  • Are persons essentially sentient? Or rational? And is rationality, like the mental generally, overstated by philosophers whose favourite habitat it is?
  • What about temporal gaps in sentience & rationality in the life of an individual – does the person pop in and out of existence?
  • What about legal persons: not companies, but the comatose, who still have estates (but then so do the deceased)?
  • How important is “person”, as against “sentient being” in my research concerns? The Cartesians denied sentience to animals and until recently there has been a down-playing of the capacities of animals, particularly their emotional capacities. Consequently, the persistence criteria for sentient non-humans may not have been given the focus they ought. I suspect that many of the thought experiments work just as well if we drop some of the more onerous requirements of personhood in such contexts. Some of the thought experiments play on the thought of “being tortured tomorrow”. While animals may not have the concept TOMORROW, I presume the higher animals have some capacity for anticipating future ills about to befall them. I wonder whether my research concerns should be about all beings that care about the future, whether or not they have a clear concept of it as their future.
I will probably start with Dennett’s six criteria of personhood (see "Dennett (Daniel) - Conditions of Personhood") …
  • rationality,
  • intentionality – “predicated of”
  • intentionality – “adopted towards”
  • reciprocation of the personal stance,
  • verbal communication and
  • consciousness
… in investigating what persons are. See the following essay.

Note last updated: 16/06/2010 08:57:07

Footnote 9: (Sortals)

Using Howard Robinson’s terminology ("Robinson (Howard) - Dualism (Stanford)"), the Ultimate Sort of a thing is that property without which the thing ceases to exist. However, an individual falling under a Phase Sortal can lose the property that defines the phase without ceasing to exist. Ultimate Sorts are presumably the same as Baker’s Primary Kinds, though I can’t remember if she has an analogue of a Phase Sortal. The standard example is of a HUMAN BEING (as the Ultimate Sort) and CHILD (as a Phase Sortal). So, is personhood an attribute of a human being, like “childhood”, that a human being can either possess or lack, or are persons ontologically separate from “their” human beings?

Wiggins argues that we can’t talk of the persistence conditions of anything until we know what sort it is. Olson claims that it’s futile to talk of the persistence conditions of persons per se – if human beings, God and angels are all persons – since their persistence conditions (assuming the existence of God and angels, for the sake of the argument) are completely different. This lack of a common set of persistence conditions would indicate that PERSON is not an Ultimate Sort.

I (intend to) discuss the sorts that we may fall under in the Note on “What are We?”.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 10: (Homo Sapiens)

This page probably ought to say something about species, their reality and their status as natural kind concepts.

I don’t think it’s a conceptual truth that the only persons are human persons. Consequently, I do not deny personhood to extinct hominids, or (possibly) to the great apes, dolphins, Klingons, machines, gods, angels and such-like. However, I do think it’s an empirical truth that the only persons whose personhood we reliably know anything about are human persons, so think we should start there. Also, my main interest is in human persons, so this will be my initial focus. Since, I will need to consider whether human persons can exist in non-human bodies (transmigration, mechanisation, resurrection bodies) or even as disembodied minds, so I will need to move on from this base camp.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 11: (Logic of Identity)

Plug Note1

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
  • I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
  • As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
  • The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.

Note last updated: 28/01/2018 05:15:22

Footnote 12: (Physicalism)

Basically, I reject any form of mind-body dualism or immaterialist monism. There are no souls, if a soul is an immaterial substance separable from a body. But, I need to investigate Zimmerman’s recent “emergent dualism” (see "Zimmerman (Dean) - Reply to Baker's 'Christians Should Reject Mind-Body Dualism'"), despite the fact that his main motivation is a desire to conform to a traditionalist reading of Christian doctrine. Given my focus on physicalism, I will need to give some attention to the identity and persistence criteria of material objects as such. There are too many versions of physicalism for its endorsement to deliver much without clarification, so I will need to pursue the matter in some detail. For the moment, I simply wish to note (or claim) that:

  1. “The physical” encompasses both body and brain (ie. the physical criterion of personal identity would be satisfied if continuity of brain were essential for the persistence of the person).
  2. The brain is more important than other physical organs for the persistence of the human being or the human person.
Consequently, I think it worthwhile to conduct a detailed investigation into the functional roles of the various parts of the brain, CNS (Central Nervous System) and PNS (peripheral ...) and how these and the residue of the body are coupled together. Such matters may be relevant to the realism of the various thought experiments about brain transplants, cerebrum transplants and such-like.

It is, however, debatable how important these details are. For example, debates seem to continue about the possible identity of pain and C-fibre-firing, when it’s now acknowledged by all the participants in such debates that the physical realisation of pain-states in mammals requires a lot more than C-fibres. The assumption seems to be that the details don’t matter and that similar arguments could be constructed whatever the physical realisation of mental states might be.

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 13: (Survival)

I need to distinguish two interpretations of Parfit according to whether survival and identity are or are not equated. A standard Parfitian claim is that “what matters in survival is not identity”. Parfit is right that the issue isn’t necessarily “am I (A) identical to B or C”, but “will I have what matters in survival if B, or C, or both survive”, and that the reason the two questions are elided is that they don’t usually come apart. However, there’s incoherence in an expression such as “will I survive as B”, if I’m not supposed identical to B, since survival and this use of the personal pronoun seem to imply identity. Also in an expression such as “will I have what matters”, to what does the “I” refer if I’m assumed not to persist? To my present self only? I might now see that I might be happy that a certain future state of affairs, not involving me, appertains, but I would then not have what matters, nor indeed have anything at all.

So, I think we do need to distinguish, with Parfit, identity from what matters in survival. His idea seems to be that we can have what matters in survival without surviving. Parfit’s concerns are fundamentally ethical, with Buddhist tendencies. He’s trying to remove self from ethics and persuade us that we don’t need self, and therefore don’t need self-identity. Parfit’s claim, which I believe to be false, is that we don’t really care about our persistence as such, but about the survival of our projects, which can as well or better be prosecuted by others. But we are more selfish than that, and in many circumstances justifiably so.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 14: (Physical Continuity)

In addition to considering just what contiguity and causal conditions a physical object needs to satisfy in order to persist, I need to consider a jumble of related issues:

  1. Intermittent Objects: can things go in and out of existence? Does the disassembled bicycle still exist in a dispersed state?
  2. Mereology: is the content of any disconnected region of spacetime a thing?
  3. What do decisions here have to say about the possibility of resurrection or reincarnation? Is a physicalist able, even in principle, to allow the possibility of disembodied survival, resurrection or reincarnation, given the need for a continuing physical substance to which the individual is identical? Some Christians are physicalists, and Van Inwagen has (as a wild speculation - see "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection") God miraculously swapping out and preserving our corpses so he can resurrect the same individuals in due course. I need to consider (but expect to reject) such suggestions.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 15: (Psychological Continuity)

Following on from discussions on survival, maybe the way to put things is that without psychological continuity I might survive, but not with what matters to me in survival. If PERSON is a phase sortal of HUMAN ANIMAL, can there be sequential but different persons within the same animal (as Lewis suggests, though not from the perspective of animalism, in his “Methuselah” case) or can there be different and encapsulated first-person perspectives (either synchronically or diachronically) within the same animal? “Person” may indeed come apart from “animal”, but even then, the person cannot “float free” of the animal, but supervenes upon it.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 16: (Continuity)

This topic is covered under the heads of:-

  • Psychological Continuity,
  • Psychological Continuity - Forward,
  • Physical Continuity and
  • Connectedness vs Continuity.

This is a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 17: (Body)

I intend to cover all somatic or corporeal identity-issues under this head, or under one of the two related Notes:-

  • Bodily Continuity, or
  • Body Criterion.
I’ve not quite decided how the labour would be best distributed.

The "physical continuity" view of personal identity encompasses both the body and the brain, with the latter being more important, so that physical continuity is satisfied by a BIV. Somatic continuity is underplayed by philosophers who (while engaged in philosophy) focus more on mental predicates than would those less intellectually inclined. See "James (Susan) - Feminism in Philosophy of Mind: The Question of Personal Identity" and her objections to Williams’s and Quinton’s hasty avoidance of the somatic aspects of “body swapping” – ie. where very different bodies are involved, especially of different sexes; also, the depersonalising effects of trauma.

However, there may be confusion here between two meanings of “what matters”. Of course, it matters to the ballet dancer or heavyweight boxer that they are appropriately embodied, but this is beside the point as far as personal identity (in the logical sense) is concerned. It matters to me if I lose a leg, but I’m still the same person if I do (because I continue to have the same first-person perspective – it’s me that cares that I’ve lost my leg). That’s why the “Future Great Pain Test” ("Unger (Peter) - Identity, Consciousness and Value" / "Williams (Bernard) - The Self and the Future") is so useful – it focuses the mind on whether it will be me that survives, even in the sad cases where I’d prefer it if it wasn’t.

This is mostly a place-holder. As noted above, the segregation of books and papers between these three related Notes is currently somewhat arbitrary. Currently, the categorised reading-list on this topic is empty.

Note last updated: 27/06/2011 18:57:36

Footnote 18: (Forensic Property)

Locke had concerns about the correct attribution of moral blame or praise on the Great Day of Reckoning, but I doubt the importance to be given to forensic aspects for the topic of personal identity, other than as a historical motivator. I reject Frankfurt’s proposal (see "Frankfurt (Harry) - Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person") that wantons are not persons, on the grounds that they do satisfy the other standard conditions of personhood: they satisfy rationality and linguistic conditions, have a first-person perspective and survival matters to them.

The issue of the punishment of already-reformed or amnesiac criminals has been thought relevant to issues of personal identity, as though any reluctance to punish was tied to doubts about identity. Such doubts only reflect confusion on the purpose of punishment; it depends whether we think of punishment as reformative, retributive, a deterrent, or merely treat incarceration or execution as a necessary evil for the protection of society (by eliminating the source of harm). Only if we think of punishment as reformative, so there’s no point punishing the seriously repentant, might we have doubts about the propriety of carrying out the punishment. However, the reason isn’t that the criminal is a different person but that the needed reformation has already taken place. From the other perspectives, for instance the retributive, there is still a point to the punishment of the already-reformed criminal (cf. C.S. Lewis’s advice – probably in “Mere Christianity” - to the converted murderer as to his Christian duty – it is “to be hanged”; presumably because this was, in Lewis’s day, his debt to the state, to which, as a good Christian, he must submit), and the temptation to provide reasons not to doesn’t arise. With respect to amnesiacs, again there’s only a reluctance to punish on the reformatory view, but again the reluctance has nothing to do with questions of identity, but of the attempt at reformation being ineffective or even counter-productive. If I’m punished for something I can’t remember doing, I’m likely to resent the authority that punishes me.

There is a question of whether persons, as distinct from human beings, are the subjects of special moral concern, or whether it is the reverse implication – that those for whom we feel a special moral concern should be accounted persons. Whether all persons are morally equal is another matter altogether. This is relevant because if the Great Apes were to be counted as persons, of what moral status would they be? See "Rachels (James) - Morality without the Idea that Humans are Special", in "Rachels (James) - Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism", for “Moral Individualism”, the view that difference of moral treatment should depend only on the individual’s characteristics, not their group membership, though thus baldly-stated this raises huge questions. The Great Ape Project (absurdly, it seems to me; see "Cavalieri (Paola) & Singer (Peter), Eds. - The Great Ape Project - Equality Beyond Humanity") demands moral equality between humans and the great apes, on the grounds that the latter have intellectual capabilities on a par with human 2-3 year-olds. Even human beings aren’t equal in their capacities, but we can invent a law demanding that we treat them equally, and we can enact a law extending this moral equality to encompass the great apes, or even stones, if we like. If the great apes satisfy the criteria for personhood, they are persons, but the right to equality of treatment is only loosely connected to capacities.

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 19: (Psychology)

We must consider not just memory but other psychological capacities, including character. However, while these factors do matter to the survivor, they don’t matter in the binary sense of have I survived or not.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 20: (Self-Consciousness)

This is more than just phenomenal consciousness (which may be a watershed in itself with moral consequences greater than generally accepted) but the consciousness of oneself as a self (as Locke noted). But we need also consider the view that this “watcher” is an illusion, a falsely assumed Cartesian Ego whose existence is undermined by neuroscience, the modularity of mind, and such-like.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 21: (First-Person Perspective)

This needs spelling out – what does Baker think this is, and why does she think it so ontologically important. She seems to be obsessed by the thought that beings that can contemplate their own deaths are ontologically different. Why is this, rather that simply a phenomenally conscious perspective, that counts as the ontological watershed? Also, can we really use this term to explain personal identity, as “person” appears in this term? If it’s supposed to be elucidatory of personal identity, we seem to have a circle. Really what’s important is that we have animals with these properties. We can’t reify the property and make it a stand-alone thing, like the Cheshire Cat’s smile.

An argument I’m fond of is that – despite whatever psychological differences there may be between me and my future self – I can both rationally anticipate his experiences and should display rational concern for his well-being. That is because we share the same “window on the world”. Try out the future great pain test and see if I'm worried! Now is this “window on the world” the same as a FPP? After all, it may be that my senile old self no longer qualifies as a “person”, though is phenomenally conscious.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, mostly see the categorised reading-list.

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 22: (Concepts)

See "Unger (Peter) - I Do Not Exist" for the importance of concepts. Unger’s answer to the problem of vagueness – as exemplified by the “disappearing chair” problem (atom-wise annihilation of the chair … just when does it cease to be?) is that there never were any chairs, just our concept of a chair and atoms arranged chair-wise. We sit on the atoms, not on the concept, but we describe the atom-heap as a chair. But this concept is vague, or there is a family resemblance, so sometimes it’s not clear whether it applies or not. The big question is whether natural-kind objects exist independently of our conceptual schemes. Certainly they do as atom-heaps, unclear whether they do as concepts. So, various atom-heaps carry on existing, but whether our concepts carry on applying is vague.

Others (Van Inwagen?) take the view that only mereological simples and organisms exist, which seems to be a similar view.

There seems to be something special about natural-kind concepts, the persistence of whose exemplars (unlike those of artefact-concepts) don’t in any sense seem to depend on us and our concepts. Is PERSON a natural kind concept? If it isn’t, then are we simply left with rather inconsequential semantic arguments?

Are the arguments above really saying above that artefacts don’t exist? Presumably artefacts depend on us for their existence as artefacts, though not as lumps of matter. Baker argues that a new ontological entity (a painting) comes into existence because of the relation of an object (a canvas plus paint appropriately distributed) to an art-world. I need to press Baker here. Are all her analogies truly analogous? Given evolution, even species-concepts (paradigms for natural kind concepts) are mobile rather than being eternally fixed. Yet Baker seems to think that it’s a relation to evolutionary history that makes an animal what it is (as distinct, presumably, from atoms arranged animal-wise).

Note last updated: 25/08/2009 21:38:53

Footnote 23: (Animalism)

Plug Note1

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
  • I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
  • As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
  • The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
Footnote 33:
  • Frequently I’ll have made copious marginal annotations, and sometimes have written up a review-note.
  • In the former case, I intend to transfer the annotations into electronic form as soon as I can find the time.
  • In the latter case, I will have remarked on the fact against the citation, and will integrate the comments into this Note in due course.
  • My intention is to incorporate into these Notes comments on material I’ve already read rather than engage with unread material at this stage.
Footnote 34:
  • I may have read others in between updates of this Note – in which case they will be marked as such in the “References and Reading List” below.
  • In the reading lists that follow, I’ve intended to exclude items whose primary “home” is in another Note, but have probably included a lot that might feature in Click here for Note. .
  • Papers or Books partially read have a rough %age based on the time spent versus the time expected.
Footnote 35:
  • I’ve not explicitly listed the individual chapters, though my comments and write-ups are variable.

Note last updated: 22/01/2018 21:12:58

Footnote 24: (Constitution View)

The Constitution View is that human persons are constituted by their bodies but are not identical to them, though a lot more needs to be said here. The primary source is Lynn Rudder Baker (starting with "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View"), who appears to have a non-mereological view of constitution which is hard to unravel, involving the relation of one complete thing to another (or to a context). I also need to discuss her concern for primary kinds, and the concept of having of properties derivatively. It’s unclear to me whether the brain has a special place for Baker; as far as I remember, she uniformly refers to “bodies”.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 25: (Constitution View - Objections)

The two obvious issues are the “fetus problem” and the “too many minds” objection (otherwise known as the “thinking animal” argument).

In saying that Theo is a human animal and that also that Theo is a person that is ontologically distinct from, and merely constituted by, the human animal, Olson argues that we have too many thinkers and therefore the constitution view is false. I don’t like this argument, in that the form would prove too much. I see analogies with various mereological arguments (Unger’s “there are no ordinary things”, the sorites arguments against the existence of material objects with parts, and maybe with Tib/Tibbles, Dion/Theon). All these arguments seem to have the same form – there are alleged to be too many co-located items, leading to the denial of some seemingly obvious premise. Yet maybe I accept a version of this in disliking immaterial souls (again, too many thinkers – if the brain thinks, why do we need a soul that thinks as well). However, the degree of ontological distinctness between “the self and its brain” is greater than that between the person and the human being that (maybe temporarily) constitutes it. I will reconsider this collection of arguments in due course.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 26: (Natural Kinds)

Plug1 Note

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
  • I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
  • As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
  • The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
Footnote 3: These are rather old, and need careful reviewing

Note last updated: 05/04/2016 23:19:41

Footnote 27: (Taking Persons Seriously)

Indeed, how seriously should they be taken (in metaphysics)? Probably what really matters ontologically is the possession of a conscious (though not necessarily self-conscious) perspective. This is what we must take seriously. Baker would argue that there exists an ontological difference at this stage too … but, why is the first-person perspective so very important – all that worrying about death? Buddhists are trying to lose this sense of self. Do all cultures have it? See "Wong (David) - Relativism" for the Chinese view, which takes the community more seriously than the individual. Whether we ought to take moral or rational beings extra seriously is the point at issue.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 28: (Phase Sortals)

See under Sortals for the introduction of the concept PHASE SORTAL. I seem to have misappropriated the term. In its standard usage (I am told), a phase sortal is a biologically-motivated term. The clearest examples are of individuals that metamorphose; for example the butterfly: egg to larva (caterpillar) to pupa (chrysalis) to adult (butterfly). The caterpillar is a phase sortal of the organism, with clear spatio-temporal boundaries. My standard example is of CHILD, which is a (vaguely-boundaried) biological phase of the substance sortal HUMAN BEING.

An example of a possible human phase sortal that is a non-person is INFANT. This example might be especially relevant to the topic, because “infant” is derived from the Latin in-fans “without speech”, and the capacity for speech is often claimed to be an essential prerequisite for being a person.

Any suggestion that the concept PERSON is “no more than” a phase sortal of an umbrella concept isn’t intended to imply unimportance. Rather, simply that persons might not belong to kinds (and in particular natural kinds), nor be substances, but that personhood might be a property of substances (of animals, for instance).

What about “periodic” phase sortals such as STUDENT? A human being can “pop in and out of” studenthood by registering or deregistering, but he can’t do this with childhood. Which model suits personhood? See the discussion of intermittent objects. However, if the above suggestion that the concept PHASE SORTAL is biologically motivated is correct, a purely social concept such as STUDENT is not a phase sortal in this sense, and PERSON might not be either. I could, of course, invent a new term of art.

All roads seem to lead to Wiggins (Snowdon refers to him a lot in the context of Animalism, though I seem to remember that Olson thinks Wiggins isn’t a true Animalist, but a supporter of the psychological view). I need to read "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance" and "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance Renewed" with some urgency; also, maybe, "Wiggins (David) - Metaphysics: Substance" in "Grayling (Anthony), Ed. - Philosophy 1 - A Guide Through the Subject".

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 29: (Animals)

Plug Note1

  • According to the Animalists, human animals is what we are. Some philosophers, eg. Baker, seem to think that describing us as animals is demeaning, but this seems to muddle together all the varieties of animal into one bestial bunch. Clearly, there are a lot of differences between lug-worms and the great apes, and further – but much less significant – differences between the non-human great apes and ourselves.
  • Several points need to be made here.
    1. Firstly, what all animals have in common is that they are organisms and have common persistence-conditions (PCs) in virtue of this fact; in particular, our psychology – however important to us – is irrelevant to our persistence, and hence, to our identity.
    2. Secondly, the contentious point is whether aspects of the psychology of some higher animals are so distinctive that (as Baker claims) an ontological difference beyond the mere existence of a new species is in evidence. Baker thinks the watershed is a FPP.
    3. Leading on from this is the claim that the FPP is so important, that we are not animals, but persons.
  • A question to consider, probably under the topic of organisms, is whether the PCs of all organisms are the same. Plants and animals are both organisms.
  • Non-animalists raise issues about the presumed supreme moral status and cognitive abilities of human beings. Demonstrating that these abilities – however well or badly exemplified by humans as a species or as individuals – are on a continuum with those of the higher animals – in particular the great apes – rather than unique in kind to human beings – requires the researcher into personal identity to investigate just what the cognitive and moral capacities of animals actually are. Similarly, this study is stimulated by Locke’s claim that personhood is a forensic property.
  • The Note on persons deals with the question of what the concept PERSON consists in. Whether any non-human animals fall under the concept PERSON will be covered in this Note.
  • The segregation of the reading lists below between this Note and that on Animalism is intended to reflect the distinction between the investigation into the cognitive and moral capacities of the higher animals as such – including the comparison between human and non-human animals – and the claim that we human persons are animals.
  • Works on this topic that I’ve actually read15, include16 the following:-
  • A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
  • This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
  • I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
  • As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
  • The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
Footnote 15:
  • Frequently I’ll have made copious marginal annotations, and sometimes have written up a review-note.
  • In the former case, I intend to transfer the annotations into electronic form as soon as I can find the time.
  • In the latter case, I will have remarked on the fact against the citation, and will integrate the comments into this Note in due course.
  • My intention is to incorporate into these Notes comments on material I’ve already read rather than engage with unread material at this stage.
Footnote 16:
  • I may have read others in between updates of this Note – in which case they will be marked as such in the “References and Reading List” below.
  • Papers or Books partially read have a rough %age based on the time spent versus the time expected.

Note last updated: 28/01/2018 05:15:22

Footnote 30: (Clinical Observations)

Plug Note1

  • Clinical observations may be a better guides than thought experiments as test cases for our theories of personal identity, because at least we know they represent a real possibility.
    • One of the main objections to TEs is that they are underspecified and confused.
    • However, even with actual clinical observation, we still have the trouble of the correct interpretation of the clinical data, which affects the conclusions we can draw from it.
    • See "Wegner (Daniel) - The Illusion of Conscious Will" for the sort of controversy that arises in these circumstances.
      → [I need to explain this a bit further!]
  • Examples of relevant clinical cases are
    Commissurotomy patients and
    → Those with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).
    Is a commissurotomy or MPD patient “home to” one or two persons?
  • I argue elsewhere (where?) that PATIENT – like PERSON – is a Phase Sortal of the Ultimate Sortal HUMAN BEING.
    • One human being can simultaneously be multiple patients (dental and chiropody, for instance), or a multiply-enrolled student.
    • Does this situation mirror those of our more seriously damaged human beings?
  • One thing can’t be two things (in the sense of “be identical to”), even if the two things are of a different kind to the one thing.
    • The logic of identity would force the “two” things to be identical.
    • But the Phase Sortal approach doesn’t force this violation of logic, so could a human being with split personality literally be the home of two, or three, or seven different thinking beings? (Wilkes12).
    • I’m inclined to say “yes”, but what impact does that have on animalism?
  • This topic (and its reading list) overlaps with several others, some of which have already been mentioned:-
    • Commissurotomy,
    • Dicephalus,
    • Multiple Personality Disorder,
    • Psychopathology.
  • Currently, there is no categorised reading-list for this topic. A reading list would be mostly covered by the above Notes. Currently I can otherwise only think of:-
    1. "Harris (Henry) - An Experimentalist Looks at Identity", Harris, 1995
  • This is mostly a place-holder.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
  • I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
  • As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
  • The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
Footnote 12: Presumably in +BB+.

Note last updated: 10/04/2017 23:38:24

Footnote 31: (Thought Experiments)

  1. In general, I’m in favour of using thought experiments in philosophy.
  2. However, I’d like to consider, following "Wilkes (Kathleen) - Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments", whether some thought-experiments in pursuit of clarifying issues in personal identity
  3. Sometimes our intuitions are unreliable as to the truth or possibility of what we intuit.
    • Some doubt the possible phenomenal consciousness of artificial systems, however complex, but is this anything other than a fallacious argument from personal incredulity?
    • Descartes argued for the real distinction between mind and body by thinking he could imagine their separation, but could he really?
    • Sometimes, our intuitions may give us no clue one way or the other, or only a gentle lead (as Williams seems to be suggesting in "Williams (Bernard) - The Self and the Future").
  4. "Snowdon (Paul) - Personal Identity and Brain Transplants" gives a helpful critique of Wilkes’s and Johnston’s arguments (see "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings") against thought experiments.
  5. "Wilson (Jack) - Beyond Horses and Oak Trees: A New Theory of Individuation for Living Entities" thinks that TEs should be avoided where possible, and real examples used – as at least in actual circumstances we know that the situation is possible (“actual implies possible”), and we know, or can discover, all the background conditions. The trouble is that there may not be enough naturally-occurring situations, or practically or ethically available experimental circumstances, to provide the occasions to put maximum pressure on our concepts.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, mostly see the extensive categorised reading-list below.

Note last updated: 26/03/2014 19:24:58

Footnote 32: (Fission)

The paradigm case of Fission is of two half-brain transplants. It is difficult to consider these cases without slipping into the “psychological view”. Each hemisphere seems to preserve what matters to the fissioned individual, and a perdurance account can maintain identity after fission. An alternative account is to claim that the two half-brains always were separate persons (and Puccetti has maintained that they are separate persons, in all of us, even prior to the commissurotomy in this thought-experiment), in a way slightly different from the usual Lewis view of non-identical spatially-coincident individuals (because the hemispheres aren’t spatially coincident, though the shared body is).

We need to consider how the original person was unified. We can press the realism of the thought-experiment by asking how important are the spinal chord and PNS generally to the psychological integrity of the human organism? The case of dicephalus twins may be relevant – where the functions of walking and even typing seem to be carried out perfectly adequately despite the coordinated limbs being controlled by different brains.

We also need to consider whether the two half-brains continue to constitute a single scattered person, just parked in separate bodies. A single embodiment is important because it ensures synchronisation of experience, and external communication between the hemispheres (in the absence of the usual internal communication across the corpus callosum). Presumably, this could be achieved in other ways. We can imagine a BIV linked by radio transmitters/receivers to a remote body – the brain is part of the body – so a single physical thing can be spatially discontinuous. Why, if A fissions into B and C, can’t we consider B & C to be parts of the same person? They could fight / argue … but so can someone in two minds about things. What if one killed the other? They would have different perceptual experiences, but so (presumably) does a chameleon, with its eyes pointing in different directions (and sheep and other herbivores, and fish, with eyes on the sides of their heads). I need to consider in detail what is supposed to be going on in fission – ie. press the thought experiment: there needs to be segregation / redundancy prior to separation – this can happen over time (or we would have plain duplication). At some point the person will split, with incommunicable consciousnesses (cf. Locke’s day-person and night-person).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 33: (Fusion)

We need to consider the merger of the two psychologies: Parfit thinks we might like to inherit some of the better characteristics of our partner, as in a marriage – but the creation of a single consciousness from two seems difficult to conceive of (much more so than the creation of two consciousnesses from one, as in fission). Do we end up with a single first-person perspective, or with two? This needs to be related to multiple personality disorder. Also, consider Parfit’s seasonal people that alternately fission and fuse. How conceivable are these thought experiments?

We also need to consider physical as well as psychological fusions, as in the case of the dicephalus and brain transplants.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 34: (Duplication)

Plug Note1

  • Duplicate objects are – to use the definition in "Sider (Ted) - Naturalness, Intrinsicality, and Duplication" – “exactly similar, considered as they are in themselves”.
  • There is considerable overlap between this topic and two other topics:-
    Replication, which may well be the same thing (though not restricted to a mere doubling), and
    Reduplication Objections
  • The motivation for this Note comes mainly from the above Reduplication objections – where some putative change appears to preserve identity, but cannot for logical reasons, as explained in that Note.
  • If I accept Lewis’s perdurantist thesis, the straightforward objection to the identification of the duplicate with the original is undermined – they simply share stages. However, there are still causal chain problems to address, and those of physical continuity.
  • While cloning falls under this head, there is no identity preservation, even under a perdurantist thesis, as there are no shared stages, just shared genetic material.
  • While I have a categorised reading-list associated with this topic, there’s not much that’s relevant other than works quoted above and:-
    1. "Sidelle (Alan) - Finding an Intrinsic Account of Identity: What is the Source of Duplication Cases?"
  • This is mostly a place-holder.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
  • I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
  • As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
  • The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.

Note last updated: 31/08/2017 19:35:02

Footnote 35: (Replication)

Plug Note1

  • Replication arises where an obvious copying process takes place. I would claim that Teletransportation falls under this head. I'm currently not clear whether there's a distinction between replication and duplication, other than that duplication would seem to be restricted to doubling, whereas replication is more open-ended.
  • Does amoebic division count as replication? When an amoeba divides, this is not a case of fission but of reproduction. So, there are three amoebae involved – the original one and the two daughters. This is not the same situation as in fission.
  • The above said, does this case depend:
    1. on how the case is described and
    2. on how – empirically – the replication occurs?
  • If the amoebic division occurs by budding of a daughter, so that we can continually "track" the parent, then we have straightforward reproduction. If the division is symmetrical, the case could be correctly described as replication, though maybe on a perdurantist view we originally had two coincident amoebae that both persist.
  • We need to watch out for closest continuer descriptions of the case.
  • I don’t really have a categorised reading-list for this Note; while there is one, it is empty. Any reading will be covered under a sister Note of this one: Reduplication Objections.
  • This is mostly a place-holder.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
  • I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
  • As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
  • The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.

Note last updated: 31/08/2017 19:35:02

Footnote 36: (Metamorphosis)

Metamorphosis involves a radical and fairly rapid – by comparison with “business as usual” growth and maturation – change of form (usually bodily) in the same individual. Catastrophic injury doesn’t count

Tadpoles to frogs and caterpillars to butterflies are, in seems to me, different kinds of cases of metamorphosis. If there is anything it’s like to be a caterpillar or a tadpole, the caterpillar’s experience of metamorphosis will differ from that of the tadpole’s, as the caterpillar transforms into the butterfly via goo, whereas the tadpole’s metamorphosis into the frog is continuous with it remaining an active organism.

Presumably there’s no more a true metamorphosis in tadpole to frog than there is in fetus to neonate in humans and mammals generally? The difference between the maturation of a tadpole and fetus is simply the environment and food-source?

If the account of Sortals is correct, metamorphosis involving a change of Ultimate Sortal is a logical impossibility (in the sense of the very same thing metamorphosing as in the frog to prince case). I suppose, in this last case, we might have the Ultimate Sortal as ORGANISM of which FROG and PRINCE (or HUMAN BEING) are Phase Sortals, but then, what is an Ultimate Sortal in one context is a Phase Sortal in another. Is this an issue?

How should the (supposed) case of bodily changing to be expected of Christian at Christ’s return be understood? In that case – see 1 Corinthians 15:52 – rather than dying and being resurrected to a new body, the living body is “… changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump” Is this a case of metamorphosis?

"Bynum (Caroline) - Metamorphosis and Identity" is presumably the jumping-off point for this topic.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 37: (Psychological Continuity - Forward)

I think there’s a conceptual difference between forward psychological continuity and backward psychological continuity.

Imagine the case where (on an endurantist account of persistence), I’m put into a duplicating machine, but something goes wrong and my body is destroyed by the duplication process, though my duplicate wakes up perfectly happily. Then, it seems to me, I would never wake up, and would have no experience beyond entry to the duplicating machine. I have no forward psychological continuity. But my duplicate does have backward psychological continuity.

Any duplicate of me, looking backward, would consider himself to be “me”, having my memories, abilities, plans and so forth, and a body looking just like mine. But, would I ever wake up as the duplicate? My intuition on the endurantist account, as I have said, is that I would not, though I suspect that on the perdurantist account, this might be seen as a case of fission in which I might wake up twice, provided we consider that the right sort of causality is in place.

But, what gives forward continuity of consciousness in the normal case of sleep and temporary unconsciousness? I cannot know “from the inside” that when I awake I’m the same human being as went to sleep in my bed. The reason I believe this is for external reasons: duplication is not physically possible (or at least practical), and in any case I have no reason to believe it happened to me last night.

This seems a very important issue to me, and I need to make more of it. For example, in teletransportation thought-experiment, it seems to me that a new person wakes up, but I don’t, nor do I experience anything, though the new person claims to be me. Incidentally, it’s not just a new person, but a new human being.

This is the sort of question that the Logical Positivists would denounce as meaningless, as no empirical evidence can decide it.

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 38: (Causality)

Plug Note1

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
  • I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
  • As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
  • The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.

Note last updated: 10/04/2017 23:38:24

Footnote 39: (Cartesian Ego)

That we are Cartesian Egos has been a popular suggestion in answer to the question of what we are. It is presumably what those who support the Psychological View have in mind.

There is some overlap with Baker’s focus on a first-person perspective. Just what is it that’s supposed to look out on the world if not a Cartesian Ego? But Baker is not a dualist (at least not in the Cartesian sense) – she thinks of us as belonging to the PERSON substantial kind, presently constituted by a human body. The person does not have separate existence to the human body, in the way in which the Cartesian Ego does – which is (allegedly) separable from the body (and capable of living in disembodied form). I think for Baker we are essentially embodied – just not by10 the same body.

I need to say more about dualism.

With respect to the Cartesian Ego, we need to consider just how psychologically unified human persons are, and whether or not the mind is formally modular. In particular, is there massive modularity, or is there an executive? And is it the executive that is the Cartesian Ego?

In this connection, I must consider psychological accounts of modularity13 of mind from the identity perspective, rather than straying too far into philosophy of mind and psychology. This will feature mainly in discussion of objections to Animalism.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, see the categorised reading-list.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 10: Or, rather than “embodied by”, “embodied “as”?

Footnote 13: For Modularity of Mind, see especially "Fodor (Jerry) - The Modularity of Mind: An Essay on Faculty Psychology".

Note last updated: 14/07/2013 23:02:24

Footnote 40: (Closest Continuer)

Plug Note1

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
  • I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
  • As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
  • The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
Footnote 9:
  • Consideration of “closest continuer” theories in Section 2.
Footnote 10:
  • When considering duplication issues with double-hemispherectomy & transplant, “closest continuer” resolutions to the problem (amongst other suggestions) are rejected.
Footnote 11:
  • Description and elaboration of Nozick’s “closest continuer” theory, followed by …
  • Its application to duplication puzzle-cases.
Footnote 12:
  • Rejects the “closest continuer” theory as a solution to the problem posed by putative uploadings of human brains to computers.
Footnote 13:
  • The “closest continuer” theory as a solution to the “split brain” fission puzzle is considered in Sections 3 & 4.
Footnote 14:
  • Brief discussion of Hershenov’s claim that Zimmerman’s “Falling Elevator” model of physical resurrection is effectively a “closest continuer” theory.
Footnote 15: Footnote 16:
  • Olson’s rejection of “closest continuer” solutions to the double-hemispherectomy & transplant problem (for the psychological view).
  • His objection isn’t to the incoherence of the “closest continuer” as such, but that the hemispheres might be equipollent, leading to no “closest continuer”.
Footnote 17:
  • The “closest continuer” theory is discussed in Section 4.
Footnote 18:
  • The rejection of “closest continuer” theories is the 10th of Van Inwagen’s presuppositions.
  • Decisions of persistence are intrinsic. No outside facts – such as the existence of a better candidate – can affect whether something has persisted.
Footnote 19:
  • Zimmerman discusses the “closest continuer” theory extensively in a reply to Hasker.
  • It seems that the “Falling Elevator” model of resurrection requires both acceptance of the “closest continuer” theory and the rejection of the “only X and Y” principle.

Note last updated: 10/04/2017 23:38:24

Footnote 41: (Perdurantism)

As developed by Quine, David Lewis, Ted Sider and others. Perdurance is to be contrasted with Endurance. Finally, Exdurance (of which I’m currently ignorant) – see "Sider (Ted) - Four-dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time". "Kurtz (Roxanne) - Introduction to Persistence: What’s the Problem?", the introduction to "Haslanger (Sally) & Kurtz (Roxanne), Eds. - Persistence : Contemporary Readings" provides a good overview of these matters. The logical problems with 4-D need to be carefully considered and, for good or ill, the four-dimensional approach has the disadvantage of undermining the reduplication objection to identity being maintained in certain fission thought experiments. Does 4-D imply fatalism? A thing is a 4-D object, but not only do we not know the future, but the future may not even exist. How does this tie in with Lewis’s realism about possible worlds? Maybe if possible worlds are real, all possible futures are real as well.

Note that perdurantism is inimical to a high view of substance. A temporal worm cannot change, it just is. The purpose of positing substances is as the enduring things that change. Perdurance also impacts on Leibniz’s Law, where property exemplification is usually taken to be relative to a time. Look at the adverbial defence of endurantism. See "Haslanger (Sally) - Endurance and Temporary Intrinsics" (probably … this is the explicit response to Lewis, though there are also "Haslanger (Sally) - Persistence, Change, and Explanation", "Haslanger (Sally) - Persistence Through Time" and "Haslanger (Sally) - Humean Supervenience and Enduring Things"; and "Kurtz (Roxanne) - Introduction to Persistence: What’s the Problem?" in "Haslanger (Sally) & Kurtz (Roxanne), Eds. - Persistence : Contemporary Readings" seems to cover much the same ground). If perdurantism really is incompatible with a high view of substance, then I may not need a chapter on perdurance (though I would have thought that I would need to argue for the incompatibility), and I can thereby ignore perdurantist objections to the cogency of reduplication objections.

Note also that Olson sets perdurance to one side. He assumes that we are concrete substances that “endure through time by being wholly present at different times”. He also sets to one side two other issues, namely that there are no such things as persons (taken to be “rational conscious beings such as you and I”) and that the classical notion of strict numerical identity is correct, rejecting relative identity. See "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal: Introduction", pp. 4-5 and "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal: Alternatives", both in "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology". He claims that if any of these assumptions is false, then there are no substantive metaphysical questions of our identity over time, only semantic ones.

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 42: (Counting Persons)

I need to address Lewis’s perdurantist approach. What function does our concept PERSOn perform, and what are the consequences of miscounting? Is it just persons that are miscounted, or are human beings also miscounted? Are the earlier stages of the half-brain transplant patient spatially distributed – so is such a distributed thing a human being at all? What is the core of humanness – is this always the brain, so that the human goes along with the half-brain, and the body is just like any other transplant, only bigger?

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 43: (Ship of Theseus)

Plug Note1

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
  • I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
  • As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
  • The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
Footnote 10: See also "Tanksley (Charley) - The Mereological Constancy Of Masses".

Note last updated: 14/01/2017 20:18:14

Footnote 44: (Methuselah)

I’m unimpressed by Lewis’s solution to the Methuselah thought experiment, which seems to be a reductio ad absurdum of the psychological connectedness approach to personal identity. Can there really be an uncountable infinity of persons residing in a single body? But why not? Lewis thrives on pressing credibility. The “no prudential concern for the future” argument also seems to be another reductio of the connectedness approach. If I’m not the same person as the future occupant of my body, why make provisions for him. Yet, he’ll share my first-person perspective and I’ll be psychologically continuous with him. Of course, Lewis’s model (of 150-year cut-off for psychological connectedness) is admittedly too crude. Parfit sees temporally extended persons as persons of reduced degree, according to the degree of connectedness. However, this seems to destroy the natural growth and maturation of the person. I’m still the same person as was my immature self, even though most of my hopes and desires have changed. If I’m in control of my life, I own these changes, brought them about, and think them for the good. What about where I don’t own them, but regret my corruption (moral and physical)? It’s still my corruption that I regret. I’m the same human being. It depends what concept we want to use the term “person” for. We always have to distinguish personality from persons. Finally, consider Kripke on individuation by origin. Is this a possible objection to overlapping persons? If a person’s origin is what individuates it, how is it possible for persons to have vague, origins as in an un-simplified Methusalah case? There are two issues here that need spelling out.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 45: (Teletransportation)

A Case Study - “Beam me up Scottie”: There are two obvious supposed mechanisms for teletransportation:

  1. Transferring both matter and information; or simply
  2. Transferring information, utilising local matter.
I gather that in the show itself, it's plasma that's transmitted, but as this is unlikely to get to its destination without causing havoc, the information-only transfer is more reasonable. However, even in the plasma-transfer case, I'm unconvinced that I'd survive, for two reasons:
  1. Some things (eg. bicycles) can survive disassembly and re-assembly, but only if they are disassembled into recognisable parts. If a bicycle is disassembled into iron filings and latex goo, and then re-manufactured, we might be reluctant to say it's the same bicycle.
  2. As a matter of empirical fact, fundamental particles are not distinguishable, so the labelling cannot be undertaken even in principle. If it doesn't matter which particle fits where, provided they are of the right sort, the case seems to collapse into the information-transfer variant.
We now turn to the information-transfer case. My main worries initially here have to do with the possibility of duplicates. We all know that a counterfeit, however well done, isn't the same as the original. The logic of identity is constraining. A thing is identical to itself and to nothing else, so if a thing is identical to two "other" things, these "two" must be identical to one another. Given that my two beamed-up versions aren't identical to one another, at least one of them can't be identical to me. And, since they are exactly similar, why choose one rather than the other? So, neither is me. Both are exactly similar to me, but identity is to be distinguished from exact similarity. This situation is similar to the case where the "original" human being isn't destroyed. This sort of thought experiment is referred to as the branch-line case. Canonically, it's where I've only a few days left to live (because the scanner has done me a mischief). Would I be happy in the knowledge that my duplicate would go on and on, and take up with my partner and career where I left off? Is this as good as if I survived? Not likely, unless we’re Parfitian saints! Note, however, that the case is tendentiously described (ie. as teletransportation) to lead to this seemingly obvious conclusion. The "main line" candidate would be perfectly happy that his rival back home was about to perish.

Philosophers split into two main camps in response to these situations (though - jumping ahead a little - even if perdurantism is true, we still might not have the teletransportation of a persisting individual, because of the wrong sort of causal link leading to a lack of forward continuity of consciousness, or even of physical continuity). So there are multiple bifurcations, but we keep things simple here and just follow those who think that I either survive or have what matters in survival:-
  1. 4-dimensionalists (Perdurantists): A thing is really a 4-dimensional worm through space-time, which consists in a set of instantaneous 3-D stages. In this situation, where multiple teletransportations occur, all copies are me. They are different 4-D worms, but they share all their pre-beaming-up stages. There were always at least 2 people present.
  2. 3-dimensionalists (Endurantists) claim that while I'm not identical to the beamed-up person, yet I have what matters in survival.
Note that there's a modal argument to the effect that even in the usual case where only one copy is beamed up, and the original is destroyed, because there might have been multiple copies, this means that identity isn't preserved even in the case where there's only one teletransportation-result created. This seems to lead to paradox. Imagine the situation - I'm beamed up and think I've survived, and am then told that the machine has malfunctioned and produced a duplicate, and hence, contrary to my experience, I haven't survived after all! Unfortunately, some philosophers go along with a "closest continuer" theory of identity across nasty cases of fission or fusion. I'm identical to (or even “survive as”) the continuer that most closely continues me, either psychologically or physically, according to taste. How can my survival depend on what happens to someone else, the thought goes? While this does seem odd, in fact you can’t trust the feelings of the teletransportees – for even if multiple copies are made, they all subjectively feel like the original.

There are two questions outstanding.
  1. Do I survive the transfer? And, if I don’t,
  2. Does it matter that I'm not identical to the post-beamed person?
I’m here ignoring the (as it seems to me) illogical “survival without identity” option.

We have seen that it is possible that it appears to me that I survive, yet I do not. On the endurantist view, the logic of identity means that I cannot trust my experience. So, it seems possible that the person “waking up” is not me. I never wake up – in the sense that I lose consciousness, but never experience a re-awakening - but someone else with my past in his memories is created in my stead.

So, is survival what matters? Well, on the perdurantist view, it’s not even sufficient for me to have what matters. Imagine the case where the machine goes haywire and 1,000 exactly similar teletransportees are created. All these share my pre-teletransportation stages, so are all me (except that “I” was always 1,000 co-located individuals – and maybe more – who knows how often the machine may go wrong in the future!). In this case 1,000 individuals would be squabbling over the same friends, relations, job etc, and that might be rather a nuisance. However, this isn't fundamental to whether I do or don't survive. If I'm a violin virtuoso or a body-builder, I might not find it much fun surviving as a brain in a vat, but that would just be tough. The standard philosophical test is the "future great pain test". I believe that the future continuant will be me, whether I like it or not, if I'm as terrified of that continuant being tortured as I would be if I were to be tortured in the normal course of events. Our BIVs would be even more upset at the prospect of torture-simulation being fed into their brains than at the loss of their beautiful bodies. Our fears have to be moderated by logic, however. But this is no worse than ignoring a revivalist rant on Hellfire. If I’m not identical to a particular teletransportatee, I won’t survive, and if I don’t survive I won’t feel anything. I may have a moral obligation not to land others in a pickle, but it won’t be the selfish problem of avoiding landing myself in one.

I can imagine fissioning, by the bungled-beaming-up process, into 1,000 continuants, none of which (on a 3-D view) is identical to me, but all of whom seem to themselves to continue my first-person perspective. I can imagine (just about) going into the machine, and coming out again 1,000 times (when the life-histories of the 1,000 then start to diverge). While the psychologies of the 1,000 are initially identical, they are not connected to one another, though they are each connected continuously to the pre-beamed-up person. So, if even one of them were to be threatened with torture, I'd be terrified if I thought that that one (even amongst all the others) would be me, in the sense that my experience continues into that body.

But, do I survive? I don't think I do, for reasons given above. It’s not that I reject perdurantism, it’s just that even accepting perdurantism there’s too radical a discontinuity. It's clear that a duplicate, looking backwards, wouldn't be able to tell apart the situation from the normal one of (say) just having woken up after a dreamless sleep. However, I imagine it's possible (even in a supposedly successful teletransportation) for there to be nothing it's like for me after the beaming - it's as though I never woke up, though someone else woke up thinking he was me. This would be a tragedy but, we'd never know about it, because (on this hypothesis) I wouldn't be around to tell the tale, and my duplicate would claim everything was fine (he remembered going to bed and waking up, as it were).

This worries me slightly about our every-night bouts of unconsciousness. How do I know that “the me” that wakes up is “the same me” that went to sleep, and would it matter if it wasn't? Was my mother right in saying “it’ll be all right in the morning”, in the sense that I’d have no further experience of the current problem, or indeed of anything at all? Is this worry parallel to beam-me-up case? Or is sleep a pain-free death?

I suspect the answer to these questions is that for a physical thing to persist, there needs to be appropriate physical continuity, and this continuity guarantees its persistence (though this intuition is a bit of a feeble response). On the assumption that my brain supports my conscious experience, this is enough to reassure me that, as it's the same continuing brain in my skull overnight, it's the same me that's conscious in the morning. I don't have the same reassurance in the case of beaming-up. So, I wouldn't go in for it, even if it came to be seen as a cheap form of transportation.

Footnote – December 2009

There’s a 10-minute animated cartoon - John Weldon's "To Be" – that discusses the question of teletransportation. It’s presently on U-Tube at Link ( In it, a mad scientist invents a teletransportation device as a means of free travel. The necessity of destroying the original is discussed, initially to avoid overpopulation, and then to prevent disputes at to who is who. The branch-line case, where the original is destroyed five minutes after the replication, also features. There, it is clear that the original is a different individual to the teletransportee, and clings to life. Destroying the original is (in retrospect) murder – but what’s the difference between this situation and the one where the original is immediately destroyed? There’s obviously the anticipatory angle – in the “normal” case, the original thinks of the situation as one of travel, and no-one thinks that identity is not preserved in the process, whereas in the branch-line case the confusion is exposed, and the original knows that the teletransportee is a clone. So, maybe the branch-line case is clearly a case of murder, whereas the “normal” case is a case of accidental homicide where the perpetrator is unaware that he’s killed someone?

The twist in the tail is that the heroine, overcome with guilt after the branch-line case (which she’d originally just thought of as a logical demonstration) – and now understanding the metaphysics of teletransportation – thinks she can now (a) atone for her crime, (b) escape the guilt and (c) escape her creditors by being herself teletransported. For (a) she dies and is cloned and (b) / (c) the teletransportee is a different individual to the orignal, so why should this individual have any moral connection to the other? There seems to be something fishy about this, but maybe it’s perfectly sound reasoning.

In the animation, the original and the teletransportee get muddled up (after all, both look alike and think alike), so for practical purposes we are in a situation similar to Locke’s “amnesiac drunkard” case – society has to find the drunkard guilty for his forgotten crimes (in that case because of the possibility of dissimulation); so, maybe the possibilty of dissimulation or devious intent (as in the animated case) would for practical purposes mean that the teletransportee would inherit the moral and legal baggage of the original – and surely they would, or the prctical consequences of people routinely escaping their debts would be grave.

Yet, metaphysically, it’s no different from escaping your debts by committing suicide, because the teletransportee is not the same individual. And, I think the Branch-line case shows that it’s not the same person either, unless we allow the non-substance term “Person” to have multiple instances – as immediately post teletransportation, both the original and the teletransportee would seem to be the same person (however this is defined non-substantially) even though they would rapidly diverge into two different persons. Just as in the case of suicide, society has in the past tried to show that you “can’t really escape” – because of the prospect of Hell, so in the teletransportation case the same myth would be propagated. The teletransportee would be deemed to inherit the moral baggage of the original and, if not up to speed on the metaphysics, would think rightly so. But the original would have escaped for all that!

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 46: (Siliconisation)

Such as, Unger’s “zippering” – the gradual replacement of neural tissue by silicon. This is a subtle argument. Gradually, we no longer have a human animal. I think the situation is best viewed as an increasingly mutilated human animal with an ever-growing prosthesis. I doubt that the silicon would maintain phenomenal consciousness, but just be a “zombie” simulacrum. Any replacement that would maintain phenomenal consciousness would be indistinguishable from natural part-replacement. But I think this is a contingent, empirical matter, a long way off from an answer.

This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 19:58:05

Footnote 47: (Brain State Transfer)

The idea that we can, even in principle, copy the information from a brain to a backup device and then restore it to another (or the same) brain - as in "Williams (Bernard) - The Self and the Future" - without changing the identity of that brain seems fanciful to me. This is partly because I am antipathetic to functionalism. The information stored in brains appears to be in highly distributed representations along connectionist lines rather than according to classical AI. The very physical structure of the brain changes along with what it represents. There is no simple software / hardware distinction in a realistic psychology of human beings.

Consequently, this is a case of an under-specified TE that Wilkes so objects to. When we try to flesh out the details, we find that the TE doesn’t really work. Any backup will need to be molecule by molecule to retain the informational richness of the original, and consequently any restore will not really simply modify the existing brain, but will destroy it and replace it with a replica of the brain whose contents are supposedly being transferred. It will not simply feed information into a pre-existing brain.

Hence, I now think that Williams’s intuitions about the post-transfer A-body-person remaining a “mixed up” A-person are incorrect. Nor does A-body-person end up as B, but as a fusion of a confused replica of B’s brain and A’s body. The situation is best described as a transplant of (maybe only part of) a replica of B’s brain into A-body-person’s head.

Note last updated: 18/08/2009 20:39:50

Footnote 48: (Thesis - References)

I’ve not had time to reference all the allusions in my Research proposal. However, I've made a start, and I do have a large database of papers & books, categorised by sub-topic, which I’ve purchased, photocopied or downloaded; much of the tedious aspect of research is, I hope, over with. The database has been obtained thought reading lists on the Web, use of the Philosopher’s Index, and following up references in papers. I have read a large number, though a small percentage, of these items, usually filling the margins with annotations. I think a useful preliminary task prior to commencing formal study is to put these jottings into some sort of order.

Note last updated: 12/08/2007 10:17:46

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