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DeGrazia - Are We Essentially Persons?

(Work In Progress: output at 12/10/2018 10:07:37)

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

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  1. This write-up is (or will be) a review of "DeGrazia (David) - Are we essentially persons? Olson, Baker, and a reply".
  2. The Abstract1 is:-
    • Recently, Eric Olson and Lynne Rudder Baker have vigorously debated the question of our essence: What are we2, most fundamentally: human animals, persons, or something else?
    • After reconstructing Olson's critique of the standard view – according to which we are essentially persons and our identity over time consists in psychological continuity – I argue that Baker goes some distance towards meeting his challenge to account plausibly for the relationship between persons and human animals.
    • Then I contend that her version of the standard view has major difficulties: a "newborn problem"; a dubious ontology; and a problematic account of personal identity.



Sections3
  1. Introduction
  2. Olson’s Challenge to the Standard View
    • The Fetus Problem
    • The problematic relation between the person and the early human organism
    • The problematic relation between the person and your PVS successor
    • The problem of implying that we are not animals.
  3. Baker’s Reply to Olson’s Challenge
  4. A Critique of Baker’s View
    • The Newborn Problem
    • A Dubious Ontology
    • A Problematic View of Personal Identity
  5. Concluding Reflections



Bibliography Notes
  1. Introduction
    • Three distinct issues, the last brought to prominence by Olson & Baker:-
      1. What is the nature of personhood; ie. what is a person5?
      2. Personal Identity: what are the persistence conditions6 of persons over time?
      3. What is our essence? What are we7 most fundamentally: human animals, persons, or something else?
    • Olson contends that (what he calls) the Standard View (SV) of personal identity – which requires some kind of psychological continuity8 – has highly implausible implications.
    • Olson claims that the SV holds that we are essentially persons9, and instead posits that we are essentially (living10) human animals11, members of the species Homo sapiens12 with biological13 persistence conditions.
    • Olson claims that the SV has no plausible account of the relation between the person and the associated human animal. Baker – who accepts “person essentialism” seeks to provide this account with her Constitution View14. We human persons15 are constituted16 by, but are not identical to, human animals.
    • DeGrazia’s plan is to:-
      1. Reconstruct Olson’s critique of the SV
      2. Argue that Baker goes a long way towards meeting Olson’s challenge
      3. Contend that Baker’s CV17 nevertheless has three major difficulties:-
        1. The “newborn problem”
        2. A dubious ontology
        3. A problematic account of personal identity
  2. Olson’s Challenge to the Standard View
    • 2.1 The Fetus Problem
    • 2.2 The problematic relation between the person and the early human organism
    • 2.3 The problematic relation between the person and your PVS successor
    • 2.4 The problem of implying that we are not animals
  3. Baker’s Reply to Olson’s Challenge
  4. A Critique of Baker’s View
    • 4.1 The Newborn Problem
    • 4.2 A Dubious Ontology
    • 4.3 A Problematic View of Personal Identity
  5. 5. Concluding Reflections

→ Further details to be supplied18



In-Page Footnotes:

Footnote 1: Footnote 3: Footnote 4: Footnote 10:


Printable Versions:



Table of the Previous 2 Versions of this Note:

Date Length Title
18/12/2010 19:58:05 1880 DeGrazia - Are We Essentially Persons?
12/02/2009 21:30:14 1887 DeGrazia - Are We Essentially Persons?



Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
12/10/2018 10:07:42 None available What are We?

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Awaiting Attention (Write-ups) Biological Criterion Constitution Constitution View Corpses
Homo Sapiens Human Animals Human Persons Persistence Criteria Person
Psychological Continuity What are We?      

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




Summary of Note Links to this Page

Thesis - Chapter 02 (What are We?)        

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




Authors, Books & Papers Citing this Note

Author Title Medium Extra Links Read?
DeGrazia (David) Are we essentially persons? Olson, Baker, and a reply Paper Low Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Chapter 02 (What Are We?) Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes



References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Baker (Lynne Rudder) Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View Yes
Baker (Lynne Rudder) What Am I? Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Mar99, Vol. 59 Issue 1, p151, 9p; Yes
DeGrazia (David) Advance Directives, Dementia, and the Someone Else Problem Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract DeGrazia - Human Identity and Bioethics, 2005, Chapter 5 4%
DeGrazia (David) Are we essentially persons? Olson, Baker, and a reply Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Philosophical Forum; Winter2002, Vol. 33 Issue 1, p101, 20p Yes
DeGrazia (David) Human Identity and Bioethics Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 10%
DeGrazia (David) Taking Animals Seriously: Mental Life and Moral Status Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract DeGrazia (David) - Taking Animals Seriously: Mental Life and Moral Status No
Olson (Eric) Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 13 (Olson) Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 24%
Olson (Eric) Reply to Lynne Rudder Baker Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Mar99, Vol. 59 Issue 1, p161, 6p; 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) Was I Ever a Fetus? Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Mar97, Vol. 57 Issue 1, p95, 18p; Yes
Schechtman (Marya) Personhood and Personal Identity Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 87, No. 2 (Feb., 1990), pp. 71-92 17%



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  1. Black: Printable Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
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  3. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)




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