A HYLOMORPHIC ACCOUNT OF PERSONAL IDENTITY. A Thesis Submitted to the College of. Graduate Studies and Research

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A HYLOMORPHIC ACCOUNT OF PERSONAL IDENTITY A Thesis Submitted to the College of Graduate Studies and Research In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts In the Department
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A HYLOMORPHIC ACCOUNT OF PERSONAL IDENTITY A Thesis Submitted to the College of Graduate Studies and Research In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts In the Department of Philosophy University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon By JEREMY SKRZYPEK Copyright Jeremy Skrzypek, June, All rights reserved. Permission to Use In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a Postgraduate degree from the University of Saskatchewan, I agree that the Libraries of this University may make it freely available for inspection. I further agree that permission for copying of this thesis in any manner, in whole or in part, for scholarly purposes may be granted by the professor or professors who supervised my thesis work or, in their absence, by the Head of the Department or the Dean of the College in which my thesis work was done. It is understood that any copying or publication or use of this thesis or parts thereof for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. It is also understood that due recognition shall be given to me and to the University of Saskatchewan in any scholarly use which may be made of any material in my thesis. Requests for permission to copy or to make other use of material in this thesis in whole or part should be addressed to: Head of the Department of Philosophy University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A5 i TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ABSTRACT...iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...v I. INTRODUCTION...1 I.1. Defending Identity 2 I.2 Hylomorphism and What I Hope to Provide 6 1. PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTINUITY THEORY Un-Locke-ing the Memory Criterion Transitivity and Constancy Circularity and Quasi-Memory Backward Causation Body-Switching and Fissioning Out of Existence Reduplication and Double-Transplants Replies, Responses and Further Stipulations Identity and Intrinsic Facts Burying PCT with the Hope of Resurrection BIOLOGICAL CONTINUITY THEORY Animals, Bodies and Too Many Thinkers Bodily Continuity and the Biological Account of Personal Identity The Thinking Animal Argument Problems for a Biological Account The Death of an Animal and The Corpse Problem The Challenge From Proper Parts Thinking brains Rival candidates and the state of animalism 68 ii 3. HYLOMORPHISM A General Account The Metaphysics of Hylomorphism Hylomorphism versus Substance Dualism Hylomorphic Animalism Persistence and Individuation Substances, Rival Candidates and Dead Bodies Contingently Animalist Hylomorphism A Hylomorphic Account of Cerebrum Transplantation Problems Old and New Conclusion 116 LIST OF REFERENCES iii ABSTRACT The current state of the personal ontology debate can be summarized as a disagreement between two roughly distinct camps. First, there are those philosophers who argue that personal identity consists of psychological continuity. According to the psychological continuity theorist, one s identity over time is traced by following a series of memories, beliefs, desires, or intentions. Opposed to psychological continuity theories are those who argue that personal identity consists of biological continuity. So-called animalists suggest that our identity corresponds to that of a human organism, a member of the species Homo Sapiens. As long as the event of the organism s life continues, there too do we persist, according to the animalist. It is my contention that both views suffer difficulties found when exploring their metaphysical commitments and responses to certain widely-discussed thought experiments. In this thesis, I aim to resurrect the ancient view of hylomorphism, by which I mean the view espoused by Aristotle and adapted by St. Thomas Aquinas that posits matter and form as the basic constituents of every material object. As a theory of personal ontology, I argue that hylomorphism has the resources to provide a formidable challenge to the two main views. I will offer hylomorphic responses to general problems faced by accounts of personal identity such as intransitivity, circularity, fission, and composition, and show how its answers are an improvement over those given by psychological continuity theory and animalism. iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am grateful for the assistance I have received from many people during the process of completing this thesis. I would like to thank especially my thesis supervisor, Professor Carl Still, for finding time in his busy schedule to meet with me regularly and comment on various drafts. I would also like to thank the members of my committee, Professors Phil Dwyer and John Liptay, and my external reader, Professor Ulrich Teucher, for helpful discussions and recommendations that have surely improved my work. My research has been funded by a Graduate Teaching Fellowship and a University of Saskatchewan Graduate Scholarship awarded through the College of Graduate Studies and Research. Without these awards, my studies at the University of Saskatchewan would not have been possible. Additionally, I would like to thank all of the friends I have made here in Saskatoon for their inspiration and support. My time spent here, away from home, would have been much more difficult if I had not met so many wonderful people. And finally, my list of acknowledgements would not be complete without recognizing my family and friends back home in western New York. Without their trust, patience, and love I never would have made it this far. v INTRODUCTION The problem of personal identity refers ambiguously to at least two very different questions. Historically, arguments have attempted to deal with the issue of personhood: what is a person and what are the conditions one must satisfy in order to achieve that status? Discussions have often been limited to identifying certain psychological features that are essential to a person s persistence over time. Answers to this question frequently rely on an intuitive relevance of the concept of a person in framing ethical and political theories. But there is also a more fundamental question for the problem of personal identity. Following a distinction made by Judith Jarvis Thompson, Eric Olson has recently resurrected the problem of personal ontology. 1 Olson suggests that the ontological question of personal identity is the question of our most basic metaphysical nature. 2 In other words, what are our metaphysical constituents? And of the properties that we have, which are essential and which are accidental? Another way of posing the question is to ask what we refer to when we use the personal pronoun I. Assuming that there is an answer to this question, it will help us determine the category of the thing that we are. The question of personal ontology is importantly different from the issue of personhood. Most notably, defining personhood does not necessarily entail that we or anything else fulfills that definition, whereas personal ontology starts by asking what we essentially are. As Olson points out, the issue of personhood dogmatically excludes the possibility that in investigating our own metaphysical nature we may find that we are not essentially persons. 3 In that regard, the personal of personal ontology refers to the reflexive nature of the question, rather than an emphasis on the ontology of persons in an achieved sense. 1 Eric Olson, What are We? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007) with reference to Judith Thomson, People and Their Bodies, in Jonathan Dancy, Reading Parfit (Oxford: Blackwell): Ibid., 3. 3 Olson s own biological approach, for example, denies that we are essentially persons. This of course depends on one s definition of a person. There is an implicit debate between those who advocate a Boethian definition of persons as individual substance[s] of a rational nature (Boethius, Theological Tractates, translated by H.F. Stewart, E.K. Rand and S.J. Tester (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973): 85) and Lockeans who define a person as a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself (John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, in John Perry, Personal Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975): 39), but this is not a debate I will be entering into here. 1 A related issue involves establishing the necessary and sufficient conditions of our persistence over time. There is a long-standing tradition in discussions concerning personal identity of using thought experiments to determine these conditions. While these may go some way towards answering metaphysical questions of our fundamental nature (and the technique is one that I will use throughout my own thesis), it falls short of ending all debates. We could agree on established persistence conditions while still disagreeing on an ontological account. As Olson states, [t]o say what our identity through time consists in is only to begin to say what sort of thing we are, just as describing a country s coastline only begins to tell us about its geography. 4 The greater question, then, for the problem of personal identity is the question of metaphysical categorization for that which we most fundamentally are. Presenting an account that appropriately responds to this need is the focus of my thesis. From the outset, it might be suggested by detractors that personal ontology is an empty or misguided approach. The issue of personhood, it may be argued, is more worthwhile due to its obvious relevance for ethics and politics. Personal ontology may satisfy a metaphysical curiosity, but it does not seem to accurately trace our concerns. On the contrary, I would like to argue, initially, that while there is an element of speculative curiosity in the motivations for providing ontological accounts, the identification and diachronic mapping of one s identity over time can be framed in such a way as to lay the foundations for ethical and political theories. Therefore, before I offer an account of personal ontology, it may help to address the importance of the project. In the following section I will offer a defence of the importance of identity for our philosophical concerns. I.1 Defending Identity Derek Parfit has famously argued that identity is not what matters to us. 5 To understand the basic motivation for his position it will be necessary to introduce certain thought experiments, to which I will add further analysis in later chapters. Imagine that at this moment, in your office, room, etc., where there once was a single bearer of your psychology (you), there are now two or more replacements, each one psychologically 4 Olson, What Are We?, Derek Parfit, Personal Identity, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 80, No. 1 (January, 1971): 12; Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984): identical to you in your previous state. These duplicates would share all of your beliefs, desires, memories, and intentions. Because it would be absurd to identify yourself as both separately existing individuals, 6 and neither would be entitled to sole possession of your identity, 7 the thought experiment seems to result in your ceasing to exist. But if, as Parfit argues, a single continuation of one s psychology would be sufficient for one s continued existence, [h]ow could a double success be a failure? 8 The point that Parfit makes in including this example is that while you logically cannot continue to exist as identical to either of your duplicates, their ability to take on and complete your projects and aspirations allows for all that you care about to survive. If what matters to us can continue without our being identical to any future recipients of our psychology, Parfit concludes, identity cannot concern us as much as we may think. Parfit s remarks have stirred a lengthy and complex debate among philosophers working in personal identity, and while a full treatment of the discussion is beyond the scope of this thesis, there are some notable replies worth including for the sake of defending the relevance of personal ontology. The most controversial aspect of Parfit s thesis is his suggestion that the relation one would have to one s psychological duplicates includes all of the vital element[s] that [are] contained in ordinary survival. 9 In arguing against Parfit, Lynn Rudder Baker states that if psychological continuity were all that we cared about, our ordinary practices of agency and morality would be incoherent : Suppose that A [pre-fission or pre-duplication individual] was a politician who vowed to become the first woman Democratic presidential candidate. B and C [psychological duplicates or offshoots of A], each of whom reports remembering A s vow, are both infuriated by the expected (and unfair?) competition. Suppose that B becomes the first woman Democratic presidential candidate. B says, elatedly, Since I am the first woman Democratic presidential candidate, I ve totally fulfilled the intention that I remember before the operation. A says dejectedly, Since I am not the first woman Democratic presidential candidate, the intention that I remember before the operation is totally unfulfillable. How can a single intention both be totally fulfilled and totally unfulfillable? Our practices of 6 See section below. 7 In other words, there is no closest-continuer. See sections below for further discussion of fission and closest continuer theories. 8 Parfit, Reasons and Persons, Ibid., apologizing, promise keeping, and intending become incoherent if we suppose that our interest in identity really is interest only in psychological continuity. 10 Making a similar point, Patrick Lee and Robert George argue that psychological duplication without identity would fail to preserve our sense of autonomy: If B learns that the memories he has are actually results of transfer or transplant from A s brain and actual life, he will rightly feel that his autonomy has been violated. The plans and commitments he thought were his, that is, of his own making, he discovers are actually the product of someone else s (A s) choices. They would no more be his plans and commitments than if he had been induced to have them through hypnosis. 11 The main problem with Parfit s suggestion that identity does not matter to us is, I think, his neglect of what Peter Unger calls our singular goods. 12 According to Unger, there are certain things one treasures that are singular in nature and cannot be done for the same benefit by someone else. Most of these singular goods are one s relationships with other people. It is of crucial importance to me, says Unger, that I continue to enjoy the particular company of my wife that results from our unique relationship, and not that certain psychological duplicates enjoy that company. The relationship is special in virtue of the fact that she (my wife) has it with no other man. A double success involving two duplicates of myself would likely result in the failure of our marriage due to my wife s struggles to carry on that relationship with two men simultaneously. Even if one were to solely consider the benefits of duplication for the duplicates, only one of my offshoots could have that unique relationship to my wife and the others would find themselves frustrated and forlorn. On average, the lives of the duplicates would be much less preferable than my own survival. David Hershenov has also expanded the singular goods intuition to a consideration of one s children: when contemplating one s young son or daughter splitting concern for the well being of offspring is more clearly dependent upon their identity being preserved than their psychology continuing. We don t come to love 10 Lynn Rudder Baker, Persons and Bodies (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000): Patrick Lee and Robert P. George, Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008): Peter Unger, Identity, Consciousness and Value (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990): our children in virtue of their psychology and we would continue to show that same great concern if they underwent radical psychological discontinuity. But if they cease to exist via fission, our concern won t transfer undiminished to their successors. 13 Consequently, it seems that any relation we may have to future individuals or any relation future individuals may have to us that is less than full numerical identity will be lacking in some significant sense. It is a matter of personal concern to us whether or not we, ourselves, persist through time and for that reason it is worth considering what our identity consists in, or to echo Olson, what we are. Admittedly, the arguments above rely largely on the reader s response to the thought experiments and basic ideas of prudential concern. I leave the possibility of defending Parfit s thesis open to debate, but my suggestion is that we may have reason to consider personal ontology as more than a practice of speculative metaphysics for at least the reasons outlined above. The actual ethical, political, or religious implications for my own position in the personal ontology debate are not explored in this thesis. I ask the reader to keep in mind, however, that the importance of identity can only be denied by forsaking these seemingly entrenched intuitions. With that said, there are other motivations than prudential concern for pursuing an account of personal ontology, some of which will be analyzed in more detail in later sections. Olson, for example, has resurrected the issue in order to solve metaphysical and epistemological conundrums related to his thinking animal problem. 14 Peter van Inwagen is interested in personal ontology as part of a greater discussion of problems of composition. 15 And the works of some personal identity theorists, such as Hud Hudson and David Lewis, set out to explain a universal metaphysics of temporal parts. 16 There 13 David Hershenov, Soulless Organisms? Hylomorphism vs. Animalism, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly (Forthcoming); Hershenov makes similar remarks in Identity Matters, in Neil A. Manson and Robert Barnard, The Continuum Companion to Metaphysics, (Forthcoming). 14 Eric Olson, The Human Animal: Personal Identity Without Psychology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); What are We? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), An Argument for Animalism, in Raymond Martin and John Barresi, eds., Personal Identity (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003): The problem will be discussed in detail in Chapter Peter van Inwagen, Material Beings (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990). 16 Hud Hudson, A Material Metaphysic of Human Persons (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001); David Lewis, Survival and Identity, in Raymond Martin and John Barresi, Personal Identity (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003): are also recent discussions outlining religious conceptions of survival after death using positions found in the personal ontology literature. 17 Once again, my focus is not to outline a particular motivation for answering the question of personal ontology, but rather to indicate (contra Parfit) that any view concerning identity of one s self over time can have meaningful and wide-reaching repercussions. It is with that in mind that I begin a presentation of my own strategy. I.2 Hylomorphism and What it Can Provide The current state of the personal ontology debate can be summarized as a disagreement between two roughly distinct camps. 18 First, there are those philosophers who argue that personal identity consists of psychological continuity. Diachronically, according to the psychological continuity theorist, one s identity over time is traced by following a series of memories, beliefs, desires, or intentions. Synchronically, in answering the question of what we most fundamentally are, the psychological continuity theorist is a little less clear. It could be that one is a functional state of a certain kind, 19 or a bundle of memories, beliefs or desires, 20 or, simply put, a person
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