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Personal Identity - 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



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Timestamp: 03/08/2017 16:32:55. Comments to theo@theotodman.com.