“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
Section 7.1 Parfit’s Theory: Six Basic Claims
Parfit’s theory of persons and personal identity can be expressed as the conjunction of six core claims.
First, he makes a claim about the nature of a person:
To be a person, a being must be self-conscious, aware of its identity and continued existence over time.[i]
This is formulated as a necessary condition, but the rest of Parfit’s discussion makes it clear that he also takes it to be a sufficient condition. In other words, Parfit’s conception of personhood closely tracks the classical Lockean thesis that a person is essentially a continuing self-conscious subject of experiences.[ii]
Second, he makes a claim about the criterion of personal identity over time:
Our identity over time just involves (a) relation R—psychological connectedness and/or psychological continuity—with the right kind of cause, provided (b) that this relation does not take a “branching” form, holding between one person and two different future people.[iii]
In other words, he adopts a modified version of the psychological criterion of diachronic personal identity proposed by Locke, namely one that focuses on psychological continuity of all sorts (not just on continuity of memory, as in the conventional version of Locke’s account[iv]) and explicitly excludes person-fission cases.
Third and perhaps most importantly, Parfit makes a claim about Reductionism about persons:
We are not separately existing entities, apart from our brains and bodies, and various interrelated physical and mental events. Our existence just involves the existence of our brains and bodies, and the doing of our deeds, and the thinking of our thoughts, and the occurrence of certain other physical and mental events.[v]
In other words, for Parfit persons are either identical with or strongly supervenient on brains and bodies, and on the various interrelated physical and mental events associated with those brains and bodies. It is somewhat unclear from his description of Reductionism about persons, whether the strong supervenience relation is supposed to be logical supervenience, so that persons are “nothing but” or “nothing over and above” their brains and bodies, or natural or nomological supervenience, which as we have already seen in chapters 1–2 above, is consistent with non-reductive physicalism about mental properties and events.[vi] But in either case, Parfit’s approach to persons remains fully reductive, even if his corresponding approach to the mind-body problem would count, strictly speaking, as a version of non-reductive physicalism.
Fourth, he makes a claim about the determinacy of (our concept of) personal identity:
It is not true that our identity is always determinate. I can always ask ‘Am I about to die?’ But it is not true that, in every case, this question must have an answer, which must be either Yes or No. In some cases this would be an empty question.[vii]
In other words, according to Parfit, all our thought and talk about personal identity has really to do with our ways of thinking and talking about things that are not persons, and these ways of thinking and talking are sometimes truth-valueless.
Fifth, he makes a claim about what fundamentally needs to be explained about the fact of personal identity:
There are two unities to be explained: the unity of consciousness at any time, and the unity of a whole life…. These unities must be explained by describing the relations between these many experiences, and their relations to this person’s brain.[viii]
In other words, for Parfit the metaphysical bases of personal identity are two distinct types of unity—the unity of consciousness, and the unity of a whole conscious life that includes the unity of consciousness as a necessary condition—and once we have explained these two unities, then we have explained personal identity.
Sixth and finally, Parfit makes a claim about what really matters with regard to persons:
[B]eing destroyed and Replicated is about as good as ordinary survival.[ix]
Personal identity is not what matters. What fundamentally matters is relation R, with any cause. This relation is what matters even when, as in a case where one person is R-related to two other people, Relation R does not provide personal identity. Two other relations may have some slight importance: physical continuity, and physical similarity.[x]
In other words, what really matters with regard to persons—who are construed by Parfit as being, essentially, continuing self-conscious subjects of experiences—is not personal identity at all. Rather what really matters is just psychological continuity and the physical strong supervenience base of persons.
Unfortunately for Parfitians, all six of Parfit’s core claims are false. In the next two sections I will spell out an alternative theory of personal identity—Minded Animalism—and also indicate more precisely where Parfit’s reductive account has gone wrong.
[i] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 202.
[ii] See J. Locke, Essay concerning Human Understanding (Oxford: Clarendon/Oxford Univ. Press, 1975), book II, ch. xxvii, §§ 9-29, pp. 335-348.
[iii] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 216.
[iv] Locke’s actual account of personal identity is much more subtle and interesting—see, e.g., M. Ayers, Locke (London: Routledge: 1991), 2 vols, vol. 2, chs. 22-25.
[v] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 216.
[vi] See, e.g., Kim, Supervenience and Mind, esp. part 1; Horgan, “From Supervenience to Superdupervenience: Meeting the Demands of a Material World”; Chalmers, The Conscious Mind, chs. 1-3; Kim, Philosophy of Mind, chs. 1 and 10; Kim, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough; and Hanna and Maiese, Embodied Minds in Action, Introduction and section 1.1.
[vii] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, pp. 216-217.
[viii] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 217.
[ix] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 201.
[x] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 217.
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