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Supervision: Monday 12th November 2007; 11:30

The purpose of the Supervision was to discuss a draft Thesis chapter-breakdown. The version discussed is at this link. The latest version is here1.

Specific comments received:

  1. Length: 11 chapters seems a lot, though this will depend on their length and concision. Also, chapter 9 might be dropped (see under “Perdurance” below).
  2. Structure: The Thesis seems to fall naturally into three sections (other than the introduction and conclusion); namely, chapters 2-4 (setting up the problem), chapters 5-8 (Olson and Baker’s views contrasted); and Chapters 10-11 (testing the preferred solution). Chapter 9 would appear in the first section, if at all (probably as part of Chapter 4).
  3. Resurrection: This will add interest, though hopefully some of the Islamist topicality will have gone by the time my Thesis is presented. As the motivation for this chapter is partly the occasionally pernicious effects of a belief in a resurrection to paradise, the metaphysical possibility of the resurrection of beings like us is very important. It is also important to millions of non-explosive Americans. The Thesis will aim to prove that resurrection requires substance dualism. I will need to ensure I understand just what is believed by intellectually-respectable Christians and Muslims (though the topical believers are not amongst the ranks of the intellectually respectable). Some discussion was had about the orthodox Christian view being that there is no continuity of matter (the conundrum about the person consumed by cannibals was early recognised), and that the resurrection body is said to be in some sense a “spiritual” body.
  4. Timeliness of the Thesis: I needn’t worry about topicality. “There are no scoops in philosophy”. While true, maybe the argument between Olson and Baker will be somewhat stale in 5 years time? I needn’t worry about this either, as there’s always something new to be said, or some new perspective from which to say it.
  5. Perdurance: this is inimical to a high view of substance. A temporal worm cannot change, it just is. The purpose of positing substances is as the enduring things that change. Perdurance also impacts on Leibniz’s Law, where property exemplification is usually taken to be relative to a time. Look at the adverbial defence of endurantism. See "Haslanger (Sally) - Endurance and Temporary Intrinsics" (probably … this is the explicit response to Lewis, though there are also "Haslanger (Sally) - Persistence, Change, and Explanation", "Haslanger (Sally) - Persistence Through Time" and "Haslanger (Sally) - Humean Supervenience and Enduring Things"; and "Kurtz (Roxanne) - Introduction to Persistence: What’s the Problem?" in "Haslanger (Sally) & Kurtz (Roxanne), Eds. - Persistence : Contemporary Readings" seems to cover much the same ground). If perdurantism really is incompatible with a high view of substance, then I may not need a chapter on perdurance (though I would have thought that I would need to argue for the incompatibility), and I can thereby ignore perdurantist objections to the cogency of reduplication2 objections.
    Note: Olson sets perdurance to one side. He assumes that we are concrete substances that “endure through time by being wholly present at different times”. He also sets to one side two other issues, namely that there are no such things as persons (taken to be “rational conscious beings such as you and I”) and that the classical notion of strict numerical identity3 is correct, rejecting relative identity. See "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal: Introduction", pp. 4-5 and "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal: Alternatives", both in "Olson (Eric) - The Human Animal - Personal Identity Without Psychology". He claims that if any of these assumptions is false, then there are no substantive metaphysical questions of our identity over time, only semantic ones.
  6. Precision: There were several of the usual complaints about category mistakes and sloppy diction.
  7. Is: A discussion on the “is” of predication and the “is” of identity arose out of a discussion of Olson’s Thinking Animal argument. In saying that Theo is a human animal and that also that Theo is a person that is ontologically distinct from, and merely constituted by, the human animal, Olson argues that we have too many thinkers and therefore the constitution view is false. I don’t like this argument, in that the form would prove too much. I see analogies with various mereological arguments (Unger’s “there are no ordinary things”, Tib/Tibbles4, Dion/Theon), but Jen didn’t acknowledge the connection (yet all these arguments seem to have the same form – there are alleged to be too many co-located items, leading to the denial of some seemingly obvious premise). Yet maybe I accept a version of this in disliking immaterial souls (again, too many thinkers – if the brain thinks, why do we need a soul that thinks as well). However, the degree of ontological distinctness between “the self and its brain” is greater than that between the person and the human being that (maybe temporarily) constitutes it. I will reconsider this collection of arguments in due course.
  8. Phase Sortals: I seem to have misappropriated a term. In its standard usage, a phase sortal is a biologically-motivated term. The clearest examples are of individuals that mutate; 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 example is of CHILD, which is a (vaguely-boundaried) biological phase of the substance sortal HUMAN BEING. 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.
    Note: an extempore example of a possible human non-person was INFANT. Jen pointed out that this example might be especially relevant to the topic, as “infant” is derived from the Latin in-fans “without speech”.
  9. Intermittent Sortals: We’d discussed last time that it’s certain capacities, not the present exercise of them, that qualifies an individual as a person. Wiggins holds the view that a person is one who belongs to a kind whose typical members possess some open-ended list of properties. In that case, a foetus and someone in a PVS would still be persons. However, on a “present capacity” view, they would not, and a person might have intermittent existence (for instance if I were to fall into, and then recover from, a PVS I would on recovery again be a person, and (importantly) the same person).
  10. 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”.
  11. Intelligibility: this is a reciprocal relationship. We find others (of “our” sort) intelligible, and it is important that they find us intelligible in return.
    Question: 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 Sorites5 paradoxes?
  12. Sentience: I’d said something obscure somewhere on this (I think it was the final bullet in Person6, and Jen wondered whether I was referring to the somewhat tangential point that some Cartesians denied sentience to animals (taking them to be unconscious automata). At the time I think agreed with this, having forgotten the context, but I think the point may have been as follows. Until recently there has been a down-playing of the capacities of animals, particularly their emotional capacities. Some of the thought experiments play on the thought of “being tortured” tomorrow. While animals may not have the concept TOMORROW, I presume the higher animals have some capacity for anticipating future ills about to befall them. The bullet point was wondering whether my research concerns were about beings that care about the future, whether or not they have a clear concept of it as their future.
  13. Inference to the Best Explanation: My intention here was to suggest that the Thesis as a whole is an exercise in inference to the best explanation (not that the Chapter on Thought Experiments is trying to explain out intuitions).

Other items discussed:
  1. Planning: Jen has submitted a year plan for me. My intention is to complete a Thesis chapter, and the Thesis outline and reading list as soon as possible, so I’m ready to upgrade as soon as eligible.
  2. We eventually decided that Lynne Rudder Baker should be filed under “B” and not “R”.

  1. Finalise my paper on Philosophy and Web-technology, for discussion in a week’s time; ensure it is received by end Thursday 15th November, at the latest.
  2. Write a draft chapter on “What are We7?” ready for discussion in a month’s time.
  3. Other items (pruning the reading list; iterating the chapter contents; progressing the chapter on “What is a Person?”) should be treated as background tasks subordinate to the two items above. Maybe discuss these aspects when we next meet.

Next Supervisions:
  1. Monday 19th November 2007; 09:00. To discuss Philosophy and Web-technology8.
  2. Monday 10th December 2007; 11:30. To review an essay on “What are We9?”.

Table of the Previous 3 Versions of this Note:

Date Length Title
21/04/2018 18:44:38 9330 Jen_071112 (Thesis Chapter Breakdown)
18/12/2010 12:00:00 9304 Jen_071112 (Thesis Chapter Breakdown)
18/11/2007 14:05:17 9324 Jen_071112

Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
29/12/2019 12:57:36 None available None

Summary of Notes Referenced by This Note

Duplication Internet Technology and Philosophy Numerical Identity Person Sorites
Thesis - Introduction Tibbles the Cat What are We?    

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

Summary of Notes Citing This Note

Olson - What Are We? Status: Personal Identity (Summary of Progress to Date), 2      

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?
Olson (Eric) What Are We? Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes

References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Brandom (Robert) Making It Explicit: Reasoning, Representing & Discursive Commitment Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Brandom (Robert) - Making It Explicit: Reasoning, Representing & Discursive Commitment 3%
Brandom (Robert) Toward a Normative Pragmatics Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Brandom (Robert) - Making It Explicit: Reasoning, Representing & Discursive Commitment, 1994, Chapter 1 50%
Haslanger (Sally) Endurance and Temporary Intrinsics Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Analysis 49, 1989, pp. 119-125 33%
Haslanger (Sally) & Kurtz (Roxanne), Eds. Persistence : Contemporary Readings Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Haslanger (Sally) & Kurtz (Roxanne), Eds. - Persistence : Contemporary Readings 30%
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) The Human Animal: Introduction Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract The Human Animal, September 1999, Introduction, pp. 3-7 Yes

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