“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
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 7 Minded Animalism II: From Parfit to Real Personal Identity
Like my cat, I often simply do what I want to do. I am then not using an ability that only persons have. We know that there are reasons for acting, and that some reasons are better or stronger than others. One of the main subjects of this book is a set of questions about what we have reason to do. I shall discuss several theories. Some of these are moral theories, others are theories about rationality.
We are particular people. I have my life to live, you have yours. What do these facts involve? What makes me the same person throughout my life, and a different person from you? And what is the importance of these facts? What is the importance of the unity of each life, and of the distinction between different lives, and different persons? These questions are the other main subject of this book.
My two subjects, reasons and persons, have close connections.
Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons, which first appeared in 1984, is a widely influential classic of philosophical analysis in the methodological mode of the Standard Picture.[ii] This big and brilliant book is about what we have reason to do, about the nature of persons and their personal identity over time, and also about the intimate and even necessary connections between these notions, especially insofar as they relate directly to morality and rationality. All the basic conclusions of Reasons and Persons are either explicitly reasserted or implicitly sustained by Parfit’s second, last, and even bigger, and also brilliant, book, in two volumes, On What Matters, published in 2011, which fuses Kantian ethics to his earlier doctrines. The juxtaposition of Reasons and Persons and On What Matters, in turn, yields an important dilemma for Parfit’s overall view, and also provides a smooth theoretical segue to my account of the nature of real persons and real personal identity.
In Reasons and Persons, Parfit wants to defend two basic theses.
First, we are mostly wrong in our commonsense beliefs about reasons and persons, and changing our beliefs about persons is essential to changing our beliefs about reasons:
I believe that most of us have false beliefs about our own nature, and our identity over time, and that, when we see the truth, we ought to change some of our beliefs about what we have reason to do. We ought to revise our moral theories, and our beliefs about rationality.[iii]
In other words, from my contemporary Kantian point of view, Reasons and Persons would be most illuminatingly entitled Reasons Without Any Real Persons.
Second, we at least sometimes, or possibly even always, have reason to do—that is, it is at least sometimes, or possibly even always rational, to do—what is not in our own self-interest:
[The Self-Interest Theory of Rationality] claims that, whatever the cost to others, a rational agent must be biased in his own favour, even if, in a cool hour, he neither has nor wants to have this bias. Is this claim plausible? Is this bias uniquely or supremely rational? This is the central question…. No. I claim that, compared with the bias in one’s own favour, there are several other desires that are no less rational. One example is a desire to act in the interests of other people. It can be rational to fulfil this desire, even when one knows that one’s act is against one’s own self-interest. Other examples are certain kinds of desire for achievement. A creator may want his creations to be as good as possible. A scientist, or philosopher, may want to make some fundamental discovery, or intellectual advance. I claim that these and other desires are no less rational than the bias in one’s own favour. If one of these is someone’s strongest desire, all things considered, it would be rational for him to cause it to be fulfilled, even if this person knows that his act is against his own self-interest.[iv]
In other words, Parfit’s second basic thesis is that non-self-interested action is rational. Since moral theories are almost always based on claims about rationality, and since surely it is the case that something’s being the all-things-considered rational thing to do is at least sufficient, other things being equal, for its being morally obligatory, it then follows that we should accept a non-self-interested moral theory. A non-self-interested moral theory, in turn, holds that at least sometimes we ought to do what is not exclusively in our own self-interest, but instead what is exclusively in the interests of other people, even to the point of violating our own self-interest, hence something that is altruistic, or at least non-egoistic, and purely for the sake of Beauty, Truth, or some other “transcendental” value—hence, presumably, something that is not only non-egoistic, but also non-hedonistic and non-act-consequentialistic, and so-on.
Chapters 14 and 15 of Reasons and Persons offer two more important sub-theses. The momentous sub-thesis of chapter 14 is that if we accept Parfit’s view about personal identity, then the egoistic or Self-Interest Theory of Rationality is false:
On the unrevised or Classical [Self-interest] Theory, it is irrational for anyone to do what he believes will be worse for him. On the Revised Self-interest Theory, this claim may be abandoned. If it is not irrational to care less about some parts of one’s future, it may not be irrational to do what one believes will be worse for oneself. It may not be irrational to act, knowingly, against one’s self-interest.[v]
Correspondingly, the momentous sub-thesis of chapter 15 is that if we accept Parfit’s view about personal identity, then we ought to make some radical changes to our views about morality and rationality, and this may significantly change our lives:
We ought to be Reductionists. If this is a change of view, it supports several changes in our beliefs about both rationality and morality…. The effect on our emotions may be different for different people…. I find the truth liberating, and consoling. It makes me less concerned about my own future, and my death, and more concerned about others. I welcome this widening in my concern.[vi]
Here are some specific examples of Parfit’s proposed radical changes to our views:
If we move from the Non-Reductionist to the Reductionist View, it becomes more plausible to claim that there is less scope for compensation within the same life. Thus it is more plausible to claim that great burdens imposed upon a child cannot be compensated, or fully compensated, by somewhat greater benefits in this child’s adult life. When we thus extend distributive principles so that they cover, both whole lives, and weakly connected parts of the same life, this makes these principles more important. This is a move beyond the Utilitarian View.
If we cease to believe that persons are separately existing entities, and come to believe that the unity of a life involves no more than the various relations between the experiences in this life, it becomes more plausible to be concerned about the quality of experiences, and less concerned about whose experiences they are…. The impersonality of Utilitarianism is therefore less implausible than most of us believe.
If we become Reductionists, we can plausibly claim that a fertilized ovum is not a human being, and that it becomes a human being only gradually during pregnancy. This supports the claim that abortion is not wrong in the first few weeks, and that it only gradually becomes wrong.
Some writers claim that only the deep further fact [about persons] carries with it desert, and that, since there is no such fact, we cannot deserve to be punished for past crimes…. I then argued for the general claim that, if the [R-relation] connections are weaker between a criminal now and himself at the time of this crime, he deserves less punishment. Similar claims applied to commitment.[vii]
Now if one takes fully onboard, as I do, both Kantian and Existential ethical insights about the self-legislating 2D rationality of autonomous, higher-level, or Kantian intentional agency, and also about the categorically normative necessity of our having capacities to have wholehearted higher-order emotional concerns for the sake of the dignity of real persons and the Categorical Imperative, innately specified within us, then Parfit’s second central thesis is self-evident: Of course, it is true that non-egoistic, non-hedonistic, or non-act-consequentialistic action and emotional concern is not only rational, but also really possible, even for “human, all too human” creatures like us. Even toddlers and other young children—although not Parfit’s cat—are sometimes capable of it. On contemporary Kantian and Existentialist grounds alone, then, I believe along with Parfit that we rationally should accept a non-egoistic or non-self-interested, non-hedonistic, and non-act-consequentialistic moral theory of some sort. So I also believe along with Parfit that we rationally should accept that non-consequentialism is true.[viii] Non-act-consequentialism, that is. Rule-consequentialism, by contrast, as Parfit ably argues, ultimately collapses into Kantian moral theory. Correspondingly, part two of On What Matters is all about how the most plausible versions of rule-consequentialism and contractualism ultimately converge on a Kantian theory of moral principles and reasons; and in this regard I am also fully in agreement with Parfit.
At the same time, however, since my version of contemporary Kantian non-act-consequentialism follows from very different premises than Parfit’s, I am not committed to, and indeed I have serious doubts about, Parfit’s radical conclusions on distributive justice within individual lives,[ix] on the moral importance of the quality of experiences as detached from the subject of experiences,[x] and on the morality of punishment,[xi] and also at best a highly qualified agreement with his conclusions about the morality of abortion.[xii]
In any case, where I think that contemporary Kantians should most sharply disagree with Parfit is about his first basic thesis—namely, that in order to demonstrate the rational compellingness of non-act-consequentialism, we must hold a radically non-commonsensical and Reductionist conception of the nature of persons and personal identity over time. This thesis is false. On the contrary, as I have been arguing, we can get to the rational compellingness of non-act-consequentialism if and only if we adopt a real metaphysical conception of real personhood and real persons, and also a correspondingly real metaphysics of real personal identity, that
(i) closely conform to a version of contemporary Kantian Ethics that is appropriately combined with Existentialist ideas,
(ii) closely conform to the mind-body thesis that necessarily all animals with a capacity for consciousness like ours are essentially embodied, and
(iii) closely conform to the Natural Libertarianism theory of free agency that I worked out in chapters 1 to 5.
Or more briefly put for the present purposes of argument: we can get to the rational compellingness of any specifically contemporary Kantian version of non-act-consequentialism only if we adopt Minded Animalism. So to that extent, Parfit is fundamentally mistaken in Reasons and Persons and On What Matters alike, and the Partfitian is thereby faced with the following dialectical dilemma:
(i) s/he must either give up Parfit’s earlier reductive theory of persons and personal identity in Reasons and Persons (and retain his later Kantianism, plus a methodological switch from the Standard Picture to real metaphysics), or else
(ii) s/he must give up Parfit’s later Kantianism (and retain his earlier reductive theory of persons and personal identity, alongside the philosophical methodology of the Standard Picture).
In the rest of this final chapter, I will argue directly for Minded Animalism by using Parfit’s theory of personal identity as a constructive critical foil. Obviously, it is a direct implication of this conclusion that the Parfitian should face up to the dilemma I just formulated, by seizing the first horn of the dilemma, that is, by
(i) giving up Parfit’s earlier reductive theory of persons and personal identity,
(ii) going over to Minded Animalism and the philosophical methodology of real metaphysics, and
(iii) retaining Parfit’s later Kantianism.
[i] D. Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon/Oxford Univ. Press, 1984), p. ix.
[ii] See section 1.0 above.
[iii] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. ix.
[iv] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 192.
[v] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 317.
[vi] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 347.
[vii] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, pp. 346-347.
[viii] The same conclusion is also reached by Frances Kamm, but like Parfit, on non-Kantian grounds. See, e.g., Kamm, Intricate Ethics.
[ix] I agree with Parfit that compensation made to adults often cannot make up for the harms inflicted on children, but that is because I think that children are real persons, and subjects of dignity, too. See Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, chs. 3-4.
[x] I agree with Parfit that phenomenology has moral value, and indeed intrinsic moral value, but, for me, only within the lives of real persons, and only because that phenomenology is is actually an essentially embodied biophenomenology that is grounded on the deeper fact of real personhood. See section 6.2 and section 6.3 above.
[xi] My own view is that punishment, as such, is rationally unjustified and immoral. But if punishment were rationally justified and morally permissible, then I agree with Parfit that punishment should be morally sensitive to the links between the phenomenological phases of individual lives, but, for me, only within the larger context of the complete structure of a real person’s life. See Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, ch. 4, and Hanna, Kant, Agnosticism and Anarchism, part 3.
[xii] I agree with Parfit that the fertilized ovum is neither an individual human being nor a subject of moral value, far less a real person, and that the salient moral properties of the fetus are emergent features of the developing pregnancy, but, for me, only because these moral properties are grounded on the deeper fact of real personhood, which emerges with neo-personhood in the third trimester of pregnancy. See Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, ch. 3.
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