Theo Todman's Web Page - Notes Pages


Write-ups

Olson - The Human Animal: Reply to Markosian

(Text as at 18/12/2010 19:58:05)

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


This is a review of that part of "Olson (Eric) - Replies to Baker, Markosian & Zimmerman" (where Olson replies to his critics, Baker1, Markosian2 and Zimmerman3) that deals with his response to "Markosian (Ned) - Three Problems for Olson's Account of Personal Identity".

Olson thinks that Markosian makes three objections:-

  1. Markosian claims that you can have numerical identity between people who aren’t the same person. Olson also thinks that, conversely, Markosian could claim that we could have the same two numerically different people who are the same person.
  2. Markosian thinks that Olson is committed to saying that, in the Salamander TE, the two people Ned and Lucy are the same person.
  3. Markosian claims that we can become corpses, which Olson denies.
Olson’s responses are as follows:-
  1. Olson doesn’t think that he and Markosian are in competition. Olson was talking about identity-preserving relations, and Markosian thinks this leaves something important out of the topic of personal identity.
  2. Olson denies this claim. He admits that he might be committed to saying that Ned and Lucy are numerically identical. However, he’s doubtful, because he’s not sure the TE is possible. However, his account of identity have nothing to say on the matter of whether they are the same person, in Markosian’s sense of the relation. While Ned and Lucy are (for the sake of argument) the same human being, that doesn’t mean they have to be the same person, in Markosian’s sense. He neither endorses nor denies what Markosian calls Bio-EPPI.
  3. Olson claims that “death is the end of us”, but adds the rider “religious beliefs aside”. Markosian claims that we continue to exist as a mummy. Since he agrees with Olson that we are animals, this just implies that he and Olson disagree on what it takes for an animal to persist. While Markosian doesn’t explain what it is for an animal to persist, he disagrees with Olson’s account.
My comments are as follows:-
  1. Nothing ontological is left out for Markosian; at least I don’t think so. Hence, Markosian’s position differs radically from Baker’s.
  2. Markosian hasn’t made clear just what his “same person” relation is. Just what are the persistence conditions of persons, for him?
  3. This receives further comment from Olson below. For now, I just wonder what scope Olson allows for religious beliefs. Can these be evaluated?
Olson devotes the remainder of his response to expanding on Markosian’s third objection:-
  1. He notes that many critics of "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology" have accepted that we are animals, that psychology has nothing to do with our identity-conditions, yet have balked at Olson’s account of animal identity. While he hasn’t seen a better account, he would view one as a friendly improvement on his own theory.
  2. The reason he thinks animals cease to exist when they die is that the PCs of corpses are radically different from those of animals.
  3. Olson even seems to doubt the existence of corpses. Why is this? Is that because he’s worried by the “corpse to be” problem, where we would have too many thinkers?
  4. What would the PCs of corpses be? Similar to other inanimate things – such as statues, if there are such things! He considers some possibilities. Retention of shape; the bulk of atoms; gradual change.
  5. What it takes for a living organism to persist is entirely different. There are radical changes of shape from embryo to adult. The adult can survive losses of arms and legs. It might even survive paring down to a head on life-support. It survives because its biological life continues.
  6. Consequently, because the PCs of organism and corpse are so different, he can think of no (disjunctive?) account that covers both. But if there is one, he’d welcome it.
  7. He covers these matters further in "Olson (Eric) - Animalism and the Corpse Problem".
My comments (not indexed to those above) are as follows:-
  1. I think such as Fred Feldman (in "Feldman (Fred) - Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death") adopt the position that we persist as corpses. His analogy is with someone’s butterfly collection. But surely, there’s a distinction between a butterfly collection (of butterflies flapping about) and a butterfly-corpse collection. It’s just that butterflies live such transitory lives – and batter themselves to bits so quickly – that we, as collectors, focus on their post-mortem state. If I had a bird collection, one would assume they were alive.
  2. We need to define just what “life” is; try "Wollheim (Richard) - Living" or maybe "Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities".
  3. I generally agree with Olson on this point, but doesn’t he give too much away by allowing that a head on life-support is an organism. Didn’t he deny this in his book? Or maybe just other animalists do – eg. "Mackie (David) - Going Topless"? Olson certainly claims that the brain is “just another organ”, so why favour the head? Maybe it’s cerebrums that he’s suspicious of? A head contains so much of the command and control structure of the animal (not just the psychology) that he might agree that the head is an almost maximally pared-down organism. But then he’d need to define just what an organism has to be able to do in order to remain an organism. We need a principled reason why – if heads are animals – why cerebrums, whole brains, or whatever is sufficient to maintain a FPP are not animals. Maybe Olson doesn’t care if it happens that the animal persists if the FPP persists, he’s happy. All he doesn’t want is that the failure of the FPP leads to the failure of us to persist, because a FPP isn’t a necessary property of an animal.



Printable Version:



Previous Version of this Note:

Date Length Title
03/05/2009 13:07:41 5433 Olson - The Human Animal: Reply to Markosian



Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
18/12/2010 19:58:05 None available Olson - The Human Animal Abstracta Symposium

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Baker - The Human Animal: Big-Tent Metaphysics Markosian - The Human Animal: Three Problems for Olson Zimmerman - The Human Animal: Objections    

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




Summary of Note Links to this Page

Baker - Persons and Bodies - Precis Markosian - The Human Animal: Three Problems for Olson Olson Olson - The Human Animal Abstracta Symposium  

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




Authors, Books & Papers Citing this Note

Author Title Medium Extra Links Read?
Baker (Lynne Rudder) Precis of 'Persons & Bodies: A Constitution View' Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Markosian (Ned) Three Problems for Olson's Account of Personal Identity Paper High Quality Abstract 2 Yes
Olson (Eric) Replies to Baker, Markosian & Zimmerman Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Olson Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes



References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Feldman (Fred) Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Feldman (Fred) - Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death Yes
Mackie (David) Going Topless Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Ratio 11.2, Sep1998, p125, 16p Yes
Markosian (Ned) Three Problems for Olson's Account of Personal Identity Paper - Referencing High Quality Abstract Abstracta Special Issue I – 2008 (Brazil) Yes
Olson (Eric) Animalism and the Corpse Problem Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 82, No. 2, pp. 265-274; June 2004 Yes
Olson (Eric) Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 13 (Olson) Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 24%
Olson (Eric) Replies to Baker, Markosian & Zimmerman Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Abstracta Special Issue I – 2008 (Brazil) Yes
Olson (Eric) Replies to Baker, Markosian & Zimmerman Paper - Referencing High Quality Abstract Abstracta Special Issue I – 2008 (Brazil) Yes
Olson (Eric) The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology Yes
Olson (Eric), Etc. Abstracta Special Issue on 'The Human Animal' Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) High Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied Yes
Olson (Eric), Etc. Abstracta Special Issue on 'The Human Animal' Book - Referencing (via Paper Referencing) High Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied Yes
Wilson (Jack) Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities Yes
Wollheim (Richard) Living Paper - Cited Wollheim - The Thread of Life, 1984, Chapter 1 Yes
Wollheim (Richard) The Thread of Life Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 10%



Text Colour Conventions

  1. Black: Printable Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018




© Theo Todman, June 2007 - Sept 2018.Please address any comments on this page to theo@theotodman.com.File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this PageReturn to Theo Todman's Philosophy PageReturn to Theo Todman's Home Page