Animalism and the persistence of human organisms
Southern Journal of Philosophy
Reason for embargo
Humans are a kind of animal, and it is a natural and sensible idea that the way to understand what it is for a human person to persist over time is to reflect on what it is for an animal to persist. This paper accepts this strategy. However, especially in the light of a range of recent biological findings, the persistence of animals turns out to be much more problematic than is generally supposed. The main philosophical premise of the paper is that living systems generally are best treated as processes rather than things. These processes prove to be so complexly intertwined and interdependent, that there is no unique, objective way of distinguishing the individuals from which they are composed. For this reason the animalist perspective, it is argued, problematizes as much as it resolves the problem of personal identity. Traditional concerns with responsibility and reactive attitudes provide an intelligible and defensible motivation for distinguishing the individuals we standardly assume as the explanandum in these discussions. But, from a biological point of view, the underlying individualism is a contingent perspective, as much justified by these concerns as providing an objective grounding for them. © 2014 The University of Memphis.
Special Issue: Spindel Supplement: The Lives of Human Animals
Vol. 52, Issue Supplement 1, pp. 6 - 23