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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 011: Introduction
  2. Chapter 022: What are We?
  3. Chapter 033: What is a Person?
  4. Chapter 044: Basic Metaphysical Issues
  5. Chapter 055: Persistence and Time
  6. Chapter 066: Animalism and Arguments for It
  7. Chapter 077: The Constitution View and Arguments for It
  8. Chapter 088: Arguments against Animalism
  9. Chapter 099: Arguments against the Constitution View
  10. Chapter 1010: Thought Experiments
  11. Chapter 1111: Resurrection
  12. Chapter 1212: Conclusion
I’ve started a Note13 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” argument14 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:
    • Fission15, fusion16 and replication17 in general
    • Commissurotomy18
    • Multiple Personality Disorder19
    • Brain-state Transfer20
    • Brain Transplants21
    • Teletransportation22
    • Siliconisation23
    • 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 1: (Thesis - Chapter 01 (Introduction))


  • The Thesis seems to fall naturally into three sections (other than this Introduction and the Conclusion); namely,
    1. Setting up the problem (Chapters 2-5),
    2. Olson and Baker’s views contrasted (Chapters 6-9); and
    3. Testing the preferred solution (Chapters 10-11).
  • Consequently, I intend my Thesis to have 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

Research Methodology
  • Follow this Link12 for a generic statement of how I intend to pursue each Chapter.
  • The method is broken down into 12, possibly iterative, stages.
  • Follow this Link13 for my progress dashboard on these tasks.
  • The methodology for this Chapter differs somewhat from most other Chapters in that there is little real work, other than background reading and checking that the Thesis as a whole hangs together.
  • However, I do need to record while reading the general surveys anything that needs to go into the Historical Survey or Motivating Statement.
  • Another couple of “clearing up” tasks14 specific to this Chapter are:-
    1. To ensure that all the Papers on Identity that I have actually read are referenced somewhere15 in this Thesis.
    2. To ensure that all the Notes on Identity that I have actually produced are referenced somewhere16 in this Thesis.

Motivating Statement17
  1. Why should we care about the topic of personal identity and the possibility of life after death? Put this way, the question hardly needs answering, as it’s just about the most important question to be posed by a reflective (if selfish) person. Yet, the question is difficult, and has had many attempted solutions offered – and while some philosophers think there is no problem left to solve, there is no consensus as to the answer.
  2. My favourite solution – in the sense of the one I think most likely to be correct, rather than necessary the one I’d like to be correct – namely Animalism – that we are human animals and that consequently death is the end of us – is only supported by around 17% of philosophers, according to a recent poll18 with about twice as many supporting some form of psychological view.
  3. In one sense it is just obvious that we are – in some sense of that weasel word – human animals. But then the problem cases kick in – whether real-life or thought experiments that may never be real-life possibilities.
  4. About 36% of the respondents in the aforementioned survey though we could survive teletransportation – though 31% thought that the result would be death.
  5. Transhumanists think we can be uploaded to computers.
  6. Further detail to be supplied19.

Main Text
  • For convenience, brief abstracts (as currently intended) of the above chapters are given below. I have included on-going hyperlinks from the above links to my initial thoughts on these topics (and to reading lists and plans for further research) by way of further clarification. 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: See above for a motivating statement and below for a brief historical general survey of the topic 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 Chapter 10 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, including the following:-
      • Fission
      • Fusion
      • Replication
      • Commissurotomy
      • Multiple Personality Disorder
      • Brain-state Transfer
      • Brain Transplants
      • Teletransportation
      • Siliconisation
      • Transhumanism
    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-aware Christians and Muslims (unlike what seems to be the case with most swipes against religion). Maybe I should also cover reincarnation.
    12. Conclusion:
      • 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.

Brief historical general survey of the topic of Personal Identity
  1. To be supplied32.

Links to Books / Papers to be Addressed33
  1. In this Chapter I will consider the following papers or book chapters (together with some others referenced by these). There are doubtless many more that are relevant and which will be addressed in the course of the thesis, but these are probably sufficient to get us going.
  2. The purpose of this Chapter is to introduce and motivate the Thesis. As such, I need to situate it in the history of the topic. This is done in a number of introductory books, General Surveys, or collections of Papers that are standard fodder in courses on Personal Identity.
  3. Consequently, I will review the various Surveys of Personal Identity that feature in the standard reading lists, both to demonstrate that I’ve read them, and to ensure I’ve missed nothing major.
  4. If a Paper in a Collection or Chapter in an Introduction is specific to a later Chapter in this Thesis, its consideration may be reserved until a later Chapter, even if the Book itself is not. These will be noted in due course.
  5. As the topic of Personal Identity stems primarily from Locke’s account, I need a brief statement of what this is. Most of the relevant material will appear in due course in the anthologies, but I few items not anthologised are listed below.
  6. Other works were considered and either cut or reserved for later, as indicated below. The easiest way to see all the works considered is via the reading list at the end of this Note.
  7. Introductory or General Books
  8. Standard Collections
  9. Locke

The Cut
  1. Various works were considered for this Chapter, but were either reserved for consideration in other Chapters, or were rejected, at least for the time being.
  2. Priority Works to be read later for other Chapters:-
  3. Secondary Works to be “parked” for the time being:

Links to Notes
  1. General Surveys50,
  2. Locke51,
  3. Maybe others (to be supplied).

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 14: These will be left until all Chapters have completed Task 7.

Footnote 15:
  • This may either be “as utilised” or “as ignored”.
  • Follow this link.
  • As of mid-Oct 2014, this task is now complete!
Footnote 16:
  • This may either be “as utilised” or “as ignored”.
  • Follow this link .
Footnote 17: This will explain why I’ve undertaken this research, and encourage the reader to continue.

Footnote 18: Footnote 33:
  • See the section on Research Methodology for what is to be done with these.
  • The author’s surname is repeated in the text to make it easier for me to see what’s going on in the encoded text I work on.
Footnote 34: As this is a PhD Thesis in my general subject-area, I ought at least to have read it!

Footnote 35: Somewhat elementary, but worth (re-)reading quickly

Footnote 36:
  • This is a course of lectures on Metaphysics, at the advanced undergraduate / beginning graduate level.
  • All the issues raised – in the discussion of standard papers – many of them covered elsewhere in my Thesis – are useful background.
Footnote 37: This is a set of papers for discussion in a research seminar. Most are probably covered elsewhere, but in case not …

Footnote 38: For a review, see "Lerner (Berel Dov) - Review of "Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction" by David Shoemaker".

Footnote 39: Decide where to park the various Chapters of this book after reading the précis.

Footnote 40: Harris is an interesting case, in that it includes three important papers and three that are off-topic, but important in illustrating the divergent usages of the term “identity”.

Footnote 41: This is more recent than the others.

Footnote 46: But note that Baker’s account of constitution differs from the mereological account assumed in Rea’s anthology.

Footnote 47: The works by Reuscher and Trupp are too eccentric to be given any priority.

Footnote 48: The works by Slors may be worth reading as a fairly contemporary defence of the psychological view; just not yet.

Footnote 49: The work by Vesey is too out of date for a priority item.

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

Footnote 1.12: (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 data3. Into which story does it all best fit?
  3. I may have to reject some recalcitrant thought experiments as ill-formed, but I do not wish to ignore anything significant.
  4. For some time, I have considered Animalism as the most likely account of what human beings are, and I propose this thesis to evaluate the arguments for and against it, using the rival “Constitution View” as a foil.

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

In-Page Footnotes

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

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

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

Footnote 1.12.3: (Clinical Observations)

Plug Note1

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

In-Page Footnotes

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

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

Footnote 1.12.4: (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 1.13: (Status: Thesis Dashboard (2017: August))

Below is a table showing the indicative progress on my Thesis, broken down by Chapter. More detail is given in footnotes. For a definition of the Tasks, follow this Link2.

ChapterTask 01Task 02Task 03Task 04Task 05Task 06Task 07Task 08Task 09Task 10Task 11Task 12
Chapter 01 (Introduction)CompleteCompleteCompleteCompleteStartedCompleteDrafted4  Complete5  
Chapter 02 (What are We?)CompleteStarted7Complete8CompleteStartedComplete9Drafted  Drafted  
Chapter 03 (What is a Person?)CompleteIteration_1Complete      Started  
Chapter 04 (Basic Metaphysical Issues)CompleteStarted12Complete      Drafted  
Chapter 05 (Persistence and Time)CompleteIteration_114Complete      Started  
Chapter 06 (Animalism and Arguments for It)CompleteStarted16Complete      Started  
Chapter 07 (The Constitution View and Arguments for It)CompleteCompleteComplete      Started  
Chapter 08 (Arguments against Animalism)CompleteCompleteComplete         
Chapter 09 (Arguments against the Constitution View)CompleteCompleteComplete         
Chapter 10 (Thought Experiments)CompleteComplete21Started22         
Chapter 11 (Resurrection)CompleteCompleteComplete      Started  
Chapter 12 (Conclusion)N/A25N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 2: The definitions of the 12 tasks are a 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. Segregate 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.
Footnote 4: Needs reviewing as part of the "culling" process.

Footnote 5: This is just the aggregate of the Chapter Abstracts

Footnote 7: Beings (Click here for Note) and Souls (Click here for Note) are a bit skimpy.

Footnote 8:
  • This is the Chapter on which I was working when I started my PhD, and the papers are those I was assigned. They have extensive Write-ups and supervision notes.
  • However, I need to undertake a more thorough review of the literature.
Footnote 9: I probably need to be more rigorous in the culling of items on Selves and Souls.

Footnote 12: Relative Identity (Click here for Note), Vague Identity (Click here for Note), Contingent Identity (Click here for Note), Occasional Identity (Click here for Note) and Substance (Click here for Note) are seletal; Indeterminate Identity needs a Note.

Footnote 14: Time (Click here for Note), Persistence (Click here for Note) and Persistence Criteria (Click here for Note) are all rather skimpy.

Footnote 16: Thinking Animal Argument (Click here for Note) is skeletal and "Other Arguments For Animalism" requires a Note.

Footnote 21: Siliconisation (Click here for Note) is probably Unger's idea, but I seem to have lost the reference.

Footnote 22:
  • The reading-list for the theory of thought-experiments is OK, but not for the TEs themselves.
  • Many of the relevant papers will have been considered earlier in the Thesis, but they need to be reviewed here.
Footnote 25: This Chapter is non-standard.

Note last updated: 03/08/2017 12:51:50

Footnote 1.19: (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 1.50: (General Surveys)

Before starting on the detail of research in Personal Identity, it is necessary to be familiar with the terrain. This involves reading some general introductory books, reading the papers in the standard collections, and attending (or reviewing the output from) lectures at the BA, MA and MPhil level.

Introductory or General Books

  1. "Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity",
  2. "Bourgeois (Warren) - Persons: What Philosophers Say about You",
  3. "Hawley (Katherine) - How Things Persist",
  4. "Heller (Mark) - The Ontology of Physical Objects: Four-Dimensional Hunks of Matter",
  5. "Hirsch (Eli) - The Concept of Identity",
  6. "Lowe (E.J.) - Kinds of Being: Study of Individuation, Identity and the Logic of Sortal Terms",
  7. "Lowe (E.J.) - The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity and Time",
  8. "MacBride (Fraser), Ed. - Identity and Modality",
  9. "Margolis (Joseph) - Persons and Minds: Prospects of Nonreductive Materialism",
  10. "Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity",
  11. "Reuscher (John) - Essays on the Metaphysical Foundations of Personal Identity",
  12. "Slors (Marc) - Personal Identity and the Metaphysics of Mind",
  13. "Slors (Marc) - The Diachronic Mind: An Essay on Personal Identity, Psychological Continuity and the Mind-Body Problem",
  14. "Trupp (Andreas) - Why We Are Not What We Think We Are: A New Approach to the Nature of Personal Identity and of Time",
  15. "Vesey (Godfrey N.A.) - Personal Identity: A Philosophical Analysis".

Standard Collections
  1. "Harris (Henry) - Identity - Essays Based on Herbert Spencer Lectures Given in the University of Oxford",
  2. "Haslanger (Sally) & Kurtz (Roxanne), Eds. - Persistence : Contemporary Readings",
  3. "Kolak (Daniel) & Martin (Raymond), Eds. - Self and Identity: Contemporary Philosophical Issues",
  4. "Martin (Raymond) & Barresi (John), Eds. - Personal Identity",
  5. "Noonan (Harold), Ed. - Identity",
  6. "Noonan (Harold), Ed. - Personal Identity (Readings)",
  7. "Paul (Ellen), Miller (Fred) & Paul (Jeffrey), Eds. - Personal Identity",
  8. "Perry (John), Ed. - Personal Identity",
  9. "Rea (Michael), Ed. - Material Constitution - A Reader",
  10. "Rorty (Amelie), Ed. - The Identities of Persons".

  1. "Crane (Tim) - Substance (4-Lecture BA Course)",
  2. "Hossack (Keith) - Five Lectures on the Logic and Metaphysics of Identity",
  3. "Papineau (David) - Research Seminar on Personal Identity",
  4. "Snowdon (Paul) - Personal Identity (Lectures 1 - 4)",
  5. I attended some Seminars on Personal Identity by Paul Snowdon (not the lectures above), but I can’t find any handouts.

Note last updated: 02/10/2014 17:12:29

Footnote 1.51: (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?1.

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

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

Footnote 1.51.1: (Locke on Personal Identity)

What, if anything, is wrong with Locke’s account of personal identity?

  • Locke’s account of personal identity appears in Book II, Chapter 27 of his Essay ("Locke (John) - Of Identity and Diversity"). To address the question before us, we need first of all to discuss what Locke understands by persons.
  • For Locke, a person is characterised by rationality and consciousness – a person is a "thinking intelligent being" that can consider itself the same thinking thing across different times and places (§9:335.10-13). Additionally, personhood is a forensic concept: a person is something that can be praised or blamed, and which is legally responsible (§26:346.26-28). Locke considers it of first importance that the divine justice at the resurrection should fix on the right person (§26:347.9).

Personal Identity
  • Personal identity is determined by the scope of consciousness of self (§9:335.24-26).
  • A self is that present thinking and perceiving thing with its history of memories. I am identical with the self I was in the past if I can remember my thoughts and actions from that time (§9:335.25-28).
  • "Noonan (Harold) - Locke" (pp.43-44) points out that “Consciousness” in Locke’s day meant shared knowledge, in particular that had by a present self of a past self’s thoughts & actions. For Locke, it consists in present perceptions, sensations, thoughts and memories of the past (§9:335.13-18). It is consciousness that unites “existences and actions” over time into the same person – “whatever has the consciousness of present and past actions, is the same person to whom they both belong” (§16:340.33-35).
  • The identity conditions for persons must not be confused with those for human beings, which are no different to those for other living organisms, such as horses; namely the “participation of the same continued life, by constantly fleeting particles of matter, in succession vitally united to the same organised body” (§6:331.35-332.2).
  • In contrast, the identity of pieces of inanimate matter arises purely from the atoms that make them up (§3:330.18-20).
  • An immediate consequence of Locke’s definition of personhood is the distinction between person and man (human being). Locke imagines the exchange of consciousnesses of a prince and a cobbler (§15:340.10-18). Locke says that the cobbler animated by the prince's consciousness is the same person as the prince, because personhood follows consciousness. However, the cobbler with the prince’s consciousness is still the same man as the cobbler, because "being a man" depends more on corporeal than psychological attributes, as Locke explains in his discussion of the rational parrot, which, despite its accomplishments, remains a parrot (§8:333.5-12).
  • "Noonan (Harold) - Locke" (p.27) summarises Locke’s reasons for making personal identity a matter of sameness of consciousness: they fit the three aims behind his account of personal identity.
    1. Firstly, he wants an account that’s neutral between dualists and materialists, but allows for immortality and the resurrection.
    2. Secondly, we can’t be sure about the identity of substance, but we can about consciousness, so this repels sceptical doubts.
    3. Thirdly, consciousness reflects our practical concern for our identity; I have no reason to care about substantial identity, except where I own and am conscious of that substance’s actions and memories (§14:339.15-340.2).
    As "Jolley (Nicholas) - Personal Identity" (p.101) points out, certain well-meaning modifications to Locke’s theory will be ruled out by his need to accommodate personal immortality and divine justice.

Substance and Personal Identity
  • According to any straightforward reading of the text, Locke denies the relevance of substance to the issue of personal identity. For Locke, there are three kinds of substance:
    … 1. God,
    … 2. “Finite intelligences” (souls or spiritual beings) and
    … 3. Bodies (§2:329.1-2).
  • So, for personal identity to be substantial, it would need to reside either in the soul or in the body. By means of thought experiments, Locke excludes both:
  • The body because:
    1. The body at the resurrection differs from the earthly body, so if the person were the body, the resurrected person would not be the same as the person that died (§15.340.5-6).
    2. A corpse would be a person (§23:344.16).
    3. Locke can imagine two persons inhabiting the same body, the one by day, the other by night, as "incommunicable consciousnesses" (§23:344.18-20).
    4. He can also imagine a single person serially occupying two bodies as though changing clothes (§23:344.24-25).
  • The soul because:
    1. A person could undergo change of spiritual substance, if his present soul remembers the thoughts and experiences of his past soul (§13:338.22-27).
    2. A single spiritual substance could serve as the soul for two distinct persons, if my soul should forget the thoughts and experiences it had when it was the soul of another person (§14).
  • Nevertheless, while God could have “superadded” the power of consciousness to matter (IV.3§6:541.3), Locke thinks that it’s most likely that human beings do have souls (§25:345.25-27) and that it’s our souls that think “in” us (§10:336.13).

Problems with Locke’s Account of Personal Identity
  1. Priority
    • I’m the same person today as I was yesterday because I remember the thoughts, experiences and deeds of my earlier self. However, don’t I also remember other people’s thoughts and deeds? Locke might respond by claiming that I remember my own experiences in a first-person way, but others’ only in a third-person way.
    • Initially, this response appears circular, since the reference to “first-person” memories mentions “person”, and it seems that I need to grasp what constitutes the difference between myself and another person in order to recognise first-person memories.
    • "Lowe (E.J.) - Locke: Identity" (p.110) suggests that the first / third person distinction needed here is no more than the distinction between remembering from the perspective of one involved and one not, without presuming that the one involved was myself. One can then deny that, even in principle, one could have first-person memories of the experiences of another person since, having been involved, I would identify myself with such a person.
    • "Lowe (E.J.) - Locke: Identity" (p.117) thinks a genuine circularity arises if Locke thinks of human persons as highly complex modes or properties of spiritual substances, these properties being complex patterns of successive and interrelated states of consciousness. This is because Locke specifies the identity conditions of persons in terms of relations between conscious mental states, but fails to appreciate that those conscious mental states depend for their identity on the identity of the persons whose states they are. This dooms Locke’s strategy to circularity. "Lowe (E.J.) - Locke: Identity" (p.117) concludes that conscious states are individuated by persons, and not vice versa.
  2. Memory
    • "Ayers (Michael R.) - Contemporary Reactions to Locke's Theory" (p.271) points out that Locke doesn’t suppose that there are a lot more persons than men at the resurrection, or that many crimes will go unpunished. So, people will have to have their memories restored. But, this presupposes a set of actions that are theirs whether or not they remember them, and, on Locke’s account, again leads to circularity.
    • "Winkler (Kenneth) - Locke on Personal Identity" (p.168) considers the problem of transference (cf. §13:338.17) whereby God at the resurrection transfers to my resurrected consciousness some acts that weren’t mine but which I’m now willing to own and be punished for, despite the fact that I didn’t perform them. Locke thinks God wouldn’t allow this situation, but to what can he appeal if Locke’s right about what constitutes a person? While no ancestor-self acknowledged these acts, my present self does. "Jolley (Nicholas) - Personal Identity" (p.117) suggests that God can sort things out at the resurrection by checking for inconsistencies. "Winkler (Kenneth) - Locke on Personal Identity" (p.171) and other writers suggest that Locke might escape by saying that while memory might be necessary for personal identity, it is not sufficient, and that personal identity consists in something underlying consciousness.
    • "Jolley (Nicholas) - Personal Identity" (p.113) also considers the problem of pseudo-remembering. Genuine remembering is causal, running though one and the same body. So, either Locke’s theory collapses into bodily identity or is wildly implausible, claiming that George IV was the same person as led the troops at Waterloo because he (falsely) remembered so doing. These considerations seem fatal to Locke’s account, with mounting suggestions that a substantial account of personhood is required.
  3. Amnesia
    • Isn’t one still responsible for actions one has committed but forgotten? While Locke admits that the same man is responsible, his forensic understanding of personhood means that punishment properly belongs to the person, not the man.
    • "Winkler (Kenneth) - Locke on Personal Identity" (p.153) argues that, for Locke, the self has to appropriate things to itself. Since the self is constituted by what it takes to be included in it, actions and thoughts forgotten beyond recall cannot be part of it. On Locke’s account one has only done what one is conscious of having done. "Ayers (Michael R.) - Contemporary Reactions to Locke's Theory" (p.266) wonders whether reward and punishment even make sense unless the recipient acknowledges the action in question as his own.
    • When we punish someone even though he cannot remember what he did, this, according to Locke, is like punishing the wrong twin (§19:342.19-20). We don’t punish the sane man for what he did when out of his mind (§20:342.35-343.4). Locke would not punish the sobered-up drunkard for his now-forgotten actions, but claims that human law has to operate as it does, since we cannot know whether a man is counterfeit or not in claiming amnesia. Locke’s reasoning is based on our necessary ignorance of other people’s mental states, but he hopes that any injustices will be put right on the day of judgement (§22:343.34-344.12).
    • Locke is right to allow that the genuinely insane man is a different person during the period of his insanity, but amnesia has nothing to do with it. We would still forgive the recovered insane man, and treat him as having been a different person, even were he to remember the period of his insanity.
    • We don't do this for amnesiac drunkards; not because of the greater likelihood of dissimulation, but because the drunkard knew what he would be likely to do when he got drunk. Drunkenness is a voluntarily contracted state, indeed a crime, and no crime can excuse another. So, the sobered-up drunkard deserves punishment whatever his memory of his actions might be. In contrast to the recovered madman, on being informed of his behaviour he ought to own these acts.
    • Hence, Locke’s theory of personal identity fails to explain or derive plausibility from moral and legal accountability.
  4. Transitivity
    • Identity is a transitive relation. So, if A is the same person as B and B is the same person as C, then A must be the same person as C. However, as Thomas Reid pointed out, this isn’t the case on Locke’s account. Imagine a small boy caught stealing apples, growing up into a young officer and declining into an old general. The old general remembers being a young officer and the young officer remembers being a mischievous boy, but the old general doesn't remember being the mischievous boy. According to Locke, the three cannot be the same person, though two pairs are.
    • We can rescue Locke by replacing the relation of first-person memory by the ancestral of that relation, which is always guaranteed to be transitive. For x to stand in the ancestral of the memory relation to y, it suffices for x to remember the deeds of a who remembers the deeds of b … who remembers the deeds of y. With this adjustment, Locke could justifiably claim that the old general is the same person as the boy.
    • "Lowe (E.J.) - Locke: Identity" (p.113) thinks that Locke wouldn’t be happy with this solution because he thinks of personhood as a forensic concept. A person should not be held responsible and punished for deeds he didn’t do which, for Locke, are those he can’t remember committing. However, "Winkler (Kenneth) - Locke on Personal Identity" (p.170) thinks that the young officer has appropriated the acts of the young boy, and because the old general has identified himself with the young officer, he has thereby appropriated all the acts he has appropriated. Because, on Lowe’s account, the self accumulates over time, rather than being constituted by instantaneous consciousness, identity of the self remains transitive.
  5. Substances
    • Locke thinks we have no clear idea of substance (I.4§18:95.29-33), so we certainly have no clear idea of when something is the same substance. Consequently, we need a nonsubstantial notion of a thing, and we do have a clear idea of the same self, considered as self.
    • As "Lowe (E.J.) - Locke: Identity" (p.107) points out, by Locke’s own definition, souls are themselves persons, since they are thinking, self-conscious beings. Yet, my soul isn’t the same person as me, because I could get a new one. There appear to be two kinds of person, things like my soul and things like me, with different criteria of identity. However, a sortal term, like “person”, can have associated with it only one criterion of identity, which enables us to count them.
    • The problem is compounded by Locke’s concerns for “sensible creatures”, to whom memories are transferred, which (as both "Ayers (Michael R.) - Contemporary Reactions to Locke's Theory" (p.264) and "Noonan (Harold) - Locke" (p.45) point out) are thinking substances, not persons (§13.338.14-18). Locke worries that a soul will be wrongly punished or rewarded at the resurrection by having some consciousness passed on to it for which it wasn’t originally responsible. The wrong thinking substance will suffer, even though the right person (consisting in more than one thinking substance) is punished. It was once thought fitting that the same matter be punished as performed the deed, so Locke may be being ironical, as though souls have their feelings too.
    • "Lowe (E.J.) - Locke: Identity" (p.117) thinks that to resolve such difficulties, we must equate persons with thinking substances. This doesn’t commit us to belief in “immaterial souls” if, contra Descartes, we allow matter to have attributes of thought as well as extension. However, given Locke’s explicit arguments against persons being souls, this suggestion is not to be preferred.
    • "Lowe (E.J.) - Locke: Identity" (p.73), "Bennett (Jonathan) - Locke's Philosophy of the Mind" (p.106) and "Noonan (Harold) - Locke" (p.30) are in agreement that Locke distinguishes between basic substances (atoms) and non-basic substances (trees), the latter being modes of the former. In this chapter, Locke doesn’t use “substance” for “thing”, but for fundamental constituents of reality.
    • This makes way for "Winkler (Kenneth) - Locke on Personal Identity"’s (p.164) interesting neo-Lockean proposal, for which we must consider substance-stages, temporal slices of Lockean non-basic substances, which persons supervene on (or are constructed out of). Successive stages are connected by two relations – that of psychological continuity, which connects them into persons, and physical continuity, which connects them into living things.
    • Ontologically, persons and living things are then on the same level, but may share only some of their stages. Locke’s insistence that identity of persons is not determined by identity of substance means only that the identity isn’t determined by either of two kinds of substances in particular – organised bodies or immaterial souls.
  • While Locke has escaped the transitivity objection, the problems raised by amnesia make Locke’s account implausible. Additionally, he is convicted of circularity on two counts above (See under Priority and Memory). Consequently, Locke has to give up all thought of consciousness defining personal identity, though it is certainly relevant. Locke was right to consider the concept of a person as fundamentally a psychological one, involving mental powers including rationality and self-consciousness.
  • So, we must reject Locke’s characterisation of persons as insubstantial beings, constituted of streams of consciousness interconnected by memory. Locke ought to have acknowledged that persons are substantial aggregates of Winkler’s substance-stages, of which aggregates their conscious states are modes.

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

Footnote 2: (Thesis - Chapter 02 (What are We?))


  1. 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.
  2. “We” requires explanation. This chapter attempts to sort out the topic of discussion for the Thesis as a whole.
  3. 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 same goes for SELVES, and also for HUMAN BEINGS, insofar as these are supposed to be distinct from HUMAN ANIMALs.
  4. I also need to have some discussion of what is meant by the various other possibilities of what we are, but leave explications of PERSONs, BODIES and ANIMALs / ORGANISMs until later Chapters.
  5. I’m not quite sure where the possibility that we are BRAINs ought to go, but for the time being it’s here; and this leads on to the possibility (tacitly assumed in some TEs) that we might be individual CEREBRA.

Research Methodology
  • Follow this Link for a generic statement of how I intend to pursue each Chapter.
  • The method is broken down into 12, possibly iterative, stages.
  • Follow this Link for my progress dashboard on these tasks.
  • Progress on this Chapter is unusual in that it was the sample Chapter on which I was working with my Supervisor when registered for the PhD at Birkbeck.

Chapter Introduction
  1. This Chapter has the title “What Are We?”. The “We” is of some significance, as we will see in the course of this Thesis when we consider the social and reciprocal aspects of what it is to be a person. Nonetheless, should we not start with the singular, maybe even solipsist, question “What Am I?”, and expand out from there into the collective question? How we phrase our initial question has an impact on the course of our investigations, and may reflect our deepest presuppositions. The first-person question adopts the Cartesian stance of looking from the inside out, whereas the third-person question considers “us” collectively. The first-person question may presuppose that the answer to the question is that I am primarily a psychological being, whereas the third-person question may assume or expect the answer that I am fundamentally physical.
  2. Some of the potential answers to the question will be the same whether we phrase the question in the singular or the plural.
  3. Taking it in the plural for now, we need to distinguish, as candidates for what we might be on the physical side, (prefixing “human-” passim):-
    • Animals,
    • Organisms,
    • Bodies,
    • Beings, and
    • Brains.
  4. On the psychological side, I might be a self or, more popularly, a person. I might even be a non-essentially-embodied entity like a soul.
  5. I will consider all these options in due course; with the exception of a detailed discussion of the concept PERSON (which is reserved for the next Chapter), I will do so later in this chapter.
  6. Olson4 also considers whether we might be Humean bundles of mental states and events, and even the nihilist view that we don’t exist at all. I’m not sure I’ll have space for these, but need to remain aware of the possibilities and motivations for these positions.
  7. However, for the moment I want to consider some themes connecting the possible answers to our question. Firstly, does there have to be a single answer? I know that I, and presume that my readers also, fall happily under the concepts HUMAN ANIMAL, HUMAN ORGANISM and HUMAN BEING. I at least have a human body and a human brain, though I would initially feel reluctant to say that I am one of either of these things. I would certainly claim to be a SELF, and also a PERSON, as no doubt would my reader. So, cannot all these answers be correct?
  8. This raises the question of what I mean by saying what I am (or we are) something. In saying that I am any of these things, what sort of relation is the “am”? Am I using am in the sense of an identity relation, a constitution relation, ascribing a predicate, or have some other sense in mind?
  9. There are two kinds of questions I want to ask. Firstly, what sort of being am I identical to? Secondly, what sort of properties do I have; both metaphysically essential properties (those without which I would cease to exist), and those I merely consider essential (that is, “very important”, though I would continue to exist without them)?
  10. Any “is” that does duty for the identity relation inherits the formal properties of an equivalence relation; in particular, it is a transitive relation. Additionally, the “two” identical entities either side of the copula must satisfy Leibniz’s law; “they” share (at a time) all their properties; actual and modal, intrinsic and relational. So, if I am identical to a human animal, and also identical to a human person, then that human animal must be identical to that human person. This would mean that these “two” entities are really one. They co-exist at all times in all possible worlds where either of “them” exists, and share all their properties and relations, at any time and world. Everything that happens to “one” at a world and time happens to the “other” at those coordinates. This places strong logical constraints on how much cake I can have and eat. I may want to say that I am identical both to a human animal, and to a human person, yet claim that a human person has certain mental properties essentially, but deny that a human animal does. However, I am then claiming what is logically impossible, at least for the classical logic of identity that denies that such notions as relative identity are coherent. As we will see, this point is essential to the animalist case that we are not identical to human persons (given the claim that we are identical to human animals).
  11. My thesis addresses the topic of personal identity, but we might claim that what we’re really interested in is in our identity. Not that we have doubts as individuals as to which particular individual we are (as though I, as Bill Clinton, don’t know whether I am Bill Clinton or George W. Bush), but what sort of individual we are, together with worries about our persistence (how long we are going to last, and in what form). Historically, it has been a standard presupposition that what we are most fundamentally is persons, or at least that’s all we care about. So, concern about our identity has been elided with concern for personal identity, almost as though we thought that the two questions are the same. Animalists argue that the two questions are indeed different, but for convenience, and the historical continuity of the general topic under discussion, still say they are talking about personal identity.

Main Text
  1. To be supplied.

Links to Books / Papers to be Addressed5
  1. For this Chapter I have already worked on the various papers or book chapters under supervisory control. Where this is the case, for ease of reference, the analytical Note for each reference is hyperlinked directly.
  2. Additionally, I may need to consider other papers or book chapters in the following lists (together with some others referenced by these). There are doubtless many more that are relevant and which will be addressed in the course of the thesis, but these are probably sufficient to get us going. Some that I have considered have been culled or reserved for later.
  3. The General Question:-
  4. Brains / Cerebra
  5. Neurological Background
  6. Human Beings
  7. Selves32
  8. Souls34
  9. Nihilism
  10. Many aspects of these papers will need to be left for later chapters.

The Cut
  1. There had already been a lot of cutting in the various selections of the original reading list – the reading lists attached to the Notes run on and on – and these items just represent the works in my possession (though I have sought out all that I’ve heard of that look relevant).
  2. However, the items in the lists following were given some attention, and have been culled – at least temporarily – from the lists above, where they originally appeared. I’ve not always given a reason as I’ve not studied them sufficiently closely. But, you have to draw a line somewhere.
  3. The General Question
  4. Brains / Cerebra
  5. Human Beings
  6. Selves
  7. Souls

Links to Notes
  1. For an out-of-date skeleton giving a fuller reading list, follow this link37.
  2. Candidates for what we are, considered in this Chapter:-
    • Human Beings38,
    • Brains,
    • Cerebra40,
    • Selves41,
    • Souls42,
    • Others to be Supplied?
  3. Candidates for what we are, considered in later Chapters:-
    • Animals43,
    • Bodies,
    • Organisms,
    • Persons,
    • Nihilism47.

Final Remarks
  1. This is work in progress.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 4: In "Olson (Eric) - What are We?"

Footnote 5:
  • See the section on Research Methodology for what is to be done with these.
  • The author’s surname is repeated in the text to make it easier for me to see what’s going on in the encoded text I work on.
Footnote 12: The excerpt from Brandom raises some questions about the community we call “we”.

Footnote 15: Baker often expresses indebtedness to Chisholm (Roderick), who is reviewed on that account.

Footnote 17: An annoying book, but one I ought to study.

Footnote 21: The book. From my perspective, probably the most important source for this Chapter.

Footnote 22: See also the Chapters on Brains and Souls in the subsequent reading-lists.

Footnote 26: Useful historical background, maybe!

Footnote 28: Lockwood might deny that this is his view, but he seems committed to it, as far as I can see.

Footnote 29: This maybe ought to be categorised as an “anti-soul” view.

Footnote 30: Some of the papers by Puccetti will be reconsidered in (or maybe reserved for – a couple already have been) Chapter 10.

Footnote 32:
  • This list is rather long, and contains many whole books. I may have to cull several of these further down the line.
  • However, the Self is important, as it’s the root of Baker’s FPP, and the motivator for all psychological theories of PI, so understanding just what it is supposed to be is central to my concerns.
Footnote 33: 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.

Footnote 34:
  • The comment about the prolixity of the reading list applies even more to Souls than Selves, without the positive connection my primary thesis.
  • However, if we were to be souls, this would solve the resurrection problem; so I need to thoroughly understand the reasons why we might be – but most likely are not – souls.
Footnote 35: This looks interesting, but is somewhat off-topic for a priority reading-list.

Footnote 36: This is rather elementary, and ought to have been reviewed in Chapter 01.

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

Footnote 2.6: (Baillie - What Am I?)

This write-up is a review of "Baillie (James) - What Am I?". It’s my take on what’s said, somewhat compressed. My own comments universally appear as “Note:”.

  1. Introduction:
    • Question: what kind of thing am I? Obvious answers: a person, man, human being; Scotsman, philosopher.
    • Wiggins: a=b; a, b temporal stages of a material object that’s a member of a natural kind; where a natural-kind concept is one that plays an explanatory role in the natural sciences. Contrast natural kinds with artefact-kinds. a and b must fall under the same sortal concept; a must be the same something as b.
    • Note:
      Question: are natural kinds merely extensions of concepts; do they exist independently of our conceptual structures, or is it merely the particulars that fall under these concepts that exist.
      Answer: Kinds are extensions of concepts. So a kind can exist in the absence of a concept (though no-one could talk about it).
    • Note: The reference to “temporal stages” doesn’t presuppose perdurantism.
    • Wiggins’s Thesis D: the Sortal Dependency of Identity, a =f b:
      a=b iff there exists a sortal concept f such that:-
      1). a, b belong to a kind that is the extension of f.
      2). That x falls under f, that x is an f, says what x is.
      3). a is the same f as b, or a coincides with b under f.
    • Substance-Concepts versus Phased Sortal Concepts. The former apply “present tense” throughout the entire existence of a given object and specify a “form of life” or “principle of activity”. The latter eg. CHILD, TEENAGER apply “present tense” only at certain temporal stages.
    • We don’t need to specify f to make identity statements. We only require that a and b be the same something, whatever that something might be. The constitution of that “something” is then a matter for empirical investigation.
  2. Locke’s Man/Person Distinction:
    • Question Restated: What substance-concept do I fall under? Locke was the first to realise there is a philosophical problem raised by the dualistic conception of human beings. Same man versus same person. Standard Lockean account of “Person” as a self-aware thinking thing.
    • Descartes had presupposed that any biologically-based sortal concept could not specify what I essentially am, namely a thinking thing.
    • Locke’s criterion of personal identity is an uninterrupted flow of self-conscious awareness.
    • Locke also considered that we fall under another biologically-based sortal concept, namely MAN. Same-MAN questions should be distinguished from same-PERSON questions, as the criteria are different (spatio-temporal track versus sameness of memory). Potential divergence: prince and cobbler thought experiment (TE).
    • Note: I continue to be worried that Relative Identity may raise its head here. Baillie addresses the matter in Section 7 below.
    • Locke’s distinction prefigures the debate between supporters of the Physical and Psychological criteria of Personal Identity.
    • Baillie doubts that we should attribute to Locke the thought that we are essentially immaterial souls contingently embodied. He expatiates briefly on what Locke meant by “consciousness” and the soul. While Locke does not deny the existence of the soul, he does deny that it is the essential bearer of Personal Identity, and has the Socrates / Mayor of Queensborough TE to demonstrate the contention.
    • For Descartes, memory can only be evidence for Personal Identity; for Locke it is constitutive of it.
    • Locke’s Day/Night persons anticipate Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).
    • Note: Baillie considers MPD to be “well established”, but I understand it to be controversial.
    • Baillie thinks Locke’s theory faces insuperable difficulties: something has to be the bearer of memory and consciousness (which for Locke constitute PI). They are not free-floating self-sufficient entities any more than the Cheshire Cat’s smile (is).
    • Note: Darn! I thought I’d invented this analogy. However, some argument is required, as treating persons as universals like software seems to be a popular notion.
    • Baillie concludes that Locke’s account is incoherent, the error being to focus on memory & consciousness alone without reference to its means of embodiment. As such, there are no nomological factors adduced that would define what’s possible for persons as such. Baillie takes this discussion further in Chapter 6 - "Baillie (James) - Memory".
    • Note: where above we have “embodiment” might this not be “ensoulment”?
    • Baillie thinks that Locke divorced MAN and PERSON because he, like Descartes, thought that the biological category MAN (viewed mechanistically) couldn’t possibly account for the higher mental (and therefore moral) functions of PERSONs. Baillie notes that the advent of computers has undermined such convictions.
    • Note: isn’t there a passage where Locke allows that mental predicates could have been superadded to matter by the Creator? Also, there’s scepticism that digital computers at least are up to the job of phenomenal consciousness or the kind of free will that’s allegedly essential for moral accountability.
  3. Natural Kinds and Natural Laws:
    • Baillie considers Human Being vs Homo Sapiens as analogous to Gold vs “The Element with Atomic Number 79”. All are natural kind terms, differing only in the degree of scientific precision whereby they pick out the individuals that fall under these concepts. The second item in each pair is a more precise classification.
    • Question: Is PERSON a natural kind term? No, because it fails the Kripke/Putnam test, which HUMAN BEING and HOMO SAPIENS pass.
    • Kripke/Putnam test: causal theory of reference. Key elements:-
      1). Law-like principles collecting the actual extension of the kind around an arbitrary good specimen.
      2).These principles determine the characteristic development and typical history of members of the extension.
    • Wiggins’s Animal Attribute theory of PERSONHOOD. Two aspects:
      1). Natural kind component: the animal species.
      2). Functional / systemic component: various higher cognitive faculties.
    • Note: why does Wiggins think only animals qualify as persons? See Supervision comment – it seems that in so far as we can conceive of allegedly non-animal persons, they are animals.
    • Quote from "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance", p. 171.
    • Note: Wiggins references “typical members” so, the individual does not need to possess these attributes, only belong to an animal species whose typical members do; also “self-conception”. Wiggins comments on this quote in "Wiggins (David) - Reply to Snowdon (Persons and Personal Identity)", saying that the dots (representing the class of intensional predicates) aren’t due to laziness.
    • Functions: neither persons nor species are for anything, so are to be contrasted with exemplars of artefact-kinds. However, organs have functions within the overall division of labour within the organism. Analogously, there are various mental functions within the mind/brain, and these are partly constitutive of persons.
    • Baillie rejects “carbon-based chauvinism”, and allows machines to be persons (in principle).
    • So, PERSON is not a natural-kind term, but an attribute of certain animals. It cross-classifies a number of natural kinds.
    • Further, PERSON is only a secondary classification, for two reasons:-
      1). Personhood depends on the possession of a physical structure sufficient for the psychological attributes.
      2). These attributes are only possessed contingently, and can be lost, though the vegetative bodily functions remain.
    • Notes:
      Claim (1) above depends on physicalism. Is this assumed throughout this discussion?
      Claim (2) above seems to ignore Wiggins’s “typical members” clause. Is it an objective matter whether we call a one-time person who’s lost his faculties a person? He might still be a person according to Wiggins, since he still belongs to a species whose typical members possess these attributes.
    • Baillie draws an analogy between the failed attempts of:-
      1). Treating PERSON as a natural-kind concept, and
      2). Adopting the type/type theory of mind/brain identity.
      The reason is that neither demands the same physical instantiation of a psychological function.
    • Note: Baillie is a bit quick to remark that “psychology is irreducible to neuroscience”. Doesn’t it depend on what’s expected in the reduction? Can’t we relativise to the appropriate infrastructure and then claim “nothing over and above”? Can’t we have a token-token reduction?
    • The precise analogy Baillie claims is that just as anything that preserves the right causal dependency between stimulus and behaviour is a mental state, so anything that possesses the mental predicates required of personhood is a person.
    • Notes:
      1). This account of the mental seems to be unduly behaviouristic. This may not matter to the analogy, except we are discussing the mental aspects of personhood.
      2). Are no physical predicates required of a PERSON? Aren’t there physical predicates essential to our makeup? This may say that we are not essentially persons, as the animalists maintain. We need to distinguish our predicates qua PERSON and qua HUMAN ANIMAL.
      3). What about the phenomenology required of both mental life and personhood? Not just any infrastructure that provides the behavioural functionality will do.
      4). What’s the correct import of the analogy? That persons (like minds) are irreducible to biology? This isn’t what Baillie and Wiggins want? Or, maybe it is, but is a result that can be misunderstood. Considered as a type-type reduction, the reduction fails, because the bodily instantiations of persons (and minds) can differ; but, a token-token reduction can work. But then, as with token-token reduction in the philosophy of mind, we need to explain what (from a physicalist point of view) makes all pains instantiations of PAIN, and all persons instantiations of PERSON. This might not be a problem.
    • Persons and Artefacts: the class of animal-kinds permitting person-tokens is open. These kinds are so diverse in physical structure, there is no nomological principle gathering together all and only the underlying individuals under a natural-kind concept. This is what we see with artefact-kinds: there is no inner structure underlying their outer characteristics. So, persons can only be collected together as for members of artefact-kinds, by a functional characterisation irreducible to any one physical description.
    • Note: again, this is at the type, rather than token level. The functioning of an individual knife is explained by its physical structure, and there are constraints on the sort of structure that can give a functioning knife. But there is no one physical structure that exemplifies all knives.
    • Essences: according to Wiggins, each person has a real essence – that of the animal-kind under which it falls. He mentions human-persons and dolphin-persons in "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance", p. 172.
    • Baillie takes an initial swipe at TEs, which he’ll address fully in Chapter 5 - "Baillie (James) - Methodology Matters". The issue is that the principles of individuation and identity conditions for individuals falling under a natural kind concept are subject to the laws by which that kind is delimited. Taking HUMAN BEING for example, if we “stretch” these laws (as with fusion or fission TEs) we can have no trust in our intuitions, because such individuals could not be members of that kind. Fusion and fission aren’t within the scope of their principles of activity.
    • Note: lest we lose the plot, while we’re interested in PERSONs, we can only sensibly talk about their persistence conditions in the light of their essences – the substance-concept under which they fall. I’m slightly worried about this. There seem to be two sorts of question, which may exemplify the de re / de dicto destinction:
      1). If a is the same human being as b, and a and b are both persons, then, in one sense, a and b are the same person because they are the same HUMAN BEING (because they are the same individual). Is this de re (since HUMAN BEING is the category of thing a is)?
      2). If a has psychologically similar-enough predicates to b (maybe with some appropriate “causal chain” constraints) then a is the same PERSON as b. Is this de dicto (since PERSON is the concept under which we want to talk about a)?
      3). All this is presumably related to the hardware / software and person / personality distinctions.
  4. Once an “f”:
    • Wiggins’s theory precludes the possibility of metamorphosis. An individual cannot change its substance sortal and remain the same individual.
    • Note: Baillie links this to Spatio-temporal continuity, and it is true that it is considerations along these lines that first got Wiggins interested in issues of Identity – see "Wiggins (David) - Identity & Spatio-temporal Continuity". However, I can’t currently see the logical connection. Maybe substance sortals by their very nature have to be physical. If so, the concept of an immaterial substance (like souls and God) would be incoherent. This is not obviously the case, though these concepts are underspecified, so it’s difficult to tell.
    • Note: important though it is, this spatio-temporal continuity requirement seems to have hopped in from nowhere. Did I miss it earlier in the chapter, or was it discussed earlier in the book – eg. in "Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity: Introduction" & "Baillie (James) - Identity and Survival"?
    • Baillie now turns to Parfit and 6 variants of the Teletransportation (hereafter TT) TE. I reserve the Notes until the 6 cases are described:
      1). T1: the standard case, where my body is destroyed as my matter is scanned. The information is used to build a qualitatively exactly similar body from new matter. I have perfect psychological continuity in my replicated state, and seem to myself to have just awakened from a nap.
      2). T2: the “branch-line” case, where the scanner doesn’t destroy the original “me” immediately, but where I survive for a few days.
      3). T3: This is a variant of Williams’s Brain State Transfer device, extended so that a body grossly homologous to mine, but with a different genetic structure (that of a Z-PERSON), is created and my psychology is copied into its brain. The idea is that I am fatally injured, but my psychology is parachuted out into another body. What Baillie intends by “different genetic structure” isn’t immediately apparent, other than that the animal, though humanoid, is not human. It appears later that he means that the body has “an entirely different cellular structure”, though it looks like mine if you don’t look too closely.
      4). T4: This TE extends T3 so that we no longer have macro-level similarity to my former embodiment, and I require counselling to cope.
      5). T5: This TE appears to be an account of one form of Christian resurrection, though into an exactly similar body to the pre-mortem one, rather than into a “spiritual body”. It appears that I die normally. As such (as Baillie notes) this scenario seems similar to T1.
      6). T6: this is the “Brundlefly” case from Cronenberg’s movie The Fly. In this case, the “genetic codes” of a human being and a fly are intermingled in the course of the teletransportation, resulting in a hybrid with ghastly consequences. Baillie considers the case to be similar to T1.
      Note: Baillie doesn’t recount T6 in the first person, nor label it “T6”, but he could have done so, so I have done so for the sake of neatness.
    • Notes: The cases T1 – T6 are all tendentiously described as though I have survived, or at least as though it seems to me as though I’ve survived, mistaken though I might be. I’ve had difficulty persuading anyone of this, but it seems to me that it would not appear to me as though I’d survived at all (other than as the moribund “branch-line” survivor in T2). I would go to sleep and not wake up. Someone else qualitatively similar would wake up, but there would be nothing it is like for me to be that person. If that person were to be tortured, I would have no self-interested concern. It is true that the replica would wake up (though he had never gone to sleep) and would think himself to be me, but he would be wrong. The reason for this assertion is twofold:
      1). Firstly the logic of identity, as has been brought out above: this argument might be undermined by a perdurantist account of persistence, but in that case many of the problems of personal identity disappear. Setting aside perdurantism for now, there seems to be something dissatisfying about relying on the logic of identity here. If it seems to me that I’ve survived, in that (as described) I go to sleep and wake up again, then I have survived. Also, survival – persistence - entails identity; so, the TE cannot be possible, there must be something logically wrong with it.
      2). The second reason takes up this intuition and has to do with difficult questions about how conscious experience arises. I can only sketch some intuitions here. I reject substance dualism: there are no souls with special capacities for thinking and feeling. I also reject functionalism: the “hardware” of the sensitive individual is important – no network of baked-bean tins and string would be phenomenally conscious however it might perform behaviouristically in converting inputs to outputs. Something in the physical embodiment of animal brains enables phenomenal consciousness and the higher cognitive functions that rely on phenomenal consciousness for their importance to the self that has them.
      Something (presumably of a self-referential sort) enables that brain to continue its phenomenal consciousness and self-consciousness from moment to moment. Something distinguishes the forward going of the original and the initial backward-looking of the duplicate, but I don’t know what it is. Handwavingly, it’s the “wrong sort of causal chain”, and it’s this causal-chain failure that defeats the various TT TEs. This discussion is to be continued.
    • The lessons that Baillie draws from these TEs (on which my Notes appear in the next bullet) are …
      1). We are constrained by the 1-1 logic of identity; so, in the Branch-Line case I cannot be identical to both the moribund original and the teletransportee.
      2). Under T2, I and my replica are as twins, and we diverge physically and psychologically following the experiment. He claims that Parfit doesn’t bring this point out sufficiently, but it’s not clear to me why this is relevant here – other than to stress the obvious non-identity of the two individuals.
      3). Baillie accepts Parfit’s distinction between deeply impossible (ie. nomologically impossible) and technically impossible (practically impossible) cases. However, he thinks that it’s difficult to tell under which category a particular TE falls, since they are underspecified and “gloss over a vastness of ignorance”. If I remember correctly, this is one of Wilkes’s main objections to TEs in "Wilkes (Kathleen) - Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments". Baillie assumes, for the sake of the argument, that these issues can be resolved (reserving the argument that they cannot until Chapter 5 - "Baillie (James) - Methodology Matters").
      4). We have the “new dualism” of matter and information, as exemplified in T3 & T4. A key dependency here is Functionalism, leading to psychological continuity across a change of kind.
      5). Christianity is underspecified as to what survives death. The current favourite is Cartesian Dualism, but T5 has no commitment to this. Cartesian Dualism is unsatisfactory because, inter alia, of the difficulty of identifying and individuating immaterial souls.
      6). Wiggins would say that identity cannot be preserved in T6 because “we have no spatio-temporal continuity under a single substance-sortal”. The only natural kind concept that contains both Brundle and Brundlefly is “organism” which is too broad to qualify as a substance-concept. Similarly, this failure of identity is also the case in T1 (though for purely spatiotemporal reasons). Yet this is counter-intuitive in both cases.
    • Notes:
      a). I don’t think Baillie explicitly makes this point, but a modal argument means we should conclude that I’m not identical with the teletransportee even in the T1 case. Baillie refers to the teletransportee (tendentiously) as “my replica” under T2, but not under T1.
      b). I think the logic of identity is satisfied in the perdurantist analysis of T2. In that case there always were two of me sharing stages prior to the teletransportation.
      c). It is usually taken that treating me and the replica as a single distributed individual is absurd. I agree, but ought to spell out why. Given the TE of the BIV remotely linked up to its body; a single distributed human being (or person) is not absurd; and given MPD, multiple independent psychologies within a single human being are not absurd. The objection to the suggestion that the “two individuals” in T2 are really one is that the two bodies each display the form of life of different individuals of the kind HOMO SAPIENS, so should be treated as such (otherwise we should treat twins as a single individual).
      d). Baillie’s reference to “different genetic structure” in T3 is confusing. What he seems to mean is that the essence of an animal is defined by its genetic code. Now the genetic codes of any two individuals that aren’t twins, clones or replicants differ, but some are similar enough to claim their owners for the same Natural Kind. There are (I believe) debates within evolutionary theory whether the concept of a species (and hence of a natural kind) makes sense, as species merge into one another both across space and time (and the usual sign of conspecificity – the production of fertile offspring – is non-transitive). What Baillie means by “genetic structure” is the genetic program that controls somatic development and form. If the forms are sufficiently different, the individuals have different genetic structures. The only difference between T3 and T4 is the degree of genetic difference. I presume that the very nature of the genetic encoding isn’t relevant here – ie. there’s no insistence on DNA/RNA.
      e). I can see no reason why we should expect continuity of phenomenal consciousness across any information transfer.
      f). Baillie’s rejection of souls is a bit quick. Has he dealt with the matter elsewhere? Maybe in "Baillie (James) - Aspects of Non-Reductionism" (see references to Swinburne).
      g). Brundlefly is absurd, in that there’s more to an individual (and his body) than his genetic code. Reproducing the body would have to be atom-by-atom rather than formulaic. The salient point in this context, however, is that the genetic code determines the process of development that is essential to determining the kind.
      h). Further Brundlefly questions: Just what is it that defines the species concept? How do fusions work? How is TE6 best described? As a human with some form of malignant cancer? How does this differ from certain forms of extreme radiation poisoning? Presumably when Brundlefly is mostly fly, he no longer possesses the psychological predicates constitutive of personhood.
      i). Is Wiggins right? His account just seems to be expounded rather than argued for here. What is Baillie’s considered view? Can there be a substance-concept with a variable genetic make-up? After all there is (at least initially) gross physical similarity and functional isomorphism and a continued typical form of life (albeit an odd one). Just what is the genetic blueprint seen as being for here? Something that’s just an identifier, or something that guides the maintenance of proteins, etc? What about individuals with a single genetic makeup that metamorphose?
      j). The above points need tidying up a bit!
  5. Conditions of Survival:
    • Baillie sees Parfit’s greatest contribution as shifting the focus on whether person x(t1) is the same as y(t2) to whether Relation R holds between them. This circumvents some indeterminate cases and focuses on what matters in survival – Relation R (which can hold to degrees, and between different individuals).
    • Note: To have anything that matters to me I must survive. If I don’t survive, I don’t have anything that matters, someone else does. I may survive without what matters (eg. on the animalist view, I survive in a PVS, but not with what matters). Note that “having what matters” is ambiguous – I don’t have what matters to me in the cases where I’m tortured, but I still (sadly) survive. However (read on) Brennan has other views.
    • Baillie now seems to support Andrew Brennan’s thesis in "Brennan (Andrew) - Conditions of Identity" wherein the R-relation (that of psychological continuity) is replaced by the S-relation (Survival relation), a more general and allegedly more primitive relation than diachronic identity. It allows for “surviving in” or, more strongly, “surviving as”, both of which fall short of identity but allegedly provide some (or a lot) of what we want in strict survival. There are three conditions for the S-relation, the first two necessary, the last (in conjunction with the other two) sufficient, for x surviving in y:-
      1). Structure Condition: x and y must share the same structure.
      2). Causal Condition: x must be the “prototype” of y, directly causally involved in its production.
      3). Matter Condition: x and y must be constructed of matter of the same kind.
      Baillie remarks that the Material Condition cannot be necessary because we have to allow for surviving in or as “something composed of different matter”.
    • Notes:
      a). I think all this is incoherent, or at least an abuse of standard terms. There’s no such thing as “surviving in” or “surviving as”. As Woody Allen says, “I don’t want to achieve immortality in my work, I want to achieve immortality by not dying”.
      b). The Structure Condition doesn’t seem to be necessary.
      c). Baillie’s remark on the Material Condition presumably means different kinds of matter (or the requirement would otherwise boringly apply to any material object whatever).
    • In this context, we need to make two further distinctions:-
      1). Between Types and Tokens, and
      2). Between Copying Processes and Production Processes.
    • By way of explanation:-
      1). In a Copying Process, one item is the prototype of the other.
      2). In a Production Process, one item is used as the prototype of a whole conveyor-belt full of copies. Successive copies do not enjoy any causal link between one another (they simply have a common cause), so one doesn’t survive as the other (though presumably all survive as their prototype, though Baillie isn’t very clear on this).
      3). In a copying process, x and y are tokens of the same type if one survives as the other to a suitably high degree.
      4). In a production process, x and y are tokens of the same type if they are produced by a common causal process and satisfy the Structure and Matter conditions of the S-relation. We have replication without survival.
    • Note: the last comment above seems to be a muddle.
      1). Firstly, Baillie doesn’t say what form of survival he’s talking about, though presumably it’s one of the “in” or “as” forms.
      2). Secondly, surely (by Brennan’s lights) the prototype survives in replicants, even though one replicant does not survive in the other.
    • Baillie makes reference to “Robinson’s counter-example to Parfit’s Physical Spectrum” in "Baillie (James) - Identity and Survival", which is allegedly answered by the Production Process, but I’ve not followed up on this.
  6. Teletransportation Revisited:
    • Baillie now considers the application of Brennan’s analysis on T1-6:-
      1). T1: TT is a copying process; I am the prototype for my replica, in which I survive.
      2). T2: Much as in T1; however, here I survive twice over, in my original body and in my replica.
      3). T3: Similar to crystalline pseuodomorphism. Forces us to choose between the R-relation and the S-relation and, within the S-relation, whether mental or physical structures are more important.
      4). T4: Follows on from our prioritisation decisions in T3. Both T3 and T4 can be considered as copying, which comes in degrees.
      5). T5: As T1.
      6). T6: This is an example of “botched copying”. Immediately after TT there’s a high degree of structural, material and causal continuity, so Brundle survives in Brundlefly to a high degree. Then things start to go wrong, but because the changes are gradual, with continuity between stages, and not caused randomly, Baillie views the mutation as analogous to natural ones such as caterpillar to butterfly.
    • The lessons Baillie thinks we should learn are:-
      1). We have to prioritise: is the Matter or the Structure condition more important. Structure comes at different levels, which also have to be prioritised.
      2). Structure features at the psychological as well as the physical level, so we can bring the two relations closer together. Normally, psychological structure rests on physical structure (of the brain); TT breaks the link (allegedly).
      3). “Survival in” is a matter of degree, according to how good a copy my replicas are. So, T1/5, T2, T3, T4 is a descending sequence of decreasingly faithful copies with consequent reduced degrees of “survival in”.
      4). We have various priorities in survival: gross physical appearance is important, though we would not be averse to improvements. The highest priority is psychological continuity.
      5). Baillie jumps ship rather abruptly from support of Wiggins to support of Parfit and Brennan. He thinks relations R and S give us all that matters, and that when their benefits are subtracted from those of strict identity, we’re left with nothing. Since the S-relation is sortal-free, we’re liberated from some of Wiggins’s problem cases.
    • Notes:
      1). Baillie doesn’t seem to spend any time distinguishing surviving in and surviving as, nor distinguishing either of these from classical survival.
      2). This is so in his failure to draw a distinction between the two senses of survival in T2; I suspect equivocation.
      3). Why does Baillie choose the analogy of Pseudomorphism, when he could have chosen fossilisation (whereby organic matter is replaced by inorganic, though gross structure is retained)?
      4). Is there any principled way of prioritising the various conditions in accord with which the S and R relations give us “what matters”?
      5). Baillie doesn’t consider whether I’d be happy with surviving in a replica that betrayed psychological improvements. The Christian account of resurrection is of one involving all sorts of improvements, both physical and mental. My resurrection body is supposed not to be subject to death and decay, nor to provide the physical temptations our earthly bodies have, and we are not supposed to have moral defects. We are also supposed then to “know as we are known (by God)”, so there are supposed to be all sorts of cognitive benefits. Now, to what degree (according to Baillie and Brennan) would I survive in my resurrection body? If to a low degree, because of the discontinuities of structure, matter and causation, would I nevertheless not have what matters?
      6). Do the S- and R-relations really give what matters in the absence of strict identity? It seems that (selfishly-speaking) I would have nothing that matters in the absence of strict identity, because I wouldn’t be. The delusion is that of thinking there would be something it is like for me to be when I am not. The R-relation is seductive, because replicas looking back feel just like me; but there’s nothing it is like for me going forward. But, as noted above, it is difficult to demonstrate this.
      7). I wasn’t entirely clear on the principled reasons Baillie had for preferring Parfit/Brennan over Wiggins: it seemed to be a matter of convenience. He doesn’t grapple in the least with their arguments for their approaches.
      8). I wasn’t clear that Baillie should have been as happy as he appears that T6 fits his schema. Brundlefly ends up with no mental predicates. The way the case appears in the film, it’s as though the post-TT Brundle has the genetic structure of a fly, and that it’s the outworking of this genetic program that leads to the horror. Cellular maintenance moves the soma inexorably fly-wards. As such, it’s like a T3.5: a T3/T4 hybrid, but with a T4 in which no-one would consider they had what matters.
      9). If this is the case, and Brundle’s gross somatic structure remains the same post TT, but his DNA is now fly-DNA, has he changed kind? Is he now a fly who’s trapped in a human body, and whose genes express themselves in a fly-manner? If so, according to Wiggins we cannot have identity as we have a change of sortal. We appear to have physical and psychological continuity (and even causal connectedness). Yet we don’t. The TT leaves a gap, and there’s nothing it’s like for Brundle to exist as Brundlefly. Brundle’s consciousness (his first-person perspective) ceases the moment TT is complete, and Brundlefly is a replica created ex nihilo using information from Brundle’s gross somatic structure and a fly’s genetic structure. Maybe Brundle “survives in” Brundlefly, but Brundle doesn’t survive as such, and has nothing that matters to him, however briefly.
  7. Is Identity Sortal-Relative? :
    • Baillie refers to Locke’s prince and cobbler TE, wherein a is allegedly the same person, but not the same man as b. This is also allegedly the case in T3 above. We have, where f = “is a MAN” and g = “is a PERSON”:-
      a Not=f b & a =g b & (f(a) & Not-f(b) & g(a) & g(b)).
      Baillie thinks this brings tension into his philosophical likes. The most basic answer to the “what am I?” question is HUMAN BEING, yet what matters is the R-relation, which is more important than bodily survival or even species-membership.
    • He says tension is inevitable in TEs far from our normal experience. Because the T3 case doesn’t involve relative identity, his theory is self-consistent.
    • Note: Baillie doesn’t remark that relative identity is incoherent. Not that this matters here, as we don’t have a case of relative identity, which only applies to (pairs of) substance-concepts. PERSON isn’t a substance-concept, so isn’t in conflict with HUMAN BEING, which is. Baillie does agree with this.
    • Note: What does “same x” mean when x does not fall under a substance concept? What sort of thing are persons if they do not fall under substance-concepts? It sounds as though we can treat the reference of “person” in two ways:-
      1). As a de re reference to an individual falling under a substance-sortal (usually HUMAN BEING), with the implication that that individual possesses an open-ended collection of psychological properties. In that sense, a is the same person as b just means that a is the same human being as b, and both a and b are persons.
      2). As a reference to a personality, which I take to be the set of psychological predicates themselves. I imagine this set must contain a structuring, so is more than a mathematical collection. It must also allow for temporal development (for the development of character and mental capacities, and for the gaining and loss of memories, and so on, open-endedly). Hence “a isn’t the same person he used to be” is a complaint that the psychological predicates of the human being a have changed unacceptably.
    • Note: The above is from a third person perspective. From a first person perspective, I claim to continue the same person because of the continuity of, well, my first person perspective – my window on the world and on myself. I claim that this window gets smashed in all cases where the brain that is responsible for it is destroyed (ie. in all cases T1 – T6, other than the branch-line of T2).
  8. Appendix: Discontinuous Persons? :
    • Baillie considers temporarily dismantled artefacts (a watch for example). He claims that as there are no principles of activity for a watch, and no real essence, it not falling under a natural-kind concept, that it’s mere linguistic convention that makes the reassembled watch the same as the one prior to cleaning. There would be no utility in alternative views, however.
    • Baillie considers that there are analogous cases for particulars falling under natural-kind concepts, such as human beings. He considers:-
      1). A worm cut in half and re-attached by microsurgery is the same worm.
      2). No issues of identity arise in the case of a severed arm being re-attached to a human being.
      3). The same is true should (parts of) my brain be removed, repaired, and microsurgically re-attached.
    • There are a couple of critical points in the third example above:-
      1). Where was I between brain-removal and reassembly (eg. on the “where my brain is, there go I”, view)?
      2). If the corpus callosum is severed and the cortex divided, what are the implications for identity? Baillie’s view is that if this entails the failure of identity (because of its 1:1 structure), so much the worse for the importance of identity in this context – all that matters is the S-relation.
    • Notes:
      1). If the watch’s identity changed after the watch was dismantled, the watch-repairer would not be bound to return it to it’s owner, as it would not be the same watch the owner deposited.
      2). I agree with Baillie’s assessment of his test cases. In the case of a severed corpus callosum, I suspect that there is just a reduced amount of psychological integrity (with external cues enabling the hemispheres to exchange information). I also suspect that part-brains are insufficient to maintain a first-person perspective. However, this is a purely empirical matter, and it may be that once the facts are known it will still be possible to come up with problem cases. I’m not yet clear what I should say of the case where half-brain transfers are self-consciousness-preserving: retreat to perdurantism and shared person-stages, I think.
      3). "Kagan (Shelly) - Death: Course introduction" (Lecture 11) mentions a TE on resurrection due to Van Inwagen (but not referenced) whereby an analogy is made with a child’s tower and a father who accidentally knocked it over and then rebuilt it. Is the rebuilt tower the child’s tower? No – because the only point of interest in the tower is that the child built it. Maybe there are analogies between this tower and the bodies and psychologies that we have falteringly built, and that can’t be rebuilt by a more competent architect and remain the very same psychologies and bodies. I’d be interested to know just what Van Inwagen had to say.

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

Footnote 2.8: (Baker - What Am I?)

This write-up is a review of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - What Am I?", which is itself a reply to "Olson (Eric) - Was I Ever a Fetus?". Consequently, it may not be the best place to start with Baker. I chose the paper because of its title and brevity. However, it is very dense, and my exposition and commentary is similar in size to the original paper. I found the paper unsatisfying because all the important arguments depend on the coherence of Baker’s account of constitution – in particular the “ontological novelty” claim about persons – and the account and defence of this position are given elsewhere. As usual, my comments universally feature as “Note:”.


  1. Olson argues that any psychological thesis of Personal Identity has the objectionable consequence that he was never an early-term fetus.
  2. Baker’s reply is that:
    • Distinguishing de re from de dicto theses avoids the consequence.
    • Olson ignores the Constitution View which can explain the objection.
    • Olson’s “Biological View” also has objectionable consequences.
  1. Introduction ... the Fetus Problem
  2. Olson’s Argument
  3. The Constitution View (CV)
  4. The Biological View (BV)
  5. Conclusion
1). Introduction
  1. Olson claims that I started life as an unthinking fetus and may end up in a PVS. This is the Biological View (BV) of personal identity (PI), which treats psychology as irrelevant to PI. Baker’s source for this view is the paper "Olson (Eric) - Was I Ever a Fetus?", p. 106, though it seems Olson himself refers us to "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings".
  2. Olson attacks an alternative he styles the Standard View (SV) that claims that what is required for us to persist is some sort of psychological continuity – an overlapping chain of memories or other psychological connections or capacities.
  3. Olson alleges the SV against Nagel, Unger, Grice, Lewis, Noonan, Parfit, Perry, Quinton, Shoemaker and Wiggins.
    • Note: these attributions seem fine with the exception of Wiggins, who is sometimes alleged to be a proto-animalist. I need to follow this up in due course.
  4. According to Olson, the SV has the “untenable consequence” that I was never an early-term fetus. Baker reconstructs his argument in Section 2.
  5. Baker’s response is three-fold:-
    1). The “untenable consequence” is not in fact a consequence of the SV.
    2). That I never was an early-term fetus is benign and a consequence of a plausible account of persons.
    3). Olson’s BV has its own problems.

2). Olson’s Argument
  1. Baker’s reconstruction of Olson’s argument that the SV implies that I was never an early term fetus is as follows:-
    1). Any x that is now a person is only identical to past or future things with which it is presently psychologically continuous.
    2). Anything psychologically continuous with a person has present psychological contents or capacities.
    3). No early-term fetus has such contents or capacities.
    4). If x is a person now, then nothing that was an early-term fetus is identical to x.
  2. Baker encapsulates the conclusion, taken to be a consequence of the SV, as “no person was ever a fetus, and no fetus ever becomes a person”.
    • Note: I have re-phrased 1-3, but 4 is verbatim.
  3. Baker now comes to her first objection: that the SV need not have this consequence, even though many holders of the view might accept that it does. Baker notes that the holders of the supposed SV differ amongst themselves on many matters. Amongst the views consistent with the SV is that I (now a person) may be identical with something at another time that is not a person. In which case there would be no psychological continuity between me and this non-person.
  4. The problem is with premise (1), which confounds two premises with different modal scope:-
    (A) De Dicto: Necessarily, if x is a person, then x has psychological properties.
    (B) De Re: If x is a person, then x necessarily has psychological properties.
    Supporters of the SV are only committed to (A) - the de dicto thesis.
  5. Baker makes an analogy between persons and wives: wives are necessarily married, but the individual that is a wife is not necessarily married – indeed, Baker herself existed for many years in the unmarried state.
    • The view here expounded seems only to be a possible view of supporters of the SV, rather than the one all its supporters actually hold. This may be important to note to avoid confusion. The possible view seems to be the view that persons are phase sortals of substances (presumably human animals) rather than themselves substances.
    • Baker doesn’t explain her de re / de dicto terminology. It seems to be similar to the distinction I’ve been attempting to use in reviews of Baillie and Olson. It’s worth spelling out what she might mean, so here goes (in reverse order, for convenience).
      1): De Re: here we are referring to the thing itself (the substance). The substance that is in fact now a person is not necessarily a person – ie. it might not be a person at other times, or in other possible worlds.
      2): De Dicto: here we are not referring to the substance itself, but to the manner under which it is conceived. Insofar as that thing is conceived of as a person, it has certain psychological properties essentially, because it is analytic that persons qua persons have such properties, it being part of the definition of persons that they have the appropriate psychological capacities.
  6. Anyone rejecting (B) would reject Olson’s Premise (1) by modus tollens, since (1) implies (B). The point at issue is that while (A) is true – a person cannot exist as a person without psychological properties, that person could exist simpliciter in the absence of such properties.
    • Note: So, this again uses the de re expression, where it is the animal that is referred to. It seems as though animalism and this sort of supporter of the SV have little to argue over. In that case “same person” reduces to “same animal with the same personality”. Different animals with the same personality would not be the same person. This isn’t Baker’s own view, which is that the same person can be constituted by different animals (or, probably, “bodies”) at different times.
  7. Baker now accuses Olson of failing to distinguish two questions:
    (a) What is a person?
    (b) What am I most fundamentally?
    She claims that the SV answers question (a) whereas Olson assumes that it answers question (b). In fact she doesn’t mention SV, but says that the psychological criterion answers question (a).
    • The criterion of PI is an epistemological term – how we know that x is a person, and that y at t2 is the same person as x at t1. It is not a metaphysical question about what persons most fundamentally are. So far Baker is right to make a distinction. But I’m not sure that supporters of the SV are interested only in epistemological questions. Yet maybe this is correct, and they are merely interested in evidential questions, remaining agnostic as to what persons are metaphysically-speaking. In this way they might escape the accusation of reifying personalities and confusing them with persons.
    • Does Olson really not distinguish these questions? In fact, doesn’t he credit himself with making this very distinction when almost all others have either missed or downplayed it? See, for instance, "Olson (Eric) - What Are We?". Maybe this is an anachronistic claim, made in the light of Baker’s prompting. In general, he doesn’t care too much about what a person is, because he’s interested in the metaphysical question.
    • I seem to remember that Olson in "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology" denies that he’s interested in what I am “most fundamentally”, but rather in the simpliciter sense of what (sort of thing) I am (identical to). Since this formulation is objectionable, I need to track down the evidence for it.
  8. Baker gives a theory that combines a Psychological-Continuity-View (hereafter PV) answer to question (a) with an animalist answer to question (b):-
    PI-1: Necessarily (if I am a person at t1 and t2, then my states at t1 are psychologically continuous with my states at t2).
    PI-2: I am necessarily a human animal, but only contingently a person.
    Notes: I think these tenets are best unpacked in reverse order:-
    • Unpacking PI-2: The reference of “I” is de re in the first clause, but de dicto in the second. It’s saying that I am essentially a human animal, but have the contingent property of being a person. Note that this again brings up the contested issue of the distinction between identity and property possession, which I need to explain and defend.
    • PI-2 implies that I might never have been a person. This is a standard animalist claim, based on my identity to “my fetus”, and the possibility that that fetus might have died at 3 months.
    • Unpacking PI-1: Here, it is “I” – a de re reference to a substance – that holds together the two diachronic parts of the claim. Yet the claim appears to be false, because I (the substance) might have suffered a radical personality change that has broken the chain of psychological continuity.
    • Unpacking PI-1 further: I am a person at t1, so I have some set of psychological properties P1. Similarly, I am P2 at t2; but even though I am the same substance at t1 and t2, a can see no reason why my psychological states are sufficiently continuous for P1 = P2. It seems as though the reference of I has slipped between PI-1 and PI-2. For PI-1 to be true, the reference of “I” needs to be de dicto, to the personality, in which case an analytic truth might be expressed. But then don’t we have equivocation?
    • Note that I’ve taken PI-1+2 as tenets alleged as capable of being held consistently by a single philosopher. Such a philosopher would seem to be an animalist. I’m not sure where this has got us.
    • A point to continually bear in mind is that Olson isn’t interested in personal identity, but only with our identity.
  9. Baker points out that PI-1+2, together with the fact that all human animals start life as early fetuses lacking psychological properties, entail the denial of Olson’s premise (1). So, a supporter of the PV can deny this premise.
  10. Baker now comes clean and admits that the above argument has been somewhat academic, because she, in fact, admits that she was never an early-term fetus.
    • Note: Does this mean that while supporters of the PV need not take the de re stance, Baker does take it?

3). The Constitution View (CV)
  1. Baker says that she has expounded the CV elsewhere; first in “Need a Christian be a Mind/Body Dualist” in Faith and Philosophy 12 (1995), and most recently (as of March 1999) in a book under contract for CUP; presumably "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View", though then entitled “What am I? An Enquiry Concerning Persons and Bodies”.
    • I’ve not been able to track down the 1995 paper, and assume it’s not worth the bother, given that it will have been superseded by Baker’s later writings.
    • However, I presume that Baker is a Christian of some stripe and it would be interesting to see how Baker expresses herself in a non-secular context.
  2. The CV is that persons are constituted by human bodies, without being identical to them, in the same way that pots are constituted by the lumps of clay that constitute them.
    • Barker chooses bodies rather than organisms as the constituting entity. This may be intentional or a slip, because she later refers to human organisms.
    • The analogy is with one thing being constituted by another thing, not one thing being constituted by its parts. These are different views that are easily confused.
  3. Baker has defended this view of constitution in "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Why Constitution is Not Identity" and "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Unity without Identity: A New Look at Material Constitution", which she says are incorporated in her book.
  4. The CV is not a variant of the SV, even though it does posit that a person has certain essential psychological properties; in particular, a first person perspective (FPP). We are referred to "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - The First-Person Perspective: A Test For Naturalism". Baker views the CV as a rival to Olson’s anti-psychological views of persons.
    • It’s not clear to me why Baker’s view is not a variant of the SV. I dare say this is spelled out in "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View". In defence of Baker’s claim, it can be said that Baker’s view is ontological and consequently anti-functionalist. This new thing – a person – while it has essential psychological properties, is not dependent on any continuity of content or particularised capacities (it seems), but on a FPP that appears basic.
    • Baker appears to claim that CV is an anti-psychological view. Maybe this isn’t what Baker means. Rather, the CV is anti-SV and is a rival to Olson’s anti-SV views, which are anti-psychological.
  5. Thus, Baker accepts (A), namely - “De Dicto: Necessarily, if x is a person, then x has psychological properties”. She also accepts (B) – “De Re: If x is a person, then x necessarily has psychological properties”. Consequently, she doesn’t avail herself of the dialectical resources developed in Section 2.
    • Baker accepts (B) because “no person could exist without being a person”. This is interesting, because it clarifies the thing “re” in the formula (B) – the thing is the person – not the animal, or the animal’s body. The person necessarily has psychological properties because these properties are constitutive of what a person is, and on the de re reading, the person is a thing in its own right, and not a phase of a thing with some special but temporary property.
    • So, what of the de dicto reading (A)? Presumably this is consistent with animalism – effectively while the animal is a person it has psychological properties – again because that’s what being a person means. But the thing – the animal – doesn’t have these properties essentially. So, the animalist denies (B).
  6. Baker’s view is that while there is such a thing as a human organism, I am not identical to one, but only constituted by one. Presumably the organism comes into existence when the zygote reaches a certain stage, so that we have a fetus. The organism persists through birth, infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age, senescence and into a PVS, but not as far as a corpse. Baker’s claim is that at a certain stage, at which the organism becomes capable of having a FPP, an ontological novelty arises. A person comes into being. When this capacity departs, the person ceases to be, even though the organism persists.
    • In this paper she’s not explicit about quite when this is, but since she refers to development, this must refer to the possession of the faculty, not the potential to develop it, which is even possessed by zygotes. Elsewhere she seems to think that a key attribute of a person is that they can worry about their own future death, which is why animals are allegedly not persons. So presumably infants and young children aren’t persons either. I’ll need to follow this up.
    • Baker claims that “if something ceases to be a person, it ceases to be”, even if the once-constituting organism persists. It’s not clear to me just what has ceased to be, and what it was that existed when it did exist. Also, I believe that Baker believes in resurrection (she allows in this paper that I am “at least initially” constituted by a human organism, implying that I might later be constituted by something else) so this ceasing to be is only temporary. I suppose we need to follow the analogy of the statue and the clay. If the clay is squashed into a ball, there’s no longer a statue, though there’s still a lump of clay. But if a new lump of clay is re-formed into a look-a-like of that statue, do we have the same one?
  7. So Baker has answers to the two questions we had in the second section (at point 7), namely:-
    … (a) What is a person?
    … (b) What am I most fundamentally?
    with the answer that I am most fundamentally a human person, and that a human person is a being with a FPP at least initially constituted by a human organism.
  8. Baker accepts Olson’s conditional that …
    …“if I have psychological properties essentially, then I am not identical to anything that was an early-term fetus”,
    but whereas Olson denies the consequent and applies modus tollens to deny the antecedent as well and argue that I have no psychological properties essentially, Baker accepts the antecedent and applies modus ponens to accept the consequent also. Whereas the organism (Baker reverts to “my body” for some reason) that constitutes me was an early-term fetus, I was not, for I would have never existed if my mother had had an early term miscarriage.
  9. Hence there is no “fetus problem” for the CV because the relation between me and the fetus is clear – I am presently constituted by something that was a fetus.
  10. The CV denies the premise (I):
    • (I): There is an x such that at t x was an embryo and x is now a developed human being and I am identical to x.
    Instead it asserts (II):
    • (II): There is an x such that at t x was an embryo and x is now a developed human being and I am constituted by x now.
  11. Olson thinks that the denial of (I) is fatal to the Constitutionist’s cause, because of three arguments in favour of (I):
    1). The argument from Embryology.
    2). The argument from Common Sense.
    3). Four “serious philosophical problems”:
    • The CV entails that we are not members of the species Homo Sapiens
    • There might be pseudo-people, indistinguishable from real people.
    • Both the animal and you think you are a person; the animal is mistaken, so why aren’t you?
    • That the “exact duplicate that accompanies you” cannot think causes problems for any theory of intentionality.
    Baker has answers to these objections, which we now discuss in turn:-
  12. Embryology: Baker says that Olson argues that embryology shows that I once had gill slits. But Baker correctly points out that on the CV, the properties of an embryo are irrelevant, since I am not identical to it, nor was ever constituted by it. Embryology is even consistent with substance dualism and is irrelevant to the philosophical issues at hand.
  13. Common Sense: Does common sense really claim that I am identical to a fetus? Baker thinks common sense is insufficiently precise to distinguish identity from constitution. Olson claims there’s no significant difference between claiming that I was once an adolescent and that I was once a fetus. Baker denies this, and provides a story. This reflects different likely attitudes in the seventeenth century vis a vis the royal succession had Mary (of “William and Mary” fame) had a teenage son, rather than simply been five-months pregnant (the point being that a fetus might happily be brought up a Protestant by Protestant parents, whereas a teenage son might already be a Catholic under the Catholic monarch of James II).
    • Note: Some anti-abortionists take the opposite view, but Baker is probably right that common sense does not provide a ruling, if only because there’s no such thing as common sense in some areas of judgement.
  14. Species-Membership: Olson alleges that the CV entails that we are not human animals, not members of the species homo sapiens. Baker responds again that we “are” human animals, again using the “are” of constitution, and the borrowing of properties described in detail in "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Unity without Identity: A New Look at Material Constitution".
  15. Pseudo-people: Olson’s argument is that if I’m biologically just like an organism without being one, what’s to stop me being psychologically just like a person without being one. Indeed, if I’m a pseudo-organism, why aren’t human animals pseudo-people? Bakers thinks this an “outrageous caricature” of the CV.
    • Note: Here we have the makings of Olson’s TA argument – the Thinking Animal – with consequential overpopulation and (as we see next) epistemic concerns.
  16. Epistemological Problems: How can you (the thinker) know whether you are the person or the animal? Baker thinks this problem only arises if (as Olson supposes) if they are non-identical, then I and my body are two wholly separate things. However, there is only one thought – mine – and one thinker – me – so no confusion can arise.
    • Again we have the slide between “body” and “organism”, though I doubt it is of much significance in this context.
    • And again, this depends on how constitution is spelled out. There seems to be a fine line here. If I’m so closely identified with the organism that there’s no obvious difference, why am I not identical to it. And if there is a discernible difference, why are there not two things?
    • Having said earlier that Baker’s CV is non-mereological – by which I mean that it’s spatially non-mereological – it seems that it might be temporally mereological – I’m made up of a sum of phases of human animals (or human animals and other things – whatever resurrection bodies might be). This need not commit Baker to an ontology of temporal parts. However, it’s not clear what glues the various temporal phases together. Baker would, of course, say that it’s the same FPP. But just how are FPPs cashed out? What are their identity and persistence criteria? If it is psychological-functionalist, then we seem to have the SV back again. I think Baker responds elsewhere to the standard reduplication objections by claiming that there would just be a fact of the matter, and that I’d just know which of the duplicates I was. But would I, and how would I know I was not deceived?
  17. Intentionality: How is the inability of the human animal to think or speak English consistent with any available theory of intentionality, given that it is a perfect duplicate that accompanies you. Baker, of course, denies that it is any such thing. It is not a duplicate of me, but constitutes me. She gives an example of a memorial constituted by its granite – if the granite had stayed in the quarry, there would have been no memorial, so memorial and its granite are non-identical. Yet, the memorial is not something separate from the granite.
    • Note: This does seem quite persuasive, and Olson does seem to caricature Baker’s view – but maybe only because it’s not clear what Baker’s view really amounts to. If she claimed that a person was just a phase of a human being, then Olson would have no quarrel. There would then obviously (on an endurantist view) only be one thing present, and Olson’s objections would have no purchase. But Baker claims more than this – she makes the ontological claim that when a human person comes into existence – superficially, when a human animal develops sufficiently to possess certain psychological properties – a new thing numerically distinct from the animal comes into existence. So it does seem that we have two things. But what happens in the case that Baker takes to be parallel? Baker claims that a new thing – a memorial – comes into existence. But is this really a new thing, or an old thing with new properties, additionally one viewed in a different way by people who value memorials? More could be said here.
  18. Perdurantism: Baker mentions that Olson briefly covers a four-dimensional ontology of temporal parts, but doesn’t pursue the matter here.
  19. In summary, there is no “fetus” problem because I’m not identical to a human organism in the first place, only constituted by one.
    • Note: This is all rather tedious and repetitive stuff. The claim is that Olson hasn’t understood the constitution relation, but is merely caricaturing it. So, the arguments all depend on whether Baker’s non-mereological version of the constitution relation makes sense. As this isn’t covered in this paper, the argument remains undecided.

4). The Biological View (BV)
  1. Baker thinks Olson’s BV should be rejected because it lacks motivation in the absence of a “fetus problem” (disposed of either by the CV or by the account in Section 2).
  2. Additionally, it rules out as metaphysically impossible certain alleged possibilities: cyborgisation or resurrection into a new (presumably non-animal) body.
    • These are large issues and ones that the BV needs to answer. I would just say here that Baker has simply alluded to these as problems, for which the BV might or might not have answers.
    • With respect to cyborgisation, presumably the BV would say that the animal gets “pared down” as its parts are replaced by inorganic ones. The interesting issue for Baker is when the “siliconisation” (or whatever) of the brain takes place. Who knows whether this is possible so that the phenomenal consciousness presumably necessary for Baker’s FPP is maintained? Alternatively, the replacement of organic parts by inorganic might have to be done in so intricate a way that we could view the process as analogous to the way the organism maintains its own parts (this notion would require more careful consideration than I’ve given it here). We have to be careful about the soundness of though experiments and the reliability of our intuitions about them.
    • With respect to resurrection, what ties together the two bodies? OK – it’s the same FPP – but how can we be sure that they would have the same FPP (rather than just seeming to have)?
  3. What Baker sees as the BV’s greatest difficulty is its failure to give an account of the relation between the human organism and the human person. Baker thinks Olson faces a dilemma: either (i) to be a person simply is to be a human organism or (ii) it is something more.
  4. Baker thinks that (i) leaves human organisms on a moral and ontological par with cockroaches. Also, that equating human beings and persons distorts the meaning of the term PERSON.
    • More large issues. Baker’s “cockroaches” claim strikes me as outrageous, or at least one that requires a lot more justification than is given here. Any justification would be a start. It also ignores the continuities found in biology between human beings and other organisms.
    • I don’t think the BV does equate persons and human organisms. Olson can be accused of not taking persons sufficiently seriously, in the sense of not centering the debate on the concept PERSON; but he is trying to move the focus of debate by saying that the kind we are referring to when we treat of human persons is HUMAN ANIMAL, and that human animals may count as persons for (only) phases of their existence. Baker’s claim is that the kind we need to focus on is that of PERSON, and that her account of constitution allows for the co-location of exemplars of two kinds without the double-counting that Olson accuses her of. Elsewhere, Olson denies that PERSON is a kind term, because the various beings (angels, gods, klingons ..) that might fall under this putative kind have different persistence conditions, though Baker would reply that he’s confusing the persistence conditions of the thing constituted with those of the thing constituting.
  5. Secondly, Olson’s choosing the second horn, (ii), and admitting that persons are more than human organisms leaves him with nothing to say about personal identity as such. Of the two questions raised in Section 2, Olson only addresses question (b) – “What am I most fundamentally?” – ignoring question (b) – “What is a person?”. Consequently, the BV is not a view of personal identity at all.
    • Note: Olson admits this. Olson is interested in us. He doesn’t deny that there might be other kinds that qualify as persons, but he’s not concerned with them.

5). Conclusion
  1. Baker had argued in Section 2 that Olson’s arguments don’t necessarily hit their target – that is, that they don’t prove that I wasn’t a fetus. But, even those who accept that I wasn’t a fetus – such as supporters of the CV – have answers to Olson, as Baker argued in Section 3.
    • Any thoughts I had on these conclusions were covered in the sections themselves. Enough to note here that – since Baker herself doesn’t accept that we were fetuses – Section 2 is somewhat tangential to the paper as a whole, and provides a resource to only a small subset of philosophers.
    • Secondly, the case for Baker’s rejection of the BV rests wholly on her account of constitution, which is not even sketched in this paper (other than vague references to FPPs). This makes the arguments rather unsatisfying.
  2. Bakers’s final point is that the CV gives reasons for regarding human animals as morally significant in ways that other kinds of things are not. Baker sees this moral significance as arising from their ontological role of constituting persons.
    • So, for Baker, it is persons that have the moral status, and human animals have this status wholly on account of constituting persons. I have a lot of concerns about this. Surely, even if the great apes do not constitute persons for Baker (ie. they do not pass the test for having a FPP – I believe that Baker simply raises the bar if it looks as though they might pass it), they are of greater moral significance than cockroaches. And so are human infants, on the presumption that they don’t have a FPP and don’t yet constitute persons. By instituting a saltation – an ontological novelty – at a certain stage of human development – Baker drives apart things that ought to be viewed as similar.
    • The moral aspect – especially the exalted status of persons over against the rest of sentient beings, important though this might be – just breezes in unannounced at the end of Section 4, and could do with a lot more motivation.

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

Footnote 2.9

Supervision: Monday 17th March 2008; 11:30

  1. The purpose: of the supervision was to discuss a paper on "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - What Am I?".
  2. Overview: We agreed that Baker’s paper is unsatisfying because the force of the argument depends on the coherence of the CV, which is not defended in the paper itself. To make progress, I need to address this question.
  3. Constitution: As background for this paper, and for general background on constitution, I should read Kit Fine’s paper in Mind 2003 - "Fine (Kit) - The Non-Identity of a Material Thing and Its Matter". Fine doesn’t actually use the term “constitution”, but he is considering co-location, which he thinks possible, and dubs the most extreme of those who doubt this as “fanatical mono-referentialists”. Maybe (not Jen’s suggestion) I should also see the earlier papers:-
  4. De Dicto / De Re: this has been discussed at sundry other supervisions, and I seem to have misunderstood the distinction. These aren’t two forms of reference. I’ve been trying to understand the terms based on their Latin derivation. However, the terms have moved on since Roman (and earlier Greek) times. Contemporary usage is not a difference of reference. The distinction is between necessity de dicto and necessity de re; to distinguish modalities in opaque contexts (for de dicto) & analyticity. Modality and time relate. I don’t currently fully understand this, but am expecting "Fine (Kit) - The Non-Identity of a Material Thing and Its Matter" to provide enlightenment as opaque contexts are referenced therein. There are sundry passages in my recent papers that require correction as a result.
  5. In my paper, “x” is a dummy proper name rather than a variable. I need to clarify this.
  6. Criterion: … of identity: this is not just an epistemological term. Jen doubted that supporters of the SV are only interested in evidential matters. “Surely the SV is a view in metaphysics”. I need to follow-up on the use of “the criterion”.
  7. Most Fundamental: Wiggins’s D2 brings this requirement to centre stage – what is the primary sortal under which a thing falls?
    • Jen: If we want to know answers to questions about PI, do we need to establish what persons most fundamentally are? Olson: Yes.
    • Jen: (in response to my suggestion that in "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology" Olson had denied that his interest was in what I am most fundamentally, but only in what I am identical to …) Olson’s approach doesn’t need to put in fundamentalism (? – handwriting!). TT: Presumably the point is that on Olson’s approach, the distinction doesn’t arise.
    • Jen: in response to my … [Olson’s only interested in our identity (rather than PI)] … “because he doesn’t think there’s a (different) question about personal identity”.
  8. Psychological Properties: Contrast psychological capacities with psychological properties. Which psychological properties? Be explicit – FPP.
  9. Desires: Another discussion on whether animals have desires. On one level they obviously do – as do babies – yet on another they don’t. In Jen’s usage, desires are explanatory of intentional action. Babies’ desire for milk isn’t of this sort.
  10. Buddhists: Buddhists want to escape from self, and the distinction between self and others. This isn’t a moral matter (like the denial of self in Christianity – which is a focus on others – other selves). The Buddhist view is that the distinction between self and other is unhelpful and is something to be escaped from (after a series of reincarnations). Its motivation is the thought that attachments to self and one’s hopes, fears and desires lead to pain and loss – something to be avoided. All this appears to be mistaken, if not plain false, or impossible to achieve.
  11. Baker & the SV: Why is Baker not a supporter of the SV? Jen: Need more definition of the SV to determine. SV = persistence requires psychological continuity. To see how Baker differs from the SV, we might need to think about non-human animals. Can PVs allow for persistence in the absence of a FPP?
  12. Phase Sortals: Olson and phase sortals. Persons as phase sortals. Phase sortal definition. What persons? Jen: (in response to the suggestion that the “possible view” consistent with the SV is that persons are phase sortals of human animals …) “provided any phase sortal applies essentially”. Note: this might be an important point – the phase of an animal that qualifies as a person might not have done so, yet for anyone holding the SV (or PV), persons have the appropriate psychological properties essentially. Now, the substance does not possess any of its phases essentially – I might die young, so my animal may never enjoy its “old man” phase. Yet is the old man, qua old man, essentially an old man? The phase cannot exist without the qualities that qualify it for being that phase. This is all de dicto.
  13. Baker & the “Phase Sortal” view: I alleged that Baker’s acceptance of (B) showed she thought of a person as a thing, and not a phase of a thing. Jen: “earlier seemed to say it was the phase sortal view”. TT: this earlier suggestion was not Baker’s view, but a possible reading of the SV.
  14. Reduplication and the CV: Non-human reduplication. Is this different for Baker? Would she share standard views here? For human reduplication – does “God know” the fact of the matter? Is there a fact of the matter on this account?
  15. FPP and worries about Death: Jen: (those with a FPP are) capable of a thought of inexistence. “Inexistence” – temporally don’t exist (eg. after death). Non-existence – never existed (eg. unicorns). Anecdote – Jen’s young son wondering about where he was before birth (past inexistence); the same sort of thing applies to future inexistence. That’s what worries about death are – that we will no longer exist – not about the process of dying, or of any unpleasant future state.
  16. The “is” of Constitution: When is “is” the “is” of constitution? We need a principled rule of applicability.
    Example: Species Membership. In “Tigers are animals” we have the regular “is” of predication. (x)(Tx implies Ax).
  17. Bodies: Having bodies. For Baker, all animals (human as well as non-human?) just are bodies. See the sociological use of the term “body”. Olson. Jen: maybe she thinks organisms are bodies.
  18. Equate: ie. “equating persons and human organisms” – what is meant by “equate” – a conceptual identification? This isn’t an expression Baker uses – what she says is that “to hold that to be a person simply is to be a human organism is to …”.
  19. Morality: Jen and I agreed that Baker’s assertions about the moral peculiarity of human persons are unmotivated in this paper.

Other Matters
  1. Printing: Jen’s copy of the paper had printed with the numbered bullets not resetting to “1” on change of Section. It hadn’t been printed from one of Jen’s PCs, but was not from an Apple PC. I will investigate.
  2. Seminars: I expressed my concerns at having to deliver a paper prematurely. Jen suggested that such exercises, apart from being a duty, are useful in providing feedback and determining which areas are subject to dispute. Further, these are useful as training in not addressing areas too much in turmoil to the detriment of areas that might be clear to me but not to others. The fact that I don’t want a career in philosophy, and am therefore not so interested in some of the training exercises that form part of postgraduate work, is no excuse. Fraser popped in and I was firmly booked for Thursday 19th June 2008 (though this later changed to Thursday 26th June 2008). Topic is down as “Personal Identity”, but I should attempt to present Baker’s Constitution view. Start at the beginning and don’t be tempted to address resurrection at this stage.
  3. Further Reading: after the supervision, Jen suggested that I read "Anscombe (G.E.M.) - Embryos and Final Causes" from "Anscombe (G.E.M.), Geach (Mary), Gormally (Luke), Eds. - Human Life, Action and Ethics" some time (I note that "Anscombe (G.E.M.) - Were You a Zygote?" and maybe others from the same volume also look relevant).

Next Supervision: Monday 21st April 2008; 11:30. On Constitution?

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 12:00:00

Footnote 2.10: (Brandom - Toward a Normative Pragmatics (Introduction))

This is a summary (with some discussion) of Section I of "Brandom (Robert) - Toward a Normative Pragmatics" in "Brandom (Robert) - Making It Explicit: Reasoning, Representing & Discursive Commitment". My own comments universally appear as “Note:”.

I. Introduction

I.1. Saying ‘We’

  1. Elastic boundaries force on us a task of demarcation between ourselves and others.
  2. It is best not to define ourselves by the deficiencies of others – in our not being subject to such deficiencies.
  3. Is what we are made or decided as much as discovered? We are what we take ourselves to be. We need a principled form of demarcation that doesn’t just seize on arbitrary distinctions of biology, geography, culture or preference.
  4. What would have to be the case for us correctly to count things such as chimpanzees, dolphins, gaseous extraterrestrials or digital computers as “among us”? We must avoid chance issues of origin and material constitution and focus on function – what they can do.
    • Note: I would have thought that what they can experience is just as important as what we can do, should we be able to come to know this of other kinds (ie. accounting for Nagel’s bats). However, while Brandom later recognises the importance of sentience, he gives pre-eminence to what he calls sapience. This raises the question of why we want to determine the “we” community. Three answers that immediately spring to mind are …
      1). To determine those with whom we can meaningfully and profitably interact. This could be at various levels – Brandom wants the “highest”, though not so as to exclude the majority of our fellow human beings.
      2). To determine those on whom we can (or might) rely.
      3). To determine those whose welfare we should or could (rationally and unselfishly) care about.
      Clearly, answers to all three of these questions might include some non-persons or exclude some persons.
  5. They must be able to participate in our self-defining activities.
    • Note: I’d have thought this could still be parochial – eg. “we are the educated aesthetes” – though Brandom admits this.
  6. There can be various non-competing answers to the question “what are we?”, each defining a different community. What we’re really after is the superset of all these overlapping communities: The “we-sayers”.
    • Note: Should this include the “we-thinkers”, to allow for dolphin-persons and such-like? That is, on the presumption that thinking in the absence of language (other than a “language of thought”) is possible.
  7. We still need a contentful way of accounting for this fellow-feeling.

I.2. Sapience
  1. What is it that we do that is so special? The traditional answer is that it is our cognitive abilities that mark us out. Reason, meaning, conceptual content and understanding.
  2. Rationality is normative – we are bound by the norms of reason. We need reasons for our attitudes and performances, and without them they will not be respectively beliefs and actions.
  3. We operate in a web of inference that might conceivably be occupied by beings of other backgrounds.
  4. Sapience rather than sentience. Understanding and intelligence rather than irritability and arousal. Sentience is shared with non-verbal animals; awareness as awakeness; an exclusively biological phenomenon.
    • Note: Brandom mentions cats, as displaying the “exclusively biological phenomenon”; but what about chimps? Do they display more?
  5. The sentient are segregated from those (eg. thermostats) that merely show differential responsiveness to the environment.
  6. One treats others as sapient insofar as one attributes to them intentional states as reasons for their behaviour.
    • Note: I think this is too broad – aren’t all the higher mammals intelligent, and don’t they have beliefs and desires? The intentional stance we adopt towards them is not as towards a thermostat, which we interpret “as if” it had intentional states, while we accept that it doesn’t really possess them. On the other hand, we think the higher mammals really do enjoy these intentional states. However, Brandom accepts this too.
  7. Concern about truth, as well as inference, is another indicator of sapience. You can’t believe something unless you think it true (Note: presumably a reference to Moore’s paradox, though Brandom doesn’t say). Belief is taking-true; action is making-true. We are capable of grasping truth-conditions.
  8. Propositional form underlies both truth and inference. Propositional contents have truth conditions and stand in inferential relations to one another.
  9. Brandom’s project is to explain who we are as sapients by explaining what it is to grasp propositional contents, and also to explain the relationship between inference and truth.

I.3. Intentionality
  1. Brandom describes this propositional focus on intelligible contents as discursive rather than representational.
    • Note: I don’t know what he means by discursive.
  2. Descartes distinguished us, the representers, from that which is represented.
  3. Representations can be correct or incorrect, answerable to what is represented.
  4. A third task for Brandom is to investigate the relationship between representation and the discursive concepts of reason and truth.
  5. Despite much progress, we still don’t know what the representations consist in and what makes them intelligible to the representer. What is it that makes an x-idea an idea about x-es? Brandom doesn’t think the representational power of the mind can be left basic and unexplained.
  6. So, Brandom’s topic is intentionality, but in the sense of contentfulness rather than directedness.
  7. His focus is on sapience, though not to the utter neglect of sentience.
  8. “We” is a multi-faceted term.
  9. His target is a high-grade intentionality that requires linguistic practice to make sense of it. This may be “beastly to beasts” in two ways: by treating sapience as more important (in this context) than sentience, and by ignoring the lower-grade intentionality of non- or pre-linguistic animals.
  10. There can be different senses of “we” corresponding to the different grades of intentionality.
  11. Brandom’s project is partly to explain what a sentient creature has to do in order to become sapient. He wants to know what practices are sufficient to confer propositionally contentful intentional states on those that lack them. This would help us diagnose aliens as in possession of such states, and to program computers or train (merely) sentient animals to attain sapience.
    • Note: it would seem that sentience and sapience are logically independent. Might it not be possible for a suitably-programmed digital computer to become sapient, but never sentient, if sentience cannot be realised on a digital computer? Should we include insentient machines in the “we” community? This, presumably, depends on why we are trying to determine the extent of “we” community. If it’s to determine those towards whom our responsibilities lie, we should favour our non-sapient infants (or even animals, if we can get out of the habit of treating them as property) over our sapient machines, when it comes to the last place on the life-boat.

Note: Some Random Thoughts
  1. Throughout history, “we” has been tribal, rising to national. Or, there have been special interest groups – the aristocrats, the intelligentsia, the Manchester United Supporters, the Anglo Saxons.
  2. We now agree that “we” are at least co-extensive with the human race (though maybe the “mentally defective” are excluded). The “we” that agree on this are a privileged subset of those we count as being “we”. No doubt some of those we count as within “our” community would exclude us from that community.
  3. There is pressure to widen the net, but what are the principled reasons for the width of the net? Brandom gives reasons, but why are these not just his preferences? There seems to be something of a dilemma:-
    a). If we take “we” to be those falling under a natural kind concept (ie. all human beings), we have a basic reason for drawing boundaries as we do; yet we open ourselves up to charges of “speciesism”, because the qualities we find valuable in our group might be shared by others of different species who might (as Brandom notes) be excluded for irrelevant reasons.
    b). But if we widen the net, we open ourselves up to arbitrariness of the function-set we happen to find important.
  4. Brandom considers that “we” are those we can interact with propositionally. I’m not sure how much of this goes on in families, especially between generations. Yet these are paradigmatic “we” communities. A “fellow feeling” can arise in completely non-verbal environments (I’ve experienced a lot of this rowing in eights). We’re concerned about those in the same boat as us, and if chimps or dolphins were to have self-concern, we are their fellow-travellers, whether or not they have language or conceptual thought in the way we do. An argument I heard recently against the commercial predation on whales, is that they form close-knit communities and mourn the loss of group members. I’m not sure how this is known, but I can imagine it being true. If so, whales form a “we-group”. Why exclude them because they can only squeak?
  5. I’m not clear on the relevance of all this to my thesis. I want to know what we are, metaphysically speaking, and what adventures we can survive. So, I need to know roughly how to determine whether or not a particular individual belongs to the class “we”. As Olson points out, if we take this class functionally, members of all sorts of kinds with different persistence conditions might belong to it, so our general questions about the persistence of individuals would have no answer. However, even this might beg the question against those who (seem to) claim that a kind can be determined functionally (as distinct from what? Just what does determine kind-membership? For artefact-kinds function is all we have to go on, but for natural kinds we think there’s something more). For instance, those holding the “psychological view” of personal identity might claim that “we” belong to a natural kind - PERSON.

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

Footnote 2.11

Supervision: Monday 4th February 2008; 11:30

The focus of the supervision was the discussion of four papers.

  1. The introductory text of my essay “What Are We?”.
  2. A Note on "Brandom (Robert) - Toward a Normative Pragmatics", sections I:1-3.
  3. A Note on "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from "Is There a Mind-Body Problem?"".
  4. A Note on "Baillie (James) - What Am I?".

  1. Essay Introduction
    • Jen objected (not for the first time) to my distinction between two questions “what sort of being am I identical to?” and “what sort of properties do I have?”. All uses of “is” reduce to the same thing – “I am red” means “I am identical to something that is red”.
    • Sorts: The whole point of Wiggins’s D2 is that I cannot make identity statements until I know what sort the identification is made under. Consider “I am that child” versus “I am that human being”.
    • Kinds: But, isn’t the issue one of kind membership? Do persons form a kind? Do red things form a kind? That is, it’s not just belonging to set indexed by some property {x: f(x)}, but some natural way of connecting the x’s into the set that makes categorising them as the same f metaphysically worth doing?
    • I made an illegible scribble at the meeting about cross-kind identifications: f(x) & g(y) & x=y & f <> g? But there cannot be any such things, because its kind-membership is an essential property of any thing, so things belonging to different kinds cannot be identical (by Leibniz’s Law).
    • There’s no third-person in view in the question “What are we?” – “We” is first person plural. And this first-person is important – we are the sort of entities can say “I”. “What are they?” has no implication that they can refer to themselves as “I”.
  2. Brandom: "Brandom (Robert) - Toward a Normative Pragmatics", sections I:1-3.
    • I.1(4): What we can do is not just agency. I need to decide what aspect of “we” I am interested in.
    • Families: we still have the capacity for propositional interaction, even if it is unexercised.
    • We discussed the idea that in some societies dependence on animals is so great that they might be introduced into the “we” community – eg. hunter-gatherers and their dogs, horses, camels.
    • Can cats think? Does thought require language? Is there a “language of thought” apart from a natural language that maybe cats have access to? Do they intend anything? I raised two examples of behaviour, neither of which is a learned response. Pawing against doors is different from pawing the floor prior to defecation. Pawing the floor appears to be purely instinctual and irrational. Pawing to be let out appears to be rational and to require some rudimentary theory of (human) mind on the part of cats, though other interpretations are no doubt possible.
    • Brandom’s pragmatics is all language-dependent. So, does he allow that the higher mammals do enjoy intentional states?
    • Sentience and sapience are not logically independent, even though you can have one without the other.
  3. Chisholm: "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from "Is There a Mind-Body Problem?"".
    • Chisholm is really too eccentric to be worth considering: the crazy metaphysical suggestions all arise due to his mereological essentialism. However, I think lots of interesting points are raised by erroneous metaphysics. A number of Chisholm’s arguments in favour of his position, or defending it against attack, parallel those of others – eg. Baker’s constitution view.
    • First note: Jen thinks that distinguishing bodies from organisms is important. This is (probably) for the above reason. If what I am is an organism, then the problems thrown up by mereological essentialism and entia successiva cannot arise, as organisms change parts all the time. Chisholm’s basic assumption that “if we are physical things, then we are bodies or proper parts thereof” sets him off on completely the wrong foot.
  4. Baillie: "Baillie (James) - What Am I?".
    • There is no such thing as token-token reduction. Reduction is of one theory to another. What I’m talking about is token-token identity.
    • But – I would respond – aren’t there different forms of reduction; namely inter-theoretic reduction and explanatory reduction?
    • Quasi-memory – review "McDowell (John) - Reductionism and the First Person". This may be relevant to my theories on the difference between forward and backward psychological continuity, where in the absence of the right causal chain, there’s no forward continuity of experience.
    • “Physicalism” (note, p. 2) – I really mean anti-dualism. Physicalism has to do with physics, reduction thereto.
    • De re / de dicto: (p. 3, section 3 last note) – Jen was suspicious of the coherence and utility of this distinction in this context – I need to explain or abandon this note.
    • Note (1), p. 3, top: unduly behaviouristic? Really?
    • The discussion of Baillie was left incomplete on account of time.

Next Supervision: Monday 18th February 2008; 11:30. To complete discussion of the paper on "Baillie (James) - What Am I?" and discuss one on "Olson (Eric) - What Are We?".

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 12:00:00

Footnote 2.13: (Chisholm - Which Physical Thing Am I?)

This write-up is a review of "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from "Is There a Mind-Body Problem?"". My own comments universally appear as “Note:”.


  1. The Theory
  2. Some Objections Considered
  3. Conclusion

1. The Theory
  1. According to the double aspect theory, some physical things have mental or intentional properties as well as physical properties. Persons – you and I – are such things.
  2. In support, Chisholm approvingly quotes "Strong (C.A.) - Final Observations", p. 237, to the effect that I am to outer appearance physical, but am to inner perception psychical. So, there is no contradiction in a physical, partite, effective thing that feels.
  3. This gives a problem – if we are physical things, which physical thing are we. Chisholm claims the answer is obviously either our “gross physical body” or a proper part thereof.
    • Note: Olson claims that there’s an important distinction between bodies and organisms, and would claim that I am identical to the human organism, not the human body. Does this make a difference to Chisholm’s arguments?
  4. Chisholm claims that there are sound arguments to do with facts about persistence through time that show that I cannot be identical to my body.
  5. The main contention is that “the body I carry around with me” is an ens successivum - an entity that is made up of different things at different times. The “set of things that makes it up” varies from day to day. It has different “stand ins” that “do duty for” the successive entity at different times.
    • Note: Just what is a “successive entity” – is this something that is only self-identical from moment to moment in the “loose and popular” sense? Or is it a substance that is “constituted” by different entities from moment to moment? Also, how many levels of thing do we have here? Persons, then bodies, and then the stand-ins for those bodies?
  6. Chisholm now asks whether I am an ens successivum such that different things do duty for me on different days? He denies this on the grounds that if I have an emotion, no other thing has this emotion for me, and particularly not different things at different times.
  7. The argument for the above claim is as follows:-
    1. I am supposed now sad.
    2. An ens successivum bearing my name is sad if one of its stand-ins is now sad.
    3. I am not sad in virtue of anything else being sad for me.
    4. Therefore, I am not an ens successivum.
    • Note: I don’t know what to make of this argument. It doesn’t add anything except make premise (3) explicit. Why should we accept this? Don’t my various body-parts perform their functions for me (eg. don’t my kidneys purify my blood). So, why can’t my brain feel my sadness? And my brain is an ens successivum, part of a larger ens successivum that is my body. And saying “my body” isn’t to say that I’m anything other than my body, it’s just a figure of speech (For what? For when I want to emphasise my corporeal rather than mental aspects).
  8. What is a non-successive entity like? It is not made up of different things at different times. It has all of its parts essentially.
  9. Chisholm adopts a “Leibnizian” position whereby something exists only if its contrary exists. So, since entia successiva exist, entia nonsuccessiva must exist too.
    • Note: Can this approach possibly be sound? Do unicorns and gods exist because non-unicorns and non-gods exist? I’d thought that Leibniz was talking about concepts – we can only have the concept of a thing if we have the concept of its opposite (I’ve a vague recollection of some “scholastic” arguments in natural theology along these lines) – but our concepts bear no necessary connection to what exists).
  10. Anyway, Chisholm thinks we can only make sense of anything persisting if in any interval, however small, an ens successivum exists during part of that time.
    • Note: I’ve no idea what he’s on about here.
  11. So, might I not be an ens nonsuccessivum? He mentions Leibniz’s account of the Rabbis’ suggestion that there is an incorruptible Luz bone. Neither he nor Leibniz accept this idea as such, but Chisholm seems to accept the idea that there may be a microscopic material object that is the person. Leibniz had denied that the soul dwells there, and Chisholm accepts this rejection if the soul is taken to be something that the person has. What he does say is that the person dwells there, that the person is the Luz bone or a proper part of it (or of the microscopic entity Chisholm prefers to the Luz bone).
  12. Chisholm considers the impact of his thesis – that persons are intactly persisting physical things – on personalism. While the personalists would have rejected this idea, it lends support to other ideas the personalists thought important. Bishop Butler rejected the idea that “our gross organised bodies” are any part of ourselves, even though we use them for sense-perception and action; claiming “we see with our eyes in the same way we see with our glasses”.
    • Note: What is “personalism”?
  13. Chisholm accepts:-
    1. That our eyes are only the organs of sight, and not the subjects of sight.
    2. That the destruction of the “gross physical body” does not logically imply the destruction of the person.
    3. The substance of Aquinas’s attribution to Plato: that the person is in the body as a sailor is in the ship.
    • Notes (indexed to the 3 remarks above):
      1). I think every physicalist would agree that the eyes are much as Butler and Chisholm allege, though they do much more information processing and transduction than mere spectacles. The interpretation of the visual information takes place in the visual cortex, and the subjective awareness of that information presumably takes place (somewhat mysteriously) there or elsewhere in the brain. Some would say that the subject of experience is the brain, or part of it. Chisholm, it turns out, would agree with this, though not in the conventional physicalist sense.
      2). The emphasis is on “gross” – Chisholm is claiming that there is some small part that is indestructible and that ensures the persistence of the person despite the destruction (or change – for Chisholm the moment by moment replacement) of the body, because it is (identical to) the person.
      3). This sounds a step back from Descartes’s rejection of the pilot/ship analogy – Descartes has the soul intermingled with the body – but the claim is not really the same thing for Chisholm as it is for Plato and Aquinas. His pilot is a physical thing.

2. Some Objections Considered

Chisholm clarifies his proposal by considering 5 objections:-
  1. Objection: Physics knows nothing of any incorruptible matter of which the person might be made.
    Answer: His theory implies no such thing, only that there are certain material things that remain uncorrupted as long as the person survives. The theory is that the person is identical to some proper part of the gross body, most likely something microscopic – certain material particles or sub-particles – in the brain. While not being the Luz bone, it is like it in being intact and nonsuccessive.
    • Note: This seems to be a crazy idea, but one that’s theoretically open to empirical investigation. It seems to be predicated on the idea that the “strict and philosophical” identity relation allows for no change of parts (mereological essentialism). Chisholm throws down the gauntlet at the end of the extract for those who don’t like his theory to think of something better.
  2. Objection: thinking requires a complex structure not possessed by microscopic particles. So what does the thinking for this particle?
    Answer: I am that microscopic particle, I have a brain, so it has a brain too; the same brain I have. The brain is the organ of consciousness, not the subject of consciousness, just as for my nose and smell. That is, unless I am my brain (or nose). The theory is that the subject of consciousness is a proper part of the organ of consciousness.
    • Note: There’s a lot going on here. Firstly, I reject the analogy between brain and nose for the reasons given earlier for the eye. Secondly, I am suspicious of the use of “have”. I (considered as a biological organism) have a brain as a functioning proper part. The supposed microscopic particle has a brain in a different sense – that of possession. Chisholm is right to reject the regress of increasingly tiny brains as proper parts of increasingly tiny homunculi. However, how is the posited homunculus supposed to think with its (gross) brain? What’s the interface protocol? There’s something inimical to the spirit of physicalism going on here – why say this thing is physical at all? Why not just stick with immaterial souls? Physicalism claims that all that exists are physical things (together with, maybe, abstract objects), but further that we can explain how macroscopic things work by reference to the working of their parts and the operation of universal physical laws. The positing of unchangeable physical things – simples – that are capable of complicated things – perception – seems contrary to the spirit of these claims.
  3. Objection: if I’m identical to a microscopic particle, how come I’m 5 ft 10 ins tall and weigh 14 stone?
    Answer: I have a body with these properties.
    • Note: So, it seems that – for Chisholm – I really am tiny. The same issues come up for the “brain view”, that I really only weigh 3 lb, and so on. I suspect this to be just a matter of a linguistic convention that we would keep even if the metaphysical theories on offer turned out to be true. I don’t consider the objection serious. It is probably correctly responded to by Baker’s account of “having properties derivatively” by reason of being constituted by something else that has these properties non-derivatively. Note, however, that Baker’s view – that I am constituted by my gross physical body - bears no relation to Chisholm’s – that I am identical to a minute proper part of my body.
  4. Objection: Are you serious in saying I weigh less than a milligram?
    Answer: Yes. Both the statement that I weigh 14 stone and that I weigh less than a milligram are correct, according to different manners of speaking, though the latter is more accurate. He wheels out the “loose and popular” versus “strict and philosophical” distinction, and an analogy “I’m at such-and-such a garage”, when I mean my car is. Some of “my” properties are borrowed from my body. Chisholm has a footnote where he notes Strawson’s claim that persons have both psychological and physical properties. According to Chisholm, most of the physical predicates are borrowed from the person’s body.
    • Note: this is really the same point as (3), but with more of the incredulous stare, and a bit more explanation in response. Baker’s indebtedness to these ideas is clear.
  5. Objection: Your brain is your organ of thought, and is responsible for all your psychological properties which, according to Locke, are constitutive of your identity. Since you are not your brain, but a microscopic particle within it, it might be possible to exchange the brain (less you) with another person. In that case you (in Chisholm’s sense) would no longer be you (in Locke’s sense).
    Answer: this is only absurd if we confuse the criteria of identity with the truth-conditions of identity. The criteria (in normal circumstances) aid identification, but they do not make identity.
    • Notes:
      1. This seems simply to ignore the whole Lockean “psychological approach”, which claims that psychological continuity is constitutive of personal identity and not just evidence for it.
      2. That said, Chisholm is right to stand his ground. The situation is similar to the second horn of Williams’s dilemma in "Williams (Bernard) - The Self and the Future", where the brain-state transfer device is taken to induce massive psychological change rather than identity transfer.

3. Conclusion
  1. There are persons, and they are either physical or non-physical. Does anything we know of persons justify us taking the second option?
  2. If we assume that the concept of an extended thing presupposes that of a non-extended thing, might we not suppose that persons are non-extended things? But this contradicts the assumption that persons are entia per se. Unextended things (such as boundaries, lines, points and surfaces) are ontological parasites on extended things, rather than vice versa, so are not entia per se.
  3. Chisholm asks rhetorically what point there would be in the supposition that some individual things have the property of being non-physical – how would it explain anything?
  4. If I am physical, the most plausible explanation is that I’m a proper part of my macroscopic body, even though it’s not possible to tell from the outside which part I am.
  5. Those who think this implausible need to come up with a better idea.
    • Notes (indexed to the 5 remarks above):
      1. An interesting question that Chisholm proceeds to address, but far too briefly.
      2. Entia per se are presumably substances, as distinct from the properties that substances have (though does Chisholm believe in substances, given his mereological essentialism?). When we say that something is unextended, is this the same as saying it is non-physical? Are lines not extended? Are points parasitic on anything? I agree that surfaces, like dents, are parasitic on the things whose surfaces they are.
      3. Well, indeed! But one might give it a try (as many philosophers have).
      4. Can we tell from the inside what proper part I am? And why can’t we tell from the outside?
      5. Some would say they have.
Summary Response

It seems to me a rather desperate move to suggest that persons are microscopic unchanging particles. The suggestion appears to stem from accepting mereological essentialism combined with a desire for our “strict and philosophical” persistence. If we are such strange items, how do we interact with our brains? What advantage is there in assuming we’re physical in that sense, when the supposed physical thing is unknown to physics? The mistake seems to me to be in the initial premise of mereological essentialism for organisms.

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

Footnote 2.16: (DeGrazia - Are We Essentially Persons?)

This write-up is a review of "DeGrazia (David) - Are we essentially persons? Olson, Baker, and a reply". The Philosophers’ Index Abstract is “Recently, Eric Olson and Lynne Rudder Baker have vigorously debated the question of our essence: What are we, 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.”.


  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

1. Introduction

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. Concluding Reflections

… Further details to be supplied

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

Footnote 2.18: (Olson - What Are We?)

This write-up is a review of "Olson (Eric) - What Are We?". Olson’s paper seems to be a warm-up exercise for the first chapter of "Olson (Eric) - What are We?" (reviewed here). My comments universally feature as “Note:”.

Abstract: Explicating a difficult metaphysical question to be distinguished from the Mind-Body problem and familiar questions of Personal Identity. Arguments for and against animalism. Olson’s worry that constitutionalism undermines his favourite argument for animalism. Fear that we are left with the “messy view” – that what we are is indeterminate pending further research on certain key questions in epistemology, metaphsics and the philosophy of mind. Headings:-

  1. The Question
  2. Some answers
  3. How the question differs from others
  4. The thinking-animal problem
  5. Familiar objections
  6. Constitution
  7. Thinking Heads
  8. The Messy View
1). The Question:
  1. What are our most general and fundamental properties?
  2. Two aspects to this difficult question – about “What” and about “We”. These break down into smaller questions:-
  3. What?
    • What are we made of? Not a chemical question, as we might not be (wholly) made of matter. Are we made of any kind of stuff, material or immaterial?
    • If material, what matter, and how far do we extend? As far as our skin, only our brains, or beyond our skin (see "Chalmers (David) & Clark (Andy) - The Extended Mind" for the last option).
      Note: I’ve not reviewed this paper. Should I?
    • What parts do we have? Do we have spatial parts (see "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Doctrine of Arbitrary Undetached Parts" and "Lowe (E.J.) - An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind", pp. 15-20) or temporal parts (see this paper, Section 8)?
    • Are we substances? Are we metaphysically independent; are we like cars or like dents? Are we aspects of the way something else is? Or an event or process that something else is undergoing? Is there something – an organism or a lump of matter – that stands to us as the car stands to its dent?
      1). The car/dent distinction is just a more prosaic version of the Cheshire Cat / smile distinction.
      2). Olson’s thesis is (or used to be) that we are (identical to) human organisms, so he doesn’t think of us as analogous to dents. Additionally, a dent is rather static, which we are not. However, a priori we might be events happening to a human organism (if I remember correctly "Wollheim (Richard) - Living", this would equate us with our lives). Yet (monistic) philosophers often have the idea that this event might be transferable from one organism to another; yet how could this happen to a (more active) dent? It would seem that a dent is essentially owned by the thing it’s a dent in.
    • Do we persist through time? Do we really persist for 70 years, or are we replaced moment by moment by an unnoticeably dissimilar but numerically distinct succession of beings?
      Note: this is the view of Butler and Reid with their assumption that bodies only partake of the “loose and popular” form of identity – that we are entia successiva (see "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from "Is There a Mind-Body Problem?"") - while souls satisfy the requirements of the “strict and philosophical” form of identity.
    … and Olson mentions a couple of other questions not taken further here:-
    • What are our persistence criteria?
    • What are our essential properties?
  4. We
    • By “we” Olson means “we human people, where a human person is roughly someone with a human body”.
      Note: This seems somewhat confused.
      1. Firstly, Olson insists on using “people” instead of the technical term “persons”, or uses the two terms interchangeably: he defends this usage in "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal: Introduction", but it strikes me as tendentious (reflecting Olson’s downplaying of our psychological properties and his rejection of the claim that we are essentially persons).
      2. Secondly, a human person is not (on many accounts) “[someone] with a human body”. This seems to beg the question in favour of the animalist account.
      3. Olson himself distrusts “bodies” in favour of “organisms”.
      4. Does he really mean “we human beings”?
    • Olson claims that his assertion that “we are people” is not substantive, and that the question “what are we?” can be expressed in other terms if it is denied.
      Note: this seems obscure to me. Also, saying “we are human people” sounds like an answer to the question “what are we”, except that what Olson means by “people” and “person” is obscure.
    • In this context, Olson doesn’t care about non-human people, if there are any. That is, he’s not here interested in Gods, aliens or artificial intelligences – if they have “the same mental features we have”.
    • The “mental features” Olson takes to be sufficient for personhood are rationality, intelligence and self-consciousness.
      Note: this is very quick and brief. It excludes language-use and the various reciprocal features identified in "Dennett (Daniel) - Conditions of Personhood".
    • Olson points out that other candidate-persons most likely won’t have the same fundamental metaphysical nature as we do, or as one another. Some may be immaterial, others of composite nature. He doubts there is any one metaphysical sort encompassing all persons; at least we can’t rule this out until we’ve ruled out of existence the other candidate-persons.
      Note: this seems to rule out a priori that PERSON might be a natural kind concept, or at least have a unified metaphysical nature.
    • Whatever the answer to the above question, Olson restricts the scope of his enquiry to human people.
      Note: this seems to rule out non-human people as falling into the community we call “we”. I can see nothing obviously incoherent about the Star Trek scenario where aliens, hybrids and artificial intelligences are all part of the same crew and would refer to themselves collectively as “we”, involved in the same enterprise. This begs the question against those who say that “we” are most fundamentally persons (rather than human beings, or human persons).
    • There are two ways of putting the “What are we?” question:-
      1). What sort of things do our personal pronouns and proper names refer to?
      2). What is the nature of the beings who use these words? What sort of thing is now reading this sentence or wrote it.
      Note: this is of the form “we are the sort of beings likely to be reading this book”, which might seem to restrict “we” to a class of literate, philosophically-motivated individuals. I think this was discussed in a supervision.
    • The above two “What are we?” questions are not strictly equivalent and some say they come apart. Rephrasing them again:-
      1). Semantic: I am whatever I refer to when I say “I”.
      2). Metaphysical: I am whatever thinks my thoughts and performs my actions.
      Note: this anticipates Olson’s “Thinking Animal” critique of the Constitution View according to which the animal thinks my thoughts, but I’m not identical to it.
    • Olson views the second question as the more fundamental: we need to determine what thinking, speaking beings there are before we determine what our personal pronouns refer to.
      Note: I agree, but (wouldn’t Olson say) there are even more fundamental abilities that “we” have (our non-cognitive animal functions) that are salient to what we are. As Olson would say, won’t we persist provided we have them, even though we lack all cognitive abilities?

2). Some answers: Just a survey of some possibilities …
  1. Animals: that is, biological organisms. All agree that there’s something right about this, but to have a body that is an animal is not to be an animal. Even many materialists deny that we are identical to our bodies.
    • Notes:
      1. This is (or used to be) Olson’s favourite answer, though he now seems to be suggesting things are not so simple.
      2). Doesn’t even Olson claim that we are not identical to our bodies, but rather to the human organism? Some people (eg. "Kagan (Shelly) - Death: Course introduction" and "Feldman (Fred) - Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death") who hold the body (or brain) view claim that we survive our deaths as corpses. Olson denies this (correctly in my view).
      3). What sort of “is” does Olson intend in the expressions “ … body that is an animal …”? The “is” of identity, or of property attribution?
      Further Note on (3): this supposed “de re / de dicto” distinction was discussed (and rebutted) at a Supervision (see Note).
  2. Spatial parts of animals - brains, or parts of brains
    • Note: Olson makes no comment on this option, which is a favourite of physicalists, and brings together the conflict that while we are animals, “we go where our brains go”, because of the temptation of psychological continuity when coupled with appropriate physical continuity. There is still a distinction between saying that we are really just brains, and that we would survive (though in a “maximally mutilated state”) as a brain, and would continue to survive following a whole-body transplant (just as we would survive a successful heart-and-lungs transplant). This is probably my view. I am identical to “my” animal, and remain so as it is “pared down”. As such, I have to defend the view that a brain is an organism. It is not self-sufficient (it needs a complex support machine – normally the rest of the animal body, but a prosthesis would do – together with sensory contact with the outside world – again prosthetics will do). However, if I irreversibly lose all my psychological properties, I no longer have anything that matters to me even though, strictly speaking, I survive.
  3. Temporal parts of animals
    • Note: this is not explained, but I presume it must be related to the Constitution View, or maybe just easily confused with it. We might be said to have psychological predicates essentially, so we only pop into existence when our animal develops them, and pop out of existence when it irreversibly loses them. This differs from the Constitution View in that it doesn’t allow me to hop from one animal to another, or to be otherwise reincarnated or resurrected.
  4. Temporal parts of brains
  5. Constitution View: we are material things, made of the same matter as our bodies, which makes up two things simultaneously, one of which is an organism, the other not.
    • Note: we are referred to section 6 of this paper, and I reserve my comments until then.
  6. Hume’s bundles of perceptions: we are made of mental states and events, like theatre productions.
    • Note: I don’t intend to consider this view.
  7. Immaterial substances: We are referred to "Swinburne (Richard) - Personal Identity: The Dualist Theory" and to "Zimmerman (Dean) - Material People".
  8. Nihilism: we are referred to "Unger (Peter) - I Do Not Exist". While the atoms that make up my body exist, and my thoughts may do so also, I don’t exist and our personal pronouns have no reference.
    • Note: No-one would think this unless they felt they had no choice. I believe Unger has retreated from this position. He not only rejected the existence of persons, but of all non-simples. His approach is a response to vagueness. To avoid overpopulation (things and their virtually innumerable atom-complements), he denied the existence of non-simples. I suspect there is some overlap between Unger’s arguments and those of Olson himself (the “thinking animal” argument against the constitution view, which is another that relies on over-population objections allied to epistemic uncertainty).
  9. Others: Olson notes that none of the above answers tackles all his questions. As a reminder, these questions were:
    • What are we made of?
    • What parts do we have?
    • Are we substances?
    • Do we persist through time?
    • What are our persistence criteria?
    • What are our essential properties?
    For instance, that we are animals (say) doesn’t tell us whether we persist through time; for that we need to know whether animals persist through time. He says that “each of these views tells us a good deal about what we are”.
    • Notes:
      1). Olson doesn’t even seem to consider the possibility that (metaphysically speaking) we might be Persons, which would seem to be a popular view. Maybe it’s covered by the Constitution View, or maybe Olson’s setting up of the question, and intentionally confusing people and persons, doesn’t allow the question to arise?
      2). Olson’s last sentence is ambiguous (to my mind). Does he mean that all these attempts, even where misguided, raise enlightening issues that help with the question of what we are, or that they each go some way correctly towards answering the question, or merely that they purport to do so? The second option doesn’t seem possible, as they are mutually contradictory. I sympathise with the first interpretation – all these attempted solutions (and others), however benighted, are enlightening in one way or another.
      3). It seems to be Chisholm’s view (in "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from "Is There a Mind-Body Problem?"") that animals don’t persist in the “strict and philosophical” sense.
      4). I ought to evaluate how well the various options answer Olson’s questions one by one some time, but at the moment it would be too much of a diversion.

3). How the question differs from others
  1. The question “what are we?” – hereafter WAW - must have an answer. If nihilism is false, something now reading this paper must have a basic metaphysical mature that is:
    • Material or immaterial
    • Simple or composite
    • A substance or non-substance
    • Momentary or persistent
    • Etc.
  2. It sounds like, but differs from two other questions:-
    • The traditional mind-body problem (MBP)
    • Familiar problems of personal identity, which themselves divide into two:-
      1. The Personhood Question (PQ): what is a person?
      2. The Persistence Problem (PP): what does our persistence over time consist in?
    How does WAW relate to and differ from these?
  3. The Traditional Mind-Body Problem (MBP)
    • MBP considers the nature of mental phenomena and their relation to non-mental matters such as brain chemistry.
    • WAW is concerned with the subjects of mental phenomena.
    • WAW and MBP are connected and have mutual implications and constrain one another, but are not the same problem. We could solve MBP and still make little progress on WAW.
    • For instance, if all mental events turned out to be physical events, this might rule out our being immaterial substances, but even there not everyone agrees (see "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from "Is There a Mind-Body Problem?""). It would not arbitrate between our being organisms, brains, bundles of perceptions or non-existent.
      Note: while I’ve not studied the full text, my take on Chisholm was not Olson’s. Chisholm seems to think (or at least posit) that we are microscopic physical things, but maybe the extract in "Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) - Metaphysics: The Big Questions" is misleading?
    • Likewise, knowing what we are will tell us little about the nature of the mental.
      Note: while probably correct, this is a bit quick. The supposition that we are immaterial substances is sometimes thought to make the problem of phenomenal consciousness go away, but it is obscure to me just how. It just posits consciousness as a basic property of the immaterial substance, which is hardly an explanation, and is even further away from solving the “easy problems” of consciousness because nothing can be known about these immaterial substances (other than what we already know from folk psychology).
  4. The Personhood Question (PQ)
    • The PQ asks what it is to be a person; the necessary and sufficient conditions. Olson thinks it almost totally unrelated to WAW. What it counts to be a person is one thing, what sort of things actually have these qualifications is another.
    • Take the paradigmatic Lockean answer to the PQ – that a person is a “thinking intelligent being …”. This is entirely orthogonal to what sort of things, metaphysically-speaking, these “thinking intelligent beings” are.
      Note: The PQ asks what persons are, and WAW asks what we are. If it turns out that we are (metaphysically-speaking identical to) persons, then the two questions are very intimately related (though there might be persons other than us), as would be the WAW to the PP. As noted above, Olson seems to have ignored the possibility that we are persons. The critical issue is whether PERSON is a substance-concept. Now Olson may have (as I agree he probably has) sound arguments against this possibility, but they need presenting.
    • Olson notes Locke’s own position that we can have a view on what it is to be a person, yet not know what sort of things we are metaphysically-speaking.
      Note: This is just Locke’s separation of PERSON from SUBSTANCE, and the supposition that persons are not substances in the de dicto sense. That is, if I am an animal, and am also a person, then this person is a substance (in the de re sense) but not in the de dicto sense (ie. qua PERSON), since persons are not substances. Further Note: this supposed “de re / de dicto” distinction was discussed (and rebutted) at a Supervision (see Note).
    • Similarly, to know that I am a person is not to know that I am an animal (if that is what human persons are), if Martians, gods or angels are persons (Olson says “people”). Nor are all human animals people – if those in a PVS fail to qualify as persons.
    • Olson’s Conclusion: an account of our metaphysical nature implies virtually nothing about what it is to be a person.
      Note: but surely (as Wiggins seems to argue) we (human animals) are paradigm persons, and all we really know about persons – and what we choose to be the important characteristics of persons – is all derived from observing human animals. This is an epistemological / semantic point rather than a metaphysical one, but (contra Olson) the questions are related.
    • Olson tries an analogy with BLACKNESS. That is:-
      “the definition of personhood stands to the metaphysical nature of human people much as the definition of blackness stands to the chemical nature of black objects on our planet”. Knowing what it is to be black (having certain reflectance properties) has nothing to do with the fact that (say) most black things on earth contain carbon. There can be carbonless black things and non-black things containing carbon.
      Note: is this analogy sound, and does it matter? Firstly, it assumes that personhood is a property that other things have. If this is false, and persons are de dicto substances, then the analogy breaks down.
  5. The Persistence Problem (PP)
    • The PP asks what it takes for us (or people in general) to persist through time. What sort of event would necessarily bring your existence to an end, and what determines which past or future being is you?
      Note: this formulation betrays Olson’s usual cavalier attitude to the persons / people distinction and doesn’t seem to take seriously his own point that there might be no persistence conditions for persons in general, even though those for human persons might be well-defined. He also ignores the time-honoured suggestion that questions of persistence and identity are interrelated (“what it is to be an F and what it is for an F to (continue to) be” – see the Note on the Logic of Identity).
    • Olson admits that knowing our persistence conditions will tell us something about our nature – it is one aspect of it – but not much. It doesn’t answer the questions listed at the top of this section.
    • What it takes for a person to persist through time is one thing; what sort of beings (if any) have these persistence conditions is another.
      Note: as always, this presupposes that personhood is a property of substances that are not essentially persons. If PERSON was a substance-concept, then its persistence conditions would be intrinsic to it rather than dependent on those of something else. But if persons are not de-dicto substances, then their persistence conditions are not the same as those of the substances they are parasitic on. However, if persons are complex properties of substances, then it’s not clear what “same person” means. De re “x is the same person as y” might mean x is a person and y is a person and x is the same substance as y. But de dicto, I’m not sure what it means. We’d have to invoke all the apparatus of psychological continuity and connectedness beloved of the supportive of the “psychological view”, but where the sufficiency thresholds for persistence appear arbitrary (maybe I’m muddled here – arbitrary thresholds apply to connectedness, but maybe continuity is an all-or-nothing thing in the absence of – well – discontinuity).
      Further Note on (3): this supposed “de re / de dicto” distinction was discussed (and rebutted) at a Supervision (see Note).
    • Olson proceeds to follow up this question of persistence according to the “psychological view”. Even if details such as “continuous physical realisation” ("Unger (Peter) - Identity, Consciousness and Value", p. 108ff) and “non-branching clauses” are accepted, psychological continuity still doesn’t by itself tell us what we are. These riders may exclude our being immaterial substances (but even this is allegedly debateable), and psychological continuity excludes the possibility of us being human animals (which can persist without such capacities, as Olson argues in Section 5) but many other possibilities are left open. So, the psychological-continuity view gives us at best a radically incomplete picture of what we are.
    • Also, we could know a lot about what sort of things we are without knowing our persistence conditions.
      Note: this is just thrown in, but it seems much less defensible than the reverse contention. After all, many different kinds of thing might happen to have the same persistence conditions, so we might not expect persistence conditions to tell us much about what we are. However, it is part of the task of getting to grips with what a thing is to explore what its persistence conditions are. I feel indebted to Olson for (maybe inadvertently) pointing out the direction of inference here.
    • Olson concludes this section by complaining that the WAW question is scarcely mentioned by philosophers, except briefly ("Shoemaker (Sydney) - Personal Identity: a Materialist Account" pp. 112-4), other than to reject our being immaterial substances (by "Nozick (Robert) - The Identity of the Self: Introduction", "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons" (Part 3) and "Unger (Peter) - Identity, Consciousness and Value").

4). The Thinking Animal (TA) Problem
  1. So, what is the answer to the WAW question? Olson claims not to know, and refers us to his latest book "Olson (Eric) - What are We?" for justification as to why all the options face grave difficulties. He will devote the remainder of this paper to giving examples of the problems that afflict the various accounts. Firstly, however, he gives his favourite argument for animalism – defined as the view that we are biological organisms - “the thinking animal problem” (see "Carter (William) - How to Change Your Mind" & "Olson (Eric) - An Argument for Animalism").
    The argument goes like this:-
    • 1). There are human animals; for each of us there is a human animal and, except maybe in extreme pathological cases, for each human animal there is one of us.
      2). That we are human animals is the natural (default) position – they are so like us physically and mentally that it’s hard to tell the difference. The alternative views sound farfetched in comparison.
      3). The animal appears to be mentally just like you. It thinks.
      4). If you are something other than the animal, there are two thinkers thinking your thoughts (you and your numerically distinct human animal), and twice as many rational, intelligent self-conscious beings as we first thought. Since the animal appears to possess the qualifications for being a person, there are also twice as many people (persons) as we had supposed. This is the metaphysical objection.
      5). Additionally, if you are something other than the animal you could not know whether you are the animal or the non-animal, since you both have the same grounds for thinking you are the non-animal. Even if you aren’t the animal, you have no good reason for believing you’re not. This is the epistemological objection.
    • This is an important argument, and I really ought to address the other, fuller, formulations Olson cites before addressing this one, but I have a number of initial queries or objections.
    • The first is to question whether we actually have a problem in the first place. Take both the metaphysical and epistemological objections: similar objections arise against perdurantism. According to this view, where things are extended space-time worms, if an individual is (unbeknownst to the observer) about to fission in the future, any pre-fission stages are shared by (at least) two worms, so there are in fact two individuals present where we thought there was only one. Also, the “individual” present cannot know which of these two he is. We have the same two objections, but Lewis (in "Lewis (David) - Survival and Identity") just ignores the incredulous stares and comes up with a linguistic explanation – we count stages rather than worms, because we have no way of knowing that multiple worms are present.
    • Additionally, substance dualists also (or sometimes) allow that both the soul and the brain think. I need to research the views here ("Swinburne (Richard) - Personal Identity: The Dualist Theory" is a good start). There may be those (Eccles?) that think that the soul thinks with its brain, rather than that both think, but those modern Platonists who think that the soul can exist disembodied presumably believe that both the soul and its brain think.
    • Note that Chisholm, while not a dualist, deals with a similar sort of objection in "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from "Is There a Mind-Body Problem?"", whereby the microscopic material particle that Chisholm thinks is me thinks with its brain. There is only one thinker. So, the response to the TA argument might either be that there is, in fact, only one thinker (the animal is used by the person to do its thinking for it) or alternatively that there are two thinkers, but that this doesn’t matter.
    • Olson’s argument is an objection to the Constitution View, to which Baker has a response, so I will cover that when I review "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - What Am I?".
    • It would seem that this sort of objection would defeat our notions of supervenience. So, if the mind supervenes on the brain, so that there is no change of mind-facts without a change of brain-facts, still we don’t have two thinkers even though the mind and the brain are not numerically identical.
    • Also, the same sort of intuitions were used by Unger (in "Unger (Peter) - I Do Not Exist") to argue against there being any ordinary things. Because a cat and the complement within the cat of one of that cat’s atoms (ie. the cat less an atom) would both seem to be cats, we have at least two cats present, and the cat doesn’t know which cat it is. The same sort of responses arise to those that Olson gives below. According to Unger, we should take the first (ie. the “metaphysical”) option in the section below - there are no cats. My suspicion is that the intuitions underlying this form of argument are unsound, but I can’t quite put my finger on the reason at the moment.
    • I may seem to be trying to convict Olson of guilt by association. What I’m really trying to say is that the argument-form, if sound, proves too much.
  2. Olson thinks there are three and only three possible counters to this argument:-
    1). Metaphysical Solution - “No bodies”: Despite appearances, there is no human animal you could be, because there are no human animals. This might be the case if idealism is true (Olson says “maybe the entire material world is unreal”), or if mereological essentialism is true (whereby there are only simples and unchanging aggregates, but no organisms). This solves the metaphysical objection, and the epistemological objection disappears since if there are no animals, then you know you are not one.
    2). Psychological Solution - “Animals don’t think”: since it’s hard to explain why an animal with a healthy nervous system can’t think, this has to be taken as a brute fact. If animals can’t think, there is only one thinker, and since I’m thinking, and animals can’t think, I know I’m not an animal. Hence both objections are answered. Olson fingers as supporters of this response "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Self, Body, and Coincidence", "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Functionalism and Personal Identity - a Reply" (a reply to "Olson (Eric) - What Does Functionalism Tell Us About Personal Identity") and "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View".
    3). Epistemological Solution - “We can know”: this is a partial solution, in that it accepts the (to Olson) metaphysically objectionable fact that there are two thinkers thinking the same thoughts. Olson gives no details about this “solution”, but notes that it implies different answers to the two WAW questions (metaphysical and semantic) raised earlier in section 1. Olson cites "Noonan (Harold) - Animalism Versus Lockeanism: A Current Controversy", with his counter-arguments in "Olson (Eric) - Thinking Animals and the Reference of 'I'". There is also a “forthcoming” article by Noonan (“Persons, Animals and Human Beings” in J. Campbell & M. O’Rourke (Eds.) Topics in Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 6: Time and Identity (MIT Press), which I need to track down).
    • Olson is right to say that these answers are unpalatable. I await a study of Baker to see if there are in fact any more answers. However, I think (as noted above) that the objections themselves are not so objectionable. However, I do need answers to the objections. Presumably the basic idea is that there are not multiple things present, but one thing (in the sense of one substance) referred to in different ways.
    • Is Olson fair to Baker in accusing her of adopting the epistemological solution? Isn’t her approach that when one thing is constituted by another, there’s only one action going on, or only one property possessed; but that that which is constituted has some of its properties derivatively, and performs some of its actions derivatively?
  3. Olson concludes the section with the claim that there are no other solutions, and that all these are obviously unattractive. So, if there are no problems with animalism, we should be animalists. However, there are problems!
    • Note: While the “thinking animal” (TA) argument is a favourite one of animalists, I don’t think it sound, and think there are other arguments for animalism. That it is the “default” solution and can be defended against objections seems sufficient to me. If it can’t be defended against objections, then the TA argument for it cannot be sound, and if it can, the TA argument is unnecessary.

5). Familiar objections
  1. Olson considers two obvious objections to animalism. The first has to do with persistence conditions, and the second with essential properties.
  2. Persistence Conditions: it is alleged by anti-animalists that our persistence conditions differ from those of animals. Many philosophers claim that psychological continuity is necessary and sufficient for us to persist through time. Olson presents the Cerebrum Transplant thought experiment (CT TE). The orthodox view is that because psychological continuity is preserved in this situation, the recipient of my cerebrum would be me. Yet the cerebrum is not the animal, which stays behind with an empty head (see "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology", pp. 114-119). No sort of psychological continuity is necessary or sufficient for a human organism to persist. Hence, because of the different persistence conditions, you are not an animal, essentially or otherwise.
    • Olson’s reference to an “empty head” implies a double cerebrum transplant, so worries about fission are not at the forefront here. Even so, it is assumed that the (double) cerebrum is sufficient to maintain psychological connectedness. Yet is this so? If the brain-stem is necessary for phenomenal consciousness, then it may be that we cannot snip off enough of the brain and thereby transplant the “psychological person” without killing the animal. It is an empirical matter whether this is in fact the case. Does this matter? The question before us is “what are we?”, not “what would we be if we had different neural structures?”. Yet there’s something dissatisfying about being a hostage to empirical fortune. But maybe not, for Olson’s objection is itself empirically-based. Without the brain-stem, the animal dies, so he needs psychological continuity not to rely of the brain-stem or his CT TE fails. I presume that this is in fact the case, and that the CT TE does fail. Yet things might have been otherwise. In that case, there would have been a tension between two of our intuitions: wanting to say that we are animals, and also wanting to say that “we go where our psychology goes” – ie. where (enough of) our brain goes. Whole brain transplants (WBTs) are no use to Olson’s case because there is no persisting animal left behind, lacking a brain – and because there’s no competitor, we might consider the brain to be the animal (“maximally mutilated”). Yet if there were a neat segregation of the thinking and perceiving portion of the brain from the part that controls and regulates the body, then maybe we would be right to consider ourselves not as animals, but as material thinking things contingently attached to an animal body from which we could be readily detached and transferred to another biological life-support machine. It is because we are not separable in this way that we are right not to consider ourselves as “really just brains”. But we might have been such things. Note also that apart from sight (where our eyes (or at least our retinas and optic nerves) might properly be considered to be part of our brains), our sensory modalities are intimately bound up with our bodies, and not so easily separated as is often alleged in TEs.
    • Olson claims that not even something that is contingently an animal would go along with its transplanted cerebrum. Why is this? Wouldn’t Baker say that I am contingently (constituted by) an animal, and that I would go along with my brain?
  3. Essential Properties: we are alleged by anti-animalists to possess certain essential properties that are inessential for animals. Baker identifies the capacity for first-person thought (see "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View", p. 59). It is not just that absent this capacity we cease to exist as people, but that we cease to exist altogether. (Note: according to Baker, this is because we are people, where PERSON is taken to be a substance concept.) Olson points out that no animal has essential mental properties – with the usual examples of fetuses and those in PVSs. Animalism entails that our psychological properties are only temporary and accidental features.
    • Note: I agree with Olson that we are animals and that we have no psychological properties essentially. But there is a difference between surviving and having what matters in survival. We can’t have anything that matters without surviving, but we can survive without having anything that matters. In this, I’m ignoring metaphorical survival, such as surviving in your works or in people’s memories.
  4. Olson is unimpressed by these objections, or at least considers them unequal to the task of defeating the TA argument. These are not the promised grave objections. Any interesting metaphysical claim has some unwelcome consequences, and how can we be sure of their cogency? The import of TEs is always obscure, and how can we be confident that we have essential mental properties?
    • Note: I think Olson is unduly sanguine in his assessment of the dialectical situation here. We all have a very strong intuition that where our first-person perspective goes (where our window on the world goes), we go; and most of us (some substance dualists aside) have the further strong intuition that this perspective is enabled by our brains, so that where our brains go, we go. Where doubts creep in is the empirical matter of how much of our brains is required to maintain this perspective. If this brain-portion includes sufficient of the brain-portion required to keep the animal in existence, then we could say that the animal goes with me (and that I am the animal). If sufficient of the brain can be left behind to regulate the animal and keep it alive, while the residue maintains my window, then the animal does not go with me, and I am not the animal. Then there is the debate about whether or not whole (or nearly whole) brains are or are not organisms. Olson is right that the import of the CT TE is unclear, but certain clarifications would refute animalism. Note, however, that some of the facts might be hard to ascertain. Even assuming that a first-person perspective does go along with the transplanted brain-portion, and that the recipient animal claims to be me, it might still be deceived. It might still have been the case that the lights went out on me, never to come on again, and that the recipient is deceived into thinking himself me, as would any atom-for-atom duplicate. But I don’t think there’s any reason to expect this (because it looks as though the normal consciousness-preserving causal chains are in place), but we can never find out by asking anyone.

6). Constitution
  1. Animalists themselves may fall prey to a TA-style argument brought on by the idea of constitution.
  2. By constitution, Olson means the standard statue/clay idea whereby the statue and the lump of clay that constitutes it have different persistence conditions. "Thomson (Judith Jarvis) - Parthood and Identity Across Time", "Thomson (Judith Jarvis) - The Statue and the Clay" and "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View" are referenced.
    • Note: this is the TE that Gibbard tried to use to demonstrate the incoherent notion of Contingent Identity – see "Gibbard (Allan) - Contingent Identity". Because there’s no such thing as Contingent Identity, modal arguments show that the statue and the clay can never be identical, even when coterminous.
    • Note: I’m not convinced that Baker has the standard view of constitution, but I’ll review this in due course – soonest in "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - What Am I?".
  3. Olson notes that it would be odd if there was something that constituted the statues of Yeltsin yet there was nothing that constituted Yeltsin himself. Denying this would be as unprincipled as insisting that statues of men but not those of women are constituted by lumps.
  4. Olson agrees that the statue and the lump are made of the same matter at the same time. Candidates for the analogous case of a human animal and its matter are “mass of matter”, “lump of flesh”, “aggregate of atoms”.
    • Note: from this we see that what Olson means by constitution does indeed differ from Baker’s. For Olson, we have mereological constitution – a thing is constituted by the suitably structured set of its parts (the animal is constituted by its parts fitted together in the right way). However, for Baker, it is the person that is constituted by the human animal as a whole. If may be that Baker would allow nested constitution. I will review this in due course.
  5. Olson claims that animalism and constitutionalism are formally consistent, yet sit uneasily together.
    • Note: I’m not quite sure what Olson means here. Presumably, the claim is that we could just insist that the above analogies fail, and that while a lump of clay constitutes a statue, nothing constitutes a human organism. Yet I agree with Olson, this would be odd. An organism is a substance that is constituted by different matter at different times. The only ways out of this are to deny that organisms exist, or that they aren’t substances, but rather entia successiva (see "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from "Is There a Mind-Body Problem?""), or other attempts along these lines which are even more repugnant to animalists.
  6. Olson now spells out the problem. The animal can think, the lump of flesh that constitutes it can think, so we have two thinkers and we don’t know which we are. This is the TA argument all over again, but this time directed at animalism.
    • Note: Given that (this sort of) constitution is correct, and that animalism is correct, might not this be a reductio ad absurdum of TA argument and Olson’s epistemic and metaphysical worries? After all, all it shows is that Olson cannot use the argument, but this wasn’t the only argument for animalism. Olson seems to think the TA argument is animalism’s “principal support”, but I can’t see why. Of course, if the argument-form were sound, it would provide a sound refutation of any theory subject to its attack.
  7. Olson sees the same three possible responses as were adduced against his version of the TA argument.
    1). Metaphysical: there are no lumps of flesh (or other candidates) out of which we might be constituted. This just gives up on constitutionalism altogether.
    2). Psychological: Lumps of flesh do constitute us, but can’t think. There’s no principled reason for this, and if there were, it would be effective against animals being able to think, and Olson’s version of the TA argument would fail.
    3). Epistemic: There are thinking lumps of flesh, but we can know that we are not they. The same objections arise for this attempted solution as to the Psychological solution.
    • Note: in the above “solutions”, Olson (in his own words) seems sometimes to refer to “animals” (which the argument strictly requires) and sometimes to “us”. This reflects Olson’s assumption that we are animals, but seems somewhat sloppy to me.
    • Note: I wonder whether there is a disanalogy between the statue/clay and the organism/flesh, but need to think it through carefully. The statue and clay are both fairly static entities. We do distinguish pieces from portions. Portions do not persist through change of parts – they possess each of their parts essentially - but pieces (or lumps) do persist through change of parts. Now, while both statues and pieces can survive change of parts to some degree, they are not dynamic entities in the way that animals and other organisms are. It’s not clear that there is a persisting piece of flesh that’s distinct from the organism. There might be the case that the organism is constituted by its body, and that bodies have different persistence conditions from organisms (for instance, that bodies persist trans-mortem as corpses). But it’s not clear that they do – corpses have different persistence conditions from bodies (presumably similar to other masses of matter, but this is unclear to me). Living bodies seem to have just the persistence conditions of living organisms (nor is there any such thing as a dead organism: a corpse isn’t an organism. The organism ceased to be at death).
  8. Olson finishes this section by claiming that things are even worse than might have been thought at first sight. His argument that this is so breaks down into the following assertions:-
    1). If animals are constituted by lumps of flesh, then in turn animals will constitute thinking beings with psychological persistence conditions or beings with essential mental properties.
    2). While there is no acceptable account of how one material object constitutes another, most of those who accept constitutionalism think it too obvious to require argument that the consequent of the statement immediately above is true.
    3). If these constitutionalists are right, then the only defence of animalism will be epistemic.
    4). Yet such a defence seems hopeless; for even if we could know we’re not lumps of flesh, what grounds could we have for knowing that we’re animals rather than the essentially mental beings we (the animals) constitute?
    • Notes: I’m not sure what to make of this argument. Is Olson altogether serious? Taking the points one by one:-
      1). The point here is presumably that if mereological constitution is true, then the sort of constitution that Baker invokes is true also. But is this so, or does Olson even care about Baker’s form? Can psychological beings be mereologically constituted of animals? It doesn’t look likely. Psychological beings can be constituted by the parts that make up animals, but then it’s just the animals themselves we’re talking about.
      2). Fair enough, but this is the constitution of psychological beings by whole animals – that is Baker’s view, but this has nothing to do with mereology, and is not connected to the constitution of animals by their parts.
      3). That is – we admit the metaphysical “multiple thinkers” problem, but claim to know which one we are.
      4). Baker has an answer to this challenge. We’ll defer discussing it until we look at "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - What Am I?".

7). Thinking Heads
  1. This is another example of the same problem.
    1). Your head thinks and is intelligent, yet is not identical to you, so we have two thinkers. Even were it detached and placed on life-support, it would still think.
    2). Olson claims your head is not physically identical to you in the sense that the lump of flesh constituting you would be.
    • I broadly accept Olson’s first contention, though deny that it has the troublesome consequences that Olson worries over. This is, after all, nothing but Tib/Tibbles and Dion/Theon. No doubt there is a conundrum here, but it is nothing new. The responses to these “vagueness” worries have similar metaphysical and epistemological solutions analogous to the ones that Olson rejects.
    • While Olson’s second point seems obvious, it is expressed rather oddly. As always, we have the assumption that we are animals – it would not be obvious that lumps of flesh constitute persons. Some further comments …
    • Firstly, some philosophers think we are in fact our heads (or at least a proper part of them), so Olson’s claim seems to beg some questions. It seems to assume animalism (ie. what we are animals rather than heads). I think that is indeed the underlying presumption here – we are considering the problems facing animalism.
    • Secondly, even if constitutionalism were true you would still not be constituted by a lump of flesh. Again, it depends on which form of constitutionalism. Mereological constitution would involve a different piece of flesh each instant, while animal constitution just involves an organism.
    • What are the persistence conditions of pieces of flesh? I said that corpses persist and have persistence conditions different to those of organisms. Similarly, pieces of flesh will have persistence conditions that differ depending on whether we view then as parts of organisms or parts of corpses-to-be.
  2. The problem is exacerbated for Olson, because there are all sorts of other parts of you that can think (eg. your brain or your top half).
  3. Anyone who denies we are heads is committed to a solution, and has the usual three options:-
    1). Metaphysical: Deny that there are such things as undetached parts. There are “particles arranged capitally”, but no heads. This is the drastic solution favoured in "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Doctrine of Arbitrary Undetached Parts" and "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings".
    2). Psychological: there are heads, but they don’t think ("Burke (Michael) - Is My Head a Person?"). Olson considers this response unprincipled.
    3). Psychological: while our heads think, we can know we aren’t them.
  4. All but the first option lay animalism open to the same charge as the alternatives are subject to in Olson’s TA argument.
    • Note: As previously remarked, this just shows that Olson is misguided in relying on the TA argument to support animalism.

8). The Messy View
  1. Olson recapitulates: there are metaphysical and epistemological objections to animalism – there are non-animals thinking our thoughts and we cannot know that we are not they. However, whatever we are, there are analogous problems.
  2. Further problems arise if four-dimensionalism (4-D) is true and we have temporal parts (and temporal parts exist in their own right). Olson presents 4-D as an alternative solution to the statue/clay problem to that offered by the constitutionalist: the statue and the lump share a temporal part – see "Sider (Ted) - Four-dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time", pp. 154-161.
    • Note: this seems to be a change of view from "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal: Introduction" & "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal: Alternatives" (part III), where Olson seemed to think that there would be no interesting metaphysical questions outstanding for personal identity if 4-D were true. No doubt if Olson had maintained his confidence in the TA argument, he would have continued to reject 4-D as a consequence, but as he now thinks animalism itself to be subject to this argument, he’s not so confident.
  3. There are the usual three responses – metaphysical, psychological and epistemological – to 4-D as to the other alternatives, and different alternatives may have different responses.
  4. Suppose these responses on the part of the animalist fail. That is, there really are non-animals thinking our thoughts and we can never know we aren’t them. Should we conclude that we aren’t animals? Olson thinks not – while we can’t know we’re animals, we can’t know we’re not either, as these objections apply mutatis mutandis to the alternatives.
  5. This leads to the “mess” of the section-title. Olson rejects nihilism via Descartes’s cogito, so what am I?
    • Note: this seems a bit quick, given the (even pre-Kantian) objections to the cogito argument. Admittedly, Olson doesn’t actually refer to the cogito, but the formula “if I think, I exist” seems to be the same.
  6. Olson’s answer is that there’s no one thing I am, nor one thing our names or personal pronouns refer to.
  7. Expanding on this thought, Olson considers two alternatives for the reference of ‘Olson’:-
    • It could refer simultaneously to all the candidates for being Olson, so that anyone using the name would say many things simultaneously, or
    • It has “indeterminate reference” – it definitely does have reference, but it is indeterminate to what it refers.
    • The first of the above alternatives seems absurd – how could statements using terms like this have truth-values. Yet they do. This may be Olson’s point – that’s why this solution is “messy” – but surely there would be some linguistic conventions as to which of the possible references was intended in a particular context. That would enable our propositions to have truth-values.
    • I find the second alternative a little obscure. The reference is called “indeterminate” because we can’t determine what the reference is. But aren’t linguistic references subject to stipulation rather than discovery? The real metaphysical nature of the referent is subject to empirical investigation, but the particular referred to (if the reference is successful) isn’t open to doubt (is it?).
  8. So, I cannot know whether I am an animal, and it is not definitely true either that I am or that I am not an animal. And the same goes for the truth of any other self-identification. This is the “messy view”.
    • Note: There seem to be two completely different issues here. It might be a shame that I cannot know what I am, but this just says something about the epistemic predicament of humanity. However, it seems a bit of a leap from the juncture Olson has arrived at to deny the principle of bivalence and allow “indefinite truth”. Presumably I am what I am and definitely so, it’s just I don’t know the truth-value of the various possible assertions. It’s not that they don’t have a truth value.
  9. Olson asks how bad this is. He seems to think it pretty bad, for he thinks we can have no determinate answer to a whole series of questions about our properties: how tall, heavy or old we are. All these depend on what we are for their answers. Similarly, we wouldn’t know our persistence conditions. While these questions might have the usual conventional answers, they would be no more true than the unconventional ones (“I weigh 5 pounds and fit into a hat-box”).
    • Note: What it is that interferes with the truth-values of the various assertions? It seems to be the reference of “I”, we don’t to what we’re referring so we don’t whether our statements are true or not. But this seems to be an unduly pessimistic way of looking at things. When I say “I am 14 stone” I suppose it is a convention that I’m referring to the weight of my body, but this is no more conventional than any other linguistic practice, and (within a tolerance – I’m not referring to a precise but an approximate weight) this statement has a definite truth-value.
  10. Olson doesn’t like this “messy” view, but doesn’t think any of the metaphysical, psychological and epistemological responses to the alternative views are promising for weeding out the over-population.
    • Note: as usual, my issue is whether the TA argument gave us a problem in the first place. Where I am there is a human animal, a member of the species homo sapiens, a mammal, an anthropoid (?), an adult, a student, a person, … yet there’s only one thinker present – me.
  11. Olson concludes by claiming that we can only know what we are when we have answered the following large and difficult questions of ontology, philosophy of mind and epistemology:-
    1). Are constitutionalism or 4-D true?
    2). What are the parts of a living organism?
    3). What does it take for a thing to have mental properties?
    4). What is the nature of self-knowledge and self-reference?
    • Note: I agree that the first question is critical to our investigations, but I suspect the other three, while interesting, appear relevant in the present context only because of Olson’s unsound TA argument. Consequently they can probably be finessed as far as my researches are concerned.

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

Footnote 2.19

Supervision: Monday 18th February 2008; 11:30

  1. The purpose: of the supervision was to discuss a paper on "Olson (Eric) - What Are We?". Discussion of the second part of a Note on "Baillie (James) - What Am I?" was held over (indefinitely?).
  2. Note on references to the literature: these appear obscure in the printed versions of my Notes (full details appear by following the links in the on-line version). Maybe best to route Jen to the “reading-list” version. Alternatively, indicate “book” or “paper” / “chapter”. Can anything be done about the font size of the printed version cum reading list?
  3. Scope of PhD: maybe pare down to discussion of Olson A ("Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology") versus Olson B ("Olson (Eric) - What are We?") and why he’s changed his mind. Baker ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View", etc) will still feature heavily. Watch out for progression to Olson Z!
  4. Olson: Jen thinks Olson is a good philosopher, and was impressed by "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology". She wonders whether his views have changed for reasons to do with general issues in persistence, unconnected to problems of personal identity; hence his recent openness to 4-D. My view (based on this paper) is that he has realised that the TA argument applies just as much to animalism as to the CV. He has written 3 papers in the general area of persistence – eg. in the Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. Maybe:- Maybe also see (I’d suggest):-
  5. Note: I need to review what Olson says in "Olson (Eric) - Dion's Foot", because of its relevance to overpopulation and the TA argument.
  6. People and Persons: General discussion on whether it is tendentious to refuse to use the term “persons” and rather to use “people” (or tendentious to insist on using “persons”). Descartes and Locke. Not just starting on the wrong foot. Are there other examples where we need a different term for the singular and plural? Does the term “people” mean “human beings” for Olson, or does it mean human beings with qualifying psychological capacities? Does anything substantial turn on our choice of terminology? Newspeak?
  7. Counting: the persons and people in the room. Could Olson say (as I could) “there are 5 people but only 4 persons in the room” (if one was an infant)? Yes – but he would just say “there are 5 people in the room, but one does not qualify as a person”.
  8. Non-human persons: Discussion of the scope of the Locke/Descartes enquiry. They were interested in us, not in persons in general. Hence, they didn’t discuss God and the angels. Question about why their only interest is in us – my suggestion is that it is maybe because of not wanting to encroach on theology (Descartes was particularly sensitive in this regard). The Starship Enterprise-equivalent (us, God and the angels) is therefore irrelevant to their concerns.
  9. Whence derives the concept PERSON? Question of the genesis of personhood – not just of our concept, but a question of ontological priority. This depends on who is made in whose image. The Christian view is that we are made in God’s image – our personhood derives from God’s, whereas atheists claim that god is made in our image.
  10. Bodies: Olson cannot say “someone having a human organism”, whereas he can say “someone having a human body”. This passage is in any case informal and introductory, to indicate the topic under discussion.
  11. Qualities of a Person: Olson may not mention language use because he wants to avoid the social dimension altogether. Olson is setting the scope – of the sort of being he’s talking about.
  12. “Just”: saying “we’re just brains” is not meant to be pejorative. It intends no more than “we’re brains”. However, it seems to me that it does stress some limitation – “no more than”, or else an essence / kernel. Of the first category, cf. “you’re just a child”. I need to think of analogies of the other sort.
  13. Temporal Phases and Temporal Parts: reference to temporal phases makes no commitment to the 4-dimensional mereological ontology of temporal parts. So, if Baker is committed to persons being sums of phases of substances, this makes no commitment to an ontology of temporal parts.
  14. De dicto / de re: I’d made reference to this distinction passim throughout this paper – but the relevance of the distinction in this context had been rebutted in a previous supervision, so Jen hadn’t read these remarks. However, I still think there might be life in the relevance of this distinction to our present context. Maybe I should write a brief paper on the topic (after reviewing Baker’s use in "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - What Am I?").
  15. Complex properties of substances: We cannot be any such thing, because such things cannot fall over. What I was trying to get at was the functionalist approach whereby Socrates can be reincarnated as Joe Soap if Joe and Socrates are appropriately mentally connected. What then is this thing that includes both Joe and Socrates as phases? Maybe Socrates is one person and Joe another, but what these two individuals share is a personality. The one thing here is the same personality. But what are personalities. I was suggesting that these might be complex properties of substances. This is also the topic for a paper, when I get to consider the psychological view in more detail. Maybe the holders of this view are trying to erect a substance-concept when all they really have are properties of other substances.
  16. Relative Identity: an individual cannot fall under two different substance-sortals without falling into the incoherence of relative identity. So, if I am a person and I am a human animal, and both these concepts are substance-concepts, and they are different concepts, then we have relative identity. Since relative identity is incoherent, and HUMAN ANIMAL is a substance sortal, then PERSON cannot be a substance sortal, but at best a phase sortal. A way out of this might be that PERSON and HUMAN ANIMAL are really the same concept. Is this what Wiggins is claiming?

Next Supervision: Monday 3rd March 2008; 11:45. To complete discussion of the paper on "Olson (Eric) - What Are We?".

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 12:00:00

Footnote 2.20

Supervision: Monday 3rd March 2008; 11:45

  1. The purpose: of the supervision was to complete the discussion of a paper on "Olson (Eric) - What Are We?". The second part of a Note on "Baillie (James) - What Am I?" was very briefly touched on.
  2. The objectionable consequences of the TA argument: I had criticised Olson on the grounds that the metaphysical and epistemological conclusions of the TA argument that Olson finds so objectionable are not in fact so objectionable. I seem to have been confused. Surely, if it turned out that there were really 12 billion people on earth when we had thought there were only 6 billion, this would be objectionable (or at least surprising). My objection is that this conclusion is common to a number of arguments that trade on multiple occupancy, so there must be something wrong with the argument-form. But in itself, this is insufficient – I have to say just what is wrong with the argument. Saying that the argument doesn’t have these consequences isn’t to say that its having these consequences, if it genuinely does have them, is benign.
  3. 4-D: I can either say that (for the sake of the thesis) I am assuming that 4-D is false (or true), or I can give fairly comprehensive reasons for why I think it false (or true), or make some intermediate-level attempt to demonstrate its falsehood (or truth). Whatever position I take, I need to make it clear that I am taking it. Since Olson has been influenced by the possibility of the general truth of 4-D, I will probably have to address it to some degree.
  4. 4-D and substances: there is a tension between 4-D and the concept SUBSTANCE as traditionally applied to continuants. It may be that perdurantists can co-opt a term “substance” with a somewhat different meaning.
  5. 4-D and fatalism: the two issues are orthogonal. Fatalism depends on determinism. The future is fixed if the worms in all physically possible worlds are identical, but this need not be the case in the absence of determinism. In the absence of presentism (the claim that only the present exists), a particular space-time worm will exist at all times in its entirety, but only in a particular world, which may or may not be the actual world.
  6. Dualism: there are varieties. Either the soul thinks and the brain thinks, or the soul thinks with its brain. Those who hold the view that the soul can think when disembodied are probably committed to the first option, which seems to make the brain superfluous.
  7. Cerebra: A cerebrum denotes both hemispheres, so there’s no such thing as a double-cerebrum transplant (other than for “two-brains”). The transplant of a single hemisphere would be referred to as a cerebral-hemisphere transplant.
  8. Wiggins: re-read "Wiggins (David) - The Concern to Survive" for an early critique of Parfit.
  9. Parfit: Jen claimed that there are no persons for Parfit. I didn’t understand (and can’t remember) the reasoning behind this claim.
  10. Surviving in my works: There probably are cases where a knowledge of my works does not involve knowledge of me, but usually it does (eg. of Hume). Why is this? Because in a person’s works we get to know the person? I presume this depends on the topic of the work – OK if literary or philosophical. What about very impersonal subjects like science or mathematics? There’s a difference between the biographical account of a discovery, and an impersonal account of the results themselves. Newton’s Principia contains a lot of philosophy, so reveals Newton’s personality, but much mathematics doesn’t. The style may also reveal much of the author, even in mathematics – for instance, the parsimony or fullness of the proofs, the tightness of the argument, and so on. What about music or the graphic arts?
  11. Parfit and survival: (I think) we agreed that for Parfit I can have what matters to me without surviving, because survival involves identity, and identity is not what matters for Parfit. In my essay, I’d said that we can’t have anything that matters without surviving, which is a flat rejection of Parfit’s view. There is some confusion on this topic, with some philosophers saying that there are degrees of survival. For Parfit I can have what matters if the future in some sense involves me (eg. if there are a lot of clones carrying on my work). We discussed the temporal sense of “I have what matters”. Since, ex hyposthesi, I do not exist at the relevant time in the future, just when do I have what matters to me? Now, when I’m contemplating that I will have what matters, or then, when I no longer exist? There are connections here to to the topic of death – how, and when, are the dead harmed. See "Kagan (Shelly) - Death: Course introduction".
  12. Going where our brains go: On p. 8, point 4 (my Note), I had included a “so that”? What’s the import of this? I was just claiming that most of us have a strong intuition that we go where our brains go, because we go where our window on the world goes and this window is enabled by our brains. On certain views, we might instead go where our brains don’t go – eg. if we can survive by being brain-state-transferred onto another brain, our original brain being destroyed (though this TE assumes the truth of functionalism, which I believe to be false). My original intuition is predicated on the brain in question being fully functional and supporting a first person perspective (so this intuition is much weaker in the case of babies which may not have a first person perspective: but even here, I’m not talking of a fully-developed sense of self, but (as I said) a “window on the world”. I have an intuition that a cat goes where its brain goes, even though it’s doubtful that cats have a sense of self. There’s nothing that it’s like for a brainless cat to be, whereas there might be something it’s like for a catless brain to be. However, my assumption here is that our brain continues to function, and that if so, we go with it. Are there circumstances where I don’t go where my brain goes even on the assumption that my brain is still functioning? I suppose that a closest-continuer theorist might say of the case where I’m teletransported, but where instead of being destroyed my brain is envatted, that my closest continuer is my post-teletransportation teletransportee rather than my disembodied brain, on the grounds that the psychological continuity is greater for the teletransportee than for the disembodied brain, with all its disorientation. But I’m not convinced most of us would have that intuition.
  13. The reference of “I”: when I say “I weigh 14 stone” is this really “conventional” for “my body weighs 14 stone”? Jen thought not. I suspect this depends on whether we are dualists or not, and whether our language developed in a dualistic milieu. If I am an immaterial substance, then strictly speaking I don’t weigh anything. I seem to have read somewhere that there is a dispute as to whether Cartesian dualism represented the common-sense of the day, or was a radical philosophically-oriented departure from an assumed materialist perspective. If I remember correctly, Baker’s view is that I have the property of weighing 14 stone derivatively because I am only constituted by my body, and not identical to it. Incidentally, I seem to have slightly garbled the Note to point 9 of the “Messy View” (p. 12) – a word (“know”) has been omitted. Also, I may have misrepresented the views of philosophers here.
  14. Brains and consciousness: there was some mumbling in denial of my contention that disembodied brains can support consciousness (or so I thought).
  15. Organisms and matter-replacement: we discussed pieces and portions – I’ve inherited this terminology from somewhere (probably from "Gibbard (Allan) - Contingent Identity"). Jen suggested that not only can organisms exchange matter with their environment, it is necessary that they do so.
  16. Baillie: Concerning the Note on "Baillie (James) - What Am I?", the important point is that I need to develop an argument for the intuition that it is insufficient for it to seem to one that one is person X for one to be person X; and here even a very strong “seeming” is insufficient. One may have perfect memories, perfect psychological continuity, and an exactly similar body, yet not be (identical to) the person to whom one is exactly similar. The basic reason is that modal reduplication arguments (even in the standard TT case where there is in fact no competitor) and the logic of identity forbid identification. Yet it would seem to the arriving teletransportee that he is the departing teletransportee, when he is not. My contention is that it would not seem to the departing teletransportee that he arrived, because he was destroyed by the teletranportantion process. The problem is to convince people of this. The logic ought to be sufficient, except (Jen claimed) it fails for those who (knowingly or not) are influenced by Parfit. If we think that survival is not what matters, we might think that we have all we need. My point is that we don’t have anything much, except for others carrying on one’s projects and relationships. Even so, Jen thinks a promising line of attack has to do with intentions … read on …
  17. Intentions: we discussed (without explicitly mentioning it) the Brundlefly case, where Jen is imagined to have suffered this fate. If the arriving teletransportee is a fly, it cannot be Jen, whatever its metal faculties are. Now, prior to teletransportation, Jen might have had all sorts of intentions. An intention may fail to be fulfilled for one of several reasons: change of mind, external prevention and loss of function. A “far gone” fly would be unable to fulfil these intentions because of loss of function, but not (it seems to me) immediately post-teletransportation. So, can this be the answer to the problem?
  18. Future papers: The next supervision (see below) will be the last (for the time being) that treats critically of individual papers. Thereafter I will try to present my own arguments and write my PhD Thesis.

Next Supervision: Monday 17th March 2008; 11:30. To discuss a paper on "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - What Am I?".

Note last updated: 18/12/2010 12:00:00

Footnote 2.23: (Olson - What Are We? What Now?)

This write-up is a review of "Olson (Eric) - What Are We? What Now?", Chapter 9 of "Olson (Eric) - What are We?". The Oxford On-Line Abstract is “This chapter proposes that animalism, the temporal-parts view, and nihilism are the best accounts of what we are. It then takes up metaphysical objections to animalism hinted at earlier. It is proposed that animalists answer them by endorsing a sparse ontology of material objects. It is then argued that we can work out what we are by discovering when composition occurs: if composition is universal, we are temporal parts of animals; if there is no composition, we do not exist; and intermediate theories of composition lead almost inevitably to animalism. Finally, the view that there is no theory of composition--that composition is brute--is claimed to rule out any good account of what we are.”


9.1. Some results
9.2. Some opinions
9.3. Animalism and the thinking-parts problem
9.4. Animalism and the clay-modelling puzzle
9.5. Theories of composition
9.6. Composition and what we are
9.7. Brutal composition

9.1. Some results

9.2. Some opinions

9.3. Animalism and the thinking-parts problem

9.4. Animalism and the clay-modelling puzzle

9.5. Theories of composition

9.6. Composition and what we are

9.7. Brutal composition

… Further details to be supplied

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

Footnote 2.24: (Olson - What Are We? The Question)

This write-up is a review of "Olson (Eric) - What Are We? The Question", Chapter 1 of "Olson (Eric) - What are We?". The paper "Olson (Eric) - What Are We?" (reviewed here) appears to be a warm-up exercise for this Chapter. The Oxford On-Line Abstract is “This chapter explains what it means to ask what we are. It begins by breaking the question up into smaller ones, such as what we are made of, what parts we have, and whether we are substances. It makes clear that the question is not about people in general, but only about us human people. It considers two ways of rephrasing the question: What do our personal pronouns and proper names refer to? and What sorts of beings think our thoughts and perform our actions? The question is distinguished from the question of personal identity over time and from the mind-body problem. It is then argued that thinking about personal identity without considering what we are leads to metaphysical trouble.”


1.1. What are we?
1.2. Some Answers
1.3. 'We'
1.4. Rephrasing the question
1.5. Must there be an answer?
1.6. How the question differs from others
1.7. Why it matters

1.1. What are we?

1.2. Some Answers

1.3. 'We'

1.4. Rephrasing the question

1.5. Must there be an answer?

1.6. How the question differs from others

1.7. Why it matters

… Further details to be supplied

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

Footnote 2.25: (Parfit - What We Believe Ourselves To Be)

This write-up is a review of "Parfit (Derek) - What We Believe Ourselves To Be".

Abstract: Discusses numerical identity, or being one and the same, qualitative identity, or being exactly similar, personal identity, or what is involved in our continued existence over time. According to the Physical Criterion, our identity over time consists in the continued existence of enough of our brain. According to the Psychological Criterion, our identity consists in overlapping chains of psychological continuity and connectedness. The chapter discusses how we are inclined to believe that, even in purely imagined cases, our identity must be determinate. When we ask – Would I still exist? Would that future person be me? it seems that it must always have an answer.


  • 75. Simple Teletransportation and the Branch-Line Case
  • 76. Qualitative and Numerical identity
  • 77. The Physical Criterion of Personal Identity
  • 78. The Psychological Criterion
  • 79. The Other Views

75. Simple Teletransportation and the Branch-Line Case

76. Qualitative and Numerical identity

77. The Physical Criterion of Personal Identity

78. The Psychological Criterion

79. The Other Views

… Further details to be supplied

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

Footnote 2.27: (Swinburne - Personal Identity: The Dualist Theory)

This write-up is a review of "Swinburne (Richard) - Personal Identity: The Dualist Theory". Lest I forget, in due course I need to review the other components of "Shoemaker (Sydney) & Swinburne (Richard) - Personal Identity", namely "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Personal Identity: a Materialist Account", "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Reply to Swinburne" and "Swinburne (Richard) - Reply to Shoemaker".


  1. Empiricist Theories
  2. The Dualist Theory
  3. Dualism and Verifiability
  4. The Evidence of Personal Identity

1. Empiricist Theories

2. The Dualist Theory

3. Dualism and Verifiability

4. The Evidence of Personal Identity

… Further details to be supplied

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

Footnote 2.31: (Johnston - Human Beings)

This write-up is an analysis and review of "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings". Note that Johnston has updated his views of 1987 with "Johnston (Mark) - "Human Beings" Revisited: My Body is Not an Animal" published in 2007.


  1. Introduction
  2. The Conundrum
  3. What Kind of Locus of Mental Life?
  4. Human Organisms and Human Beings
  5. The Conundrum Again

Notes & Annotations
  1. Introduction1
    1. A question worth asking is “What is it that we are?”, but this can easily stray into desiccation.
    2. Philosophy needs to be precise without being desiccating. Avoid the analytic paradigm of death by thought experiment, with competing accounts of the necessary and sufficient conditions for Personal Identity evaluated by how well they compare with intuitions derived from the TEs.
    3. Compare Gettier cases in Epistemology. The paradigm is somewhat dry, but works well because we’re analysing the relations between concepts – and concepts that are agreed upon.
    4. But the situation isn’t as clear-cut when we come to people. Mental or physical continuity might be evidence for personal survival, but is not part of its meaning. We’re not just dealing with relations between concepts.
    5. Reliance on intuitive reactions to puzzle cases would be justified as an approach to personal identity only if two conditions are satisfied:-
      • Reductionist Requirement: our concept of “same person” must be capable of being grasped in non-circular terms of necessary and sufficient conditions based on continuity and dependence relations.
      • No Overgeneralisation Requirement : responses to the puzzle cases are to be based on the above, not on overgeneralisations5 from normal cases or from religious (or secular) preconceptions.
    6. But, empirically, there is no universally-accepted concept of what people are; so, the concept is unspecific and will give the “method of cases” problems. The topic of Personal Identity will address a dry generalisation, as against any of the interesting specific alternative views of what a person might be that have guided practical life.
    7. The dominant view is that we (people) are minds, maybe essentially embodied, but not dependent for our survival on any particular body or brain.
    8. This is Parfit’s wide psychological reductionism, hereafter WPR. See "Parfit (Derek) - What We Believe Ourselves To Be", Section 78, pp. 207-8.
      • Psychological Reductionism: claims of personal identity are solved by the holding of relations of psychological continuity, the ancestral of psychological connectedness.
      • Wide: this adjective is applied because – it is held – mental continuity and connectedness can constitute personal identity even in the absence of its normal cause – such as the persistence of a particular human body or brain (which are the usual, but contingent) causes.
    9. Supporters of this view are:-
      1. "Lewis (David) - Survival and Identity",
      2. "Quinton (Anthony) - The Soul", and
      3. "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Personal Identity: a Materialist Account".
    10. With respect to Shoemaker, Johnston claims that "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Self-Knowledge and Self-Identity" had some sympathy with the view that bodily continuity is constitutive of PID, but that he allowed the bodily criterion to be overridden by the memory criterion in exceptional cases. However, he’s decisively abandoned the bodily criterion by the time of "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Persons and Their Pasts".
    11. Johnston notes that the “most notable” opponents of WPR (what he calls “the dominant view”) are:-
      1. Bernard Williams:-
      2. Wiggins8: "Wiggins (David) - Personal Identity (SS)".
    12. The WPR is usually defended using the intuition that we could find ourselves inhabiting a new body, as confirmed by others noting our re-housed psychological traits. Rather tendentiously, Johnston sees this intuition as being “wrung9” from one of three TEs:-
      1. Locke’s Prince and Cobbler: apparent body-swapping. See Quinton.
      2. Teletransportation:
      3. Brain-State Transfer:
    13. The “body-changing intuition” generated by these “fantastic” cases is supposed to support the claim that mental continuity and connectedness – however caused – are jointly15 sufficient for personal identity. As regards their necessity, it’s pointed out that in their absence, we wouldn’t be inclined to think these processes identity-preserving16.
    14. So, orthodoxy consists in a combination of the method of cases and WPR. Johnston repeats his opening accusation that orthodoxy is boring, and wants to challenge both the method and WPR.
    15. Johnston wants to give up the reductionist17 requirement that statements about PID are reducible to statements about connectivity and connectedness18. Instead, rather than being constitutive of PID, these just provide evidence for PID, and the more unusual the TE, the less evidence they provide – hence reducing the value of cases – because the usual evidential connections are severed.
    16. This means he adopts what Parfit calls a Further-fact view. The truth-makers of PID-statements differ from those related to psychological – and physical – continuity and connectedness.
    17. Johnston stresses in a footnote that:-
      1. This paper does not in any way suggest – as Parfit says – that we are “separately existing” entities distinct from human brains and bodies.
      2. Instead, Johnston will argue that
        1. We are20 Human Beings”, and that
        2. “Human Beings are constituted by human bodies22”.
      3. Further, this paper “can be read as” an extended refutation of Parfit’s claim (in the previously-cited "Parfit (Derek) - What We Believe Ourselves To Be", Section 79, p. 216) that appeal to “further-facts” implies separately-existing entities.
      4. Parfit relies on this assumption for his revisionary ethics in Part Three of "Parfit (Derek) - Reasons and Persons", and – without it – his revisionary programme is “broken backed”.
      5. Additionally, we can allow that PID might be indeterminate23 in some puzzle cases without accepting his revisionism.
      6. We’re referred to "Johnston (Mark) - Reasons and Reductionism" for an elaboration.
    18. So, with what does Johnston replace the method of cases? His suggestion is that we take seriously the methods whereby we re-identify one another over time. If any theory fails to give the answers these commonplace methods do, it should be rejected. Thus, we should “automatically rule out” the bare-locus view24 (to be discussed in his Section II), and any other theory that makes our routine practice of re-identification “extremely problematical”.
    19. If multiple theories survive the above cull, we can then – as a secondary measure – resort to the method of cases and compare our intuitions against the theories’ pronouncements.
    20. However, our intuitions can be defeated if one of the following applies:-
      1. They can be shown to be overgeneralisations25 from the ordinary cases,
      2. They can be shown to be due to some distorting influence, or
      3. They are outweighed by other judgements we have reason to respect.
    21. We will make more of cases where intuitions conflict, and look for explanations of why this might be so. Sometimes these explanations will discredit the intuitions, sometimes not.
    22. Johnston allows that we might still be left with multiple surviving theories – a genuine indeterminacy26 – which theory of PID should “articulate”.
    23. He now articulates his own view, which he will argue in this paper falls out of his method:-
      1. We are Human Beings, as “somewhat stipulatively28” defined by Johnston himself,
      2. Human Beings are necessarily normally29 constituted by human organisms30,
      3. Our persistence conditions differ from those of our constituting organisms only because a Human Being continues to exist31 if his mind does.
      4. So, if a Human Being were reduced to a mere brain, that Human Being would continue to exist as long as that brain supports that Human Being’s mental life.
      5. In such circumstance, the human organism would no longer exist, while the Human Being would plausibly do so.
      6. But, no Human Being could survive teletransportation or similar cases of complete body transfer32.
    24. This is in contrast to the dominant view that considers us to be minds whose particular33 embodiment is contingent.
    25. Johnston has a footnote34 to the effect that he’s talking about our actual concept of PID.
      • It could be the case that the concept gets modified in a culture in which teletransportation is routine so that “they” – “acculturated human animals” – would be said to survive teletransportation.
      • To avoid complications, this is set aside in the present paper, but the main claim of the paper is that there’s no reason to suppose our present concepts would allow us to survive.
      • Johnston describes the “survival option” as a form of relativism about PID35.
      • This would mean that – while we would remain of the kind Human Being – this would then no longer be a substance kind, in that it would no longer fix what changes we could survive.
      • However, because this conceptual change is unlikely to happen, we can treat the kind Human Being “as if” it were a substance kind and “as if” it determined our essence.
    26. In the next section, Johnston will introduce a well-known conundrum as a test case of his alternative method. He thinks it will attack both aspects of the orthodox position – the method of cases and the dominant view. He thinks it will become evident that the dominant view depends on the puzzle cases’ systematically distorting influences on our intuitions.
  2. The Conundrum
    1. Johnston takes the conundrum from "Williams (Bernard) - The Self and the Future", but presents it in its own way.
      1. We’re to suppose a machine exists that produces the same effects as a brain transplant. It is capable of recording “dispositional and occurrent mentality” from one brain and adjusting a second brain with this information.
      2. So, two patients – A & B – can “swap minds”.
      3. However, from the perspective of A – we are to suppose – it is as if he has “swapped bodies”.
      4. So, if A is asked to choose in a self-interested way who should receive pain after the transfer – he would (as the case is presented) choose A-body.
      5. Many would agree with this assessment, because38 the machine seems to produce the same effect as a brain transplant.
    2. But consider an alternative
      1. A is to imagine he has some illness and that a very painful surgical procedure – for which there is no anaesthetic – has a small chance of curing it.
      2. The surgeon suggests that this can be circumvented by using a machine to
        1. record A’s mind, then
        2. scramble his brain so that it has some different psychology, then
        3. restore his psychology as before.
      3. Most of us would intuit that the pain would be A’s, despite the psychological manipulation, which is just a further assault.
      4. Johnston appeals to Williams40 to the effect that psychological continuity is not required for pain-ownership.
    3. Now, these two scenarios are just the same thing – though in the second one B is left out of the equation: but how – Johnston claims – can B’s experiences have anything to do with A’s?
    4. There are two lessons to draw:-
      1. The second presentation counts against the dominant view, and
      2. We have a conflict of intuitions – does or doesn’t A “swap bodies”? This uncertainty threatens the method of cases.
    5. We’re referred to Nozick’s then recent41 Closest Continuer theory which promises to rescue the method of cases and only make a minor modification to the dominant view. As expounded by Johnston:-
      1. The closest continuer theory is a schema because the factors to be weighed – and the strength of the weightings – in determining which continuer is “closest” vary with the kind of continuant.
      2. Nozick claims that our intuitions about PID conform to this schema, whereby the closest continuant is the persisting individual.
      3. This explains – according to Nozick – our responses to the two presentations of Williams’s TE:-
        1. The intuition behind the second presentation shows that, for persons, bodily continuity can make up sufficient continuity even in the absence of psychological continuity. That’s why we think A will feel the pain.
        2. That behind the first presentation shows that when bodily and psychological continuity diverge, we give more weight to psychological. This explains – when we hear of the adventures of B, we agree that A and B have “swapped bodies”.
        3. The two intuitions are consistent – according to Nozick – because the first presentation provides – in B – a better continuer for A than is provided in the second. This is why mentioning B and his brain is relevant.
        4. Only a modification43 to the dominant view is required. Psychological continuity can be – on its own – sufficient for personal identity and – in the absence of bodily continuity – is necessary.
    6. This would be an OK response to the conundrum if it could be shown that our intuitions in general follow the closest-continuer schema as interpreted by the modified dominant view. But – Johnston argues – they don’t.
      1. Johnston’s first challenge is to consider carefully what we are to say in the case where the machine copies A’s psychology to patients B-body and, 10 minutes later) to C-body, and A-body dies.
      2. Both B-body and C-body are sufficiently close psychologically to be continuers of A – and hence to be A – but we’re to suppose C-body is in fact a much better continuer44, and this is sufficient to compensate for the extra 10-minute delay – the copying time – in producing C.
      3. But – a twist – once B-body has been “produced” – but before C-body has been “completed” – B-body thinks to himself “I didn’t just come into existence, but am A”, but realises that if he doesn’t act now, C-body will be completed and will be A, rather than he himself.
      4. So, B-body terminates C-body’s copy-process. And now – according to the closest-continuer theory – B-body has made it true that he is A.
    7. All this – Johnston claims – is problematical:-
      1. Our intuition is that facts are made true only by what has happened up to the time they are made, not by future events45.
      2. So, B-body’s statement “I am A, …” is true (or false) at the point he first makes it – which is before he decides to terminate the production of C-body. Its truth-value46 cannot be affected by subsequent events.
      3. So, to the extent that we are in thrall to the above intuition, we will not be convinced that the Closest-Continuer theory resolves this conundrum even if a form of the Closest-Continuer theory were to be adopted (for persons) for other reasons.
    8. Johnston also thinks that the Closest-Continuer theory cannot explain the second presentation of Williams’s conundrum unless it is presented one-sidedly, because as soon as it’s presented two-sidedly, it reverts to the body-swapping of the first presentation. But – Johnston claims – we can easily understand the stipulation47 – in the second telling – that the psychological change happens to A (and to B) without body-swapping.
    9. At this point, Johnston abandons Nozick48, and considers a “minimal response” to Williams’s conundrum, which will be elaborated in subsequent sections:-
      1. A person is a locus of mental life49, which
      2. Typically exhibits psychological continuity by which it can be traced, but
      3. Need not do so, and can exhibit psychological discontinuity of the most radical sort, and
      4. We must not think of psychological continuity as sufficient for our survival.
    10. This can accommodate both presentations of Williams’s conundrum. It is reasonable to trace a locus of mental life in terms of psychological continuity, but it might be the case that this general practice leads us astray in particular cases.
    11. This leads us to consider our reaction to the second presentation of the conundrum as prima facie evidence against the wide psychological view, without taking our reaction to the first presentation as suggesting that psychological continuity – however secured – is always sufficient.
    12. We now need to answer the question “what kind of locus of mental life are we?”, and this is a question that has to be answered by any theorist of PID, whether or not he seeks to reduce PID to continuity of whatever sort.
  3. What Kind of Locus of Mental Life?
    1. The method of cases – in particular, Williams’s conundrum – can be made to show that neither bodily nor psychological continuity is necessary for personal identity.
      1. This points towards a “bare-locus of mental life” view of personal identity.
      2. However, such a view is ruled out by Johnston’s earlier considerations50.
      3. In a footnote:-
        • We’re referred to "Madell (Geoffrey) - The Identity of the Self", esp. pp. 117-140 (ie. Sections 2-4 of "Madell (Geoffrey) - Personal Identity Through Time"),
        • However, despite requiring neither mental or physical continuity for PID, Madell may not hold the bare-locus view as he holds the view that “people” are not objective entities at all, but entirely subjective.
        • For this view51 we’re referred to "Nagel (Thomas) - Subjective and Objective" to explain what is intended by “subjective”.
        • Johnston opines that the idea of ourselves as subjective is a seductive52 Kantian Idea of Reason, which arises because the only idea of ourselves that reflective “I”-thoughts appear to underwrite is an unspecific conception of ourselves as a locus of reflective mental life.
        • We’re referred on to Johnston’s FN16.
    2. Johnston considers cases where we think we can imagine – from the inside – various vicissitudes happening to us such as departing from a human body or even a human personality:-
      1. For instance Kafka’s “beetle-man” in Metamorphosis in "Kafka (Franz), Pasley (Malcolm) - Metamorphosis and Other Stories".
      2. Johnston doesn’t think there’s anything internally incoherent about such imaginings.
      3. Nor does he think they are due to some religious (or secular) conception of people that the imaginer has picked up.
      4. They are consistent with our concept of a person and as such are not idle, but – given the method of cases – can be used to flesh out our concept and so indicate the correct theory of PID.
    3. But, Johnston insists, the imaginings are idle for all that, and if this can be shown, then our concept of person as revealed by the puzzle cases is shown to be too unspecific to be of interest, and to mislead us in the cases themselves.
      1. Treating the person as a locus of (reflective) mental life allows the person to survive any conceivable vicissitude.
      2. The presence of imagined bodily or mental continuities provides evidence for survival in the puzzle cases by a harmless extension of our practice in normal cases.
      3. But, in their absence there’s no constraint and we end up with the bare locus view.
    4. So, how are we to show that imaginings that detach us for the human beings we appear to be are idle without begging the question against the bare locus view?
      1. Johnston repeats his earlier claim that a constraint on any theory of PID is that it allows us to reconstruct our everyday practices of unproblematic re-identification of people over time – and that the bare-locus theory flouts this constraint.
      2. He imagines an extreme case consistent with the bare-locus view – that of one’s body turning to stone. If I could survive this, what is my relation to my body? It is contingent54 – and it cannot be that I am identical with or necessarily constituted by my living body.
      3. So, at best, there would need to be some actual but contingent causal channel whereby I – the bare locus – receive information from – and direct changes in – my body.
      4. But Johnston considers what would be said if petrification happened during a dreamless sleep when there’s an interruption to the mental life of the subject – there’s nothing in the specification to forbid this state and – in any case – this would make the bare-locus view at odds with the presumed facts of PID, where we routinely think of ourselves as surviving periods of unconsciousness.
      5. In this “twist” the bare-locus isn’t – at the moment of petrification – actually communicating with or controlling its body55 at all.
      6. Johnston now claims there are epistemological difficulties.
        1. Our evidence that a person is persisting through a dreamless sleep56 is based on their continued bodily life.
        2. Also – we know P on condition (inter alia) that our evidence converges on P as opposed to relevant alternatives to P.
        3. But, on the bare-locus view, we can’t rule out the possibility that various distinct loci have been serially associated with the sleeping body, so we don’t know who we’ve been sleeping with!
      7. It won’t do to object that multiple loci can be ruled out by an appeal to the numerically simplest explanation of the observed bodily continuity.
        1. No-one claims to know how bare loci “work”.
        2. No hypothesis would explain how a bare locus can control a body in the absence of a mental life.
        3. Indeed, the simplest explanation of what happens in dreamless sleep would be that the bare locus had wandered off.
      8. Suppose there were an empirical theory of the ways of bare loci:-
        1. Maybe obtained from introspection, the observation of others, or even by revelation, and
        2. We had the best case scenario where bare loci do not migrate or rotate during periods of unconsciousness.
        3. This – an empirical57 theory that fits human experience – is what any substance dualist should take himself as offering.
        4. Then – just maybe – one might rule out the alternatives and so know that a single person is associated over time with a sleeping or otherwise unconscious body.
        5. Johnston has a footnote on Dualism:-
      9. But our ordinary claims to know that our unconscious friends are where their bodies are have nothing to do with any theory that rules out any number of bare loci becoming associated with their bodies. We never consider any such thing – and – philosophical scepticism aside – we do have this knowledge, which we would not have were the bare-locus theory correct.
      10. We can’t wriggle out of this conclusion on the grounds that – if the bare-locus theory were better known – people would consider it. Johnston gives an example60.
        1. Two of us see someone (“Mary”) steal a book, but only I now that the thief has a twin sister and the two dress alike.
        2. It is in fact Mary, as I believe, but am not in a position to know – because I cannot rule out a relevant alterative.
        3. My friend can’t know either. Indeed, it would be absurd that he could know – yet I not – when I know more of the relevant facts than he does.
      11. For similar examples, see:-
        → "Goldman (Alvin) - Discrimination and Perceptual Knowledge", and
        → "Swain (Marshall) - Reasons, Causes, and Knowledge".
      12. Hence, the bare-locus view fails, and with it various others, such as Richard Swinburne’s substance dualism as expounded in
        → "Swinburne (Richard) - Personal Identity: The Dualist Theory", and
        → "Swinburne (Richard) - Personal Identity".
        This is so even if the substance dualist claims that some mental features are permanent or essential properties. Using a locus of mental life just isn’t how we trace unconscious people.
    5. So, where are we?
      1. The bare-locus view is straightforwardly supported by the method of cases.
      2. To the extent that we find this view absurd, we should be suspicious of the method.
      3. Our response to the puzzle cases reifies our unspecific concept of ourselves as some or other sort of locus of mental life.
        1. We’re referred to Kant in the promised FN16. The passage – given in full below61 – is from B42762.
        2. "I think myself on behalf of a possible experience, at the same time abstracting from all actual experience, and I conclude therefrom that I can be conscious of my existence even apart from experience and its empirical conditions. In so doing I am confusing a possible abstraction from my empirically determined existence with the supposed consciousness of a possible separate existence of my thinking self, and I thus come to believe that I have knowledge that what is substantial in me is the transcendental subject."
    6. So, what is the correct conception of ourselves and how should we argue for it?
  4. Human Organisms and Human Beings
    1. So, we change our approach, and start from a biological assumption:-
      1. We start from the presumption that we are organisms – evolved animals of species homo sapiens – the view that places us most comfortably within the naturalistic worldview of scientific common-sense63.
      2. Hence, the locus of mental life we re-identify when re-identify a person over time just is an instance of a biological kind whose typical members exhibit a complex mental life.
      3. What’s wrong with this?
    2. Johnston thinks we must relinquish this position because of the – even then – familiar Brown / Brownson TE in pp. 23-24 of "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Self-Knowledge and the Body".
      1. Brown and Robinson have their brains swapped over. Brown-body dies, but “Brownson” – namely Brown’s brain in Robinson’s body – survives to regain consciousness, and shows all the psychological traits consistent with him being Brown.
      2. The standard intuitive response is that Brownson is Brown and that during the operation, Brown survived as a disembodied brain.
      3. Johnston claims the intuition is “robust” because64:-
        1. It remains even if the TE is modified so that Brown’s brainless body – called “Brownless” – is supplied with65 sufficient brain-stem to keep it alive indefinitely, in the absence of any mental life.
        2. Brownless – a badly mutilated human organism – didn’t just come into existence, and so must be the same human organism as Brown.
        3. While Brownson continues Brown’s mental life, he’s not the same human organism as Brown if we insist that human organisms are purely biological kinds, for whom metabolic functions are more important in tracing continuing life than are mental functions.
        4. So, if “human organism” is a purely biological kind, then Brownless – and not Brownson – is the same human organism as Brown.
      4. Hence, if Brown survives as Brownson, then Brown – and others of his kind – cannot be essentially human organisms.
      5. In the promised FN17, Johnston argues that this causes a problem for Wiggins in "Wiggins (David) - Sameness and Substance".
        1. Wiggins’s definition of a person66 is: “any animal that is such by its kind to have the biological capacities to enjoy fully the psychological capacities enumerated,”
        2. And from this he deduces (p. 172): “There would be no one real essence of person as such, but every person could still have the real essence of a certain kind of animal. Indirectly this would be the real essence in virtue of which he was a person”.
        3. But, for Johnston, this reasonable suggestion is contradicted by the claim that Brown is Brownson; for, if so, the kind human animal doesn’t capture Brown’s essence67.
        4. Johnston adds that similar remarks apply to the claim in "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings" that (human) persons are human organisms.
    3. Now, the predominant intuition that Brownson is Brown is just down to an uncritical reliance on the method of cases and – indeed – to two distorting influences that Johnston will explain later, namely the psychological- and social-continuer effects. What we need is a principled reason consistent with Johnston’s methods.
      → Which are that we should easily be able to trace through time those of our kind.
      1. We typically trace ourselves back in time using experiential memory, and memory itself makes an identity assumption – that the supposed rememberer was indeed the experiencer.
      2. Even the Cartesian sceptic who (temporarily) doubts the existence of the external world takes memory as proof of personal identity68.
      3. But, once we agree that certain conditions of bodily continuity are necessary for PID, the deliverances of memory might only provide evidence for the persistence of minds69 rather than of persons70. How could anything purely mental have any corporeal implications?
      4. Johnston thinks that the solution to the above “difficulty” is to realise that it’s a conceptual truth71 that a person cannot be outlived72 by what was once his own mind.
      5. Talk of a particular mind just is talk of a particular person’s mental functioning.
      6. So, the conviction – and usually the knowledge – that the mind that remembers an experience is the same mind that originally had it is just saying the same thing with “person” substituted for “mind”.
      7. So, if we have evidence for the persistence of a mind, we have evidence for the persistence of a person.
      8. Given the naturalistic view of our mental functioning as the characteristic functioning of our brains, one’s mind will continue on if only one’s brain does.
      9. So – Johnston thinks – we now have an argument for the brain transplant intuition: if our own memories are to give knowledge of our own personal persistence (rather than simply our mental persistence), then – assuming a “mere brain” would preserve our mental life – we would survive as a “mere brain”.
      10. Thus, we have to over-ride the naturalistic feeling that we are human organisms and say instead that we are human beings.
    4. Having proved to his satisfaction that we are human beings, according to Johnston’s rather obscure definition of the term, he now has to fend off the suggestion that we are in fact human brains.
      1. We’re referred to the following supporters of the “brain view”:-
        Nagel (Thomas), "Are You Your Brain?75," paper delivered to Princeton Philosophy Colloquium and APA Pacific Division, 1984.
        → "Mackie (J.L.) - The Transcendental 'I'".
      2. Johnston thinks this view very odd, and has paradoxical consequences that Olson later pointed out in detail – so “I weigh 150 pounds” (when – strictly speaking – if I am my brain, I only weigh 3 pounds) is analogous to a truck-driver saying “I weigh 3 tons”.
      3. However, his focus is on the motivation for entering into paradox in this way.
      4. The motivation – of course – is that the survival of one’s brain is sufficient for one’s survival, and may well be necessary76.
      5. But this does not imply that we are of the kind human brain.
      6. The reason is that the rare occasion in which one of us might survive as a disembodied human brain is in a radically mutilated condition.
      7. This concept of mutilation is important here because we cannot determine the characteristic form and extent of a human being by determining how much mutilation it can undergo. Its characteristic form and extent is exemplified, rather, in its unmutilated77 form.
    5. The bottom line of all this is that rather than being of kind human brain we are of a kind such that we survive if our mental life does – but only as a result of the survival of our organ of mentation.
      1. The kind human being gives primary importance to mental functioning, so names a partly psychological kind.
      2. In contrast, the kind human organism represents a purely biological kind, in which mental functioning has no special persistence-guaranteeing status.
      3. Practically-speaking, the survival of the human organism is a necessary condition for the survival of a human being.
      4. However, there are Shoemaker-cases such that a human being can come to be constituted by a mere brain, and then by a new human organism in which that brain comes to be housed.
      5. But, the survival of that brain is critical – so a human being cannot survive teletransportation and the like.
      6. The fact of causal dependence between mental states pre- and post-teletransportation should not seduce us into thinking these states are states of the same mind.
    6. A human mind is neither
      1. A substance in its own right, nor
      2. A bundle-theorist’s ersatz for such a substance.
    7. Instead, it is just the mode of functioning of a “natural unit” – eg. a human organism or a human brain whose persistence conditions are given in non-mental terms. Talk of the mind is often overly reified talk of an aspect of some minded thing.
    8. Johnston has a footnote that’s helpful in showing what he thinks he’s proved and what he’s left for future work.
      1. Items on the “to do list” are:-
        1. Justification78 of his claim about what a human mind is.
        2. An acceptable account79 of constitution, persistence and kinds.
      2. He says that all that’s required of kinds for present purposes is that all actual and potential members of a kind share, across time:-
        1. The same persistence conditions, and
        2. The same possible types of constitution.
  5. The Conundrum Again
    1. Johnston’s conclusion is that we are essentially human beings who can survive having our brains tampered with, but cannot switch bodies without a brain transplant. If this is the case, how do we explain Williams’s conundrum? The first presentation of Williams’s TE is therefore misleading. What is going on?
      1. We must be suspicious of intuitions that suggest either psychological or physical continuity is not necessary for survival, as they incline us to the “unspecific locus of mental life” view.
      2. But, in the first presentation of Williams’s TE, this is not the case – we have two continuity options, but psychological continuity wins out over physical. Is this because we’re implicitly committed to the WPV?
      3. Johnston thinks not – but rather that it’s an overgeneralisation from ordinary life.
        1. Johnston defines an excellent continuer of Y as some X whose psychology83 – both occurrent and dispositional – is both very similar to, and evolves out of, that of Y.
        2. In everyday life, one’s death leaves no excellent continuer, and one’s life preserves one unique excellent continuer – namely, oneself.
      4. But if we are essentially human beings, it will be possible to imagine cases in which either:-
        1. A person ceases to be, yet has a unique excellent continuer (teletransportation), or
        2. A person continues to exist, but another person becomes his unique excellent continuer (Williams’s first presentation).
      5. If the cases are described purely in terms of continuities, we may be misled into tracing people using the usual psychological continuity. This is an understandable overgeneralisation84, which leads us to trace individuals according to the WPC.
      6. Johnston describes this tendency as the psychological continuer effect.
    2. But this can only be part of the explanation:-
      1. Why do we not respond to Williams’s first presentation using the usual bodily continuity?
      2. Johnston claims that people can be got to react that way – and usually do – if the case is described after cases that highlight the importance of bodily continuity.
      3. But, when Johnston presented the case, it was described in a way that assimilated it to the brain-transplant case – alleging that it produced the same psychological effects without the surgical messiness – which allows the psychological continuer effect to operate.
      4. Because our responses are inconsistent, it shows we’re not suited to making judgements about PID in such bizarre cases, and just opt for a partial extension of our ordinary practice of re-identification.
    3. But, some people do react to Williams’s first presentation in the “body swapping” sense even when there are no cases mentioned to which it might be assimilated, at least provided there is some bodily similarity to go with the psychological continuity. Why is this so? Johnston can think of two reasons:-
      1. We expect people – at least in the short term – to continue to fulfil a complex of social roles.
        1. PID typically guarantees that one has a unique social continuer.
        2. This is fulfilled – especially when the bodies involved are alike – in Williams’s first presentation.
        3. So, we can fixate on the practical concomitants of PID.
        4. Thus – in addition to the psychological continuer effect – we have the social continuer effect.
        5. This is a distorting influence, as we are not essentially occupants of a complex of social roles85.
        6. So, the WPV is parasitic on these two effects – and gives roughly the right persistence conditions for personas86 - but persons antedate, outlive and may sometimes be outlived by87, their personas.
      2. We have an inchoate conception of ourselves as souls, that is – “primarily psychological and not essentially physical loci of reflective mental life”.
        1. The reason for this – Johnston thinks – is that
          • “there is such a thing as the pure or merely determinable89 concept of personal identity, the concept of a persisting person as some or other unspecified kind of persisting locus of reflective mental life,” and
          • “the psychological-continuer effect leads us to trace such loci along lines of psychological continuity in cases in which bodily and psychological continuity come apart.”
        2. Thus, a tendency to trace ourselves as non-physical souls – brought on by a pure concept of PID and the psychological continuer effect – survives a transition to a secular worldview – to the embarrassment of those physicalists who espouse the WPV.
    4. In a concluding paragraph:-
      1. Johnston admits that nothing in this paper gives a direct argument against the WPV, but only points out why arguments for it are unconvincing.
      2. We are referred to "Johnston (Mark) - Reasons and Reductionism" for more direct arguments. Further pursuit here would be a distraction, because …
      3. The main import of this paper is that the WPV depends on an analytical method90 we have no reason to respect and which in any case leads to the bare locus view.
      4. Hence, he thinks the WPV cannot be rehabilitated, and – indeed – why should it be, given we have a better alternative – that we are human beings.
      5. The advantages of the view that we are human beings are twofold:-
        1. We can locate ourselves in a broadly naturalistic91 conception of the world, and
        2. We find nothing problematic about the way we normally re-identify ourselves and others on the basis of our normal and continuous mental and physical functioning as human organisms92.
      6. There are no real costs in adopting Johnston’s view (he thinks93). Rather, we’re
        1. Freed from imaginative conceits,
        2. Freed from the deliverances of the method of cases,
        3. Shown that the common conception of PID is just the unilluminating – because “merely determinable94” – concept of an unspecified locus of mental life.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Footnote 5:
  • It’s not immediately apparent what Johnston’s stricture is here.
  • Obviously, the pejorative “over-” is to be avoided, but when is it applied? An example would have helped.
  • It is explained somewhat in the last section.
Footnote 8: Johnston says his disagreement with Wiggins is in his FN17.

Footnote 9: I think the intuition – though mistaken – arises naturally from these TEs, and have found it difficult to persuade intelligent non-philosophers from the view that they prove the case for WPR.

Footnote 12: Johnson suggests pp. 119-20, but this is a typo, I think.

Footnote 13: See my Note on Parfit.

Footnote 15:
  • Within this context, this is a good point.
  • We might have connectedness without continuity – say “I” went from prince to frog and then to cobbler – and thereby not so convinced of identity-preservation between prince and cobbler, despite their psychological connectedness.
Footnote 16:
  • Does anyone believe this argument?
  • These are – as Johnston notes – “fantastic” cases where we’re not all convinced that identity is preserved.
  • So, if we don’t believe these causal processes are identity-preserving (as Parfit appears not to do) even when we have psychological connectivity and connectedness then any reluctance so to do in their absence says nothing about their necessity.
  • But it’s true that believers in the PV do think these conditions necessary, but only because they think identity is not preserved in their absence in more mundane cases (amnesia, Alzheimer’s, etc).
Footnote 17: Presumably Johnston – unless he takes the Simple View, doesn’t want to give up on reductionism altogether, only that associated with WPR?

Footnote 18: Johnston doesn’t restrict the C & C to psychology, but presumably that’s what he means.

Footnote 20: Presumably, this is the “is” of identity, rather than of constitution.

Footnote 22:
  • 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.
  • So, despite the identical form of words, he can’t mean the same thing as the (later) Baker. I need to look at what Johnston eventually writes about Baker (if anything) and vice-versa.
Footnote 23:
  • I don’t yet have a Note on Indeterminate Identity.
  • See (for now) Vague Identity, which may well be the same thing, though I doubt it!
Footnote 24: I assume this is something like haecceity.

Footnote 25:
  • It’s still not obvious what Johnston means here.
  • But see later.
Footnote 26: This is not – presumably – “indeterminate identity” – but indeterminacy as to which theory to choose.

Footnote 28:
  • Johnston isn’t stipulating that we are Human Beings – which he can’t do – but stipulating what he means by this term.
  • It is dangerous, however, to take on an existing term as people may not always remember the stipulative definition.
  • Indeed, it’s not clear to me that Johnston himself does so. In what follows I have capitalised “Human Being” to show it’s a term of art, though Johnston himself keeps it lower case.
Footnote 29:
  • This is an odd combination of modal terms.
  • Presumably, the necessity follows from the stipulation and the logic of identity.
  • The “normally” introduces a disjunctive element into our persistence conditions.
  • So, “same organism” will usually do, except when we’re pared down to our brains, when “same brain” does the trick.
Footnote 30:
  • Two issues here:-
    1. What does Johnston mean by “constituted”?
    2. In a previous footnote he claimed we’re constituted by “human bodies” but here by “human organisms”.
  • Maybe the latter point is fine, and not a slip.
  • A human brain is not a “human organism” – Johnston submits – but might be a “human body”.
  • But in that case, “human body” would do for the term describing what we are, and he wouldn’t need to hijack “Human Being”.
  • But – personally – I’d have thought it at least as hard to argue that a disembodied brain is a body as to argue that it is an organism.
  • Maybe there’s more to it than this. Johnston has claimed that we “go on” if our mind does, but hasn’t covered what happens if the “human body” goes on without any mentality. Do we go on? If not, he needs a term distinct from “human body” to describe what we are.
  • Watch this space!
Footnote 31:
  • Does Johnston take this to be self-evident, or does he argue for this?
  • “Mind” is rather a vague concept. We at least need “conscious mind”, but Baker’s FPP seems best.
Footnote 32:
  • What’s this? What’s an “incomplete” body transfer?
  • How does it follow from what he’s just said?
Footnote 33: Johnston highlights “particular”. The view he rejects seems very similar to Baker’s constitution view, which superficially sounds like Johnston’s own.

Footnote 34:
  • This footnote is confusing (to me) and worrying.
  • Survival is a metaphysical issue, while concepts are linguistic.
  • So, how can conceptual change affect real-world survival?
  • As has been rehearsed elsewhere, it’s not a matter of convention whether our FPP would survive teletransportation, though it’s not something we can determine empirically either. It’s a metaphysical issue.
Footnote 35: I don’t know what this means. Is he talking about Relative Identity, or something else?

Footnote 38:
  • But not all agree with the “Brain Transplant Intuition” as Olson calls it.
  • Animalists – officially, at least – think of the brain as “just another organ”.
  • Despite my inclinations towards animalism, I don’t agree with them – but share the BTI, and agree with Johnston on this point.
Footnote 40:
  • This is neither necessary, nor clear.
  • It’s all a bit quick, as it’s central to the question at hand.
Footnote 41: Footnote 43:
  • So, the difference from the dominant view is that psychological continuity isn’t necessary for personal identity where we have physical continuity and no closer psychological continuer (and – presumably – continued sentience).
Footnote 44: Presumably for corporeal rather than psychological reasons.

Footnote 45:
  • This claim is contentious.
  • The claim “this is my last birthday” can be made true by my dying before my next. The argument is over whether it is timelessly true, or whether it has no truth-value until my death occurs, when it becomes true retrospectively.
  • See the discussion of "Aristotle - De Interpretatione, Chapter 9" in this Note.
Footnote 46:
  • I don’t like the way this is going.
  • The issue ought not to be about the truth-values of statements, but the metaphysics of identity.
  • B-body doesn’t think he has just come into existence, but he might be wrong. Similarly, he might think he’s A, but he might be wrong.
  • The critical question is – in the case where the “production” of C-body is not terminated – whether B-body could be A for 10 minutes, and cease to be A thereafter for reasons extrinsic to him.
  • The intuition that rejects this possibility is the real reason for objecting to the Closest-Continuer theory.
Footnote 47:
  • Again, this seems to be the wrong line to take.
  • It might – according the Closest Continuer theory, if this were to be correct – be that the stipulation cannot be made, and that we are confused when we think we understand it.
  • This objection of mine is the same sort of objection I and others make to Descartes’s arguments involving so-called “clear and distinct ideas”. If they are ideas that purport to represent what are – in fact – impossibilities, they cannot be clear and distinct, and so cannot be argued to represent possibilities.
Footnote 48:
  • As remarked in previous footnotes, I don’t think Johnston marshals the strongest arguments against the Closest Continuer theory.
  • In particular, he doesn’t consider the “exact similarity” case, where we have two equally close continuers, and either contradict the logic of identity or deny that either of the candidates are continuers, when either on his own would have done fine.
Footnote 49:
  • An animalist must deny this first premise. I persist as a human animal in a PVS, even though I have nothing that matters to me.
  • My view is that the FPP is “essential” to me, in the sense that without it I have nothing that matters, and that I would persist as long as my FPP does, yet might also persist after it is extinguished – so it is not necessary for my existence.
  • But, because of what I am (a human animal), and how my FPP is realised (by processes in a particular brain), this FPP is not portable in the way envisaged by WPR (or by supporters of the CV).
  • The test case is that of a WBT.
Footnote 50: In the Introduction, on the grounds that such a view makes our re-identification over time “extremely problematical”.

Footnote 51: Presumably not to be confused with Nihilism.

Footnote 52:
  • I’m not clear whether this word should come before or after “Kantian”.
  • All this is obscure to me – but no doubt has something to do with FPPs, so is probably important.
Footnote 54: I have a footnote that suggests that Noonan (Harold) (or was it Shoemaker (Sydney)) objected to modal arguments like this in discussions of the statue and the clay.

Footnote 55:
  • I have an old marginal annotation asking whether I’ve got the argument right!
    1. My brain-stem is receiving information and directing my body, but completely unconsciously.
    2. My “bare locus” must be taken by Johnston to exclude unconscious / subconscious mentation – or don’t any of these computations count as cognitive at all?
    3. They aren’t like the pre-conscious computations in (say) vision – they don’t lead to any conscious thoughts or perceptions as all, being completely regulatory.
    4. The “bare locus” is supposed to be one of “mental life” which could – in most cases – be traced by mental continuity – so is presumably only a locus of conscious metal life?
    5. But this would seem to leave out a lot – many of our “eureka” moments can only be explained by subconscious mentation.
  • I’m not sure what I intended by this back in 2006. Maybe I had misunderstood Johnston’s argument. I’m still not sure I understand it.
  • The brain-stem, like the rest of the brain, is part of the body and nothing to do with the bare locus, which has to communicate with it.
  • My question, I think, has to do with the boundaries of the locus of thought. This is described as a “locus of conscious mental life”, so presumably doesn’t include anything that goes on subconsciously.
  • Review this later!
Footnote 56:
  • On the PV, the claim to know that a particular person continues to exist unconscious is defeasible.
  • If that person never regains consciousness, we might say that that person had ceased to exist when he lapsed into unconsciousness.
  • And were he subsequently to regain consciousness – contrary to all expectations – we’d revise our earlier opinion and say he hadn’t ceased to be; that is, unless we allow “gappy existence”.
Footnote 57: But dualists tend to be rationalists rather than empiricists.

Footnote 58: Ie. See "Strawson (Peter) - Persons".

Footnote 59: Footnote 60:
  • The point of this is that – just as ignorance of relevant alternatives doesn’t allow my friend to know – so our ignorance of (supposedly true) bare-locus theories doesn’t enable us to know.
  • So, we wouldn’t know – contrary to Johnston’s common-sense claim that we do, and that any theory that says we don’t must be ruled out.
Footnote 61: Some day I’ll translate it into my own words – I can’t do this faithfully at the moment.

Footnote 62: In "Kant (Immanuel), Kemp Smith (Norman) - Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason".

Footnote 63:
  • Of course, those with supernaturalist inclinations won’t accept this starting point.
  • No doubt Johnston’s response would be that the alternatives involve bare-loci, which he has earlier ruled out.
Footnote 64:
  • At least as I’ve expounded it, Johnston’s argument doesn’t really seem to back up this claim.
  • It needs an explicit argument that our intuition would be that Brown continues as Brownson rather than as Brownless.
  • Most would agree, but the animalists would not.
Footnote 65:
  • Presumably Johnston thinks it doesn’t matter from where the brain-stem comes.
  • But – it might be argued – the regulatory properties of the brain-stem are so important that a disembodied brain-stem might be taken to be a “maximally-mutilated” human organism.
Footnote 66:
  • I agree with Wiggins that “Person” is an honorific rather than a substance kind.
  • Thus, there are indeed no persistence conditions that apply to all and only persons in all possible worlds.
  • I disagree that it is a conceptual truth that all persons are animals – though it may be empirically true
Footnote 67:
  • This may be the most serious objection to Animalism.
  • Since we are animals – for all that – there must be something wrong with the argument!
  • My current thought is that it’s more credible to claim that a disembodied brain is a maximally-mutilated animal than that the brain is “just another organ”.
  • Johnston’s rather quick discussion of Brownless doesn’t take sufficiently seriously the importance of the imported brain-stem.
  • That situation may best be considered as the grafting on of a new body to whoever once owned the brain-stem.
  • But there’s still the issue that it is claimed that the persistence conditions of brains differ from those of animals, and that brains are not organisms.
  • I have my doubts as to the cogency of these objections.
    1. Persistence: Brains are not “masses of matter”, and persist as long as they are alive, just as animals do. They don’t have all the functions of a fully-functional organism, but that’s because they are maximally-mutilated.
    2. Organisms: again, because they are maximally-mutilated, they don’t perform all the self-maintenance functions of an organism – but these functions can be hived off in any case – an organism of “life support” is an organism for all that.
Footnote 68:
  • But, we’ve seen from the teletransportation case that apparent memories can be deceptive.
  • There are other TEs – supposed surgical transplants of memory-traces, quasi-memory, and the like.
  • Where is Johnston going here?
Footnote 69:
  • Are minds the sort of thing that can be individuated?
  • They sound incorporeal, and so can be multiply incorporated.
  • Are they – strictly-speaking – universals rather than particulars?
  • For my thoughts on Minds, Click here for Note.
Footnote 70: So, what – for Johnston – are “persons”? Click here for Note.

Footnote 71:
  1. Standard PV:
    • Holders of the PV think that there are some psychological changes that a person cannot survive.
    • But, if there’s still a mind there after these drastic changes, whose mind is it?
    • Presumably it’s a new person’s – as in “he’s no longer the same person”, taken literally.
    • Do holders of the PV really believe this? If so, the claim to conceptual truth is unchallenged.
  2. Transhumanism:
    • But, the transhumanists think that we – our minds – can be uploaded to a computer.
    • If so, a person might well be outlived by his own mind?
Footnote 72:
  • In what sense are minds “alive”?
  • Isn’t “life” a biological concept?
  • But it may not matter, as all Johnston needs is that a person should not be “survived” by his own mind.
Footnote 75: Footnote 76:
  • Both the necessary and sufficient conditions would be denied by strict animalists.
Footnote 77:
  • I agree completely.
  • For instance, the “we are brains” argument – stopped a bit short – says that we are “really” one-legged, because we all admit that anyone can survive the loss of a leg.
Footnote 78: I agree with this claim, so a detailed justification would be welcome.

Footnote 79:
  • The one I’m particularly interested in is of constitution, as it’s a term variously used.
  • Kinds and persistence are fairly standard ideas.
  • However, the three concepts are closely interlinked.
Footnote 83: Note this bias towards psychology.

Footnote 84:
  • At last we have an explanation of the use “overgeneralisation” hitherto!
  • It seems rather more like a lazy habit of mind, assuming that things are as in the normal case, when they are clearly not.
  • It also fails to put thought into what mental continuities consist in. Just what is it that carries my FPP forward from one moment to another, and which ensures it’s reconstituted after a period of unconsciousness?
Footnote 85:
  • Parfit seems inclined to this view, thinking it’s as good as survival if our projects are carried on by someone else.
Footnote 86:
  • I have a note on Personalities, which – while roughly the same – is not quite the same thing.
Footnote 87: Presumably only in bizarre TEs?

Footnote 89: Footnote 90: Johnston doesn’t remind us of what this is, but it’s – presumably – the method of cases.

Footnote 91: This might be a disadvantage for those of a super-naturalist inclination.

Footnote 92: I find a slight tension here – in that we trace organisms, despite not being organisms.

Footnote 93: This whole bullet & sub-bullets reflect an unpacking of an unduly complex final sentence.

Footnote 94: See this Footnote.

Note last updated: 13/02/2016 13:46:34

Footnote 2.37: (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 ( 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 2.38: (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 2.40: (Cerebrum)

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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 2.41: (Self)

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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 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 2.42: (Souls)

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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: 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 2.42.2: (Soul Criterion)

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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: 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?"".

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

Footnote 2.42.3: (Dualism)

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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: 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 2.43: (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 persistence, and hence, to our identity.
  2. Secondly, the contentious point is whether aspects of the psychology of some higher animals are so distinctive that (as Baker claims) an ontological difference beyond the mere existence of a new species is in evidence. Baker thinks the watershed is a FPP.
  3. Leading on from this is the claim that the FPP is so important, that we are not animals, but persons.
A question to consider, probably under the topic of organisms, is whether the PCs of all organisms are the same. Plants and animals are both organisms.

Non-animalists raise issues about the presumed supreme moral status and cognitive abilities of human beings. Demonstrating that these abilities – however well or badly exemplified by humans as a species or as individuals – are on a continuum with those of the higher animals – in particular the great apes – rather than unique in kind to human beings – requires the researcher into personal identity to investigate just what the cognitive and moral capacities of animals actually are. Similarly, this study is stimulated by Locke’s claim that personhood is a forensic property.

The Note on persons deals with the question of what the concept PERSON consists in. Whether any non-human animals fall under the concept PERSON will be covered in this Note.

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 2.47: (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 3: (Thesis - Chapter 03 (What is a Person?))


    This chapter will canvass the various views of what Persons are and consider how important issues in this area are to my main concern of our identity.

Research Methodology
  • Follow this Link for a generic statement of how I intend to pursue each Chapter.
  • The method is broken down into 12, possibly iterative, stages.
  • Follow this Link for my progress dashboard on these tasks.

Chapter Introduction
  1. The main philosophical argument about Persons is whether PERSON is a substance-concept in its own right, or whether it is parasitic on other substance-concept(s).
  2. My own view is that Human Persons are phase sortals3 of human animals, but other philosophers have more robust views of persons and think of them as substances in their own right.
  3. Famously, Locke held this view, and Lynne Rudder Baker is a contemporary exponent – her view being that human persons are constituted by, but not identical to, human animals.
  4. In this thesis, I’m only concerned with human persons, and – like most philosophers – allow that there can be non-human persons (God, gods, angels, aliens, robots, etc.)
  5. All this is predicated on deciding just what PERSONS are, which in turn depends somewhat on whether we take PERSON to be a natural kind concept, or something that is socially constructed and so not something the correct definition of we can discover.
  6. Further text to be supplied.

Main Text
  1. To be supplied.

Links to Books / Papers to be Addressed7
  1. In this Chapter I will consider the following papers or book chapters (together with some others referenced by these). There are doubtless many more that are relevant and which will be addressed in the course of the thesis, but these are probably sufficient to get us going.
  2. Reductionism
  3. Many aspects of these papers will need to be either ignored or reserved for other chapters.
  4. The motivation for these works is as follows:-
    • To be supplied.

The Cut
  1. There had already been a lot of cutting in the various selections of the original reading list – the reading lists attached to the Notes run on and on – and these items just represent the works in my possession (though I have sought out all that I’ve heard of that look relevant).
  2. However, the items in the lists following were given some attention, and have been culled – at least temporarily – from the lists above, where they originally appeared. I’ve not always given a reason as I’ve not studied them sufficiently closely. But, you have to draw a line somewhere.
  3. I’m well aware that the cut has not been sufficiently rigorous. Further items beyond the items below are likely to be culled when I come to process them.

Links to Notes
  1. The primary Notes are:-
    • Person,
    • Human Persons19,
    • Non-Human Persons20,
    • Reductionism21,
    • Simple View22
    • Taking Persons Seriously23,
    • First-Person Perspective.
  2. No doubt there are others:-
    • To be supplied.

Final Remarks
  1. This is work in progress.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 7:
  • See the section on Research Methodology for what is to be done with these.
  • The author’s surname is repeated in the text to make it easier for me to see what’s going on in the encoded text I work on.
Footnote 8: This is very elementary, but short and maybe entertaining.

Footnote 9: Read this as an example from the Animal Liberation movement.

Footnote 10: This is rather introductory to Parfit’s ideas, so read it quickly for that purpose.

Footnote 11: Restrict a close reading to Part 3 (Personal Identity).

Footnote 12: May be useful both as a take on Strawson, and for Plantinga’s own views.

Footnote 13: Stanley got into a debate with Jen Hornsby, though not on this topic, so it’ll be interesting to see how he argues.

Footnote 14: This is a difficult book with which I expect to have little sympathy, but one that has to be read.

Footnote 15: This is rather elementary, and ought to have been reviewed in Chapter 1.

Footnote 16: This paper may be important, but is too long (and difficult) for a first pass through the literature

Footnote 17: Too similar to "Lowe (E.J.) - Substance and Selfhood", which was read for Chapter 2.

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

Footnote 3.3: (Phase Sortals)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnote 3.19: (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 3.20: (Non-Human Persons)

This is mostly a place-holder.

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

Footnote 3.21: (Reductionism)

  1. Reductionism in the field of Personal Identity has much the same meaning as elsewhere in philosophy, namely – explaining PID in terms of simpler concepts (Explanatory Reduction) or saying that persons are “really” (or are made up of or constituted by) other things (Ontological Reduction).
  2. This contrasts with the Simple_View, which denies this.
  3. Currently, my thoughts on the matter are derived from but I will add to the topic further over time.
  4. From my perspective, the interesting element is Garrett’s consideration of Phase_Sortals.

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

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

Footnote 3.22: (Simple View)

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.

Note last updated: 20/10/2015 23:12:29

Footnote 3.23: (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 4: (Thesis - Chapter 04 (Basic Metaphysical Issues))


  • I need to discuss the logic of identity, survival and persistence, and even whether identity matters in survival.
  • 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).
  • The question of Natural Kinds arises in considering whether PERSON is a natural kind concept.
  • Certain four-dimensional approaches to persistence do away with the substance concept, but I discuss this issue in the next Chapter.

Research Methodology
  • Follow this Link for a generic statement of how I intend to pursue each Chapter.
  • The method is broken down into 12, possibly iterative, stages.
  • Follow this Link for my progress dashboard on these tasks.

Chapter Introduction
  1. The purpose of this chapter is to clarify my views on a number of logical and metaphysical issues that are central to the core of this Thesis.
  2. I will also consider Parfit (Derek)’s claim that “Identity is not what matters in survival” in this Chapter.
  3. The coverage in the Chapter itself will have to be very brief lest it consume the word-count for the entire thesis. Most information – and in particular the bulk of the justification for my views – will remain in the Notes.
  4. Three background issues, namely my views on:-
    • Persistence and Time,
    • Thought Experiments, and
    • Constitution
    are covered elsewhere (follow the links above).
  5. Other topics may be added as they arise.

Main Text
  1. To be supplied.

Links to Books / Papers to be Addressed6
  1. In this Chapter I will consider the following papers or book chapters (together with some others referenced by these). There are doubtless many more that are relevant and which will be addressed in the course of the thesis, but these are probably sufficient to get us going:-
  2. Basic Metaphysics7
  3. Logic of Identity (General)
  4. Relative Identity
  5. Vague Identity
  6. Indeterminate Identity
  7. Contingent Identity
  8. Occasional Identity
  9. Criteria of Identity