“The Human Condition,” by Thomas Whitaker/Prison Arts Coalition
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION is a five-part, four-book series, including:
PART 1: Preface and General Introduction
PART 2: Cognition, Content, and the A Priori: A Study in the Philosophy of Mind and Knowledge
PART 3: Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics
PART 4: Kantian Ethics and Human Existence: A Study in Moral Philosophy
PART 5: Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise
Its author is ROBERT HANNA:
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1
PREFACE AND GENERAL INTRODUCTION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 2
COGNITION, CONTENT, AND THE A PRIORI: A STUDY IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND KNOWLEDGE
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 3
DEEP FREEDOM AND REAL PERSONS: A STUDY IN METAPHYSICS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Note on References
1. Introduction: Freedom, Life, and Persons’ Lives
2. Beyond Mechanism: The Dynamics of Life
3. From Biology to Agency
4. Neither/Nor: The Negative Case for Natural Libertarianism
5. Either/Or: Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity
6. Minded Animalism I: What Real Persons Really Are
6.2 Real Persons
6.3 Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Real Personhood
7. Minded Animalism II: From Parfit to Real Personal Identity
7.1 Parfit’s Theory: Six Basic Claims
7.2 Against and Beyond Parfit 1: Two Reasons, and The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity
7.3 Against and Beyond Parfit 2: Four More Reasons
In the fullness of time, the complete, downloadable text of each part of THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION will also be made available on APP.
A NOTE ON REFERENCES
For convenience, throughout the five-part four book series, The Rational Human Condition—comprising 1. the Preface and General Introduction, 2. Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, 3. Deep Freedom and Real Persons, 4. Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, and 5. Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism—I refer to Kant’s works infratextually in parentheses. The citations include both an abbreviation of the English title and the corresponding volume and page numbers in the standard “Akademie” edition of Kant’s works: Kants gesammelte Schriften, edited by the Königlich Preussischen (now Deutschen) Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: G. Reimer [now de Gruyter], 1902-). I generally follow the standard English translations, but have occasionally modified them where appropriate. For references to the first Critique, I follow the common practice of giving page numbers from the A (1781) and B (1787) German editions only. Here is a list of the relevant abbreviations and English translations:
BL “The Blomberg Logic.” In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Trans. J.M. Young. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992. Pp. 5-246.
C Immanuel Kant: Correspondence, 1759-99. Trans. A. Zweig. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999.
CPJ Critique of the Power of Judgment. Trans. P. Guyer and E. Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.
CPR Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. P. Guyer and A. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.
CPrR Critique of Practical Reason. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. 139-271.
DiS “Concerning the Ultimate Ground of the Differentiation of Directions in Space.” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992. Pp. 365-372.
DSS “Dreams of a Spirit-Seer Elucidated by Dreams of Metaphysics.” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Pp. 301-359.
EAT “The End of All Things.” Trans. A. Wood and G. Di Giovanni. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. 221-231.
GMM Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 43-108.
ID “On the Form and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World (Inaugural Dissertation).” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Pp. 373-416.
IUH “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim.” Trans. A. Wood. In Immanuel Kant: Anthropology, History, and Eduction. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007. Pp. 107-120.
JL “The Jäsche Logic.” Trans. J.M. Young. In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Pp. 519-640.
LE Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Ethics. Trans. P. Heath. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.
MFNS Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. Trans. M. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004.
MM Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 365-603.
OP Immanuel Kant: Opus postumum. Trans. E. Förster and M. Rosen. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993.
OT “What Does It Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?” Trans. A. Wood. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Pp. 7-18.
Prol Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. Trans. G. Hatfield. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004.
PP “Toward Perpetual Peace.” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 317-351.
Rel Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. Trans. A. Wood and G. Di Giovanni. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Pp. 57-215.
RTL “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Philanthropy.” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 611-615.
VL “The Vienna Logic,” Trans. J.M. Young. In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Pp. 251-377.
WE “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 17-22.
THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 3
DEEP FREEDOM AND REAL PERSONS: A STUDY IN METAPHYSICS
CHAPTER 6 Minded Animalism I: What Real Persons Really Are
Section 6.2 Real Persons
Here are some things I am accepting, with natural piety (see chapter 2 above), as primitive, phenomenologically self-evident, real-metaphysical starting points. You are a real person, and so am I. And so, I am assuming, is every other living organism that is capable of fully understanding, grasping, and feeling the normative force of these words. Neither logically possible or conceivable non-animal persons, disembodied persons, or divine persons, nor actual artificial persons (personae) or actual collective persons, created by human convention, are real persons in this sense. Real human persons are essentially embodied minds, hence they are persons who are non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetically a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” necessarily, human animals. We all belong to a single universal intersubjective community of real human persons, and each one of us both inherently merits and also morally requires equal consideration (if not the equal treatment[i]) and also moral respect for our human dignity, which entails that we morally owe everyone, including ourselves, especially those among us who are oppressed—that is, who are poor, or otherwise fundamentally neglected or mistreated, for example, by being coerced—whatever is enough, or sufficient, to satisfy the requirements of universal respect for human dignity, including, other things being equal, never treating people as mere means or mere things, and always providing people with what it sufficient to meet their basic human needs. We each have our very own complete, finite, and unique biological, neurobiological, first-personal, 2D rational lives. And at the same time we are all in this together, alive and living alongside one another in the selfsame fully natural and thoroughly nonideal, manifestly real world, for better or worse, till death do us part.
In a natural-pietist spirit, I believe that if those are not plain and simple facts, and also phenomenologically self-evident starting points for the real metaphysics of real persons, then nothing is. But those plain and simple facts, I also believe, also jointly confer on us a further special status, as I have already asserted several times: real persons are absolutely, nondenumerably infinitely, intrinsically, objectively valuable. Or to say the same thing with one word only: real persons have what Kant called dignity (Würde).
What, more precisely, do I mean by saying that? Objective values are whatever anyone can care about, that is, whatever anyone can aim her desire-based emotions at. Otherwise put, objective values are what Kant called “ends” (Zwecke). In turn, “absolute” means “unconditionally necessary.” So to say that real persons, like us, are absolutely, nondenumerably infinitely, intrinsically, objectively valuable, or that they have dignity, is to say that their value as ends is an unconditionally necessary, internal feature of the kind of being they are.
Now many things are intrinsically objectively valuable, or ends-in-themselves—for example, pleasant bodily or sensory experiences, vivid emotional experiences, beautiful natural objects and environments, fine craftsmanship, skillfully-played sports, good science, good philosophy, good works of art, and any job well done. To say that real persons like us are absolutely, nondenumerably infinitely, intrinsically, objectively valuable, or that they have dignity, however, is to say that each of us has a moral value that is like a transfinite cardinal quantity in relation to all denumerable or countable, economic kinds of value. In accordance with this mathematical analogy, our moral value as real persons thus transcends every denumerable value quantity, and therefore every economic value quantity, yet remains fully in the natural world. As real persons, we are essentially in and of the natural world, but we are not “merely material” or “merely physical,” in the sense of being strictly determined by the Conservation-laws-driven, Turing-computable, Big-Bang-caused, equilibrium or near-equilibrium thermodynamic and temporally reversible, naturally mechanized, non-purposive and non-teleological, non-living, non-minded, deterministic or indeterministic sub-parts of the natural world. Nor are we in any way commodities, which of course enables Minded Animalism to overlap significantly with early Marx’s political theory, as formulated, for example, in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. Any social institution or system that commodifies us, violates respect for our human dignity.
So yet again, the absolutely, nondenumerably infinite, intrinsic, objective value of real persons is the highest possible kind of intrinsic objective value, sovereign over, or transcendent to, all other kinds; and the moral value of real persons cannot be provided either with an equivalent or anything greater in terms of any denumerable, economic value, commodity, or price—as it were, I’ll trade you one Canadian-born independent philosopher, with a little over 150,000 miles on him, a few dents, and some rust, for a chilled can of Dale’s Pale Ale, and the latest iteration of the iPhone, and throw in a new Lexus SUV as a bonus prize, and a named full professorship at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, Cambridge, or Oxford, with a $500,00.00 USD starting salary. That is all a joke, sort-of; but slavery is no joke, coercive authoritarianism is no joke, poverty is no joke, all forms of arbitrary prejudice leading to violations of respect for human dignity are no joke, and above all, treating either yourself or other people like garbage or offal is no joke. More generally, human oppression is no joke. Real human persons do not have a price, or a market value; real human persons are not commodities; the value of real persons is not merely instrumental; and more generally, real human persons are neither mere means to desired ends, nor mere things, that can permissibly be merely used, abused, used up, or destroyed at will, and then thrown or flushed away.
To repeat, then, all real persons have dignity in this sense, and therefore all real human persons have human dignity. Above all, real human persons do not have to do anything in order to have human dignity, nor can they lose their human dignity by acting badly. Human dignity is neither an achievement nor a reward for good conduct: on the contrary, it is an innate endowment. Real human persons have absolute, intrinsic, nondenumerable, objective value, or dignity, just in virtue of the innately specified and essentially embodied, more-or-less online[ii] capacities they have for consciousness, intentionality, caring, 2D rationality, deep freedom, deep (non-)moral responsibility, and principled authenticity.
In this capacity-based way, real persons are what I call subjects of dignity, and targets of respect. Other things being equal, it is always morally impermissible to treat real persons merely as a means to some other end. Here I emphasize the “other things being equal” qualifier, aka the ceteris paribus clause, because, unfortunately, Kant did not adequately emphasize this with respect to his basic moral principles, insofar as they apply to 2D rational “human, all too human” animals in the thoroughly nonideal, manifestly real world.[iii] Correspondingly, it is crucially important to recognize, that the dignity of real human persons does not entail that it is, strictly speaking and without qualification, always morally impermissible to treat people merely as a means to some other end. For example, under certain special contextual conditions, aptly captured by the famous (or notorious, depending on your methodological scruples in moral philosophy) thought-experiment of The Trolley Problem, it is clearly morally permissible to kill one innocent real human person in order to save five other innocents from being crushed by a runaway trolley, even by using that real human person merely as a means.[iv] But on the other hand, other things being equal, manipulating real persons is immoral. Nevertheless, coercion—that is, manipulation either by means of violence or the threat of violence (primary coercion) or by means of non-violent salient harm or threats of non-violent salient harm (secondary coercion)—is indeed, strictly speaking and without qualification, always immoral. Correspondingly, the absolute, nondenumerably infinite, intrinsic objective value or dignity of real human persons also entails that it is, strictly speaking and without qualification, always morally impermissible to treat people either as mere things, or in such a way as to rule out their actual or possible rational consent to that treatment. In turn, these points about manipulation, coercion, and treating people as mere things, are not globally violated by our authoritative rational intuitions about The Trolley Problem.[v] Roughly, the idea is that permissibly killing one in order to save five in The Trolley Problem scenario, in that context, is the only really possible way of protecting and saving the five, and also at the same time, of heeding a higher-order obligation to choose the lesser evil in all such cases—and not a way of coercing the one.
Otherwise put, and now fully in view of chapters 1 to 5 above, real persons are absolutely, nondenumerably infinitely, intrinsically objectively valuable, essentially and precisely because they have the more-or-less online[vi] complex, 2D rational capacity for free agency. So we have dignity essentially and precisely because we are free agents. As I have said many times already, the complex capacity for free agency (= free will + practical agency) is composed of the capacity for deep freedom and deep (non-)moral responsibility, which itself, as we have also seen many times already, is when a conscious, intentional, caring, rational animal’s or real person’s choices and acts
(i) are really causally spontaneous,
(ii) include the capacity for self-commitment to a live option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or, and
(iii) are owned by her, when and insofar as these factors are all also necessarily embedded in the larger free-agency-structure, including the capacities for veridical psychological freedom and principled authenticity.
It is also vitally important to note in this connection that it is not a general requirement of our having dignity—which, again, is essentially the same as our being capable of free agency—that we self-consciously recognize that we ourselves have dignity or are capable of free agency. Nor is it a general requirement of our acknowledging others as having dignity or being capable of free agency, that we self-consciously recognize that they have dignity or are capable of free agency. This is for two reasons.
First, the mental act or state of recognizing oneself or another real person as having dignity or being capable of free agency is not originally or primarily an act or state of self-conscious, or reflective, report, belief, or judgment. On the contrary, it is originally and primarily an act or state of pre-reflectively conscious emotional perception, or what Michelle Maiese and I call affective framing.[vii] More precisely, on this view, emotional perception consists in an essentially embodied, conscious, caring intentional agent’s representing the world via her desire-based readiness to choose or act intentionally, and, in the midst of that readiness, being disposed to have feelings about the world, or others, or herself, in certain specific ways; and the mental content of such acts or states of emotional perception is essentially non-conceptual.[viii] These same points are also very effectively conveyed by Wittgenstein in the Investigations, without any technical terminology:
“I believe that he is suffering.” –Do I also believe that he isn’t an automaton?
It would go against the grain to use the word in both connexions.
(Or is it like this: I believe that he is suffering, but am certain that he is not an automaton? Nonsense!
Suppose I say of a friend: “He isn’t an automaton.” –What information is conveyed by this, and to whom would it be information? To a human being who meets him in ordinary circumstances? What information could it give him? (At the very most that this man always behaves like a human being, and not occasionally like a machine.)
“I believe that he is not an automaton,” just like that, so far makes no sense.
My attitude towards him is an attitude towards a soul. I am not of the opinion that he has a soul.[ix]
Or in other words, we must accept the existence, presence, and dignity of real persons (in Wittgenstein’s terminology, “human beings,” or animals with “souls”), just as we must accept everything else that self-evidently appears in the manifestly real world, with natural piety.
Second, the necessarily equivalent concepts of DIGNITY and FREE AGENCY are characteristically moral-metaphysical philosophical concepts that are knowable or known only by rational reflection and authoritative rational intuition. It would be paradoxical in the extreme if, for example, someone’s falling deeply in love and regarding another real person as inherently lovable required reflectively knowing the moral-metaphysical philosophical analysis of the concept LOVE, either partially or completely. On the contrary, obviously, romantic people normally affectively frame other people as inherently deeply lovable, and thereby fall deeply in love with them, without requiring any reflective or analytical grasp whatsoever of the concepts under which they themselves or the objects of their pre-reflectively conscious emotional perception fall. Correspondingly, it would be paradoxical in the extreme if, for example, someone’s either being worthy of respect or respecting another real person required reflectively knowing the moral-metaphysical analysis of the concepts DIGNITY or FREE AGENCY, either partially or completely. On the contrary, people normally affectively frame themselves and others as having dignity, and as being worthy of respect for their own human dignity, and thereby respecting others and themselves, with pre-reflective natural piety, and without requiring any reflective or analytical grasp whatsoever of the concepts under which they themselves or the objects of their pre-reflectively conscious emotional perception fall.
The notion of our complex capacity for free agency—that is, deep freedom and deep (non-) moral responsibility, when and insofar as this capacity is necessarily embedded in the larger free-agency-structure that includes the capacities for veridical psychological freedom and principled authenticity—has three basic implications for the notion of personal identity.
First, if P is a real person, then P is deeply (non-)morally responsible for choosing or doing X—say, for drinking the last can of Diet Coke in the refrigerator, or for writing another 2000 words of her new novel—if and only if P’s choosing or doing X is deeply free. Otherwise, choosing or doing X is not really and truly her own choice or act, which undermines her deep (non-)moral responsibility for choosing or doing X. In turn, P is deeply (non-)morally responsible for choosing or doing X only if P is identical with the real person who chooses or does X. Otherwise, it is not really and truly P who chooses or does X.
Now it is possible for P to choose or do X without being deeply free—for example, if P is unwittingly caused or manipulated to drink the last refrigerated can of Diet Coke, or write another 2000 words of her new novel, by a temporary mental illness, or by a powerfully manipulating evil scientist, etc.—and thus it is also possible for P to to choose or do X, without P’s being deeply (non-)morally responsible for choosing or doing X. But P is deeply (non-)morally responsible for choosing or doing X if and only if P is identical with the real person whose choosing or doing X is deeply free.
Second and more radically however, by way of the notion of freedom-dominance, I also want to claim that real personal identity is not possible unless enough of the dual biophenomenological and biological/neurobiological states constituting the continuous life of that rational animal or real person are also deeply free and deeply (non-)morally responsible. Framed in terms of psychological freedom, real personal identity is not possible unless enough of the rational or real person’s phenomenological states do exemplify veridical psychological freedom, and enough states do not exemplify non-veridical psychological freedom. What precisely counts as “enough” will vary across real persons and contexts. For example, what might count as freedom-overriding powerful manipulation, and therefore real personal identity-undermining powerful manipulation, in one rational human life—say, being raised by stern, tyrannical parents who are members of a religious cult that uses various kinds of behavioral modification techniques in order to to ensure social conformity, or having to endure a Stockholm-Syndrome-like social situation created by kidnappers or terrorists—might not in fact count as freedom-overriding and real personal identity-undermining powerful manipulation in a different real person’s life. Some people simply have extremely strong, sharply self-defined, highly resilient personalities. But necessarily, for every rational animal or real person in any context, there will be some or another definite threshold that counts as a sufficient level of deep freedom and deep (non-)moral responsibility, and a sufficient level of veridical psychological freedom, for sustaining a distinctive real personal identity under those specific conditions.
Falling short of that context-sensitive threshold entails that this conscious, intentional, caring, animal is not actually living an acceptably 2D rational human life, that is, a human life that satisfies at least the Low-Bar standards of The Two Dimensional Conception of Rational Normativity—see section 3.1 above—but instead is merely seeming to do so. That is because this life is in fact relatively replete with non-veridical psychological freedom, and to that extent this life actually belongs either to an impersonal mechanistic nature, in the case of Natural Mechanism, or to some other external agency, in the case of powerful or freedom-overriding manipulation, and is not actually owned by the real person herself. It is something or someone else’s feeling or doing, and therefore, catastrophically, the real person is merely a tool of that external agency. In the 1950s and 60s, they used to call this phenomenon brainwashing, although it now seems that this extreme version of what is nowadays more accurately and realistically called mind-control was probably not real at that time. In any case, even if brainwashing was fictional and not real at the time, it remains really possible and in any case, effective mind-control techniques really did and do exist in cults, kidnapping and terrorism, military and police torture, and abusive personal and social relationships of all kinds.
A vivid fictional example from the movies is the Lawrence Harvey character, Raymond Shaw, in John Frankenheimer’s brilliant 1962 black-comedy thriller, The Manchurian Candidate, who is an American soldier in the Korean War captured and brainwashed by the Red Chinese. Then he is “re-programmed” by a curiously jolly behavioral scientist to become a mindlessly obedient assassin—the behavioral equivalent of a Terminator—whenever he is presented with the triggering phrase, “Raymond, why don’t you play a little solitaire?” And the Robocop movies are based on a similar premise, only with more high-tech machinery involved. Whether we call this overwhelming manipulation “brainwashing” or “effective mind-control,” nevertheless, in all such cases, a real person’s continued biological existence under those conditions is nothing but his “so-called life.”
Third and perhaps most radically however, I also want to argue that if P is not deeply free when P chooses or does X, then P is not authentically identical with the real person who unfreely chooses or does X , unless P is also prepared to take deep (non-)moral responsibility for some things over which she has no control, especially including the very desires or movements of her own body that were causally efficacious in P’s choosing or doing of X, but were endogenously or exogenously caused, or powerfully manipulated by, something or someone other than P herself.
What do I mean by this, and by the corresponding notion of authentic identity? I mean that if P has been endogenously or exogenously caused, or powerfully manipulated, to choose or do X, then P is not deeply (non-)morally responsible for these very choices and body movements, and P subjectively experiences at most non-veridical psychological freedom with respect to choosing and doing X. That is because those so-called choices and doings were not deeply free, and correspondingly she did not enjoy veridical psychological freedom with respect to them: they merely happened to her. Hence those choices and body movements were not really and truly hers and did not truly belong to her own complete, finite, and unique life as a real person. They do remain fully within the dual biophenomenological and biological/neurobiological causal framework of her life as an individual 2D rational animal, but only as extrinsic to her free agency, and only as opaque to her intellectual and emotional self-understanding. In other words, those events remain as unresolved real personal and (non-)moral problems in her ongoing life. One vivid example would be Ketema Ross’s violent actions under the grip of his schizophrenia; and another would be the subjective experiences of his elderly victims.
For convenience, I will call such events Problematic Episodes. Problematic Episodes generally defy a real person’s intellectual or emotional self-penetration, and in specifically moral contexts, express a genuine dimension of moral luck. Moral luck, for my purposes here, is any state of affairs such that an agent can be treated as a subject of moral value, moral evaluation, and/or (deep) moral responsibility in relation to it, even though this state of affairs is significantly beyond the agent’s control.[x] A Problematic Episode is an uncontrollable brute fact about an agent’s life; yet, in specifically moral contexts, it also importantly exemplifies moral luck, in the following way. At any point later in time after the brute fact of the occurrence of unfreedom in a Problematic Episode, the real person can also deeply freely decide to take deep moral responsibility for these unfree choices and body movements, either by taking deep moral responsibility for the externally-caused or powerfully manipulated first-order desires that brought about those choices, or by taking deep moral responsibility for the externally-caused or powerfully manipulated biological/neurobiological states of affairs that brought about those body movements. If so, then she thereby freely appropriates those originally unfree choices and body movements, and in that sense makes them morally her own. She correctly remembers those subjective experiences as occurrences of non-veridical psychological freedom, and therefore as alienated from “who she really is”; but now she freely chooses to take them onboard, as proper parts of her own episodically-remembered past, even despite their having been significantly beyond her control. That is, she thereby brings them under the meta-control of her will, just by radically changing her attitude towards them, as a self-generated emotional Gestalt-switch. And in so doing, she personally resolves that Problematic Episode. This personal resolution produces essentially the same emotional and moral effect as Wittgenstein’s Mystical Compatibilism (see section 4.1 above)—
6.43 If good or bad willing changes the world, it can change only the limits of the world, not the facts; not the things that can be expressed in language. In brief, the world must thereby become quite another. It must so to speak wax or wane as a whole. The world of the happy is quite another than the world of the unhappy.
Or in other words, the agent freely brings that Problematic Episode into “the world of the happy.”
I will now generalize this important point to deep non-moral responsibility, in order to accommodate the by-now-familiar fundamental connection I see between free agency and aesthetic/artistic activity—highlighted by Kant and Schiller in the late 18th century, and re-appropriated by Susan Wolf in the late 20th century—and frame it as a negative condition on personal identity. Without the rational animal’s or real person’s acts of free appropriation, whereby she takes deep (non-)moral responsibility for various natural facts, choices, or body movements that were not really her own to begin with—because they merely happened to her, and therefore because they were significantly beyond her control, or more specifically because they were caused or powerfully manipulated into existence by some agency other than herself—then there would be personally unresolved Problematic Episodes in her life. During such Episodes, she retains a dual biophenomenological and biological/neurobiological identity, and indeed also retains a real personal identity, providing that the freedom-dominance condition has been satisfied, yet she lacks authentic identity. So in this way, authentic identity is not only a metaphysical relation—by way of the three-part criterion of real personal identity—but also a categorically normative fact, by virtue of its being a partial achievement of principled authenticity. Or as a Sartrean Existentialist who is also a contemporary Kantian might put it:
“At the end of the day, I am only whatever I manage to make of myself out of all sorts of antecedent brute facts and materials that I myself did not ask for and did not create, by wholeheartedly choosing and acting for the sake of the Categorical Imperative—and no excuses!”
That is, I am simply “condemned to be free” [xi] in the three-leveled Natural Libertarianism sense of psychological freedom (and in particular, veridical psychological freedom), deep freedom, and principled authenticity.
If this perhaps surprising line of reasoning is correct, then since real person P is authentically identical with the real person who exemplifies deep freedom (ultimate sourcehood, up-to-me-ness) whenever P chooses or does X, it follows that a real person P is authentically identical with all and only the deeply free choices and acts that P makes and performs. And in this way, authentic personal identity can emerge as a further normative metaphysical fact from the bedrock metaphysical fact of biophenomenological, biological/neurobiological, and freedom-dominated real personal identity in all and only the creatures that are capable of psychological freedom (and in particular, veridical psychological freedom), deep freedom, and principled authenticity. This specifically includes all the senior rational human animals, namely, autonomous, higher-level, or Kantian real human persons. That is, it specifically includes all of us, the actual or possible critical, indifferent, or sympathetic readers of these words.
Am I saying that inauthentic people do not have real personal identities? No. But I am saying that insofar as we are inauthentic, we are falling short of the kind of normatively rich personal identity we are all capable of achieving, and that we should change our lives accordingly. Real personal identity is a categorically normative notion as well as a robustly metaphysical notion. We do not “construct” the real person or self, yet real personal or self-identity is a life-project carrying inherent norms of achievement/failure. We are morally or non-morally[xii] required not to let ourselves slide into inauthenticity; and as the degree of inauthenticity increases towards a maximum, it gets closer and closer to being non-veridical psychological freedom, and therefore closer and closer to non-identity.
Now I need to face up more directly and explicitly to this question: What are “real” persons, as opposed to any other possible or actual kind of person—whether non-animal, disembodied, divine, artificial, or collective?
According to the Minded Animalist view I am now going to develop more explicitly, defend, and then critically deploy against Parfit in chapter 7 below, necessarily, all real persons are animals, but not all animals are real persons. Furthermore, necessarily, every real person is also an individual animal that inherently belongs to some species or another (for example, a real human person), but again the converse is not the case: not every individual animal within a species is a real person. For example, human infants born with anencephaly—without a cerebrum or a cerebellum, and lacking the top part of the skull—are really biologically human, but not real human persons. So not every individual human being is a real human person. And finally, not every particular living organism within a species is even an individual animal within that species, much less a real person in that species. For example, normal human embryos or zygotes prior to 14 days after conception, during the period of “totipotency,” are not even individual human animals, precisely because during that period they can still either split into twins or fuse with several other embryos into a chimera.
This account presupposes a certain kind of biological essentialism, and also a certain kind of realism about biological species. But on the account I favor, following Paul Griffiths’s groundbreaking work on natural kinds, biological species-essences are not empirically hidden intrinsic non-relational properties of natural kinds—so biological species-essences are not noumena or “thing-in-themselves.” Instead, they are manifestly real, intrinsic relational properties that necessarily include complex, self-organizing, far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics, and spatiotemporal asymmetry, and evolutionary historicity.[xiii] This “process structuralist” account of biological species-essences, in turn, is fully consistent with the immanent structuralist, neo-Aristotelian, and contemporary Kantian dynamicist philosophy of biology that I worked out in chapter 2 above.
It follows directly from my thesis that necessarily, all real persons are animals, that if God were to exist, precisely because God would be a purely spiritual agency, then necessarily S/He would not be a real person. Of course, I concede that it is logically, conceptually, analytically, or “weakly metaphysically” possible that God and other spiritual agencies, were they to exist, would be persons in some sense of the concept PERSON. But in view of the fact that I am doing real metaphysics in this book, for the purposes of my argument, I am justified in practicing methodological eliminativism with respect to all spiritual persons, by which I mean all disembodied or ghostly, infinite, immortal, omniscient, omnipotent, or omnibenevolent persons. Indeed, even those who insist on the personhood of God must also hold that S/he is a radically different sort of person from any real person, because this a direct consequence of the classical doctrine of the incomprehensibility of the divine mind. And how can a real person ever recognize an “Other Mind” that is an infinite, immortal, omniscient, omnipotent, or omnibenevolent person? The mystical doctrine of The Trinity is a failed attempt to respond to this powerful epistemic worry, but it seems clear that the only correct response is what I call radical agnosticism—and for much more on that, see Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism, part 1.
It also directly follows from my thesis to the effect that, necessarily, all real persons, including all real human persons, are animals, then necessarily, no machines can be real human persons and no real human persons can be machines. So the very title of Julien Offray de La Mettrie’s 18th century Cartesian materialist essay, L’Homme Machine/Man a Machine,[xiv] is, from the standpoint of real metaphysics, an oxymoron. Here the real-metaphysical situation is both interestingly similar to and also interestingly different from the case of God and other spiritual persons. It is interestingly similar to it, in that just as it is logically or conceptually possible that God or some other spiritual person, were it to exist, could also be a person in some sense of the concept PERSON, so too it is logically or conceptually possible that a machine could be a person in some sense of the concept PERSON. For example, science fiction is filled with intelligible and logically possible thought-experiments to this effect. But unlike the case of God and other spiritual persons, I cannot simply practice methodological eliminativism with respect to logically or conceptually possible machine-men or machine-women, for two reasons.
First, the term “machine” in English is ambiguous as between meaning
either (i) a causally efficacious behavioral-functional-operational system that has been artificially produced, for example, in a factory or a laboratory,
or (ii) a causally efficacious behavioral-functional-operational system that satisfies the necessary and sufficient conditions of Natural Mechanism.
It is naturally or nomologically possible that real organismic living systems could be artificially produced in a factory or a laboratory, as, for example, in Philip K. Dick’s amazing classic sci-fi novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and in Ridley Scott’s correspondingly excellent classic sci-fi film, based on Dick’s book, Blade Runner. But if so, then those systems would not satisfy the requirements of Natural Mechanism, since by hypothesis they are organismic living systems, not natural automata. So not all “machines” in sense (i) (= artificially-produced, causally efficacious, behavioral-functional-operational systems) are “machines” in sense (ii) (= natural automata).
Second, the sense in which it is possible for a person to be a “machine” in sense (i) is very different from the sense in which it is possible for a person to be a “machine” in sense (ii). It is naturally or nomologically possible for a “machine” in sense (i) to be a real person, by virtue of its being an artificially-produced living organism; and it is logically or conceptually possible for a machine in sense (ii) to be a person in some sense of the concept PERSON; but it is non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” impossible for a “machine” in sense (ii) to be a real person, since machinehood in sense (ii) constitutively rules out being-an-organism.
In any case, for the purposes of this book, I am interested fundamentally and primarily in real persons, since, as I firmly believe, and as I am accepting with natural piety, that is what we are. Real persons are persons who are, “strongly metaphysically” a priori necessarily, minded animals. Real persons are essentially embodied, mortal, living organisms, and fairly limited in their knowledge, causal power, and goodness. Real persons are inherently open to good and bad luck alike. Real persons can, by virtue of their nature, be very happy, but can also suffer and be terribly unhappy. So real persons inherently exist in a thoroughly nonideal condition. Real persons cannot be “moral saints,” if this means that they can be, even in principle, perfectly morally good. At best, real persons can achieve the sublime condition of real-world-saints or “sinner-saints,” i.e., real persons who more or less wholeheartedly strive to be as morally good as possible, yet still tragically fall short of that, given their thoroughly nonideal condition.[xv] Here, for example, I am talking about fictional or real-life people like Plato’s Socrates; like Cervantes’s Don Quixote; like Kierkegaard’s Knight of Faith; like Joan of Arc as portrayed by Falconetti; like Dostoevsky’s “Idiot” Prince Myshkin; like Watanabe as portrayed by Shimura; like Lincoln; like Ghandi; like Martin Luther King Jr.; and like Mother Teresa. To the extent that these fictional or real-life sinner-saints do inevitably fall short of their highest aims, and still make a mess of things to that extent, they suffer and cause suffering. Indeed, real persons, and especially real human persons, can even be quasi-defined as the animals capable of evil (whether banal or near-Satanic) and suffering.
What do I mean by the suffering of real persons? Here is an ostensive, phenomenologically vivid, display of what I mean, as expressed by Pablo Neruda and translated by Robert Bly[xvi]—
It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.
The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.
It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.
Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.
I don’t want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.
I don’t want so much misery.
I don’t want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.
That’s why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the night.
And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.
There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical cords.
I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.
Of course, other kinds of minded animals can feel pain too, whether mild or intense. But there are significant differences in the quantity (that is, the total amount or degree) of pain on the one hand, and significant differences in the quality (that is, specific character) of pain on the other, and they do not vary as mathematical functions of one another. Although every kind of minded animal can feel intense pain, not every kind of minded animal can feel the sort of self-conscious, self-reflective, richly content-laden, categorically normative, moral, emotional pain—in a word, suffering—of which we are especially capable. Cats, dogs, horses, mice, cows, sheep, mice, and so-on, and so-forth, right through the non-rational minded animal bestiary, although they can feel varying degrees of pain, from almost unnoticeably mild to unbearably intense—none of them can ever feel the kind of pain so evocatively expressed by Neruda’s poem.[xvii] Indeed, the so-called “superiority” of the human species pretty much boils down to the bracing natural fact that we are inherently more capable of being desperately unhappy, and also of making each other desperately unhappy, than any other animal species on Earth. Ecce the rational human animal.
If, necessarily, all real persons are individual animals within some species or another, then obviously we can make some headway on the question of the nature of real persons only if we are able to answer a preliminary question: “what is an animal?” The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the word ‘animal’ means “a living organism which feeds on organic matter, usually one with specialized sense organs and nervous system, and able to respond rapidly to stimuli.”[xviii] In the usage of contemporary biologists, the term ‘animal’ also has a taxonomical sense, in that animals are said to constitute one of the five kingdoms of living things: Monera (bacteria), Protists, Fungi, Plants, and Animals. The class of animals that is jointly specified by these ordinary language and biological-taxonomical senses includes vertebrates and invertebrates, mammals and non-mammals—including birds, reptiles, amphibians, various kinds of fish, insects, and arachnids.
My usage of the term “animal” throughout this book, however, is a slight precisification of the ordinary language and biological-taxonomical usages, intended also to coincide with its use in cognitive ethology, that is, the scientific study of animal minds and especially non-human animal minds in the context of macrobiology, cognitive psychology, and behavioral psychology.[xix] To signal this precisification, I have coined the quasi-technical term minded animal. Minded animals, as I have said, are conscious, intentional, caring living organisms.
Maiese and I argued in Embodied Minds in Action that necessarily every creature with a consciousness like ours is an essentially embodied mind.[xx] Essentially embodied minds are the same basic kind of mind as ours, hence they are “minds like ours.” An essentially embodied mind, or a mind like ours, in turn, is an irreducible consciousness that is also necessarily and completely neurobiologically embodied. This is to say that its irreducible consciousness cannot be disembodied, and that it thereby has a full-scale neurobiological incarnation of its conscious states in all its vital systems and vital organs—including the higher brain, brain stem, limbic system, nervous system, endocrine system, enteric system, immune system, and cardiovascular system, right out to the skin. So its consciousness is not only non-reducible but also non-dualistic and non-supervenient. Furthermore every consciousness, as the consciousness of an essentially embodied mind, or mind like ours, is fundamentally manifest as desire-based emotion, and, in particular, as effective desiring—which is the kind of desiring that is also either an effortless or effortful trying that causes intentional action.[xxi] So essentially embodied minds, or minds like ours, are always inherently poised for trying to do something, and thereby always inherently have a capacity for free agency.
The crucial idea of essential embodiment needs to be further elaborated. To say that every animal that has a consciousness like ours thereby has a full-scale neurobiological incarnation of its irreducibly conscious states in all its vital systems and vital organs—including the higher brain, brain stem, limbic system, nervous system, endocrine system, enteric system, immune system, and cardiovascular system—right out to the skin, is what Maiese and I called The Essential Embodiment Thesis. It is important to note that the Essential Embodiment Thesis has two logically distinct parts:
(1) the necessary embodiment of conscious minds like ours in a living organism (The Necessity Thesis), and
(2) the complete neurobiological embodiment of conscious minds like ours in all the vital systems, vital organs, and vital processes of our living bodies (The Completeness Thesis).
The Necessity Thesis says that necessarily, conscious minds like ours are alive. Negatively formulated, it says that conscious minds like ours cannot be dead, disembodied, or naturally mechanized.
By contrast, The Completeness Thesis says that conscious minds like ours are fully spread out into our living bodies, necessarily including the brain, but also necessarily not restricted to the brain. Please note that I am not saying that our brains, hearts, livers, or stomachs are themselves conscious. On the contrary, according to my view it is only whole animals and real persons that are conscious, not their body parts alone, and not even their brains alone. So what I am saying by asserting The Completeness Thesis is that the minded animal as a whole—for example, a rational human animal, or real human person—is conscious with, or in-and-through, its brain, heart, liver, stomach, or whatever, right out to the skin.
One could, at least in principle, assert The Necessity Thesis and also reject the Completeness Thesis. And at least in principle one could also assert The Completeness Thesis and reject the Necessity Thesis—although it is somewhat harder to see what the point of asserting Completeness and rejecting Necessity might be, than the converse. But in any case I want to assert both Necessity and Completeness together. So I hold that the supposed consciousness of a causally detached brain—say, a living brain floating listlessly in a vat, as in Hilary Putnam’s famous thought-experiment[xxii]—even though it seems both logically and conceptually possible, just would not be a consciousness like ours. On my view, a consciousness like ours non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” necessarily involves a brain that is causal-thermodynamically coupled with all the other vital systems, organs, and processes of our living body.
The notion of a “causal-thermodynamic coupling” is crucial. The Necessity Thesis and The Completeness Thesis do not jointly entail that a consciousness like ours actually is, or ever could be, embodied in any causally necessary condition of our kind of consciousness, which would of course include all sorts of entities and facts outside our living bodies. That is what Maiese and I call The Embodiment Fallacy.[xxiii] Instead, the Necessity and Completeness theses jointly entail that consciousness like ours is embodied only in a special kind of fully-integrated far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, organismic thermodynamic system that is both causally necessary and causally sufficient for consciousness like ours—namely, one that has all the same causal powers as the vital systems, organs, and processes of our living bodies. Any such living body is what we call the natural matrix, or natural basis, of a consciousness like ours.
And that point in turn raises another extremely important point, specifically about the very idea of a “natural matrix.” A natural matrix of a consciousness like ours is not merely a compositional material substrate—a mass of physical stuff and a collection of physical parts—that necessarily accompanies and supports consciousness like ours. A natural matrix is, over and above that, a system of causal-thermodynamic relations, embedded in some or another compositional material substrate, awaiting specific activation or actualization. This means that if you significantly modify the shape of your body, or lose a limb or some other body part, without also replacing it with an equivalent counterpart that has the same relational causal powers, then you would also correspondingly modify or lose your mind. But the specific bodily stuff and the particular body parts are not metaphysically important.
What I am saying, then, is that the natural matrix of consciousness like ours is not just a hunk of specific bodily stuff, and not just a heap of particular bodily parts. Instead, the natural matrix of a consciousness like ours is all the vital systems, organs, and processes of our living bodies, as individuated by their relational causal powers—that is, as individuated by what they can efficaciously do in causal community with each other and with the larger surrounding world. That these vital systems, organs, and process are in fact composed of some or another hunk of specific bodily stuff and also of some or another heap of particular bodily parts—say, specifically human body stuff and particular human body parts—is of course extremely practically important for members of the relevant species made out of that stuff and those parts. But otherwise, it is metaphysically trivial. Thus The Essential Embodiment Thesis is a thesis about the operative neurobiological non-equilibrium thermodynamics of creatures with consciousness like ours, and not, except trivially, a thesis about our compositional material substrate.
Assuming, then, that The Completeness Thesis is formulated in terms of the relational causal powers of the vital systems, organs, and processes of our living bodies, and not, except trivially, in terms of their compositional material substrate, there are at least four good reasons for defending The Essential Embodiment Thesis.
First, it seems obvious that if any of the vital systems, organs, or processes in our bodies is destroyed or permanently disabled without a functional replacement that has essentially the same relational causal powers—say, an artificial heart, a liver transplant, etc.—then our consciousness will cease to exist, precisely because the whole organism dies. Therefore the existence of consciousness like ours non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” necessarily depends on its complete neurobiological embodiment.[xxiv]
Second, it seems equally obvious that significant changes made to the relational causal powers of any of our vital systems, organs, or processes normally produce correspondingly significant changes in the specific character of conscious minds like ours. And this is as true of the non-brain systems as it is of the brain systems. A thyroid gland malfunction, hormone imbalance, adrenaline surge, or heart attack is apt to cause highly significant changes in consciousness like ours. Therefore, the specific character of consciousness like ours also non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” necessarily depends on its complete neurobiological embodiment.[xxv]
To be sure, other things being equal, a lobotomy or a concussive blow to the head is apt to cause more fundamental changes in consciousness than a moderate thyroid malfunction, hormone imbalance, and so-on. And again, to be sure, the brain is centrally causally involved in every aspect of normal attentive, singly-focused, alert, self-conscious, self-reflective, waking consciousness. So I am not in any way denying the necessary and central causal role of the brain in the constitution of normal attentive, singly-focused, alert, self-reflective, waking human consciousness and intentionality. But at the same time, I am also strongly recommending that philosophers of mind and cognitive neuroscientists should not overemphasize the causal role of the brain, to the extent that this undermines our recognition of the equally necessary role of the relational causal powers of the rest of our vital systems, organs, and processes.[xxvi]
For example, philosophers and cognitive neuroscientists could reflect, by way of comparison and contrast, on the fascinating case of the octopus, a minded animal whose mind is almost literally spread out all over its body—insofar as its body is almost entirely arms, and the majority of the neurons in its body exist outside its brain.[xxvii]
And to take another example, closer to home, as everyone knows, even fairly minor changes in our digestive processes can produce non-trivial changes in consciousness. Think of the striking phenomenological differences between:
(i) feeling very hungry and craving a plate of spaghetti,
(ii) feeling as if you ate just the right amount of spaghetti, and
(iii) feeling utterly stuffed with spaghetti.
The brain obviously is centrally causally involved in these normal attentive, singly-focused, alert, waking phenomenological differences, but it seems also equally obvious that the brain does not in and of itself causally control or determine these differences. On the contrary, it seems obvious that the “enteric brain”—our guts—is doing much of the causally controlling and determinative work here.[xxviii] And similar points can be made about the other non-brain vital organs, systems, and processes. Each of them can and does play a causally controlling and determining role with respect to some differences in normal attentive, singly-focused, alert, self-reflective waking consciousness, even if the brain is also centrally causally involved.
Analogously, even if every basic act of a corporation passes directly through its Chief Executive Officer, it does not follow that the CEO controls or determines the specific character of every such act, or even most of them. In fact, in a great many cases the CEO is just the chief executive slave of the controlling determinations of the shareholders (if it is a public company), or of the employees (if it is either an employee-owned company or unionized), or of the actual business operations of the company. So too the brain is often just the central causal slave of the rest of the living body.
Third, there is empirical evidence in cognitive neuroscience that supports The Essential Embodiment Thesis. For example, recent work on the neurochemistry of human emotions strongly suggests that the vital systems centrally causally involved with and embodying our basic emotions are gut-based, not brain-based.[xxix] And recent work in cognitive psychology strongly suggests that human and non-human animal cognition cannot be adequately understood without taking into account the special neurobiological and environmental conditions of its necessary and complete non-brainbound embodiment.[xxx]
But fourth and finally, probably the most compelling empirical evidence for Essential Embodiment, precisely because it is the simplest, is the well-known fact that the “arc” of reflex action (say, someone’s pulling her hand away from something very hot) operates more quickly than the time it takes for the brain to process information sent to it via the nervous system about the body parts involved in that reflex action (say, that the subject’s hand has been seriously burned). If I am correct,[xxxi] then this is also a conscious experience, although not of course a self-conscious or self-reflective experience: in the example of the burned hand, the subject’s hand moves before she self-consciously or self-reflectively feels the searing pain of a burn. But I do think that reflex action still has a special phenomenology, in the classical Nagelian senses that there is a definite something-it-is-like-to-be for, and having-a-particular-point-of-view for, a suitably neurobiologically complex living organism like us when, for example, that organism is pulling her hand away from something very hot even though the self-conscious or self-reflective awareness of the searing pain of the burn has not yet emerged. If I am correct, then reflex action non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” necessarily includes a first-order and reflexive pre-reflective consciousness, even if it does not necessarily include a higher-order and self-conscious or self-reflective consciousness.
In addition to this point about pre-reflective or first-order consciousness, a further reason to think that reflex action is indeed reflexively conscious, although in a pre-reflective or first-order conscious way, is that it is possible to train oneself, through biofeedback strategies, to modulate or even suppress such reflexes.
So if this point about pre-reflective or first-order consciousness is correct, and if we also take biofeedback data seriously, then necessarily in cases of reflex action a pre-reflective or first-order consciousness occurs with and in-and-through the vital systems that constitute and subserve our intentional body movements, even though by hypothesis the brain is not centrally causally involved in the production of these pre-reflectively conscious intentional actions. Or in other words, there is compelling empirical evidence that there is a necessary and complete neurobiological embodiment of consciousness even when the brain is only peripherally causally involved.
Now minded animals are always individuals within some real species S or another, hence individual S-type (say, human, or feline, or canine, or equine, etc.) animals. But as I noted above, not every living organism within a species S is an individual S-type animal. For example, a single human embryo or zygote (that is, the sperm-fertilized ovum) is a living organism within the human species, in the strictly phylogenetic sense of sharing our species-specific biological essence, but a single human embryo is not necessarily a human individual. This is because, as I also noted above, early human embryos up to about the 14th day of their existence are totipotent. This means, among other things, that one embryo can split and later become two distinct human individuals (twins), and also that two embryos can fuse and later become a single human individual (chimeras).[xxxii]
What, more generally, is an individual belonging to some species S, that is, what is an individual S-type animal? My claim is this:
Something X is an individual S-type (human, feline, etc.) animal if and only if X is a living S-type organism, and X is past the period of totipotency for that species S.
This defines an individual within a species in biological essentialist terms, although, as I noted above, this is only a manifest or causal-thermodynamic essentialism, a process-structuralist essentialism, and not a noumenal essentialism.
Within the human species—and also within a few non-human animal species—many or even most of the individual animals within that species can also become real persons within that species. The beginning of a real person’s life for a given individual S-type animal is what I call the neo-personhood of that animal.[xxxiii] In the human species, as far as we currently know, the capacity for consciousness first manifests itself in normal fetuses between 25 and 32 weeks after conception or fertilization, hence roughly at the beginning of the third trimester.[xxxiv] My view is that this is when your very own life started—when you became a human neo-person. Prior to that, and from roughly 14 days after your parents conceived the human organism that eventually became you, there also existed a living human individual that also eventually became you—but, just like the totipotent human organism that became that very human individual after 14 days, it was not yet you.
This distinction between individual animals within a species S on the one hand, and either neo-persons or actualized real persons within a species S on the other hand, is a deeply important difference, both metaphysically and morally. This can be seen in at two ways, with specific application to humans.
First, normal human fetuses after the period of totipotency but still before the emergence of consciousness at 25-32 weeks after conception or fertilization, are individual human animals but not real human persons, whether neo-persons or actualized real persons.
Second, anencephalic human infants[xxxv] are individual human animals, but neither human neo-persons nor actualized real human persons.
Obviously these two claims, if true, will have serious implications for the morality of abortion and infanticide.[xxxvi]
Now here is a different point about minded animals. According to Minded Animalism, necessarily every individual S-type animal that is minded has a minimally coherent consciousness. But the minimal coherence of an animal’s consciousness does not necessarily imply the unity of its consciousness. By the notion of a “unity of consciousness,” I mean a conscious, intentional, caring animal’s capacity simultaneously to combine or comprehend all currently experienced phenomenal characters or representational contents within a single phenomenological field. As I am using these terms, “combination” (roughly corresponding to what Kant calls “intellectual synthesis” at CPR B 151) is explicit, occurrent, structural awareness of characters or contents, whereas “comprehension” (roughly corresponding to what Kant calls “figural synthesis” also at CPR B 151) can involve implicit, dispositional, and substructural awareness. For example, attentively visually perceiving a red square next to a green square is an instance of a unity of consciousness in the mode of combination; but by contrast, the visual perception of a tree does not usually also include any explicit or occurrent awareness of any of its distinct leaves, even though these leaves are still perceived in a single Gestalt and might even be recalled—hence in such cases these visual contents are unitarily comprehended but not unitarily combined.
Over against the notion of a unity of consciousness—whether in the mode of combination (intellectual synthesis) or in the mode of comprehension (figurative synthesis)—by the notion of a “minimal coherence of consciousness,” I mean any integration of a conscious, intentional, caring animal’s phenomenal characters and representational contents such that the minded animal is capable of effective cognitive or practical intentional agency. Minimally coherent consciousness is perfectly consistent with a non-trivial amount of disunity within a minded animal’s subjective experiences. For example, I can experience dissociated or divided cognition, but nevertheless retain a minimally coherent consciousness, even if for some reason—for example, neo-commissurotomy, that is, the recent surgical severing of the primary neurobiological pathway, or corpus callosum, that connects together the two halves of the higher brain—it is then neurologically impossible for me to bring together all my currently subjectively experienced characters or representational contents within a single conscious phenomenological field by means of any sort of combination or comprehension. And what we subjectively experience under very special conditions like neo-commissurotomy, the octopus must subjectively experience as its ordinary way of life.
In any case, according to Minded Animalism’s criteria for being an individual S-type animal and for being an S-type real person, then even despite having “split brains,” neo-commissurotomy patients still each possess a minimally coherent consciousness and therefore are unique real human persons. This claim is supported by behavioral evidence, which shows that most neo-commissurotomy patients exhibit “complete normalcy in ordinary activities,” despite their cognitive dissociation, as Nagel pointed out in one of the earliest philosophical discussions of split brain phenomena.[xxxvii] Furthermore, in other cases in which the corpus callosum never actually develops—a phenomenon known as “agenesis” of the corpus callosum—compensatory sets of interhemispheric neurobiological pathways are formed in the brain stem, and adult subjects perform very close to normal on all psychological tests, including the tests for cognitive dissociation.
It is true that some neo-commissurotomy patients do develop pathological dissociations, for example, the famous case of the neo-commissurotomy patient whose hand would spontaneously smack his wife while he was simultaneously sincerely insisting that he loved her. But this case seems very close to “alien hand syndrome” and more generally to schizophrenic delusions of bodily control,[xxxviii] and if so, it would imply both a temporary non-coherence of consciousness and also a disruption of deep freedom and moral responsibility with respect to these body-movements; and in this way it would constitute a set of Problematic Episodes in the wife-smacking man’s life—and of course in his unfortunate wife’s life as well.
By contrast to the wife-smacking man, a victim of Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID (aka “multiple personality disorder”)—assuming that the diagnostic evidence for this controversial condition is well-founded—would have a persistently incoherent consciousness and therefore would not be capable of effective cognitive or practical agency. Each distinct personality within a victim of DID is itself, perhaps, minimally coherent while it lasts; yet over time there is no single minimally coherent pattern of cognitive or practical agency. The separate pseudo-selves, it seems, are cognitively and practically alienated from one another. In this way the victims of DID, like other human minded animals who are permanently non compos mentis or incurably insane, and therefore persistently incapable of effective cognitive or practical agency, would be individual human minded animals but not actualized real human persons.
A very important implication of Minded Animalism, which follows from The Essential Embodiment Thesis, together with the explicit definition of real personhood that I am going to spell out in section 6.3 below, is that non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori or “strongly metaphysically” necessarily, every real person has one and only one living animal body, and conversely, necessarily every living animal body of a real person (that is, every living animal body which is also lived by a real person—there can of course be living animal bodies which are not lived by real persons) is lived by one and only one real person.
Here is an argument for that claim. The Essential Embodiment Thesis entails that for each consciousness like ours, there is at least one living animal body; and every consciousness like ours is such that, when it is taken together with its corresponding living animal body, they jointly hylomorphically constitute exactly one minded animal. So for every minded animal that is also a real person then there is exactly one living animal body that is lived by that person. Conversely, if any living animal body is such that, when it is taken together with a corresponding consciousness like ours, they jointly hylomorphically constitute exactly one minded animal, and if that minded animal is also a real person, then there is exactly one real person who lives that living animal body. Therefore, non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” necessarily, every real person has one and only one biological/neurobiological life and necessarily every real person’s biological/neurobiological life—that is, every biological/neurobiological life which is also the life of a real person—is continuous with one and only one real personal life. It is a bit of a mouthful, but for clarity’s sake I will dub this The One-Living-Body-Per-One-Real-Person-and-One-Real-Person-Per-One-Living-Body Thesis.
This mouthful of a thesis entails, for example, that dicephalus (literally, “two-brained”) twins—that is, so-called Siamese twins, human animals with two distinct brains and two distinct centers of consciousness, but who share the rest of their vital organs[xxxix]—constitute two distinct living human animals that just happen to have a partial causal, material, and spatiotemporal overlap.
Quite generally speaking then, according to Minded Animalism, no matter what species S you belong to, you are numerically the very same individual S-type real person from the very moment you acquire the complete biological/ neurobiological embodiment of your consciousness, thus entering the stage of your neo-personhood, or the beginning of your life, providing that enough of the events in that later life are deeply free and deeply (non-)morally responsible, insofar as this is metaphysically embedded in the larger free-agency-structure that includes the capacities for veridical pyschological freedom and principled authenticity. Then you continue to be numerically the very same individual S-type real person throughout your life as long as the complete neurobiological embodiment of your single, minimally coherent consciousness continues to exist, and again providing that enough of the events in that life are deeply free and deeply (non-)morally responsible within the larger free-agency structure that includes the capacities for veridical psychological freedom and principled authenticity, until the very moment the complete neurobiological embodiment of your consciousness is destroyed or permanently disrupted, and you die.
But insofar as you ever fail to satisfy those conditions, and even whether or not you are at that particular time capable of principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree—for example, if you happen to be a normal human toddler or older child, or a non-human animal real person—then you are not numerically the very same individual S-type real person.[xl] Or in other words, an individual S-type real person is not merely alive: it also has a life or is the subject of a life, which is to say that it is also the egocentric center of a single, minimally coherent, essentially embodied, living organismic, conscious, intentional, caring, 2D rational, complete, finite, and unique freedom-dominated S-type life.
I will formulate the Minded Animalism criterion of personal identity more carefully and formally in chapter 7. But for the time being, it can be sufficiently clearly seen that the Minded Animalism criterion directly implies that the unfortunate Terri Schiavo was not the very same individual human animal both before and after her catastrophic heart attack, precisely because after her catastrophic heart attack the individual real human person that she had been, in fact no longer existed. So Terri Schiavo’s single, coherent, essentially embodied, living organismic, conscious, intentional, caring, 2D rational, complete, finite, and unique freedom-dominated human life ended with her heart attack—that is, catastrophically, her life as a real human person then ended—although a particular living human organism that was causally and biologically/neurobiologically continuous with her body survived and existed in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years afterwards. Thus a human organism called “Terry Schiavo” remained alive for 15 years, but Terry Shiavo herself no longer had a life and no longer was the subject of a life.
[i] See section 6.1, note [i].
[ii] The more-or-less online character of these capacities is of crucial importance for distinguishing between Frankfurtian real persons and Kantian real persons, but not for the more general point I am making here, since although Frankfurtian real persons and Kantian real persons differ importantly in the ways in which their basic capacities are configured and disposed, nevertheless their absolute intrinsic non-denumerable objective value or dignity is exactly the same, precisely because their basic capacities are the same.
[iv] This point is shown by Judith Thomson’s “loop variant” on the standard Trolley Problem in “The Trolley Problem,” in S. Cahn and P. Markie (eds.), Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues (4th edn.; Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2010), pp. 910-923, and also by D. Parfit’s “George-the-gangster” case in his On What Matters (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011), vol. 1, ch. 9. See also F. Kamm, Intricate Ethics (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006), ch. 5; and F. Kamm, Morality, Mortality (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996), vol. II, chs. 6-7.
[v] See Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, ch. 5.
[vi] This qualification is important, because according to Minded Animalism there are some real persons whose basic capacities for free agency are, as it so happens, not fully online, and therefore are to some extent immature, latent, or undeveloped, e.g., normal human toddlers and other children, and some species of non-human animals. These are the non-autonomous, lower-level, Frankfurtian real persons, real personsf.
[viii] Maiese and I spell out and defend this theory of the emotions in detail in Embodied Minds in Action, ch. 5; she has also worked out and defended this view separately in Embodiment, Emotion, and Cognition (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); and I have spelled out and defended the theory of the essentially non-conceptual content of perception in detail in Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, ch. 2. For a brief presentation of the latter, see also section 2.4 above.
[x] See, e.g., T. Nagel, “Moral Luck,” in T. Nagel, Mortal Questions (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979), pp. 24-38; B. Williams, “Moral Luck,” in B. Williams, Moral Luck (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981), pp. 20-39; D. Domsky, “There is No Door: Finally Solving the Problem of Moral Luck,” Journal of Philosophy 101 (2004): 445-464; D. Statman, “Doors, Keys, and Moral Luck: A Reply to Domsky,” Journal of Philosophy 102 (2005): 422-436; and D. Nelkin, “Moral Luck,”The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2013 Edition), E.N. Zalta (ed.), available on line at URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2013/entries/moral-luck/>.
[xii] This non-moral obligation to resist inathenticity would hold in cases of, e.g., a creative artist who “sells out,” as in the basic lyrics of the classic 10cc 1970s pop song: art for art’s sake, money for God’s sake!
[xiii] See, e.g., P. Griffiths, “Darwinism, Process Structuralism, and Natural Kinds,” Philosophy of Science 63 (1996): S1-S9; and P. Griffiths, “Squaring the Circle: Natural Kinds with Historical Essences,” in R. Wilson (ed.), Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), pp. 209-228.
[xv] See, e.g., S. Wolf, “Moral Saints,” Journal of Philosophy 79 (1982): 419-439; also in Cahn and Markie (eds.), Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues, pp. 739-751. Wolf argues that we should not want to be or strive to be (more like) moral saints. I completely agree. But it does not follow that there cannot be real-world moral saints, or “sinner-saints.” Indeed, I think that there really are such people, and many more of them than we might at first think. Moreover, I also think that we should all want to be and strive to be more like them—not as sinner-saints, of course, but rather as sinner-saints.
[xvi] Autobiographical note: I’ve been carrying a copy of this poem, cut out of the New York Times Book Review, now utterly yellowed, and completely falling apart, but for the Scotch tape that just barely holds it together, in a succession of wallets, since 1977. Why?
[xvii] See Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, ch. 4.
[xviii] J. Hawkins and R. Allen (eds.), Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon/Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), p. 52.
[xix] See, e.g., C. Allen and M. Bekoff, Species of Mind (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997); M. Bearzi and C. Stanford, Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2008); D.R. Griffin, Animal Minds (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2001); D.R. Griffin, Animal Thinking (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1984); and D.R. Griffin, The Question of Animal Awareness (New York: Rockefeller Univ. Press, 1976).
[xxiv] The relevant set of neurobiological properties alone is not a sufficient condition of the existence of a consciousness like ours, however. Instead, the existence of consciousness like ours is jointly hylomorphically constituted by relevant mental and neurobiological properties. See Hanna and Maiese, Embodied Minds in Action, section 8.1.
[xxv] Just as in the case of the existence of consciousness like ours, so too the relevant set of neurobiological properties alone is not a sufficient condition of the specific character of consciousness like ours. Both the existence and specific character of a consciousness like ours are jointly hylomorphically constituted by relevant mental and neurobiological properties. Again, see Hanna and Maiese, Embodied Minds in Action, section 8.1.
[xxvi] Recent cognitive neuroscience shows some healthy signs of gradually shifting from a brain-centered approach to a whole-body-centered approach. See, e.g., L. Shapiro (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition (London: Routledge, 2014).
[xxvii] See, e.g., P. Godfrey-Smith, Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life (New York: Collins, 2017); and A. Srinivasan, “The Sucker, the Sucker!,” London Review of Books 39 (September 2017): 23-25, available online at URL = <https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n17/amia-srinivasan/the-sucker-the-sucker?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=3917&utm_content=usca_subs>.
[xxix] See, e.g., A. Damasio, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (New York: Avon Books, 1994); A. Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1999); A. Damasio, Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain (San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 2003); C. Pert, Molecules of Emotion (New York: Scribner, 1997); and J. Prinz, Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion (New York: Oxford, 2004).
[xxxii] See H. Kuhse and P. Singer, “Individuals, Humans, and Persons: The Issue of Moral Status,” in P. Singer, H. Kuhse, S. Buckle, K. Dawson, and P. Kasimba (eds.), Embryo Experimentation (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 65-75. Kuhse and Singer hold that some living organism is an individual only if it leaves a corpse behind when it dies. But obviously one way of ending the life of an individual living organism is to consume or otherwise completely destroy its body. Another but much less obvious way to end the life of an individual living organism without leaving a corpse behind is to sever parts of its body such that the severed parts continue to live on their own as distinct human individuals and real persons–see the strange real world case of the Filipino janus twins discussed in chapter 7 below.
[xxxiv] See D. Boonin, A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003), ch. 3. For an earlier study that puts the emergence of consciousnesslo at between 22-26 weeks, see British Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology Notes 94 (1997). URL = <http://www.parliament.uk/post/pn094.pdf>.
[xxxvii] T. Nagel, “Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness,” in Nagel, Mortal Questions, pp. 147-164, at 153-154.
[xxxviii] See section 5.3, notes [v] and [vii].
[xl] It is possible for the same human individual to be a fully-constituted person at some times in its life (for example, Iris Murdoch at age 30), a neo-person at other times in its life (for example, Iris Murdoch as a 3rd trimester fetus), and a non-person at still other times in its life (for example, Iris Murdoch in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease).
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