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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
  • Change3
  • Consciousness
  • Free Will5
  • Intuition and Thought Experiments
  • Modality7
  • Natural Kinds
  • Psychopathology9
  • Substance
  • Time11
  • Vagueness12
  • Etc ….
Additionally, this project overlaps somewhat with a more ambitious one in the Philosophy of Religion13.

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


Footnote 3.3: (Change)

Plug Note1

  • Change is obviously the central problem that questions of identity address. Just what changes can an object undergo while remaining the same thing?
  • That said, I’m not clear whether there will be much extra to say here other than what is covered under the heads of persistence and such like.
  • Maybe just two things for now:-
    1. If I understand things aright, change is something that happens to substances, and the question of identity is whether or not that substance remains the same substance after some change. Change is not relevant (or at least persistence through change isn’t relevant) under (at least) a couple of philosophical positions:-
      1. If we adopt a mereological essentialist position, whereby the things that exist are regions of space-time and their contents. Then, a things just is a collection of particles, and if one of these is destroyed, then so is the thing. This leads to the denial that there are any ordinary things, like chairs or animals, as they are always losing and gaining parts, and so only exist as the same thing momentarily.
      2. If we adopt a perdurantist account of persistence, the things that exist are space-time worms. A thing is not wholly present at a time, only its temporal stage is. The thing as a whole exists timelessly. Does the thing therefore change? Maybe not, but questions of persistence still apply, though maybe only pragmatically. Just what aggregate of stages are usefully described as a persisting thing? A four-dimensional naturalist might insist that exemplars of natural kinds – particularly organisms – have a greater claim to existence than arbitrary assemblages of stages.
    2. Another important matter is that (on many accounts) it is the rate of change that is critical. Everyone seems to agree that you cannot just swap out all the parts of a thing at the same time and claim that you have the same thing, whereas the assumption is that a thing can persist through change (pace the views in the bullet above) provided the changes occur slowly enough and piecemeal enough. After all, organisms replace all their parts over time (it is said) yet remain the same organism (ditto). It strikes me that there’s a degree of vagueness about how quickly the changes can take place without violating the persistence conditions of the object. Also, in the case of organisms, historically it has been supposed that the changes would take place naturally, but transplant surgery allows unnatural change. The transplanted organ will either by assimilated or rejected by the organism. If it is assimilated, especially if it’s hidden from view, we don’t feel any qualms about saying that is has become part of the organism, which has persisted through the change. I’m doubtful if we’d be so comfortable about the successful transplantation of visible parts, like limbs, particularly if only “accepted” by the use of immunosuppressant drugs.
  • A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
    1. "Arnold (Keith) - The Subject of Radical Change", Arnold, 1978
    2. "Aune (Bruce) - Changing Things", Aune, 1985
    3. "Baxter (Donald L.M.) - Loose Identity and Becoming Something Else", Baxter, 2001
    4. "Bottani (Andrea C.) - The Puzzle of Change", Bottani, 2001
    5. "Brody (Baruch) - The Theory of Change", Brody, 1980
    6. "Browning (Douglas) - Sameness Through Change and the Coincidence of Properties", Browning, 1988
    7. "Campbell (Scott) - Rapid Psychological Change", Campbell, 2004
    8. "Carter (William) - Change", Carter, 1990
    9. "Denkel (Arda) - Theon’s Tale: Does a Cambridge Change Result in a Substantial Change?", Denkel, 1995
    10. "Haslanger (Sally) - Persistence, Change, and Explanation", Haslanger, 1989
    11. "Heller (Mark) - Things Change", Heller, 1992
    12. "Hinchliff (Mark) - The Puzzle of Change", Hinchliff, 1996
    13. "LePoidevin (Robin) - Change", LePoidevin, 2003
    14. "Lowe (E.J.) - How Real Is Substantial Change?", Lowe, 2006
    15. "Lowe (E.J.) - Identity Over Time and Change Of Composition", Lowe, 2002
    16. "Mellor (D.H.) - Change", Mellor, 1998
    17. "Mortensen (Chris) - Change and Inconsistency", Mortensen, 2015
    18. "Ujvari (Marta) - Cambridge Change and Sortal Essentialism", Ujvari, 2004
    19. Also, see Bob Doyle: Change (http://metaphysicist.com/problems/change/).
  • This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, mostly 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.

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


Footnote 3.5: (Free Will)

This may be somewhat peripheral to my concerns, unless free-will should prove essential to our concept of a PERSON. Maybe Dennett’s views in "Dennett (Daniel) - Elbow Room - The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting" will be of interest.

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 3.7: (Modality)

Plug Note1

  • Modality – the logic of possibility and necessity – is important to my thesis because discussions of Personal Identity often range over possible – rather than merely actual – events that an individual may encounter and which may call that individual’s continued existence into doubt.
  • This is particularly the case with the numerous popular thought experiments (TEs), one of which – Teletransportation – has a link to this Note (the bungled duplication case, and what this has to say about the standard singular case).
  • Modality also features in the arguments over the logic of identity – in particular the standard view that Identity is a necessary relation, contra the heretical positions.
  • I doubt I need to get into Modal Realism (Lewis) or other discussions about what modality reduces to ontologically.
  • The same goes for the intricacies of Modal Logic, though a quick read through "Girle (Rod) - Modal Logics and Philosophy" might be beneficial.
  • I need to review my old notes on "Kripke (Saul) - Naming and Necessity".
  • The topic found its way into an early note on the Focus of my research, but didn’t find its way into Chapter 4, which deals with basic metaphysical issues. Maybe it should be there?
  • "Sturgeon (Scott) - Zombies and Ghosts" has a useful categorisation of types of modality, and their relation to conceivability and genuine possibility.
  • There are lots of books and papers in the reading list below, but I suppose the following are the ones to start with:-
    1. "Hale (Bob) - Modality", Hale, 1997
    2. "Hawley (Katherine) - Modality", Hawley, 2004
    3. "Jubien (Michael) - Modality", Jubien, 1997
    4. "MacBride (Fraser), Ed. - Identity and Modality", MacBride, 2006
    5. "Melia (Joseph) - Modality", Melia, 2003 and
    6. "Williamson (Timothy) - Armchair Philosophy, Metaphysical Modality and Counterfactual Thinking", Williamson, 2005.
  • This is a place-holder. See the categorised reading-list below.





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: 14/01/2017 20:18:14


Footnote 3.9: (Psychopathology)

Psychopathological cases are useful as real-life thought-experiments for teasing out issues in the topic of personal identity, as in psychology generally. The underlying assumption is that pathological cases have lessons for the general non-pathological case.

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 3.11: (Time)

I don’t think I need to wade too deeply in the topic of time for the purposes of my thesis, but it’s clearly central to the topic of diachronic identity, ie. identity over time. Aspects of particular interest include:-

  1. The endurantism, exdurantism, Perdurantism debate. Perdurantism may solve the identity-related problems of fission, at least according to Lewis.
  2. Parfit’s contention that we should discount the concern we owe to our future selves proportionate to our likely lack of psychological connection.
  3. Time Travel: maybe surprisingly, this alleged possibility appears in various TEs on Fission. I have given it its own Note and Reading List.


This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, see the categorised reading-list, which requires substantial pruning in order to fit to identity-related issues only.

Note last updated: 02/07/2015 23:12:29


Footnote 3.12: (Vagueness)

Plug Note1

  • There can be clear paradigm cases even though it’s vague whether something is a paradigm case.
  • So there can be vague boundaries to the concept PERSON.
  • Also, maybe there can be persons of varying degrees.
  • Maybe some higher mammals possess all the qualities of persons to a reduced degree.
  • See also the topic of Vague Identity
  • A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
    1. Also, see Bob Doyle: Vagueness (http://metaphysicist.com/problems/vagueness/).
  • 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.

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


Footnote 3.13: (Religion)

This project has been pending since 1991 but is one I now wish to progress in parallel with my research into Personal Identity, as it was the motivation for me taking up the formal study of philosophy in the first place.

For the next few weeks, however, it must remain on hold. The interested reader can refer to the relevant section of my website, but note that (as of June 2007) this part of the site hasn’t been touched since 2001, and the paper in question is 10 years older, so displays the eccentricities symptomatic of the autodidact.

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.

Method
  • 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 Link4 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 Thesis5, 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 5.4: (Website Generator Documentation - Database Objects)

Most of the papers in this website are made up of hyperlinked Notes, which are small sections of text which themselves link to other Notes, and so on. Such documents are supposed to be viewed on-line, but I recognise that not everyone likes to read in this way. In particular, while this is a good way of chasing up details of an argument, it can be difficult to see the overall picture. It is also difficult to scribble in the margins of a web-page. So, printable versions will be required until technology for marginal annotation improves (but note that you can copy and paste my printable versions into MS Word and annotate those if you want to save trees).

There are several parameters (explained below) that are accounted for in the file-name of the printed Note:-

  1. The depth of scan.
  2. Whether the Printed Note is archived.
  3. Whether all inter-Note references are indicated.
  4. Whether Private Notes are printed.
  5. Whether Reading Lists are included.
There are, in general, hyperlinks to an appropriate selection of printable Notes that satisfy these options.

Within the printable note itself, there are no “inter-Note” hyperlinks, though the links to external websites and to Book and Paper summaries within the reading lists work.

A straight print of a frames-based page only prints the first page, which is why most professional sites have printable versions of their pages to allow printing of the full document, and without the other frames interfering. My printable pages do this, of course, but the main difficulty is to print the footnotes (pages hyperlinked to within the site: I don't make any attempt to print the results of linking to external sites).

Printing all the footnotes associated with the main Note precisely once in a sensible sequence is a particular challenge. This is firstly because (intentionally or otherwise) a referential loop may occur. Secondly, we don't want to print the same note more than once if it is referred to on multiple occasions (which is part of the point of having separable notes in the first place). Finally, we don't necessarily want to print Notes when they first appear, but in some sort of sensible sequence.

Depth of Scan
To address the first of these problems, I have introduced a depth of scan, so that we don't loop endlessly. This also allows topics to be looked at in greater or lesser depth. Consequently, several printed Notes may appear for the same underlying Note. Also, where a Note in another Notes Group is referenced, I only print the Note itself, not its footnotes. This is to avoid the printed Notes ballooning with irrelevancies.

Inter-Note Referencing
Secondly, I only print footnotes once within any particular printed Note. There are two options. In the first, all the footnote indicators appear as in the on-screen version as superscripts (subscripts in the case of private notes which don’t appear on the published website), but those that are duplicated refer forward or backward to where the footnote actually appears. Since this can lead to a lot of clutter in certain circumstances, I have an alternative view whereby (for a footnote that's "not printed here") both the subscript / superscript and the “Note forwarding Note” are omitted. There are then gaps in the sequencing of the superscripts. I’ve decided to leave this in to alert the reader to the existence of the omitted references. The alternative “all footnotes showing” view can be consulted it required.

The referencing convention is effectively the Tractatus standard, but with full-stops separating the level of references. So, the 5th footnote on the main form appears as Footnote 5: (Title); the 3rd footnote on that note appears as Footnote 5.3: (Title2); the 7th footnote on that note as Footnote 5.3.7 (Title3); and so on.

Deciding when to print a Note is an art in itself. Currently all I do is print the Note in the place in which it appears as high up the hyperlinking hierarchy as possible. I ought probably to take into account the fact that each Note has encoded a “Natural” parent, and print it below that parent where possible; but I’ve not done this yet.

Archived Notes
The Notes pages are dynamic, but each time a Note is changed, the previous version is archived and can be accessed by a hyperlink at the bottom of the Note. This version crystallises the view at that time (ie. all the Notes linked-to from that archived Note are the currently latest archived versions; to achieve this, a Note is archived as soon as it is entered. The printable versions follow this pattern, and earlier versions archived whenever the main Note is changed (this is still work in progress as I can’t store printable versions of all Notes, to any depth, each time anything within range changes. Or at least I don’t think so.)

Private Notes
There are two “privacy” systems in operation. The first allows me to flag a Note as private, in which case a polite message appears on the public site. The second method is to put the Note in a password-protected area. I have a flag that allows printed Notes to include or exclude “flagged as Private” Notes. I think a Note in the secure area would print if it were referred to by a Note from a non-Secure area.

Reading Lists
Some Notes have associated reading lists. These arise either because the Note (or a referenced Note within the depth of scan) directly references a Book or Paper, or indirectly via the association between the Note Title, and the Sub-Topic of the Books and Papers. A list of papers (together with hyperlinks to the Paper or Book summaries within the website is produced. This element is currently under development, as the lists (in author sequence) are very long. Currently, a reference appears if it is directly cited, or priority 1-3 within the first level of hyperlinking, or priority 1 below that. Consequently, I’ve allowed the Notes to be printed with or without reading lists.

Note that all this is an on-going research project.

Note last updated: 13/01/2015 19:07:41


Footnote 5.5: (Thesis - Outline)

The Thesis seems to fall naturally into three sections (other than the Introduction and Conclusion); namely, Chapters 2-5 (setting up the problem), chapters 6-9 (Olson and Baker’s views contrasted); and Chapters 10-11 (testing the preferred solution). Consequently, I anticipate my Thesis having the following chapters:-

  1. Chapter 01: Introduction
  2. Chapter 02: What are We?
  3. Chapter 03: What is a Person?
  4. Chapter 04: Basic Metaphysical Issues
  5. Chapter 05: Persistence and Time
  6. Chapter 06: Animalism and Arguments for It
  7. Chapter 07: The Constitution View and Arguments for It
  8. Chapter 08: Arguments against Animalism
  9. Chapter 09: Arguments against the Constitution View
  10. Chapter 10: Thought Experiments
  11. Chapter 11: Resurrection
  12. Chapter 12: Conclusion
I’ve started a Note listing “parked” future reading.

For convenience, brief abstracts (as currently intended) of the above chapters are given below. I have included hyperlinks in the above list to my initial thoughts on these topics (and to reading lists and plans for further research) by way of further clarification. I’ve also included links from the “Thought Experiment” abstract below, for the same reason. The reading lists are rather full, and I’ll need to whittle them down to those I actually intend to read (and, better, address).

Chapter abstracts
  1. Introduction: Something like this document, but in narrative form, maybe including a brief historical general survey of Personal Identity.
  2. What are We? : The topic “personal identity” has historically presupposed that we are (in the sense of “identical to”, or “most fundamentally”) persons, whereas I (along with other animalists) claim that we are identical to human animals. “We” requires explanation. This chapter will sort out the topic of discussion for the Thesis as a whole.
  3. What is a Person?: This Chapter will canvass the various views and consider how important issues in this area are to my main concern of our identity.
  4. Basic Metaphysical Issues: Substances and sortals are central to the persistence of anything, and in particular to my claim that persons are phase sortals of human animals (the substances). I need to address the concept of a SOUL as souls are the major counter-claim to the persisting entity being an animal; or at least popularly so. The question of Natural Kinds arises in considering whether PERSON is a natural kind concept.
  5. Persistence and Time: A number of thought experiments that feature in the following chapter seem to fail if perdurantism is true (because the reduplication objections fail). Depending on whether any of these are critical to my arguments, I may need to consider the impact of perdurantism. But this complex area may be a step too far within a fairly limited word-count. I’m also unsure whether it should feature before or after the account of Thought Experiments.
  6. Animalism and Arguments for it: This Chapter describes what Animalism is, with an excursus on animals and organisms and their persistence. It puts forward the arguments in favour of animalism, those against being reserved for a later Chapter. It focuses on the account of Olson (Eric), the primary contemporary exponent of Animalism.
  7. The Constitution View and Arguments for it: This Chapter gives an account of Baker (Lynne Rudder)’s thesis that human persons are not identical to human animals, but are – temporarily at least – constituted by them.
  8. Arguments against Animalism: A discussion of the arguments against animalism, as given by those of anti-animalist persuasion and defended by the principal animalists (with a focus on Olson), with a critique.
  9. Arguments against the Constitution View: A discussion of the arguments against the Constitution View, focusing on the principal animalists, with a critique. In particular, I intend to critique Olson’s “thinking animal” argument against the Constitution View (though I think this argument is unnecessary for Olson to establish the case for Animalism).
  10. Thought Experiments: Any account of personal identity needs to give an account of what is going on in the various thought experiments that have been thought relevant to the topic. It’s also the area that’s most fun. Indeed, I think that the entire Thesis will be an exercise in inference to the best explanation. It needs to account for our intuitions (if there is a universal response) or explain them away as confused. I will firstly briefly consider the propriety of using thought experiments in this domain of enquiry, and then consider the usual suspects, such as:
    • Fission, fusion and replication in general
    • Commissurotomy
    • Multiple Personality Disorder
    • Brain-state Transfer
    • Brain Transplants
    • Teletransportation
    • Siliconisation
    • Etc?
  11. Resurrection: If mind-body substance dualism is false, and we are identical to human animals, then the only possibility for post-mortem existence is some form of bodily resurrection. Since the body is destroyed at death, it would seem that any resurrected individual could only be a copy of the original. It might think of itself as the resurrected pre-mortem individual, but it would be wrong. Consideration of arguments by Van Inwagen (Peter) in this respect. This chapter is likely to be controversial, so needs to be very carefully argued, and factually correct concerning what is actually believed by intellectually Christians and Muslims (unlike what seems to be the case with most swipes against religion). Maybe I should also cover reincarnation.
  12. Conclusion: Brief summary of the above;
    • We are human animals,
    • Human persons fall under phase sortals of the concept HUMAN ANIMAL,
    • The person is inseparable from the animal,
    • The animal is utterly destroyed at death,
    • Substance dualism is false, and
    • Consequently (given the sort of thing we are) resurrection or any other post-mortem survival is impossible for us.

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


Footnote 6: (Thesis - Current Position)

My own current views on the topic of Personal Identity, which are somewhat in tension, are:-

  • That Olson is right that we are identical to human animals and that consequently no psychological continuity is necessary for our persistence.
  • That a human person falls under a phase sortal of the concept HUMAN ANIMAL.
  • Nevertheless, that something critically important of us is lost with the cessation of psychological activity and that our first-person perspective is in some way vital.
  • That if our first-person perspective could “hop” across or vacate bodies “we” would have survived. But, that this “hopping” is (nomologically) impossible as our first-person perspective is too tightly coupled to our physical brains.
  • That the difference between forward and backward psychological continuity is key.
  • That any view that sees particular persons as logically prior to, and only temporarily constituted by, human animals is incorrect
  • Nevertheless, that the “Thinking Animal” / “Too Many Minds” objection to the Constitution View is unsound and unnecessary.


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

Note last updated: 03/03/2016 05:08:10


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 are11 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 7.11: (Nihilism)

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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 2: See the introduction to "Unger (Peter) - The Mental Problems of the Many" (2004) for a recantation.

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


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 essay19.

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


Footnote 8.19: (Daniel Dennett – Conditions of Personhood)

Dennett suggests that the concepts of “person” and “human being” are not necessarily co-extensive. He also distinguishes the two intertwined notions of personhood – moral and metaphysical. He defends the following 6 “themes” as necessary conditions of personhood:

  1. Persons are rational beings.
  2. Persons are beings to which states of consciousness are attributed, or to which psychological or mental or intentional predicates are ascribed.
  3. Whether something counts as a person depends in some way on an attitude taken toward it, a stance adopted with respect to it.
  4. The object toward which this personal stance is taken must be capable of reciprocating in some way.
  5. Persons must be capable of verbal communication.
  6. Persons are distinguishable from other entities by being conscious in some special way: there is a way in which we are conscious in which no other species is conscious. Sometimes this is identified as self-consciousness of one sort or another.
Dennett addresses 3 issues to do with these 6 themes:
  1. How (on his interpretation) are these 6 themes dependent on one another?
  2. Why are they necessary conditions of moral personhood?
  3. Why is it so hard to say whether they are jointly sufficient conditions for moral personhood?
In this essay, rather than address Dennett’s 3 issues directly, I wish to address the following 6 questions:
  1. Is Dennett right to separate the concepts of “person” and “human being”?
  2. Is Dennett right to distinguish moral from metaphysical personhood?
  3. Has Dennett the right set of themes?
  4. Has Dennett found the right interdependencies and priorities amongst his themes.
  5. What are Dennett’s reasons for predicating these conditions of personhood?
  6. Finally, is Dennett guided by a natural kind concept, by social convention or by other factors?
I have to admit that this is a first draft and something of a rushed job. My aim at this stage is to generate ideas quickly rather than ensure the argument is fully rigorous. I’m afraid I’ve used Dennett’s paper more as a jumping off point, and have not considered his actual arguments as much as I should. I’ve included hyperlinks to topics I’ve written before, as a way of airing them and avoiding needless repetition, though the primary aim of this essay is to provide some continuous text for discussion, rather than exemplifying the approach of my research proposal (from where these notes come) which is almost all footnotes.

My aim in reviewing this paper is to get some sort of handle on what a person might be. The aim of my thesis will be to demonstrate that human persons are phase sortals of human animals, and that consequently (given the falsehood of mind/body dualism) that such hoped-for events such as resurrection are metaphysically impossible. I’m not arguing for any of this here, just motivating the consideration of this topic.

Page references are to the 1997 Penguin edition of Brainstorms (Chapter 14).


Persons and Human Beings


Dennett claims that while any reader of his essay has to be person, the reader need not be a human being. The reader could be an alien, for instance. However, as far as I can see, to read Dennett’s essay with reward, only rationality, language use, phenomenal consciousness and intentional states are strictly required. The moral themes seem irrelevant, as does the consciousness of self (though a reader without this concept might find the essay initially rather dull, though maybe enlightening).

So, the reader might not be a moral person by Dennett’s lights. Dennett is probably right, though, that infants, “mental defectives” (how sensibilities have moved on since 1978, or whenever this Chapter was drafted) and the appropriately insane, would not get much out of his offering. However, the contemporary candidates of choice for human non-personhood tend these days to be moved closer to the termini of life, being (early) fetuses and those in a persistent vegetative state (though maybe the question is different – in Olson the question is whether “we” have psychological states essentially, and the claim is that “we” do not since “we” existed as fetuses, and may (for all we now know) persist into a PVS).

However, this leads on to our next question.


Moral and Metaphysical Persons


Dennett’s distinction between moral and metaphysical persons seems to change the topic of the conversation to one I’m less interested in. While it’s not always 100% clear (at least to me), the bulk of his essay is addressed to the topic of moral persons rather than metaphysical persons. Because he agrees that Frankfurt’s ideas about wantons are fruitful, Dennett excludes many human beings from the category “person” that I would prefer to include.

However, the motivation behind this distinction is whether or not the term “person” is a “free-floating honorific”, like “chic” (p. 268). He distinguishes the metaphysical notion of person (“an intelligent, conscious, feeling agent”) from that of the moral notion (one “who is accountable, who has both rights and responsibilities”). He wants to know whether being a metaphysical person is a prerequisite for being a moral person, something a metaphysical person can “grow into”, or whether metaphysical persons must be moral persons. He points out that we still in general react to the clinically insane (unless they are very far gone) as though they are metaphysical persons, even though they may not be treated as moral persons. Hence, the two terms are distinct, though being a metaphysical person does seem to be a necessary condition for being a moral person (with the exception of compound persons such as companies).


The Right Set of Themes?


I can’t really do better in defining what I think persons are than does Locke. An entity for which persistence matters; a thinking thing that can consider itself as itself; that is phenomenally conscious, and has a consciousness of self. This is approximately Dennett’s metaphysical person, though we mustn’t forget that Locke famously considered personhood a forensic concept.

Now on to Dennett’s specific themes:
  1. Rationality: I’m not sure how far rationality should be pressed, despite Dennett considering it “the most obvious” (p. 269). I don’t think it’s essential for a metaphysical person. However, the assumption of rationality is essential in all our dealings with other sentient entities (Dennett’s intentional stance won’t work otherwise), so it is probably essential for moral personhood. Even then, “predictability” might be more relevant than rationality.
  2. Intentional Predication: I’m happy with this, as it is a prerequisite for all mindedness (though not a sufficient condition). I’m happy that persons are minded beings, even if human beings aren’t always.
  3. The object of a stance: this seems to suggest that who is a person is in some sense “up to us”. Indeed Dennett says (p. 270) that it’s not just a stance taken in response to a metaphysical person, but is as least partly constitutive of a moral person (I paraphrase). This is definitely a predicate for moral persons only. While it might as a matter of fact be the case that certain metaphysical persons are socially ostracised so as to be treated as moral non-persons, this doesn’t make them non-persons in either the metaphysical sense or the moral sense (for a moral realist).
  4. Reciprocation: Again, this is necessary only for moral persons. A sociopath or convinced solipsist is still a metaphysical person.
  5. Verbal Communication: Presumably Dennett is not disbarring deaf mutes from personhood, nor Stephen Hawking were someone to tread on his laptop. Even so, the possession of a language of thought (along Fodor’s lines) is probably a prerequisite for rationality, but this doesn’t address Dennett’s themes of communication and reciprocal attitudes. Metaphysical persons incapable of communication might not be moral persons. I expect there are large questions about how a sense of self might arise without language. One would need to consider feral children. This might connect to a question I had in connection with the Language Acquisition Thesis (the claim that “learning a language is instrumental in the development of conceptual faculties in a human subject”). See the following link.
  6. Self-Consciousness: I think this is central to either metaphysical or moral personhood. See below under “Natural Kinds”. Dennett takes this form of consciousness (like language) to be the unique preserve of the human species, though I gather that both claims are not controversial (with the teaching of American Sign Language to bonobos, and the question whether passing the mirror test demonstrates a sense of self).

I have a question whether the properties Dennett requires of persons are their present properties or capacities, or whether entities that will, in the normal course of events, develop into persons, or which have in the past if not in the present possessed such capacities, count as persons. Is the property of being a person inalienable? Clearly capacities are more important than their present exercise (after all, we are not always rational or self-conscious, or even conscious at all; personhood is a state, not an activity).

This relates to whether human persons are phase sortals, of human beings, or whether they are human beings, period. It looks as though Dennett would deny the latter suggestion, given his insistence on certain properties that not all human beings share.

Interdependencies and Priorities amongst the Themes


This will mostly have to wait for future elaboration. Dennett (p. 271) claims that the 6 themes are given in the order of their dependence with the proviso that the first 3 are mutually interdependent. Enough to note here that an item I consider essential to metaphysical personhood, namely self-consciousness, appears at the bottom of Dennett’s list and so is presumably taken to be reliant on predicates only necessary for moral personhood. I would deny this connection.

Why These Themes?


This will also mostly have to be left until a later date.

As I note above, Dennett considers the order of the themes important, and considers that the earlier ones as prerequisites for the later ones. In particular, because we can adopt the intentional stance towards beings such as plants that have no mental states (“it grows that way because it wants to get to the light”), we need to move on to those that have real beliefs and desires. He is worried (p. 273) that we might get the themes in the wrong order by the premature invocation of the conscious knowledge or verbal expressibility of our beliefs to ensure their genuineness, but in any case these conditions are too strong as we have many beliefs that we’re either unaware of or cannot express. This is why he brings in his fourth theme, that of reciprocity. While we can adopt the intentional stance towards plants, they cannot return the favour. He also assumes this reciprocity fails for all non-humans, but I suspect he’s wrong. Maybe this is a step in the right direction, but adopting Frankfurt’s approach (however useful the concept of a wanton is) seems to me to be a step too far in this context (and even in Frankfurt’s context).


What Sort of a Concept is “Person”


At the beginning of his essay, Dennett asks whether the concept of a person is incoherent or obsolete. His answer is that it isn’t, because we cannot cease to regard others, and in particular ourselves as persons without contradiction (and refers us to "Dennett (Daniel) - Mechanism and Responsibility"). I’ve not pursued this question, but suspect that the fact that the question can be asked at all indicates that the concept of person isn’t a natural kind concept, at least not as the term “moral person” is defined by Dennett. There seem to be too many attitudinal issues and those that make certain sorts of societies cohere (even though these may arguably be the best sort).

I don’t seem to have written anything sensible on natural kind concepts. Maybe this is a next step. My intuition is that persons, whether metaphysical or moral, aren’t natural kind concepts, and that for human persons the appropriate natural kind concept is “human animal” (or maybe “human being”).

A critical question, however, is whether the emergence of self-consciousness signals the arrival of a new natural kind (as Lynne Rudder Baker alleges, taking “self-consciousness” to be the same as her “first-person perspective”).

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


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 persistence8 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 9.8 (CORRESPONDENT)

On a view like Olson's, I take it, that:

(a) altho' a human animal can exist when it is not a person, insofar as we have genuine IDENTITY questions, these relate to human animals. (Perhaps Olson thinks 'person' is a phase-sortal, like 'teenager'. We don't raise questions about teenager identity AS SUCH),

(b) if we think angels are persons only because they satisfy some functional definition that we might give of what it takes to be a person, then we don't yet have any reason to think that what it takes for angels to persist has a bearing on what it takes for us to persist. (Again: we've chosen the wrong concept to answer identity questions with respect to.)

Note last updated: 21/10/2007 09:48:58


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, resurrection5 bodies) or even as disembodied6 minds7, so I will need to move on from this base camp.

This is mostly a place-holder8. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list (if any).

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


Footnote 10.5: (Resurrection)

This will add interest, though hopefully some of the Islamist topicality will have gone by the time my Thesis is presented. As the motivation for this discussion is partly the occasionally pernicious effects of a belief in a resurrection to paradise, the metaphysical possibility of the resurrection of beings like us is very important. It is also important to millions of non-explosive Americans. The Thesis will aim to prove that resurrection requires substance dualism. I will need to ensure I understand just what is believed by intellectually-respectable Christians and Muslims (though the topical believers are not amongst the ranks of the intellectually respectable). Some discussion will be had about the orthodox Christian view being that there is no continuity of matter (the conundrum about the person consumed by cannibals was early recognised), and that the resurrection body is said to be in some sense a “spiritual” body.

A good place to start for an understanding of what resurrection meant to Christians prior to the modern era is "Bynum (Caroline) - Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200 - 1336".

As for the present worries of Christian philosophers, see the reading list – the best place for evaluating contemporary Christian philosophical views on the metaphysical possibility of resurrection is "Gasser (Georg), Ed. - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death?".

One thing that strikes me is that the resurrection of Christ, taken to be the guarantee of our own resurrection, is no such thing in the sense of “showing it can be done”. The physical and metaphysical issues in resurrecting Jesus (or Lazarus, or Jairus’s daughter, or any recently-deceased person whose body is substantially intact) are much less than in the case of those whose bodies have been destroyed. Indeed, it might one day be possible to resurrect the recently-deceased by way of microscopic repair; at least this seems conceivable, whereas the resurrection of a human being whose body has become dispersed and whose parts have been recycled doesn’t even seem to make sense (on a materialist account of what we human persons are).

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

Note last updated: 03/08/2013 23:44:10


Footnote 10.6: (Disembodied Existence)

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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 4: But there are worries whether disembodied existence is even coherent for concrete particulars.

Footnote 6: This may not be worth reading, if Lowe’s rubbishing review ("Lowe (E.J.) - Review of Peter Unger's - "All the Power in the World"") is anything to go by.

Note last updated: 12/07/2015 15:47:31


Footnote 10.7: (Souls)

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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 4: This is becoming a shelf-load, so “require” is rather strong!

Footnote 5: In general, if a book is noted, its Chapters are not.

Footnote 6: For reviews, see
→ "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Review of "Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?" by Nancey Murphy", and
→ "Hershenov (David) - Review of Nancy Murphy's "Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?"".

Footnote 7: Footnote 8: Also, Kagan’s follow-on lectures on the existence and immortality of the soul.

Note last updated: 01/08/2017 00:11:31


Footnote 10.8: (Awaiting Attention (Personal Identity))

This note is simply a place-holder, the point of which is to use the jump-table facility that appears dynamically at the bottom of this note to keep tabs on the areas of this website (within the above Note-Group) that await the most urgent attention.

If the table “Links to this Page” only contains the “Awaiting Attention” item, this means that there are no items waiting attention (since the “Awaiting Attention” item is the one that only links to pages such as this one).

Note last updated: 10/11/2007 13:17:46


Footnote 11: (Logic of Identity)

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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 5:
  • I currently have no Note for Indeterminate Identity.
  • I have it categorised under Vague Identity but it seems to me (rather unreflectively) that Vague Identity is a metaphysical position, whereas Indeterminate Identity may just be an epistemological position.
  • The ideas may coalesce in the work of Williamson (Timothy) – in particular in "Williamson (Timothy) - Identity and Discrimination".

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


Footnote 11.2: (Leibniz)

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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 2:
  • No doubt there’s a convention as to which is the “first” and which is the “second” of Leibniz’s Laws, but they are often confusingly combined into one law with two parts.
Footnote 5: Who alleges that the Law is due to Aristotle rather than to Leibniz.

Footnote 6: The papers reviewed (and the review itself) are all rather old, so I’ve not selected for further study all the papers reviewed in this brief article.

Note last updated: 13/08/2015 23:55:41


Footnote 11.3: (Relative Identity)

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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 4: I’m not sure if this is the correct terminology.

Footnote 5: See "Tobia (Kevin Patrick) - Personal Identity and the Phineas Gage Effect".

Footnote 9:
  • So, Phineas Gage continues to be the same substance (human being – or maybe human animal) despite a radical change of personality.
  • See my Note on Personality (eventually! - Click here for Note) for the individuation and persistence of “personalities”. Just what sort of thing are they? Universals? Tropes?
Footnote 11: As this list includes several whole books, it might be a bit much, though this is an important topic.

Footnote 12: I doubt this paper is really about Relative Identity, but more about Brain Transplants.

Note last updated: 05/07/2015 10:53:46


Footnote 11.4: (Vague Identity)

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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 4: I’m not sure if this is the correct terminology.

Footnote 6: It looks like Olson uses “imperfect” as an amalgamated metaphysical / epistemological claim.

Note last updated: 06/07/2015 23:34:05


Footnote 11.6: (Contingent Identity)

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  • The orthodox approach to the Logic of Identity is to treat it as a necessary equivalence relation. I follow this approach.
  • However, in response to various TEs, deviant forms4 of Identity have been devised, and some are still popular.
  • Contingent Identity arose5 in the paper by Alan Gibbard listed below, which considers the TE of the Statue and the Clay.
  • The TE relates to the topic of Constitution. We are to consider a statue and the lump of clay of which is constituted. If we arrange things carefully, the two might coincidentally come into and go out of existence at the same time. If so, are they not identical, given that they would seem to have all the same properties? Yet, they might not have been temporally coincident – in the normal case, the lump would be formed first, and only slowly be sculpted into a statue. So, they are only contingently identical, the argument goes. And this TE shows (it is said) that far from being a necessary relation, identity may only contingently hold.
  • The logic of identity is so secure that it is sensible to look for other explanations of the TE. Of course, the divination of just what is wrong with the TE are many, which doesn’t necessarily mean that the TE is misleading for any of these reasons.
  • Baker, for instance, has “relation to an art world” as one of the properties the Statue has which is not had by the Lump. So, by Leibniz’s Law, the two are never identical.
  • I’m suspicious of any TE involving artefacts.
  • See also the Note on modality.
  • I intend to cover this topic in Chapter_4 along with the other deviant approaches to Identity.
  • The study-list for this topic would include:-
    1. "Carter (William) - Contingent Identity and Rigid Designation", Carter
    2. "Carter (William) - On Contingent Identity and Temporal Worms", Carter
    3. "Gallois (Andre) - Rigid Designation and the Contingency of Identity", Gallois
    4. "Gibbard (Allan) - Contingent Identity", Gibbard
    5. "Keefe (Rosanna) - Contingent Identity and Vague Identity", Keefe
    6. "Lowe (E.J.) - Necessity and Identity", Lowe
  • This is a place-holder. See the categorised reading-list below.





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 4: I’m not sure if this is the correct terminology.

Footnote 5: Or at least was brought to my attention as an undergraduate.

Note last updated: 04/07/2015 17:41:17


Footnote 11.7: (Occasional Identity)

Plug1 Note

  • The orthodox approach to the Logic of Identity is to treat it as a necessary equivalence relation. I follow this approach.
  • However, in response to various TEs, deviant forms4 of Identity have been devised, and some are still popular.
  • However, the logic of identity is so secure that it is sensible to look for other explanations of any TE that appears to bring it in doubt.
  • Occasional identity is a response to TEs such as the fission of an amoeba into two qualitatively identical ones. We want to say that both are numerically identical to the parent, but the logic of identity forbids this unless we claim that the two daughters are numerically identical to one another6. So, the claim is that they were once identical (and co-incident), but now are not.
  • This makes numerical identity into a temporary (hence “occasional”) matter.
  • My preferred answer to this TE is to appeal to perdurance – the daughters were always distinct, but just shared their pre-fission stages. There are other explanations.
  • I intend to cover this topic in Chapter_4 along with the other deviant approaches to Identity.
  • The study-list for this topic is much shorter than for related topics, as it only includes a whole book and a review thereof:-
    1. "Gallois (Andre) - Occasions of Identity : a Study in the Metaphysics of Persistence, Change, and Sameness", Gallois
    2. "Sider (Ted) - Review of André Gallois, Occasions of Identity", Sider9
  • This is a place-holder. See the categorised reading-list below.





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 4: I’m not sure if this is the correct terminology.

Footnote 6: Even this seemingly-impossible claim has been supported. See "Miller (Kristie) - Travelling in Time: How to Wholly Exist in Two Places at the Same Time".

Footnote 9: Read and analyse this first – it may not be worth bothering with the book, unless it sheds light on the topic as a whole.

Note last updated: 06/07/2015 18:30:14


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 criteria3 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 brain4 (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 being6 or the human person7.
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 transplants9, 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 12.3: (Persistence Criteria)

I will cover both persistence criteria and persistence conditions under this head. Maybe the former term focuses on epistemology (how we know something has persisted) and the latter on metaphysics (what it takes for something to persist).

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 12.4: (Brain)

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

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

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

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

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

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

These issues are especially important when we consider various Thought Experiments, in particular Brain Transplants. Transplantation of all sorts seems to involve fusion, with its logical problems for identity (not just for persons).

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


Footnote 12.6: (Human Beings)

  • Is there is a – real or formal – difference between human beings and
    1. human animals,
    2. members of the species homo sapiens and
    3. human organisms?
  • I assume there’s a distinction between a human being and a human person, as “person” is an honorific and – I claim – human persons are phase sortals of human animals.
  • For the primary argument proposing that “we” are human beings, see the work of Johnston (Mark), in particular
    1. "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings",
    2. "Johnston (Mark) - Reasons and Reductionism", and
    3. "Johnston (Mark) - "Human Beings" Revisited: My Body is Not an Animal".
  • Johnston’s view is that human beings are constituted by human bodies. I have two comments on this:-
    1. This superficially sounds like Baker’s Constitution View. However, Johnston doesn’t think the human person is separable from the human brain/body as in the case of Baker’s reified FPP.
    2. Despite this, Johnston doesn’t think that we are (identical to) human animals.
  • Johnston tries to tread a middle course between animalism and the psychological view.
    1. He wants to be a naturalist – accepting the modern scientific world-picture and rejecting dualism.
    2. However, because he thinks that what matters to us is our mental life, he considers us to be a locus of mental life.
    3. But, this locus is not “inchoate” or “bare” but has to be provided by our organ of mentation – namely the brain.
    4. Where he differs from the animalists is in his response to the brain transplant intuition.
  • So, for Johnston, a human being is – for usual practical purposes – a human organism, but is only “constituted” by one – it is not identical to one, for two reasons:-
    1. He – along with most people – accepts the BTI, so he thinks you can be “pared down” to a “mere brain” and then transplanted into another human body. That human being would then be you. Also, like Olson, he doesn’t think “mere brains” are organisms; but – unlike Olson – he doesn’t consider the human brain to be “just another organ”.
    2. Further, he thinks a human being is necessarily capable of appropriate mental activity. So, in the case of you falling into a PVS, you – the human being – could be outlived by your human animal.
  • Thus – for Johnston – “human being” is a rather odd concept: it is a locus of mentation, naturally embodied and not portable other than by transplanting the organ of mentation. The brain isn’t a mere organ, but a maximally mutilated human being.
  • At the moment, I still incline towards animalism – that we are human animals; and that we can survive total and irrevocable loss of mentation, though in the process we also lose all that matters to us.
  • Also, I think that there’s only a difference of emphasis or terminology between “human being”, “human animal” and “human organism”.
  • This (probably) commits me to arguing that a disembodied human brain is a maximally-mutilated human animal.



This is mostly a place-holder. See the categorised reading-list below.

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


Footnote 12.7: (Human Persons)

  • I can’t think I’ll have much to say here that’s not covered under either human beings or persons.
  • See also my Note on Non-human persons.
  • Maybe what I can cover here is whether all persons are – in actuality if not conceptually – human.
  • Angels and aliens are discussed in "Wiggins (David) - Reply to Snowdon (Persons and Personal Identity)" and the claim is that insofar as we can conceptualise them, they are animals. So they aren’t counter-examples to the supposition that all persons are animals (though this doesn’t rule out non-human animals being persons).
  • Wiggins also discusses robot-persons. If, in order to satisfy the conditions of personhood, these end up as molecule-by-molecule clones of animals, these are animals also.

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


Footnote 12.9: (Transplants)

From the standpoint of Personal Identity, the most significant transplants are Brain Transplants, which have their own Note.

In the context of animalism, however – where it is said (by Olson) that the brain is just another organ – there is less reason for Brain Transplants to receive centre-stage. But, the animalist must still consider whether an organism can survive the transplant of “lesser” organs, and which – if any – transplants it cannot survive. We certainly accept that major-organ transplants – and even a complex of organs such as heart/lungs – preserve the human animal (and person). Are there any limits beyond which we cannot go? Do we have to allow for a case of fusion in extreme circumstances? Is there a “core” of the animal that preserves identity while peripheral organs are swapped out?

What about inorganic transplants? Is the human animal preserved, and does it incorporate the transplanted organs, or are they useful appendages (like clothes) that are external to it. Alternatively, do we then have a cyborg?

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

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


Footnote 13: (Survival)

I need to distinguish two interpretations of Parfit1 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 matters2 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 13.1: (Parfit)

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 2: 10 years ago as I write in July 2015.

Footnote 12: I’ve ignored here those many papers on “what matters” that are not specifically related to Parfit.

Note last updated: 04/07/2015 10:10:34


Footnote 13.2: (What Matters)

This section will cover part of the discussion of Parfit’s claims that we can have what matters to us in survival without the need for identity.

It is claimed that our survival matters to us, or at least some of the benefits of surviving matter to us. The question has been raised that some people (eg. those contemplating suicide) don’t want to persist, so persistence doesn’t matter to them. I think it does – persistence matters, though maybe persisting doesn’t. What I meant is that whether they persist or not matters to persons. If things get too bad (or are perceived to be that way), it may be important to them that they don’t persist. In the normal case, it’s important that they do. Either way, persistence matters to them.

This is 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. Intermittent2 Objects: can things go in and out of existence? Does the disassembled bicycle still exist in a dispersed state?
  2. Mereology3: 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 reincarnation5? 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 14.2: (Intermittent Objects)

  1. I allude to the possibility of intermittent existence in these Notes:-
    • Artefacts,
    • Persons,
    • Constitution,
    • Phase Sortals,
    • Physical Continuity,
    • Resurrection.
  2. Artefacts
    • Are the classic cases of possibly intermediate objects, in that the same object can be disassembled and then reassembled, and it is usually thought that the reassembled object is numerically identical to the original.
    • But it is not clear whether the watch (say) ceases to exist when disassembled for cleaning, or whether it continues to exist in a scattered state. The recipient of a bag of watch-parts would still consider they had received their watch back, even if annoyed at having to reassemble it themselves.
    • But, as with all things artefactual, there’s a question whether our intuitions are conventional, and could be otherwise. My gut-feel, however, is that disassembled artefacts just exist in a disassembled, scattered state, rather than ceasing to exist. Hence, disassembled artefacts are examples of scattered objects rather than of intermittent objects.
    • I suppose the counter-argument might be that artefacts are the things they are for functional reasons, but does a disassembled thing have a function (or, at any rate, the same function it had when assembled)? I imagine we could say that an object might be delivered in kit-form, and then assembled, and it is probably arbitrary (or can be stipulated) whether the kit is of the same kind as the object or not.
    • The Write-up of "Carter (William) - Artifacts of Theseus: Fact and Fission" covers all this in more detail9.
  3. Persons
    • When it comes to Persons, it’s the possession of certain capacities, not the present exercise of them, that qualifies an individual as a person.
    • Wiggins (David) holds the view that a person is one who belongs to a kind whose typical members possess some open-ended list of properties.
    • In that case, a foetus or someone in a PVS would still be a person. They would not “intermit” while in that state.
    • However, on a “present capacity” view, they would not qualify as persons in such a state, and a person might have intermittent existence. For instance if I were to fall into, and then recover from, a PVS I would not be a person when in the PVS, but would on recovery again be a person, and (importantly) the same person.
    • So, someone like Baker might be committed to persons as intermittent objects because she thinks of human persons as ontologically separate from the human animals that constitute them.
    • However, an animalist like Olson would not be so committed. For the animalist, it’s the animal that’s the persisting thing, and the animal persists throughout the PVS.
    • I’m not sure what Olson’s view is of the ontological status of persons (I don’t think he considers them a kind); they are just individuals of another kind (most notably human animals) with special, maybe temporary, properties.
  4. Phase Sortals
    • My view is that human persons are phase sortals of human animals.
    • So, I side with Olson as against Baker in the controversy about what Persons are.
    • While persons are ontologically significant, this does not bring into being a new kind of PERSON, but raises the status of the kind whose typical members are persons (and of the individuals who are persons, of course).
    • So, I do not think that persons – at least persons falling under the kind HUMAN ANIMAL – can have intermittent existence. A fetus or a human animal in a PVS remains the same human animal.
  5. Constitution
  6. Physical Continuity
    • This topic addresses – amongst much else – both scattered objects and intermittent objects, the former intermitting in space, the latter in time (and maybe in space as well).
    • So, if persons are things constituted by other things, then the person intermits during a PVS, but there is no physical discontinuity.
    • But, as Baker believes, the very same person can be constituted by different bodies at different times, then there must necessarily be persistence in the absence of spatio-temporal continuity, which it usually taken as a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for persistence.
    • This leads on to our next topic.
  7. Resurrection
    • The possibility of Resurrection is the main reason for my interest in intermittent objects.
    • Clearly, if we are to claim that the very same individual who died is resurrected somewhere else (maybe not a place as such, though it is difficult to envisage bodies that are not at places) at some other time (or not in time – but similar worries apply) then we have an intermittent object.
    • This process (or fiat) would also seem to involve some sort of metamorphosis, though maybe the Constitution View does not worry about such things, as it is the constituted person that persists, not the constituting body.





In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 9: Or will do, once I’ve completed it!

Note last updated: 04/07/2014 22:46:34


Footnote 14.3: (Mereology)

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: This list is rather too long but, even so, much of interest has been omitted.

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


Footnote 14.5: (Reincarnation)




This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, see the categorised reading-list, which requires some pruning.

Note last updated: 02/07/2015 23:12:29


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 Lewis5 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 15.5: (Lewis)

Lewis’s views on personal identity are influenced by his espousal of perdurantism.

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 Continuity4.

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

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


Footnote 16.4: (Connectedness vs Continuity)

  • We need to distinguish between connectedness and continuity.
    1. Continuity is a transitive relation that relates adjacent stages.
    2. Connectedness is intransitive and requires enough of the properties of interest to be maintained over time.
  • Persons – like animals – develop and “grow3”. We can admit that we have the same animal from fetus to corpse (with some arguments about the termini). However, do we have the same person?
  • I’d contend that whatever physical and psychological discontinuities the human animal undergoes, we do have the same person where we have a person at all, provided a single first-person perspective is maintained.
  • If one’s character changes radically over time, do you remain the same person? Yes, if we want the child and the adult to be the same person (as we do), or the convert to be the same person as the unbeliever.
  • The relevance of this to the present debate is that it is continuity that is relevant to personal identity, and not connectedness.
  • At root, this is just the message of the Old Soldier, raised against Locke, and answered by Ancestrals of the “remembers” relation.
  • Indeed, "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings" (Journal of Philosophy, p. 61) describes Continuity as the ancestral of Connectedness.



This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, mostly see the categorised reading-list below, which could do with enhancing!




In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 3: Not necessarily physically – that would be begging the question as to what persons are.

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


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 Continuity1, or
  • Body Criterion2.
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 BIV4. 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 Pain8 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 17.1: (Bodily Continuity)

Historically, philosophers have been divided into those that hold that our persistence criteria are fundamentally psychological and those that think they are fundamentally physical. The classic paper that wrestles with this dilemma is "Williams (Bernard) - The Self and the Future".

Bernard Williams is sometimes thought of as an Animalist, possibly because6 he’s inclined to accept the Bodily Continuity (as against the Psychological Continuity) approach to Personal Identity. But, this is probably a mistake, because ...

The “Bodily Continuity” view of personal identity is not to be confused with Animalism, which requires the Biological View. The Bodily Continuity view is consistent with my persisting as a Cyborg or even an Android. See also11 Siliconisation.

Also, the persistence conditions of bodies differ from those of organisms in general or (human) animals in particular. Consider the arguments about corpses, that is an attempted refutation of animalism.

Baker consistently contrasts her constitution view with that of a bodily view, rather than a biological view. She considers that we persons are constituted (maybe temporarily) by our bodies. Olson distinguished between organisms and bodies, and is doubtful about the existence of the latter25. But he would disagree with Baker even if she claimed that we were constituted by human animals.

Note also, the distinction between continuity and connectedness. Continuity is critical to the persistence of bodies, but it is doubtful whether connectedness is. You could probably replace all the parts of a body over time, provided this is done gradually enough, and retain the same body (this is certainly true of organisms). However (it is said by some – eg. Parfit) that a psychology disconnected from, though continuous with, another is not the same person.

It seems to me that both the biological view and the bodily continuity view would (theoretically, at least) allow for metamorphosis (provided, in the former case, that the metamorphosis is into another organism). There are, however, sortal objections to metamorphosis.

Just what a “body” is, and what the persistence criteria of bodies are, will be discussed in two other Notes:-

  • Body, and
  • Body Criterion.
This is mostly a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list.




In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 6: According to most interpreters

Footnote 11: Though the Note on Siliconisation focuses on the replacement of neural organic matter by silicon, the general idea could (more easily, as the technology is already partly there) be extended to the replacement of other body parts.

Footnote 25: This is to get round the “Corpse Problem”.

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


Footnote 17.2: (Body Criterion)

I intend this Note to cover just what it is that makes a body continue the same body over time. The two related Notes:-

  • Bodily Continuity, or
  • Body.
… will cover more general issues, though I’ve not quite decided how the labour would be best distributed.

I will consider bodies as “lumps of matter” under this Note. For the persistence criteria of living bodies (Organisms), see the Note on the Biological Criterion.

This Note will need to consider mereological matters – such as mereological essentialism – as far as they apply to bodies.

One of the troubling areas for animalism – the corpse problem – arises from the denial that I am identical to my “corpse to be”, and that when I die, a new item – my corpse – which is not identical to my pre-mortem body (which was an organism) because it has different persistence conditions. This sudden popping into existence seems counter-intuitive – but otherwise there seem to be two items co-located pre-mortem – the organism and the body. Olson gets round the problem by denying the existence of “bodies” – but this isn’t very intuitive either.

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 17.4: (Brains in Vats)

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 4:
  • While this claim is often made by futurologists, it doesn’t make sense to me.
  • Computer programs are universals. I am a particular.
  • What I am – in the sense intended here – is a particular implementation of a computer program “running” on a particular piece of hardware.
  • So, I would be a particular partition of a particular piece of hardware, configured an an appropriate way.

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


Footnote 17.8: (Future Great Pain Test)

This is a test invented by Bernard Williams in "Williams (Bernard) - The Self and the Future" as a means of teasing out whether or not we really think we will be some future individual. It is cashed out in terms of the prospect of “being mercilessly tortured in the morning”. If we think that unfortunate individual will be us, our attitude will be qualitatively different to if we think it will be someone else (though maybe there are exceptions – mothers and their children, maybe – even there, it may depend on what is to happen – reference Winston Smith and the rats in Room 101 in 1984 - Web Link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_101)).

This is mostly a place-holder.

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


Footnote 18: (Forensic Property)

Locke1 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 wantons2 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 18.1: (Locke)

All I currently have to say on Locke is covered by my final-year BA essay What, if anything, is wrong with Locke’s account of personal identity?.

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

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


Footnote 18.2: (Wantons)

“Wanton” is a term of art introduced in "Frankfurt (Harry) - Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person". Wantons are human beings who aren’t moral persons, because they lack second order desires (they don’t want to want to do x or be morally like y). Most human beings (the persons) care what their moral likes and dislikes are, and want to reform or improve their moral sensibilities and characters. They care about their moral state. Wantons don’t; they are happy as they are (and not because they are moral saints).

While the term “wanton” is a useful one, I think excluding wantons from falling under the concept “person” is making that concept too narrow. Frankfurt may have hijacked the term wanton, but he has left no important semantic gap in so doing (he has probably done no more than perform a service by clarifying the term). However, in restricting the term “person” to non-wantons, he is (I would claim) invoking a semantic shift that would then require a new term, PERSON+, to cover those wanton human beings who enjoy the non-moral properties that Frankfurt-persons enjoy.

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 19: (Psychology)

We must consider not just memory1 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 19.1: (Memory)

Obviously, if I were to become tempted by the psychological criterion of personal identity, I would have to give an account of memory and quasi-memory, and it would appear here.

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 consciousness1 (which may be a watershed in itself with moral consequences greater than generally accepted) but the consciousness of oneself as a self2 (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 20.1: (Consciousness)

Conscious mental phenomena are central to any account of what persons are. However, we must note that in the philosophy of personal identity, a saltation is usually diagnosed between the phenomenal consciousness of the higher (and maybe lower) animals, and self-consciousness (ie. awareness of self), usually assumed to be the preserve of human beings only.

Lynne Rudder Baker alleges an ontological change (an ontological novelty) when beings with a first-person perspective come on the scene. I think first-person perspective is the same as a consciousness of self, though I suspect that if the non-human great apes are found to have the latter, she would allege the ontological novelty occurs with the arrival of the former, taken to be a more profound awareness.

Personally, I think the real ontological novelty arises with the emergence of phenomenally conscious beings, and that consciousness of self is a culturally-acquired phenomenon (though – despite the Buddhist attempt to eradicate it – a universal one). But even so, the ontological novelty is that of the beings which have this property, not the property itself.

This is a place-holder. Currently, mostly just see the (enormously bloated) categorised reading-list below. I am investigating consciousness per se under a separate project, which has a more focused reading list.

Note last updated: 28/08/2009 14:51:22


Footnote 20.2: (Self)

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 5: There is no unanimity on what a person is; but it will be worth taking candidate definitions and see whether we would be willing to assign selfhood to some non-persons.

Footnote 7: We are referred to "Seth (Anil K.) - Interoceptive inference, emotion, and the embodied self".

Footnote 8: We are referred to "Ehrsson (H. Henrik) - The Experimental Induction of Out-of-Body Experiences".

Footnote 9: We are referred to "Haggard (Patrick) - Human volition: towards a neuroscience of will".

Footnote 10:
  • We are referred to “Mechanisms of Social Cognition” by Chris & Uta Frith, Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 63:287-313 (January 2012)
  • I don’t have access to this, but the abstract is as below ↓
    1. Social animals including humans share a range of social mechanisms that are automatic and implicit and enable learning by observation. Learning from others includes imitation of actions and mirroring of emotions. Learning about others, such as their group membership and reputation, is crucial for social interactions that depend on trust.
    2. For accurate prediction of others' changeable dispositions, mentalizing is required, i.e., tracking of intentions, desires, and beliefs.
    3. Implicit mentalizing is present in infants less than one year old as well as in some nonhuman species.
    4. Explicit mentalizing is a meta-cognitive process and enhances the ability to learn about the world through self-monitoring and reflection, and may be uniquely human.
    5. Meta-cognitive processes can also exert control over automatic behavior, for instance, when short-term gains oppose long-term aims or when selfish and prosocial interests collide. We suggest that they also underlie the ability to explicitly share experiences with other agents, as in reflective discussion and teaching. These are key in increasing the accuracy of the models of the world that we construct.
Footnote 12: Alexander thinks that we are Selves, and that Selves are tropes – abstract particulars – which by my lights is about as far from the truth as you can get, so I need to consider his arguments carefully.

Note last updated: 02/07/2017 10:36:29


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 deaths2 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 explain4 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 properties7. 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 21.2: (Death)

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 11:
  • So, is the resurrection life – if there is one – really “life” or a continued and enhanced form of existence? Also, is the “second death” really “death”?
  • I suppose I would allow alternative metabolisms to count as “life”, so that a robot that maintained itself might be said to be “alive”; and, consequently, the destruction of such a being might be classified as “death”.
Footnote 18:
  • While it looks like this paper should be studied under the head of Brain Death, and it could be, it really deals with the definition of “death”, so is best covered here.
Footnote 19: This is probably the best place to start, though it spends a lot of time discussing the problem of personal identity.

Footnote 20:
  • Was this book ever published?
  • This paper probably ought to be in the note on Brain Transplants.
Footnote 21: The following four Chapters (8-11) of "Valberg (J.J.) - Dream, Death, and the Self" may also be worth studying.

Note last updated: 01/08/2017 00:11:31


Footnote 21.4: (Explanation)

I describe my project as one of “inference to the best explanation”, so I need to give an account of what an explanation is. I have certain prejudices as to what an explanation is – a bias towards modern scientific as against Aristotelian forms of explanation, whereby an explanation has to fill in the details of mechanism, hopefully with quantification, rather than be vaguely gesturing. I need to define and defend this position.

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 21.7: (Properties)

Properties are relevant to my Thesis of Personal Identity because it is the possession of incompatible properties at different times that is the explanation of change. And, the key question in Personal Identity – other than what we are – is what changes we can undergo and still persist.

The problem of Temporary Intrinsics3 is central to the explanation of change, and to the decision whether Endurantism, Perdurantism or Exdurantism is the better account of persistence.

This topic also relates to that of Universals, which is what realists claim properties to be.

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




In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 3: Which probably needs its own Note! These are intrinsic (ie. non-relational) properties that are “just had” by a persisting object at some time(s) but not others.

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


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 semantic4 arguments?

Are the arguments above really saying above that artefacts don’t exist? Presumably artefacts depend on us for their existence as artefacts5, though not as lumps of matter. Baker6 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 22.4: (Semantics)

I need to separate those issues in the topic of personal identity that turn on matters of fact, and those that just depend on the meaning of our words.

Sometimes, it is not clear whether or not this is the case. For instance, Wiggins’s view (shared with many others) that we should use the term PERSON of individuals whose typical members have certain capacities will allow us to use the term of individuals who don’t presently possess these capacities. Then, if we accord certain rights to PERSONs in this sense, we may act differently to those who only confer the title PERSON to those with present capacities. So, there is a practical difference. But is this generated only by confusion over words? If that is what we mean by PERSON, then should we not then say that not all PERSONs have the same rights, and introduce a new term PERSON+ all of whose exemplars do deserve the rights? This will depend on whether PERSON is a natural kind concept, and whether this kind strictly relates to PERSON or PERSON+.

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 22.5: (Artifacts)

  1. There is the claim that adopting a functional approach to personal identity is effectively treating persons as artefacts (which are defined by their functions – eg. a corkscrew – though there can be broken exemplars that can no longer perform the function). Presumably this is intended as a reductio ad absurdum of the functionalist account of personhood.
  2. Wiggins touches on the subject of persons as artefacts in "Wiggins (David) - Personal Identity (SSR)" in "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance Renewed". From a quick look, it seems to me that Wiggins is saying that if we tinker around with human beings enough (whether genetically or by heroic surgical intervention), we have effectively turned them into artifacts of our own devising, and so there is no longer a natural-kind-constrained answer to questions of their persistence conditions. Since Wiggins seems to equate persons and human beings, the thought experiments if carried out in a world would lead to persons that are artefacts. But maybe he’s saying something deeper.
  3. While artefacts aren’t mentioned in "Wiggins (David) - Reply to Snowdon (Persons and Personal Identity)" (in "Lovibond (Sabina) & Williams (S.G.) - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins"), maybe Wiggins is talking about the same sort of thing.
  4. See also Ship of Theseus under this head. It is the standard conundrum concerning the persistence conditions of artefacts, which are also the clearest contenders for the existence of intermittent objects. Some philosophers (sensibly) claim that a bicycle can survive being disassembled and then re-assembled, with the (rash) assumption that the bicycle doesn't exist in its disassembled state. Well, my view is that the bicycle does exist in the disassembled state. I'd be miffed if someone returned my bicycle in a disassembled state, but my miffedness wouldn't be because I thought I'd not received my bike back, but because it would be a pain to re-assemble it.
  5. The intermittent existence of objects is relevant to the issue of resurrection for physicalists. But the artefact model isn’t appropriate here. A bike can't survive its parts being mulched up and re-manufactured. In any case, we can't logically get our original atoms back (as organisms exchange atoms with their environment all the time, so there's no such thing as "my atoms", which are (over time) shared with other organisms).
  6. An interesting notion – I think due to Merricks (Trenton) in "Merricks (Trenton) - Objects and Persons" (and others) – is nihilism with respect to artefacts. This is the view that there are no statues, but only atoms arranged statuewise.
    • If this is a correct account, then this would undermine the prime support of the Constitution View.
    • The reason being that statues, and the like, are prime examples and motivators of the CV, whereby you can have two things (of different sorts) in the same place at the same time, one of which constitutes the other.
    • If there are no such statues, then all this falls apart.
    • Yet of course there are statues, but in what sense?
    • An idea I intend to play with (this may be Merricks’s, for all I know) is that artefacts are shared ideas (memes) projected onto the physical objects (which are indeed collections of atoms arranged X-wise, and the form and structure of the X-wise structure is deliberately chosen to enable it to perform its function).
    • This agrees with, say, Baker’s notion that statues exist only in relation to an art-world. But they are ideas rather than things.
  7. This Note is mostly a place-holder. See the categorised reading-list below.

Note last updated: 02/07/2015 23:12:29


Footnote 22.6: (Baker)

Lynne Rudder Baker is notable for defending her version of the Constitution View of Personal Identity, which is important in its own right, but also in opposition to Eric Olson’s Animalism.

Baker is a “Christian Materialist4” – in that she denies that we are (or have) immaterial souls (see "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Christians Should Reject Mind-Body Dualism"). Her view on Personal Identity is, to quote "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Materialism with a Human Face", that “Persons are constituted by bodies with which they are not identical. The metaphysical difference between persons and their bodies is that persons have first-person perspectives essentially.”

Her concept of a First-Person Perspective strikes me as important and correct. However, she thinks of personhood not merely as a property of certain beings, but as making some sort of ontological difference. Because a person is constituted by – but not identical to – the being that constitutes it, she claims that a particular person is portable from one of these beings to another. I don’t thinks she would allow a person to exist disembodied, as though the Cheshire Cat’s smile could exist in the absence of the cat, but I still think she is reifying a property.

From my perspective, her most important work is "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View" (also see7 "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Precis of "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View"" in "Baker (Lynne Rudder), Etc. - E-Symposium on "Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View""), though "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Big-Tent Metaphysics", part of "Olson (Eric), Etc. - Abstracta Special Issue on "The Human Animal"", and analysed here, is as good a place as any to start. However, her more recent book – "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Metaphysics of Everyday Life: An Essay in Practical Realism" – may give a more technical account of some of her concepts.



This is a place-holder. Currently, just see the categorised reading-list, which contains all the papers by Lynne Rudder Baker which would appear relevant to the topic of personal identity. Other papers by her in my possession (in addition to these latter) can be obtained by following this link: Baker (Lynne Rudder).




In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 4: However, she is against physicalism in the philosophy of mind – see "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Saving Belief: A Critique of Physicalism".

Footnote 7: But, this précis has been used by Oxford Scholarship Online for the chapter descriptions, which I have then used myself!

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


Footnote 23: (Animalism)

There are different interpretations of Animalism, which I need to compare and contrast. My preferred option is Olson’s, namely, that animalism is the view that we are identical to human animals and that, since human animals don’t have any psychological properties essentially, neither do we.

Olson is probably the best known active Animalist - see "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology" and "Olson (Eric) - What are We?". Follow this link2 for others. Olson’s claim is not that there are no non-animal persons, but that human persons are essentially animals. Other animalists, such as Wiggins3, insist (or are said to insist, or used to insist) that the only persons are indeed human beings.

I incline to agree with Olson on the topic of what we are4, but need to press hard with thought experiments to see why we can’t separate the two – that is, why we can’t separate where we go as persons from where we go as animals: our personhood can’t be pealed off from our animality and ported to some other infrastructure – or at least not while preserving our identity.

There is a distinction between persons and human animals. Is the distinction empirical or conceptual? Why can’t I copy my consciousness onto a machine and that machine be me? There seem to be two issues here. Firstly, my intuition is that phenomenal consciousness essentially involves a brain-like infrastructure and secondly, copying a consciousness onto a machine isn’t identity-preserving, even if possible, but is the creation of a simulacrum.

Basically, I reject both functionalism9 and the idea of consciousness “hopping from one infrastructure to another”. Incidentally, I rather hope we can’t copy our phenomenal consciousness onto a machine, or the possibility of hell on earth unfolds. The nasty business of very extended torment could be delegated to another machine that neither knows nor cares what it is doing.

Also, should we consider fetuses10 and the senile or those in a PVS11 as persons? See Baker who alleges that those who have, will have or have had the capacity for a first-person perspective should be accounted persons. But is this simply arbitrary retrofitting of philosophy to Christian doctrine (though Wiggins13 seems to share this view)?

I must also discuss animals under this head. If we are identical to (human) animals then to what, exactly, are we identical – that is, just what is a human animal – and that are their persistence conditions? Note that there are disagreements about the referent of “animal” – is it the organism15 or the body? The key issue is with corpses17. Feldman thinks they are animals, but Olson thinks they aren’t. Death is central to the enquiry. Just when does the person or animal commence19 or cease to be? If he is resuscitated (or resurrected / reincarnated, assuming these to be possible) what happens in the interregnum?

As noted elsewhere22,, I need to investigate the termini of human existence, and the issues they raise for the various views – the “fetus problem” for the constitution view and the “corpse problem”25 for animalism.

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


Footnote 23.2: (Animalists)






In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: The full list of their works in my possession can be found by following the hyperlink from their name.

Footnote 2: Unfortunately, I have not been able to obtain this paper. It is recommended by Johansson (and maybe others).

Note last updated: 04/04/2015 00:17:17


Footnote 23.4: (What are We?)

For the present, I just mention that I need to distinguish, as candidates for what we are, (human-) animals, organisms, persons, bodies, beings and brains. Additionally, I need to treat of selves and maybe contrast terms like “mensch” (Web Link (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mensch)) with “person”.

We: the use of the plural is significant. However, the determination of “we” as “the sort of entity likely to be reading this paper” isn’t quite right, even though Dennett and others use similar expressions. Read the first parts of "Brandom (Robert) - Toward a Normative Pragmatics" in "Brandom (Robert) - Making It Explicit: Reasoning, Representing & Discursive Commitment" for inspiration on “We”.

Intelligibility: this is a reciprocal relationship. We find others (of “our” sort) intelligible, and it is important that they find us intelligible in return. Does this thereby make R = “finds intelligible” an equivalence relation, dividing the world into equivalence classes of mutually intelligible individuals, or does R come in degrees and fall prey to Sorites paradoxes?

For an essay on this topic, follow this link.

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

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


Footnote 23.9: (Functionalism)

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 6: Footnote 7: This, and the folowing paper by Shoemaker, are the targets (says Shoemaker) of the papers by Agar and Olson.

Note last updated: 21/07/2015 16:37:55


Footnote 23.10: (Fetuses)

Plug Note1

  • Fetuses feature a lot in the philosophy of personal identity. Are they persons, or merely potential persons, given that they probably fail the conditions for personhood? Was I ever a fetus? This latter question is alleged by animalists to be a poser for supporters of the psychological view (or constitution view) of personal identity (since fetuses lack psychological connectedness to adult persons, and even lack psychological continuity on the presumption that early-term fetuses lack all psychological experience).
  • 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.

Note last updated: 03/08/2017 15:21:36


Footnote 23.11: (Persistent Vegetative State)

  1. For information on what a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS1) actually is, see for example Web Link (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistent_vegetative_state). The medical definition is given there as “A wakeful unconscious state that lasts longer than a few weeks”. Despite the (occasional) wakefulness, there is a “complete lack of cognitive function”.
  2. The interest in the Persistent Vegetative State within the topic of Personal Identity is that when in a PVS the attributes of personhood are not in evidence – and maybe not capable of being evidenced – so that it is possible to argue that the individual in the PVS is no longer a person.
  3. It thus provides the opportunity to pull apart prima facie co-referential terms as (human) PERSON and HUMAN BEING (or HUMAN ANIMAL).
  4. One may wonder why PVS is used in philosophical thought experiments (TEs) rather than Coma (a more severe condition). I suppose the issue is that in a PVS the brain-stem is substantially intact (whatever other brain-damage has been incurred), so that no life-support is required other than feeding tubes. In irreversible comas, the brain-stem may be so severely damaged that the basic7 functions of the organism cannot be carried on without life support. Consequently, there’s no debate whether those in a PVS are animals, whereas it might be argued that those on life support in an irreversible coma are not. Hence, while the PVS definitely distinguishes human animals from human persons (according to most definitions), irreversible coma might not.
  5. PVSs are discussed in the following Papers / Notes:-

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




In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Note that the Wikipedia article uses the PVS acronym to stand for a Permanent Vegetative State. It’s never clear whether any such state is permanent, whereas it is clear that it is persistent. In the UK, the state becomes legally “permanent” after 12 months, and the term “continuous” is used in preference to “persistent”.

Footnote 7: I had put “vegetative” here, but I’m unconvinced that any activity above cellular level ought to be classed as “vegetative”; but I think the Aristotelian classification is adopted, where “animal” functions are those involving locomotion and the like, rather than nutrition, respiration, etc.).

Note last updated: 04/07/2014 22:46:34


Footnote 23.13: (Wiggins)

As far as I know, "Wiggins (David) - Personal Identity (SSR)" in "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance Renewed" is Wiggins’s latest word on Personal Identity, carrying on the work in "Wiggins (David) - Reply to Snowdon (Persons and Personal Identity)", in response to "Snowdon (Paul) - Persons and Personal Identity". In turn, these responded to, or built on "Wiggins (David) - Personal Identity (SS)" in "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance", which is completely superseded by the corresponding chapter in SSR. SSR itself built on "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity". Wiggins himself acknowledges indebtedness to "Williamson (Timothy) - The Necessity and Determinacy of Distinctness" and "Noonan (Harold) - Absolute and Relative Identity" in "Lovibond (Sabina) & Williams (S.G.) - Identity, Truth & Value: Essays for David Wiggins", in addition to Snowdon’s piece.

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

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


Footnote 23.15: (Organisms)

  1. Organisms feature highly in animalist discussions of personal identity, in that according to animalists, human persons are human animals, which are organisms.
  2. According to some philosophers, sorites arguments yield that the only things that exist are simples and organisms.
  3. Organisms are to be distinguished from their bodies, which have different persistence conditions, for example post-mortem as corpses.
  4. An organism seeks to maintain itself against its environment, and exchanges matter with it. An organism possesses none of its matter essentially, and may indeed replace all its matter many times during its life.
  5. When organisms ultimately fail in the above endeavour, they die. Prior to this, they are alive; organisms are the only things that may properly be said to be alive – life is a biological process. Other things may exist, and come to an end, but they do not literally live or die.
  6. Normally, a proper part of an organism is not an organism7. In particular, a brain is not an organism, but an organ. We are organisms, not organs, whatever psychological TEs might imply, so we are not our brains.
  7. See "Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities" for a full discussion.


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




In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 7: Presumably organelles – such as mitochondria – are (parasitic) organisms living within, and an essential part of, other organisms.

Note last updated: 04/07/2014 22:46:34


Footnote 23.17: (Corpses)

    • Corpses are troublesome for animalists, who allege (correctly in my view) that corpses are not animals.
    • The claim is that, at death, something ontologically new comes on the scene – because a corpse has different persistence conditions (those of masses of matter) to those of organisms.
    • Some philosophers – eg. "Feldman (Fred) - The Survival of Death" – disagree, but if we go along with this idea then …
    • The problem with this (we don’t survive death as our corpses) – it is said – is to answer the question where the corpse comes from, and to answer the objection that if it was there all along – as a “corpse-to-be” – then we have a situation where we have two things of different sorts in the same place at the same time.
    • If this is take seriously, then it can be used against the form of the animalist’s master argument (the “too many thinkers” argument).
    • Corpses are probably also important for those Christian materialists who hope for some form of resurrection.
    • If there is a corpse to be resurrected, it is easier to see how identity is preserved than if we have total destruction. This is obviously so in the case of resuscitation, but even where we have a real case of death – not just clinical death, or brain death, but real death with a bit of mouldering – there is some physical thing that is responsible for preserving identity.


This is mostly a place-holder. See the categorised reading-list below.

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


Footnote 23.19: (Origins)

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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: So, I will not be interested, under this head, in the origins of species or of the universe, interesting topics though these might be.

Note last updated: 23/07/2015 21:00:00


Footnote 23.22: (Animalism - Objections)

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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 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 constitution4 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 kinds5, 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 24.4: (Constitution)

Plug Note1

  • A full understanding of constitution is required to understand Lynne Rudder Baker’s Constitution View of Personal Identity.
  • The concept of CONSTITUTION in this view seems to differ from the normal mereological view of material constitution. There’s an extensive reading-list for this aspect under the head of Mereology.
  • As a way in to this subject that is geared towards the topic of Personal Identity, I intend in the first instance to focus on two chapters from Baker’s book "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The Metaphysics of Everyday Life: An Essay in Practical Realism" that deal, respectively, with these two aspects of Constitution, namely:-
    1. "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Constitution Revisited",
    2. "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Mereology and Constitution".
  • I will, of course, have to consider other accounts. I had supposed that Baker’s view was idiosyncratic, though the following paper considers it to be widely held:-
    → "Wasserman (Ryan) - The Constitution Question".
  • Wasserman outlines the traditional5 view as follows:-
    1. Adequacy conditions on any proposed answer to the Constitution Question.
      1. First, constitution requires spatial coincidence — x constitutes y at t only if x and y have the same spatial location at t.
      2. Second, constitution requires material coincidence — x constitutes y at t only if x and y have all the same parts.
    2. The formal properties of the constitution relation (are)
      1. First, the constitution relation is transitive. So, consider a representative clay statue (Statue) and the lump of clay (Lump) from which it is made. If Lump is constituted by a certain aggregate of elementary particles and Statue is constituted by Lump, then Statue is also constituted by that particular aggregate of elementary particles.
      2. Second, the constitution relation is irreflexive, for the defenders of the constitution view traditionally deny that objects like Lump and Statue constitute themselves.
      3. Finally, the constitution relation is asymmetric; while Lump constitutes Statue, Statue does not constitute Lump.
    3. Constitution is not mere coincidence, for coincidence (the sharing of spatial location or parts) is both reflexive and symmetric.
    4. In summary, constitution requires material (as well as spatial) coincidence and that it is a transitive, irreflexive, asymmetric relation.
  • Various papers by Olson (Eric), of course, also consider the topic, which he considers fatal to animalism (or at least it would be were it true).
    → I should probably start with "Olson (Eric) - Composition and Coincidence".
  • There are many accounts of the mereological type of Constitution, in particular:-
    → "Jubien (Michael) - Things and Their Parts", and I should read (or re-read) some of the papers in:-
    → "Rea (Michael), Ed. - Material Constitution - A Reader"
  • A reading list for this topic is difficult to prepare without stepping on the ground already covered by:-
    The Constitution View or
    Mereology.
    I’ll review this after completing the other two Notes. However, for now, see Bob Doyle: Material Constitution (http://metaphysicist.com/problems/constitution/).
  • 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 5:
  • This makes it sound as though the CV goes back centuries!
  • Wasserman uses the term “traditionally” when he probably just means “usually” or “standardly”.

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


Footnote 24.5: (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 8: I doubt this has much to do with Kinds as such – despite the book’s title – but is more to do with Doepke’s ideas on PID.

Footnote 9: Read the Synopsis first.

Footnote 10: For reference only – superseded by "Lowe (E.J.) - More Kinds of Being: A Further Study of Individuation, Identity and the Logic of Sortal Terms".

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


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)

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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 substances5, 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 28.5: (Substance)

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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 7: Compared and contrasted with the earlier "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance".

Note last updated: 04/07/2015 11:31:12


Footnote 29: (Animals)

According to the Animalists, this is what we are. Human animals, that is. Some, 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 persistence6, 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.

This Note is mostly a place-holder. See the categorised reading-list below. The segregation of the reading list between this Note and 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.

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


Footnote 29.6: (Persistence)

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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 11: And the rest of Part 1 of "Hirsch (Eli) - The Concept of Identity".

Footnote 12: And other Chapters in "Lowe (E.J.) - The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity and Time".

Footnote 13:
  • The Bibliography – and the Seminnar – cover much beyond Persistence as such.
  • I need to extract the relevant items to the various sub-topics.

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


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 patients3 and
    → Those with Multiple Personality Disorder4 (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:-
    • Commissurotomy14,
    • Dicephalus15,
    • Multiple Personality Disorder16,
    • 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 30.14: (Commissurotomy)

A commissurotomy involves cutting the corpus callosum, the bundle of nerve fibres connecting the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain. The procedure is used to treat epilepsy, but is invoked by philosophers as a thought experiment to provide an alleged real-life example of fission. The real-life situation usually has to be improved to overcome the laterality of the brain, and the two hemispheres are assumed to be idempotent, with nothing of philosophical significance alleged to ride on this idealisation.

As with all TEs, what we can learn from this one depends on our level of description of what is supposed to be going on. The idea is that each hemisphere fully supports the mental life of the subject(s), and consequently that there is, or can come to be, multiple subjects – and hence multiple persons – within the same human animal. Commissurotomy is used as an objection to animalism. Some philosophers argue that (for modal reasons) there are always two persons within the same human being.

Clearly, this is not obviously the case in the normal asymmetric brain (see, no doubt, "Kinsbourne (Marcel) - Asymmetrical Function of the Brain"). So, in these thought experiments – and prior to this idealised idempotency – there has to be a period of equalisation and duplication of function. This sounds like it would lead to causal over-determination, but maybe the way it could be described is as with fault-tolerant computer systems, so that one hemisphere always takes the lead (or maybe they alternate) – in fact, this is said to be the case [where?] with marine mammals, to enable them to sleep without drowning. The non-dominant hemisphere is just kept up to date – either continuously or periodically – with whatever data and current state is represented in the dominant hemisphere. In such a situation, there are already – prior to the commissurotomy – two exactly similar (other than that they are mirror images of one another) but non-identical half-brains.

Of course, the last sentence above begs some questions. It is only the cerebral hemispheres that are separated and duplicated – but they are still physically connected via the brain-stem – even if the logical connections are greatly reduced. It is said [where?] that severed hemispheres can still communicate with one another via cues passed externally to the brain. Indeed, the case of the dicephalus suggests that this co-ordination is possible with two complete brains, where the hands can be co-ordinated to drive a car and even type, despite being controlled by different brains.

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

Note last updated: 25/08/2009 15:04:19


Footnote 30.15: (Dicephalus)

  • This pathological case is often cited as a prima facie problem for Animalism.
  • The claim is that while we have multiple persons, we only have a single animal, so the animalist claim that persons are numerically identical to their organisms is false.
  • It has the advantage over standard TEs, in that what is actual must be possible, and a standard argument against TEs is that some of them, at least, whatever our intuitions may say – may not in fact be possible because the TE is under-described.
  • That said, there’s still a temptation to push the boundaries, and to consider cases in this general area that are not actual, yet are not quite as science-fiction as the usual TEs.
  • Cases of dicephalus are fairly rare, and often one “twin” is degenerate so it’s not clear that we have two persons.
  • However, the example of the dicephalus twins, Abigail and Brittany Hensel, where one body appears to be coordinated by two brains (see this Web Link (http://www.mymultiplesclerosis.co.uk/misc/shared-body.html), and probably more “official” sites – see Web Link (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abigail_and_Brittany_Hensel) for instance) shows that this is not necessarily the case.
  • Here we definitely have two persons, but maybe only one animal. This is probably a real-life case of either incomplete fission or of fusion.
  • Other links:-
    1. Conjoined Twins: Web Link (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjoined_twins). This article is of interest not least because it discusses the issue of fission versus fusion, with the latter now the favourite suggestion.
    2. Diprosopus: Web Link (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diprosopus).
    3. Polycephaly: Web Link (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycephaly).
  • There are two issues with these cases:-
    1. How should they be best described?
    2. How should the animalist respond?
  • Description: I need to research this further, but it seems to me that we have a sliding scale of pathological cases – from that of Siamese twins (who are often fairly loosely connected, and can often be surgically separated) to the much more extreme cases of diprosopus. I presume, also, that we can have both fission and fusion. In the case of (incomplete) fission, the twins will be identical, as the situation is one where the twinning process has not completed. But (I imagine) we can also have a case of fusion, where the twin-embryos – whether identical or fraternal – that were separate have subsequently partially fused.
  • Response:
    1. The most likely response from the animalist is that the dicephalus is not a single organism, but two organisms that share some body-parts.
    2. The force of the arguments in this kind of case depends on “relevant similarity” – if the dicephalus-case is sufficiently similar to the general case, it can be used to show things about the general case. But this claim can be rejected.
    3. In the case of diprosopus, it is more difficult to claim that there are two organisms. Now – in practice – there are never two persons either (as all the 30-odd cases recorded since 1860, the condition has proved quickly fatal, so there are no persons present). But this might not always be so. So, Baker might claim that the rudimentary persons are indeed persons – as there is a possibility that they would develop into robust persons. Failing that, it might be the case in the future that there is a case where the diprosopus survives to develop personality.
  • For diprosopus:-
    1. see Web Link (http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/conjoined-twins-hope-faith-fight-survival-article-1.1789137)
    2. See also Web Link (https://uk.news.yahoo.com/one-body-two-faces-rare-twins-born-sydney-083226701.html#4U6U96d).
    3. The important thing – and what differentiates the diprosopus from the dicephalus – is that there is much less duplication of body parts, so it is very much two brains sharing one body.


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

Note last updated: 04/07/2014 22:46:34


Footnote 30.16: (Multiple Personality Disorder)

MPD - otherwise known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This condition is normally viewed as psychopathological, to be treated by therapy. It occurs where a human being is, or appears to be, “home” to more than one person, or at least more than one personality. These persons/personalities may be radically dissimilar, and are (as the alternative designation implies) dissociated from one another. They can be like Locke’s night and day man “incommunicable consciousnesses”, unaware of one another’s existence – hence being in Lockean terms different persons; or, they can be aware of one another, but as of distinct persons.

No doubt one could complain that the clinically-recorded cases are exaggerated, fabrications or otherwise unreliable. But there seems nothing wrong with them as TEs, and ones least open to cavil given their approximation to reality.

Effectively, we have a brain running more than one mind-program (on the “mind-as-software” approach); or a brain segregated into more than virtual machine (on the “mind as hardware”) approach to the mind-brain relationship.

MPDs pose no problems to those espousing the Psychological View (PV) – other than ethical issues concerning “therapeutic” suppression or unification of the alleged multiple persons (see "Shoemaker (David) - Moral Issues at the End of Life"), but what is the response of or the Constitution View (CV)? Can we have more than one person – with more than one First Person Perspective (FPP) – constituted by the same human body? Animalism ignores psychological factors altogether as far as identity is concerned, so won’t be troubled.

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 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 view3”. 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-coincident10 individuals11 (because the hemispheres aren’t spatially coincident, though the shared body is).

We need to consider how the original person was unified14. 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 scattered17 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 32.3: (Psychological View)

This is the view, originating with Locke, that the matter of primary importance in matters of personal identity is the psychological continuity (or maybe of psychological connectedness). No-one denies that our psychology is important to us, but making it constitutive of our identity has led to much confusion and paradox. In particular it encourages the idea that the same human being may not be the same person throughout its life, or that the same person may “hop” from one human being to another. I wish to deny both these possibilities.

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 32.10: (Coincidence)

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: This may be the place to start!

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


Footnote 32.11: (Individual)

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: 14/01/2017 20:18:14


Footnote 32.14: (Unity of the Person)

Plug1 Note

  • I’m not quite clear on the purpose of this Note. It has – at the time of writing – a couple of links to it – from Fission and from Cartesian Ego. However, …
  • There’s a presumption in the philosophy of personal identity that the person is a single well-defined thing. This is probably a hang-over from the days of Cartesian Dualism or when it was assumed that each of us had an indivisible Soul. And this, depending on what the referent of person is supposed to be, can seem (and maybe is) quite sensible.
  • However this unity has been disputed – for instance in the different interpretations of PMD:-
    1. Supporters of the PV argue that cases of PMD show that there can be multiple persons sharing the same body. This assumes that a person is some sort of well-integrated personality, no part of which is shut off from the rest (as is allegedly – though doubtfully – the case in MPD). So – on this view – each of the multiple personalities is deemed to be a separate person, and so (it is said) the person cannot be identical to the human being that houses it. Of course, any idea of integration ought to have gone out when Freud came in.
    2. However, animalists (and others) would argue that this is all a mis-description, and that all we have a fragmented self (as is implied – maybe – in the current terminology – Dissociative Identity Disorder), or some other cognitive disorder within a single human animal (to which the title “person” is properly addressed, they say, though only in the sense of a phase sortal).
  • Lynne Rudder Baker – a proponent of the CV - claims (fairly plausibly) that each of us is individuated by a FPP. In the case of fission, she thinks (implausibly) that there would be a fact of the matter (somehow), as to which of the two fission products received your FPP. You would just know. Well, you wouldn’t, unless there was continuity of consciousness.
  • This intuition is referred to as the Unity Reaction in "Blackburn (Simon) - Has Kant Refuted Parfit?".
  • There is no categorised reading list for this Note. I will need to rely on material covered under the head of related Notes.
  • This is 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: 03/08/2015 23:29:46


Footnote 32.17: (Scattered Objects)

  1. The possibility of scattered objects is of fairly limited interest in the study of Personal Identity, though the topic is discussed passim in "Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death", and also in my review of "Zimmerman (Dean) - Problems for Animalism".
  2. The concept features in the discussion of intermittent objects where – rather than admit of such things – an alternative is to allow the disassembled bicycle to be a scattered object.
  3. Another locus of interest is in certain medieval concepts of the resurrection of the body. If the body is gathered together again from its “dust”, then maybe it had continued to exist as a scattered object. The problem with this is that organisms don’t own their parts essentially, and they can be shared over time by a number of organisms (witness the old worry about cannibalism, and the counterfactual reply that the body “rejects” cannibalised flesh).
  4. A problem with allowing scattered objects is that it undermines our intuition that one of the things that determines the persistence of material objects is spatio-temporal continuity.
  5. Scattered objects arise perforce if we hold to mereological essentialism, or allow that any gerrymandered object exists and has its parts essentially.

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

Note last updated: 04/07/2014 22:46:34


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 transplants9.

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 33.9: (Brain Transplants)

Brain Transplants, even if currently technically infeasible are considered to be important TEs. They seem to give the same answer to both the holders of the Psychological Continuity View and the Bodily Continuity View of what ensures the persistence of the person across time. Both say that the person goes where the brain goes. However, some animalists disagree.

Note that there are two conceptually distinct versions of the idea of a brain transplant.

  1. The first is a Whole Brain Transplant (though it becomes somewhat arbitrary quite where the brain is supposed to terminate – ie. just how much of the Spinal Cord is included).
  2. The second is the Cerebrum Transplant (single or double).
It might be objected that the TEs of WBTs are under-specified. A lot of motor-control is delegated to the CNS (Central Nervous System); and to ensure motor-control, the brain and the CNS – and even the PNS (Peripheral Nervous System) need to work in tandem. Yet a transfer of the entire CNS - which includes the spinal cord, let alone the PNS – which includes all the peripheral nerve endings (both sensory and motor) – stretches credulity somewhat. We need to consider just what the TEs are supposed to prove, and just why we sometimes consider WBTs rather than just Cerebrum transfers. I presume the preference for WBTs may stem from the presumed assurance that the seat of consciousness is transferred, which might not be the case if only a cerebrum or two are transferred. It may be we don’t care too much whether the recipient of the transferred brain is fully functional – though if we wanted assurance that this individual is an animal, we might want the regulatory functions of the brain to remain intact. But whatever brain parts perform these tasks, provided the resultant individual has a full brain, however cobbled together, we might have what we want if the wiring problem can be solved.

A Whole Brain Transplant might better be described as a maximal body transplant, while it is much less clear what’s going on in a Cerebrum Transplant. The latter are useful for cases of fission (with the added assumption of the idempotency of the two hemispheres), but it’s not fully clear just what psychological functions are left behind in this case. Because not all regulatory functions are in the cerebra, it’s more difficult to argue that the human animal is transplanted with one or more cerebra than it is with a WBT. I’ve not heard of anyone arguing for animal fission by a fission of the whole brain, but maybe they have.

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


Footnote 34: (Duplication)

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 cloning4 falls under this head, there is no identity preservation, even under a perdurantist thesis, as there are no shared stages, just shared genetic material.

See also Replication, which may well be the same thing (though not restricted to a mere doubling).

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 34.4: (Clones)

Plug Note1

  • Cloning is related to – or is involved in the analysis of – topics such as2
    Duplication,
    Fission,
    Replication,
    Resurrection / Reincarnation,
    Teletransportation (Note9).
  • Cloning also features in10 several TEs.
  • We need to contrast:-
    1. The metaphysical possibility of atom-by-atom cloning, with …
    2. Biological cloning which uses existing structures, and interferes unnaturally in a fairly minor way.
  • I am not concerned (as far as my thesis goes) with the medical ethics of biological cloning. There is never any suggestion that clones in this sense are logically identical, any more than so-called identical twins are.
    • That said, there is something of a link – in the metaphysics, if not the ethics – with a critique of Parfit’s “identity doesn’t matter” account of personal identity.
    • Since my clone has my (innate) properties and capacities, Parfit might think I have all that matters (or much of what matters) to me if my clone, rather than I myself, survives and I do not.
    • The papers by Agar and Brennan seem to follow this approach.
    • In particular, the paper by Brennan suggests that persons might be types rather than tokens which – while an interesting proposal – is about as far from the truth as you can get. Tokens suffer, types do not, qua types. On token of the same type may be luxuriating white another is being tortured.
  • What I am interested in is whether atom-by-atom cloning (where the original exemplar is destroyed) can ever preserve identity. Because of the logical possibility of the non-destruction of the “original”, I take it that it cannot. This argument depends on modal logic – and the rejection of the possibility of contingent identity. For further discussion, see under Teletransportation.
  • We may also need to discuss causality to further explain why identity is not preserved. This is particularly the case when discussing Zimmerman (Dean)’s Falling Elevator model of resurrection, where – it is supposed – there is a causal connection between the expiring body and its clone17 in the next world.
  • The very term CLONING seems to deny the possibility of the logical identity of an original and its clone. It implies that there are two things – the original and the clone – and two things can never be one thing, so cannot be logically identical.
  • A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
    1. "Agar (Nicholas) - Cloning and Identity", 2003, Agar
    2. "Brennan (Andrew) - Survival", 1984, Brennan
    3. "Gale (Richard) - On Some Pernicious Thought-Experiments", 1991, Gale
    4. "Ishiguro (Kazuo) - Never Let Me Go", 2005, Ishiguro18
    5. "Johnston (Mark) - A New Refutation Of Death", 2010, Johnston
    6. "Kamm (F.M.) - Moral Status and Personal Identity: Clones, Embryos, and Future Generations", 2005, Kamm
    7. "Nussbaum (Martha) & Sunstein (Cass), Eds. - Clones and Clones: Facts and Fantasies About Human Cloning", 1998, Nussbaum19
    8. "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Immortality", 2009, Shoemaker
  • This Note is mostly a place-holder. See the categorised reading-list below, which includes a lot of irrelevant items to do with the ethics of biological cloning.





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 2:
  • I’ve included the papers primarily treating of these topics under the reading list for this topic where they mention cloning, though they will feature elsewhere.
Footnote 9:
  • This is sometimes rather tendentiously referred to as “Telecloning”.
  • Yet, calling it “Teletransportation” is equally tendentious, and
  • “Telecloning” has at least the virtue of beig the correct description!
  • See "Brennan (Andrew) - Survival".
Footnote 10: Footnote 17:
  • Is it agreed that this is indeed a clone, as it seems to be, or …
  • Is this body supposed to be the same body, created by supernatural processes by immanent causation – albeit across space and maybe other dimensions – much as a body at one time is self-identical to a body at a later time by natural metabolic processes.
  • This would imply – in the absence of perdurantism – the non-identity of the living organism and the post-mortem corpse.
  • See "Hershenov (David) - Van Inwagen, Zimmerman, and the Materialist Conception of Resurrection" for the argument that Zimmerman’s resurrected body is a duplicate.
Footnote 18:
  • This is even less relevant than Nussbaum – being a novel. It raises ethical questions in a futuristic situation.
Footnote 19:
  • This book is concerned with the ethics of medical cloning, so is mostly tangential to my concerns.

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


Footnote 35: (Replication)

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 duplication 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.

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 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 endurantist1 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 37.1: (Endurantism)

Endurantism is the traditional account of persistence, that doesn’t invoke the metaphysics of temporal parts.

This Note is mostly a place-holder. Currently, see the categorised reading-list. What follows is a modified version of a write-up of the relevant section of "Kurtz (Roxanne) - Introduction to Persistence: What’s the Problem?".

Kurtz introduces the acronym MET for Metaphysics of Enduring Things. The contrasting acronym is MTP for the Metaphysics of Temporal Parts - that objects are said to have. These exist only instantaneously, and are otherwise known as Stages or Time-Slices. A duck – according to MTP – is wholly3 or partly constituted by temporal parts.

Note that there are two forms of MTP – Perdurantism and Exdurantism – and (says Kurtz) their motivation6 – and that of MTP itself – comes from how well either of these accounts for persistence.

Perdurantism and Exdurantism share a metaphysics of temporal parts, which Endurantism claims ordinary things lack. Each maintains the tension between the three non-negotiable theses by sacrificing at least one “intuitively and philosophically appealing” metaphysical claim on persistence. Kurtz sees this as the “real problem of persistence”.

According to MET, at least some7 objects endure – namely, that a numerically identical object is wholly present at different times.

For both MTP and MET, objects may have temporal parts. So, the existence of stages or a space-time worm8 is not denied by MET.

Neither a space-time worm nor a stage is an enduring thing, as neither is wholly present at different times. Nevertheless, says Kurtz9, MET does not entail the claim that ordinary objects lack temporal parts.

Endurantists claim that ordinary objects persist by enduring, that is, that identity over time is strict identity between objects wholly present at different times. Change is the holding of incompatible properties by objects identical over time. So far seems to be common-sense10.

To avoid the contradiction of an object having incompatible properties, endurantists adopt temporally mediated property instantiation, whereby temporal facts (whether of time or tense) external to the object mediate the instantiation of incompatible properties without an appeal to temporal parts. Thus, an ordinary object persists through change and both alters and survives. What has to be given up is the “just having” of properties. The question seems to be how important the having of properties only mediated by internal facts is.

There are various implementations of endurantism. Those in "Haslanger (Sally) & Kurtz (Roxanne), Eds. - Persistence : Contemporary Readings" are11:-

Kurtz thinks that the introduction of time or tense into property instantiation creates four potential problems12:-
  • 1. She thinks it irrelevant what the time is to whether an object has an intrinsic property or not.
  • 2. Issues like Bradley’s Regress (to be discussed under the head of Temporary Intrinsics) threaten our understanding of how a property can be predicated of an object at all.
  • 3. Indexing properties to times makes them seem like different13 properties, and so gets rid of the prima facie problem of inconsistent properties too easily.
  • 4. Given the definition of change, then if the properties aren’t incompatible, why do we have change at all?





In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 3: It seems odd to think of a duck as being wholly constituted by a single temporal part, but this just is the exdurantist claim (Click here for Note).

Footnote 6: I had thought the motivation came from the need to explain conundrums like Fission (Click here for Note), but it seems there are philosophical difficulties with MET (the problem of Temporary Intrinsics).

Footnote 7: This sounds like an existence-claim, but we let it pass.

Footnote 8: Though the worm is not an “ordinary thing”, but (presumably) a collection of momentary stages, which are themselves not ordinary things.

Footnote 9: This sounds wrong as far as ordinary objects are concerned – I need to check what the endurantists say on this.

Footnote 10: I need to put this note somewhere, so here goes: I had the impression that MET goes along with Substances (Click here for Note), while MTP does not. I need to see what "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance Renewed" has to say. I note that SUBSTANCE is not mentioned once by Kurtz in her Introduction.

Footnote 11: Presumably, these chapters present, but don’t necessarily support, endurantism.

Footnote 12: Presumably for MET only. I’m not hugely convinced by these – and Kurtz admits she’s only gestured at them to get them on the table.

Footnote 13: And, if they are different properties it (to my mind) obscures what makes Red-at-T1 and Red-at-T2 both instances of Red.

Note last updated: 26/03/2014 19:09:07


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 dualism11.

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 39.11: (Dualism)

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 2: Footnote 4:
  • I may need to think this through a bit more.
  • The argument would go – from “Sunday school dualism” – that if we have souls, then we can’t be animals, as animals don’t have souls.
  • But, dualism is really only claiming that the mental cannot be reduced to the physical. But if this is true of human beings – whatever they are – then it is true of human animals, and all animals with minds. So, the topic might be orthogonal to animalism – the claim that we are animals.
  • That said, there is a tradition of treating dualism as more sympathetic to the psychological view of personal identity, that our persistence conditions are mental, which animalism claims to be irrelevant to our identity.
Footnote 7:
  • Well, resurrection of (sufficient of) a corpse would be metaphysically possible, but following the total destruction of the body, there is nothing to carry the identity of the individual.

Note last updated: 01/08/2017 00:11:31


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 40.5: (Convention)

This section will cover whether it is ever right to say that whether a thing persists or not is merely a matter of convention. Because of the existence of a first-person perspective, it seems difficult to imagine in the case of persons, but it may be true of artefacts.

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 41: (Perdurantism)

As developed by Quine, David Lewis, Ted Sider and others. Perdurance is to be contrasted with Endurance. Finally, Exdurance2 (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 41.2: (Exdurantism)

This Note is mostly a place-holder. Currently, see the categorised reading-list. What follows is a modified version of a write-up of the relevant section of "Kurtz (Roxanne) - Introduction to Persistence: What’s the Problem?".

Exdurantism is otherwise known as Stage Theory and Kurtz describes it as analogous to identity3 between possible worlds. Just as an object might have had incompatible properties – and this is cashed out as a counterpart in a possible world having these properties – so a temporal counterpart stage of the object has them. The objects with incompatible properties are, in both cases, non-identical counterparts of one another. So, the exdurantist then contends that change over time is nothing more than an object and its temporal counterpart having incompatible properties and existing at different moments in the actual world. .

Exdurantists have it that an object is numerically identical to a single stage, and is wholly present at the moment it exists. In contrast to Perdurance, according to Exdurantists, objects persist when they exdure, and exdure by changing over time. An object changes over time, then, when it and a counterpart stage just5 have incompatible properties. Consequently, an exduring object does not – strictly speaking – survive change.

The primary proponent of Exdurance is Sider (Ted), eg. in "Sider (Ted) - All the World's a Stage". Also see "Hawley (Katherine) - Parts and Stages".

Acording to Exdurance, an object undergoes change when it and a counterpart “just have” incompatible properties. It persists when it changes over time by standing in the counterpart relation6 to a stage from a different time. As no single thing has incompatible properties (different stages are different objects), Exdurantism satisfies the demands of consistency.

Exdurantism has the advantage over Perdurantism in that it’s the object itself that “just has” its properties, rather than a (temporal) part of the object. However, just like Perdurantism, Exdurantism rules out change as is commonly understood. In both cases, it’s just different stages that have the incompatible property, not one and the same whole object.

But, Exdurantism does much worse over survival, in that an exduring object doesn’t survive, as the different stages are different objects. At best, an exduring object “continues” in some way, but the momentary stages are no more identical than are links in a chain.




In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 3: “Identity” is, strictly speaking, the wrong term, if the counterparts are non-identical.

Footnote 5: Just Having (a property) is a term of art. To quote Kurtz: an object just has a property if and only if no extrinsic facts are relevant to the truth of the proposition that the object has that property. Just Having a property is a slightly tricky concept, and "Lewis (David) - Rearrangement of Particles: Reply to Lowe" is invoked, which refers to non-relational changes (the example is of changing your shape by sitting, etc.).

Footnote 6: Just how is this “Counterpart Relation” cashed out?

Note last updated: 26/03/2014 19:09:07


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 personality12 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 44.12: (Personality)

“She’s not the same person”, means she’s undergone a change of personality. What are personalities? Are personalities a loose collection of properties? Do personalities have persistence conditions? No. Consider an analogy with colour. The question is better phrased as does x have the same personality / colour at t1 as at t2.

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 similar4, 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 Web Link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdxucpPq6Lc). 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 45.4: (Similarity)

  1. The logic of similarity, like the logic of identity, is a prerequisite for understanding continuity and change.
  2. It is important to distinguish identity from exact similarity, as in the case of "identical" twins" which are not identical in the strict logical sense.


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

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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