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Snowdon - The Self and Personal Identity

(Text as at 13/08/2015 23:55:41)


This note provides my detailed review of "Snowdon (Paul) - The Self and Personal Identity". The Paper is a rather elementary piece in a book designed for beginners in philosophy, so maybe wasn’t really worth the effort reviewing it. However, in my defence I’d say that – given that I’m intent on defending Animalism1 – it’s always worth attending to a recent piece written by a prominent Animalist2. The structure and headings in the analysis below are my own, but hopefully closely reflect Snowdon’s discussion.

Sections

  1. Selves and Persons
    • See "Snowdon (Paul) - The Self and Personal Identity" for the full text of this Section, on which my comments appear as footnotes.
    • In summary:-
      1. Snowdon divides what’s in the world into three categories: material objects, sentient beings, and us.
      2. He notes that whatever we are that distinguishes us from other beings in the second category is only a matter of degree.
      3. He makes no distinction between persons3 and selves4, something I’m not happy with.
      4. He has three things to say about the terms “person” / “self”: they pick out all of each of us; they are the referent of the first-person pronoun; they don’t necessarily pick out what we most fundamentally are.
      5. There’s an ambiguity in the philosophical literature on Personal Identity as to whether philosophers are talking about what we most fundamentally are, or only about us insofar as we qualify as selves or persons.
      6. Snowdon thinks they at least ought to be talking about what we most fundamentally are, and that’s what he’ll do.
  2. Some Questions
    • Snowdon sees three questions, the first two of which are to be dealt with in the other two sections of this Chapter, and the final one is parked:-
      1. The Self-Body Problem: A synchronic question – what do we consist of – is there any more to us than our bodies?
      2. Personal Identity: A diachronic question, leading on from the answer to the previous one. It deals with matters of persistence for beings such as us.
      3. What qualifies an individual to be a person or self?: Snowdon asks, but does not answer:-
        • Do they need to be physical things?
        • Do they need to be subjects of particular types of experience?
        We are referred to "Cassam (Quassim) - Self and World".
  3. The Self-Body Problem
    • As noted in the first Section, Snowdon equates Selves and Persons. He now asks what is the relation between this entity, P, to its body5, B.
    • He asks whether there are any parts of P6 that are not parts of B, and vice versa.
    • He will consider two initial views:-
      1. No parts of B form part of P; P is entirely distinct from B.
      2. B and P are mereologically identical. B is all there is to P.
      Other possible views are ignored in this introductory essay.
    • He accepts various methodological principles in this Section, as means of determining whether two things are or are not identical:-
      1. Leibniz’s7 Law (LL),
      2. Modal8 arguments and Essential9 Properties10,
      3. Occam’s Razor11.
    • The example Snowdon gives of View (i) is Cartesian Dualism12, or the Soul13 View. He gives three of Descartes’ arguments:-
      1. I know I’m a P, but don’t know I’ve a B, so – by LL – P<>B. This is exposed as the Masked Man Fallacy14.
      2. (I) P is essentially thinking, (II) B not; (III) B is essentially extended, (IV) P not: so P<>B. While this is a valid form of argument, we need not accept all its premises, in particular (I15) and (IV16) are false, so it is unsound.
      3. Things composed only of bodily parts cannot perform certain acts, such as engaging in conversation and problem-solving. The second alleged problem is the easiest to attack, as the motivation for Descartes was the limited technology of his time (clocks and mechanical models of animals). The possibilities of matter are easily underestimated, and our coincidence with our bodies is proof that bodies can do a lot17.
    • Now on to View (ii), namely P=B. Descartes has given us no reason to think P<>B. There are two sorts of reason why we cannot be identical to something distinct from our bodies18.
      1. Incoherence: there are two alleged cases of this adduced by Snowdon:-
        1. Causal Interaction: there’s a two-way transfer of influence between P and B (sensation and action). Isn’t it impossible to explain this on the dualist view? Snowdon is unimpressed, on the grounds that it’s not ruled out a priori, and might be a special19 case of causation.
        2. Individuation: How are we to make sense of the persistence and individuation of non-physical Selves; between one persisting self and two successive ones? And, how are we to distinguish between two qualitatively identical Selves? Snowdon dismisses these worries as epistemological rather than metaphysical or conceptual.
      2. Other Bad Features”:
        1. Needless Complexity: There’s no reason to believe that we need anything beyond B to give P, so – by Occam’s Razor – we should stick with the simpler solution, namely B.
        2. Reject Hume’s “Bundle Theory”: This theory is alleged by Snowdon to try to show that no part of B is a part of P – and is briefly rehearsed and rejected on three counts not worth discussing20.
    • Constitution:
      1. So, if we have shown that there is no reason to think that there are any parts of P that are not parts of B, do we have P=B?
      2. No, for consider a statue S and the piece of clay C that was shaped into it. S just consists of C, yet it doesn’t look as though S=C, as they have different life-histories. C constitutes S and – for all we know – B may constitute P without being identical to P.
      3. A footnote refers to an example of Kripke’s21.
      4. Snowdon claims the debate is completely unsettled, and has to move on. We are referred to Wiggins, but there is no mention of Baker22.
  4. Personal Identity
    • We (taken to be Ps) persist over time. Can anything informative be said about our persistence conditions? Snowdon thinks three factors are involved:-
      1. Future contingencies
      2. Some of these lead to P’s survival, others not.
      3. Criteria23 of identity: non-circular specification of just which contingencies P can survive.
    • Snowdon has reservations about TEs24, in that he doesn’t trust our intuitions in unusual cases, but will proceed in the orthodox manner to use them, at least initially.
    • Snowdon initially considers three popular criteria of Personal Identity:-
      1. Body25 Criterion: it is both necessary and sufficient for P to survive that B does.
        • This gives the correct answer to whether the adult is identical to the child.
        • Changes in P’s psychology pose no problems for identity.
        • Some are, however, uncomfortable with this …
      2. Psychological26 Criterion: The above approach is unpopular for two27 reasons:-
        1. TEs seem to show that B and P may come apart in two ways.
          1. B and not-P: To cases … Irreversible brain damage (or Shoemaker’s brain-zap) and MPD28 (Note29).
          2. P and not-B: Brain Transplants30.
        2. Locke’s31 theory of Personal Identity seems to many to be along the right lines. So:-
          1. A Person is "a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing in different times and places", so that “as far as this consciousness can be extended backwards to any past action or thought, so far reaches the identity of that person.”
          2. This general approach seems to accommodate people’s intuitions about the TEs.
          3. It displays two general features:-
            1. Persistence of persons consists in psychological relations across time.
            2. There is no requirement for the person to be tied to a particular body.
        3. Neo-Lockeans substitute wider psychological features to the memory-criterion that is central to Locke’s own theory.
          1. Snowdon’s favourites are "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons" and "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Personal Identity: a Materialist Account".
          2. These accounts also substitute “quasi-memory32” and the like for the standard psychological predicates, which since Butler have been seen to presuppose personal identity rather than analyse it.
          3. We are referred to "Parfit (Derek) - How We Are Not What We Believe", pp. 219-23, and – for a critique – to "Wiggins (David) - Personal Identity".
        4. Whatever the attractions of the psychological view, some prefer the third traditional alternative …
      3. Brain33 Criterion:
        • The main objection to the body view was the main P and Non-B case – the brain-transplant intuition that “we go with our brains”.
        • We effectively have the best of both worlds, and the person is tied to the object that grounds their psychology.
        • Snowdon cites "Mackie (J.L.) - Identity and Diversity" and "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings".
        • He also notes that the Brain view does not34 claim that I am identical to my brain, as my physical properties differ significantly from those of my brain.
        • What the theory does claim is that I can only survive if my mental features remain grounded in that physical object. But the person is the total thing organised around that object and usually extends well beyond it.
        • Snowdon thinks there are no decisive objections to the BV, though
          1. Neo-Lockeans think there are further P and Non-B cases which show that the brain is not necessary to our survival, and
          2. We can question whether the empirical grounding of mental states is a necessary one.
    • Animalism35
      1. Motivation for Animalism:
        • Snowdon thinks the restricted pallet of concepts involved in the above three options (and others) – namely bodies, body parts and psychological states – has an unnecessarily constraining effect on the debate.
        • Where you are there would appear to be a human animal. What weight – Snowdon asks – should be given to that fact in debates about personal identity?
      2. Arguments for Animalism: Snowdon considers three issues:-
        1. For a brain-theorist or neo-Lockean, the Person and the human animal are not identical.
          1. The B & not-P cases make non-identity clear for the neo-Lockean.
          2. For the BV it’s less clear. Snowdon is less bullish than Olson – he doesn’t say “the brain is just another organ” – but imagines a case in which enough brain is transplanted to ensure the transfer of the psychology, while leaving enough brain behind to ensure the animal survives in some form.
        2. In the course of a normal human life it would be hard to think of any predicates we would ascribe to the person that don’t apply to the human animal (and vice versa). They would seem to be identical.
        3. If the person and the animal are really distinct, then we have what Snowdon calls the Two Lives problem36, unless we don’t allow human animals to have psychological states when we’re quite happy (nowadays) that non-human animals have them. While not a formal contradiction, having twice as many thinkers as we expected is a surprise. This also undermines the thought that persons are marked out by their psychological capacities if human animals have these and yet are not persons.
      3. Animalism:
        1. Has led to a “downgrading” of the Body view, which has no advantages not shared by Animalism.
        2. If we persons are identical to human animals, what are the persistence conditions of animals? There are unresolved questions about the end of life – Snowdon says – are. Does an animal cease to exist when it dies, or continue as a corpse37?
        3. Psychology is irrelevant to the persistence of animals.
        4. We are referred to the following exponents of Animalism:-
      4. Problems38 for Animalism:
        • The same examples as for the Body view apply, namely “A and not-P” and “P and not-A” cases.
        • In these it is usually easy to see that we are tracking A correctly, but it is not so obvious that we are correctly tracking P.
        • So, take the B and not-P case (re-badged as A and not-P) where an individual has lost all psychology as a result of an accident or brain-zap. Has P really ceased to be, or has P simply suffered a tragedy, while remaining in existence?
        • The most difficult case is the P and not-A case of a brain transplant. Snowdon adopts the “organ donation” solution, that many will find deeply implausible. Detailed Animalist answers include
          1. "Snowdon (Paul) - Personal Identity and Brain Transplants", and
          2. "Olson (Eric) - Why We Need Not Accept the Psychological Approach".
  5. Where to now …?
    • Snowdon thinks that the problem of the Self and Personal Identity is difficult, and
    • We should not be deceived into thinking we have the answer based only on a cursory sampling of standard TEs.
    • Maybe we are right to think that we are “advanced mentally-endowed self-conscious animals” who have got into a muddle39 and convinced ourselves that we have a differing nature to that animal.
    • But, we are a long way from knowing this40.
  6. Further Reading: This is mildly interesting in revealing what Snowdon thinks are the next steps, in case I’ve missed any. I’ve ignored the Classics (Descartes, Arnauld, Locke, Butler, Hume).



In-Page Footnotes:

Footnote 5: Just note here that this may be an expository simplification. Olson distrusts “bodies” (Click here for Note) and prefers “animals”(Click here for Note) or (maybe, I forget) “organisms” (Click here for Note).

Footnote 6: Not merely for the sake of the argument, since – at this stage – P might be a sum of body and soul or mind and body.

Footnote 11: I have an old Note on this – Click here for Note.

Footnote 14: Intensional properties are really properties of me – the knower – not of the object allegedly known.

Footnote 15: Footnote 16: Footnote 17: Snowdon says this is a proof of the existence of the CNS (Click here for Note).

Footnote 18: Footnote 19: Footnote 20: If I ever look into Hume’s views on Personal Identity (Click here for Note) in any detail, I may return to this.

Footnote 21: Footnote 22: See "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View".

Footnote 27: TEs and (initially) Lockean intuitions.

Footnote 29: Footnote 34: Olson seems to think this claimed – ie. that the BV implies I can fit into a hat-box, and so on

Footnote 36: Footnote 37: This seems to be resolved – an animal is an organism, but a corpse is just an organised lump of matter. Organisms and corpses have different persistence conditions.

Footnote 39: Footnote 40:


Printable Versions:




Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
13/08/2015 23:55:41 None available None

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Abbreviations Animalism Animalism - Objections Animalists Animals
Body Body Criterion Brain Criterion Brain Transplants Criteria of Identity
Dualism Essentialism Hume Leibniz Locke
Modality Multiple Personality Disorder Occam's Razor Organisms Person
Properties Psychological Criterion Quasi-Memory Self Souls
Thinking Animal Argument Thought Experiments      

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




Summary of Note Links to this Page

Quasi-Memory        

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Authors, Books & Papers Citing this Note

Author Title Medium Extra Links Read?
Snowdon (Paul) The Self and Personal Identity Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Quasi-Memory Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes



References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Angel (Leonard) Since Physical Formulas are Not Violated, No Soul Controls the Body Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 16 No
Armstrong (David) A Materialist Theory of the Mind Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Armstrong (David) - A Materialist Theory of the Mind 4%
Ayers (Michael R.) Locke (Vol 2 - Ontology) Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 25%
Ayers (Michael R.) Neo-Lockean and Anti-Lockean Theories of Personal Identity in Analytic Philosophy Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Ayers - Locke (Vol. 2 - Ontology), 1991, Chapter 25, pp. 278-292 Yes
Baker (Lynne Rudder) Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View Book - Cited High Quality Abstract Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View Yes
Cassam (Quassim) Self and World Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Cassam (Quassim) - Self and World No
Cockburn (David), Ed. Human Beings Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 11%
Garrett (Brian) Personal Identity and Self-consciousness Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Garrett (Brian) - Personal Identity and Self-consciousness Yes
Gill (Christopher) The Person and the Human Mind: issues in ancient and modern philosophy Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 5%
Johnston (Mark) Human Beings Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Journal of Philosophy, Volume 84, Issue 2 (Feb 1987), 59-83 Yes
Kim (Jaegwon) What Could Pair a Nonphysical Soul to a Physical Body? Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 13 No
Kripke (Saul) Identity and Necessity Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Loux - Metaphysics - Contemporary Readings 15%
Loux (Michael), Ed. Metaphysics - Contemporary Readings Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 1%
Lowe (E.J.) A Survey of Metaphysics Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied No
Lowe (E.J.) Substantial Change and Spatiotemporal Coincidence Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Lowe - A Survey of Metaphysics, Chapter 4 No
Mackie (J.L.) Identity and Diversity Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Mackie - Problems from Locke, Chapter 5 No
Mackie (J.L.) Problems from Locke Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Mackie (J.L.) - Problems from Locke No
Martin (L. Michael) & Augustine (Keith) The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 15%
Nagel (Thomas) Mind and Body Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Nagel (Thomas) - A View from Nowhere, Chapter 3 Yes
Nagel (Thomas) The Objective Self Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Nagel (Thomas) - A View from Nowhere, Chapter 4 Yes
Nagel (Thomas) The View from Nowhere Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied Yes
Noonan (Harold) Personal Identity Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity Yes
Olson (Eric) The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology Yes
Olson (Eric) Why We Need Not Accept the Psychological Approach Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract The Human Animal, September 1999, Chapter 3, pp. 42-72 Yes
Papineau (David) There is No Trace of Any Soul Linked to the Body Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 15 No
Parfit (Derek) How We Are Not What We Believe Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Parfit - Reasons and Persons, January 1986, pp. 219-245(27). Yes
Parfit (Derek) Reasons and Persons Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons Yes
Rosenthal (David), Ed. The Nature of Mind Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Bibliographical details to be supplied 11%
Ryle (Gilbert) The Concept of Mind Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Ryle (Gilbert) - The Concept of Mind Yes
Shand (John) Central Issues of Philosophy Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 34%
Shand (John) Central Issues of Philosophy Book - Referencing (via Paper Referencing) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 34%
Shoemaker (Sydney) Personal Identity: a Materialist Account Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Shoemaker & Swinburne - Personal Identity, 1984, pp. 67-132 33%
Shoemaker (Sydney) & Swinburne (Richard) Personal Identity Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 17%
Smart (J.C.C.) Sensations and Brain Processes Paper - Cited Rosenthal - The Nature of Mind Yes
Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Smith (Peter) & Jones (O.R.) - The Philosophy of Mind - An Introduction No
Snowdon (Paul) Personal Identity and Brain Transplants Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Cockburn - Human Beings, 1991 Yes
Snowdon (Paul) Persons, Animals, and Ourselves Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Christopher Gill, Ed, The Person and the Human Mind, 1990 Yes
Snowdon (Paul) The Self and Personal Identity Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 9 Yes
Snowdon (Paul) The Self and Personal Identity Paper - Referencing Medium Quality Abstract Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 9 Yes
Strawson (Peter) Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 7%
Strawson (Peter) Persons Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Strawson - Individuals, Chapter 3 No
Strawson (Peter) Self, Mind and Body Paper - Cited Rosenthal - The Nature of Mind No
Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) Persons: Human and Divine Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 5%
Wasserman (Ryan) Material Constitution Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, 2009-2013 No
Wiggins (David) Personal Identity Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Wiggins - Sameness and Substance Renewed, 2001, Chapter 7 64%
Wiggins (David) Sameness and Substance Renewed Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance Renewed 16%
Wilkes (Kathleen) Multiple Personality and Personal Identity Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Dec., 1981), pp. 331-348 20%
Wilkes (Kathleen) Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied Yes
Wilkes (Kathleen) Thought Experiments Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Wilkes - Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments, Chapter 1 Yes
Williams (Bernard) Are Persons Bodies? Paper - Cited Williams - Problems of the Self (1970) Yes
Williams (Bernard) Personal Identity and Individuation Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Williams - Problems of the Self 50%
Williams (Bernard) Problems of the Self Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 55%
Wilson (David L.) Nonphysical Souls Would Violate Physical Laws Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 14 No
Wong (Hong Yu) Cartesian Psychophysics Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Persons: Human and Divine 6%



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