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Baker - Persons and Bodies (Book Summary)

(Text as at 17/04/2018 21:04:19)

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This note was originally designed to control my overall review of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View", but there seems to be another Note1 that does this, so I’m not sure what this one is really for. Anyway, I pirated the Oxford Scholarship Online summary as a temporary expedient – a peg on which to hang my immediate thoughts, which are interleaved below, indicated by “Note(s):”

Oxford Scholarship Online Summary

  1. Persons and Bodies develops and defends an account of persons and of the relation between human persons and their bodies. According to the Constitution View of human persons, as I call it, a human person is a person in virtue of having a first-person perspective, and is a human person in virtue of being constituted by a human body (or human animal).
    • Is there any circularity in the insistence on the possession of a “first-person perspective” as a necessary and sufficient condition for being a person?
    • Why is this the distinctive criterion, rather than the others posited by Dennett and others?
    • Does its satisfaction really have ontological significance? Does a new thing really come into existence, or does an existing thing come to possess an exciting new property?
    • What is the substance-concept – the animal or the person, or both?
    • Can the very same person really hop from one animal to another, or from an animal to some other constituting substance (like a resurrection body)?
  2. Thus, the Constitution View aims to give our animal natures their due, while recognizing what makes human persons ontologically distinctive. The Constitution View contrasts with two other leading accounts of human persons: Animalism and Immaterialism. Like Animalism but unlike Immaterialism, the Constitution View holds that human persons are material beings; like Immaterialism but unlike Animalism, the Constitution View holds that we are not identical to the animals that constitute us. Of course self-reference is involved, but it is self-reference of a distinctive kind.
    • Does the CV recognise that we have our animal natures essentially? If not, does the CV really “give our animal natures their due”?
    • Aren’t human persons ontologically distinctive purely on account of being (fully functional) animals of a certain advanced species?
    • Can the very same person cease being a human person and become a non-human person?
    • How does Baker deal with the claim that constitution is identity?
    • The last sentence was corrupt in OSO and I’ve reconstructed it. What does it mean?
  3. On the one hand, human persons are constituted by human animals, and hence cannot escape their animal natures; on the other hand, there is more to human persons than their animal natures. What sets human persons apart from other animals has nothing to do with anything immaterial; rather what sets us apart is the ability that underlies our asking, “What am I2?” That ability is a first-person perspective. First-person perspectives may well be the result of natural selection; but what is relevant here is not where they came from, but what they are and the difference that they make in what there is.
    • Is Baker serious that we cannot (ever) escape our animal natures – or only when constituted by human animals?
    • “Our animal natures” – is there a single “animal nature”? Doesn’t this nature depend on the degree of sophistication (mental and physical) of the animal concerned? Is there one “nature” of even human animals? Should we look down on these natures as something base?
    • Human animals are set apart from other animals by an ability – one, it seems to me, that is possessed by all fully functional human animals in virtue of their being those animals, not in virtue of their constituting something else. Why isn’t this a simpler way of looking at things?
  4. So, there are two theoretical ideas needed for the Constitution View of human persons: the idea of a first-person perspective, the property in virtue of which a being (human or not) is a person, and the idea of constitution, the relation between a human person and her body.
    • Baker is right that the concept of a FPP is important, and constitutive of being a person (though what this is has to be cashed out in non-circular terms). However, this ability is a property of certain animals, and it is arbitrary to claim that there is any ontological novelty over and above that entailed by those animals themselves.
  5. Parts
    1. The Metaphysical Background (Chapters 1-3), explores and defends the two theoretical ideas.
    2. The Constitution View Explained (Chapters 4-6), uses these two ideas to give an account of human persons.
    3. The Constitution View Defended (Chapters 7-9), argues for the coherence of the general idea of constitution-without-identity and the coherence of the application of that idea to the notion of human persons; finally, it argues directly for the Constitution View by contrasting it with its competitors, Animalism and Immaterialism.

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Table of the Previous 2 Versions of this Note:

Date Length Title
14/03/2015 11:36:58 5265 Baker - Persons and Bodies (Book Summary)
12/02/2009 21:30:14 5036 Baker - Persons and Bodies (Book Summary)

Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
17/04/2018 21:04:19 None available Baker - Persons and Bodies

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Awaiting Attention (Write-ups) Baker - Persons and Bodies What are We?    

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Baker - Persons and Bodies        

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References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Baker (Lynne Rudder) Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View Yes

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