“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
7.2 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 7.2 Against and Beyond Parfit 1: Two Reasons, and The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity
In one sense, my disagreement with Parfit’s theory of persons and personal identity is simple: Parfit’s theory about personhood and personal identity is false, precisely because it does not conform either to our prima facie, pre-theoretic, or commonsensical, rational intuitions about them, or to our phenomenologically self-evident claims about them, or to our authoritative real metaphysical and moral rational intuitions about them. In short, Parfit’s theory does not tell us about real human persons at all. As many have noted, his first book should have been entitled Reasons Without Persons.
It is obvious enough, then, that his theory does not conform to our prima facie, pre-theoretic, or commonsensical, rational intuitions about real personhood and real personal identity, since he explicitly says this himself. But Parfit’s theory also does not conform either to our phenomenologically self-evident claims about them or to our authoritative real metaphysical and moral rational intuitions, precisely because there is at least one other theory that
(i) smoothly conforms to all our prima facie, pre-theoretic, or commonsensical rational intuitions, and to our phenomenologically self-evident claims, and also to our authoritative real metaphysical and moral rational intuitions about real personhood and real personal identity,
(ii) smoothly conforms to whatever relevant data and facts the formal and natural sciences can contribute to our understanding of real personhood and real personal identity,
(iii) is internally consistent, and also
(iv) entails the denials of each of Parfit’s six core claims.
This theory is Minded Animalism. To keep things orderly, I will address each of Parfit’s core claims in turn.
First, Parfit is wrong about the nature of a person. This is because a person in the relevant sense is just what I said it is in chapter 6, namely, a real person: a conscious, self-conscious, intentional, caring, 2D rational, individual S-type animal capable of free agency, whether possessed of non-autonomous, lower-level, or Frankfurtian personhood (junior rank personhood) and innate capacities for Humean instrumental 2D rationality, and for deeply free volition, or also possessed of autonomous, higher-level, or Kantian personhood (senior rank personhood) and innate capacities for non-instrumental 2D rationality, for deep freedom and deep (non-)moral responsibility, and for the achievement of principled authenticity at least partially or to some degree.
Second, as a consequence of my real-metaphysics-based analysis of personhood as real personhood, together with the further fact that real personal identity is an essential fact about each and all the integral parts of the whole single, minimally coherent, intrinsically spatiotemporal, complete, finite, and unique, dominantly free, essentially embodied life of a free agent, it follows that Parfit is also wrong about the criterion of diachronic personal identity—our persistence throughout a whole life over time. According to Minded Animalism, a real person X is one and the same thing as Y if and only if
(i) X is a minded animal and Y is a minded animal,
(ii) X is a a real person in the sense defined in chapter 6, whether a Frankfurtian non-autonomous real person or a Kantian autonomous real person, and so is Y,
(iii) X and Y stand in relations of intrinsically spatiotemporal, essentially embodied, biophenomenological continuity and intrinsically spatiotemporal biological/neurobiological continuity with each other, and
(iv) X has a freedom-dominated life, which is to say that enough of the intrinsically spatiotemporal, essentially embodied, dual biophenomenological and biological/neurobiological events constituting the continuous life of X are also deeply free, flow from her ultimate sourcehood, and up to her, and so does Y.
Thus the Minded Animalism theory of personal identity entails an essentially triadic, three-factor criterion of real personal identity over time, in that it involves a biophenomenological condition, a biological/neurobiological condition, and a freedom-dominance condition that are individually necessary, and individually insufficient, but also jointly sufficient for real personal identity. Otherwise and now more precisely put, according to this three-factor criterion of personal identity, a real person X is one and the same thing as Y if and only if
(i) X is a minded animal and Y is a minded animal,
(ii) X is a real person in the sense defined in chapter 6, whether a Frankfurtian non-autonomous real person or a Kantian autonomous real person, and so is Y,
(iiia) X is intrinsically spatiotemporally, essentially embodied-ly,[i] biophenomenologically continuous with Y, which is to say that X has enough of the same consciousness-based online psychological capacities and enough of the same conscious, intentional, caring, 2D rational contents as Y,
(iiib) X is intrinsically spatiotemporally, essentially embodied-ly, biologically and neurobiologically continuous with Y, which is to say that X has enough of the same necessary and complete biological/neurobiological embodiment as Y, and
(iiic) X has a freedom-dominated life, which is to say that enough of the essentially embodied, dual biophenomenological and biological/neurobiological events constituting the continuous life of X are also deeply free, flow from her ultimate sourcehood, and up to her, and so does Y.
For terminological convenience, I will call this triadic criterion The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity.
It should be particularly noted in this connection that the biophenomenological condition (iiia) fully presupposes the distinction I made in section 6.2 between
(i) pre-reflective, non-self-conscious, or first-order consciousness, and
(ii) self-reflective or self-conscious consciousness.
This is directly relevant to a famous thought-experiment, developed by Bernard Williams, intended to show that I am identical with my body. In a nutshell, Williams argues, quite plausibly, that I would fear being tortured tomorrow even if I underwent a brain-washing and consciousness-replacement process between now and then.[ii] Where he goes wrong, however, is in concluding from this thought-experiment that I am my body. That is simply a non sequitur. More precisely, from the standpoint of Minded Animalism and The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity, there are two critical things to say about this important thought-experiment.
First, it is perfectly possible to have significant moral concern, and even a special selfish concern, for creatures who are in various ways similar to me, even if they are not identical to me. I will come back to this point below in my critical discussion of Parfit’s account of personal identity.
Second, and most importantly in the present context, the rationally intuitive force of Williams’s thought-experiment depends almost entirely on the implicit, unarticulated assumption that I will retain a pre-reflective, non-self-conscious, or first-order conscious biophenomenological continuity with the individual animal that will feel pain when it is tortured tomorrow, even if I do not retain a self-reflective or self-conscious biophenomenological continuity with the individual animal that will feel pain when it is tortured tomorrow. If, for example, I were reliably informed that either my own corpse or a decerebrated (“brainless”) counterpart of my body were going to be tortured tomorrow, then obviously I would not fear that. It is only if the biophenomenological continuity of my essentially embodied consciousness is preserved, at least at the pre-reflective, non-self-conscious, or first-order conscious level, that I would fear my body’s being tortured tomorrow. Even more precisely, however, what I would fear is my own body-based suffering tomorrow.[iii] Of course, I am not intending to imply that either my own corpse or a brainless counterpart of my own body could feel bodily pain—on the contrary, it is obvious that both body-based suffering and also mere bodily pain occur only in minded living organisms.
It should also be particularly noticed in this connection that the third factor in The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity now provides us with a fourth and final argument[iv] for Local Incompatibilism with Respect to Natural Mechanism, as follows.
Argument 4: The Personal Identity Argument for Local Incompatibilism with Respect to Natural Mechanism
(1) If Natural Mechanism is true, then both the existence and the specific character of whatever I’m apparently choosing or doing at any time aren’t up to me. (From argument 1 above in section 4.5, step (3), and argument 2 above in section 4.5, step (3).)
(2) If both the existence and the specific character of whatever I’m apparently choosing or doing at any time aren’t up to me, then none of the essentially embodied, biophenomenologically and biologically/neurobiologically continuous events that are causal-dynamically associated with my life are really my own. (From (1), and the phenomenologically self-evident, or basic authoritative rational-intuitive notions, of deep freedom and deep (non-)moral responsibility, together with The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity.)
(3) So if Natural Mechanism is true, then I lack real personal identity. (From (1), (2), and the freedom-dominance condition on real personal identity.)
(4) Therefore, if Natural Mechanism is true, then I am not a free agent. (From (3) and the ownership condition on deep freedom.)
Here is one last thing to be particularly noticed about The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity, before moving on. The Minded Animalist Criterion fully allows for the fact that I, who am now an actualized real person, can be literally identical with something—for example, my third-trimester conscious fetus—that was not yet an actualized real person. Indeed, on my view, the beginning of a real person’s life, or its “neo-personhood,” is when a given individual S-type animal A manifests the psychological capacity for consciousness and the following counterfactual is also true of A:
If A were to continue the natural course of its neurobiological and psychological development, then A would become an actualized real person.
This conception of neo-personhood has important implications for the morality of abortion and infanticide.[v] But in the present context I want to emphasize its important real-metaphysical implications for the doctrine of real personal identity that I am proposing. These real-metaphysical implications have to do with the nature of the connections between certain special kinds of temporal parts and temporal wholes.
Now “metonymy” is a relation whereby a proper part of a whole stands for the whole of which it is a proper part. According to the doctrine of real personal identity that I am proposing, real personal identity is a special mereological (that is, part-whole) relation of metonymous identity in spacetime, whereby
(i) a proper spatiotemporal part of an immanently-structured unified spatiotemporal whole is strictly identified with the immanently-structured unified spatiotemporal whole of which it is a proper part,
(ii) that immanently-structured unified spatiotemporal whole is strictly identified with itself,
(iii) that immanently-structured unified spatiotemporal whole is also strictly identified with that proper spatiotemporal part, and,
(iv) each and every spatiotemporal part (whether proper or improper—that is, the complete collection of proper parts, bound together by the unifying immanent structure of the whole) of that immanently-structured unified spatiotemporal whole meets conditions (i), (ii), and (iii).
By “classical identity,” I mean the relation of necessary numerical identity, including the properties of symmetry, transitivity, and reflexivity, plus satisfaction of Leibniz’s Laws for all non-modal, non-normative, and more generally non-intensional properties, and intersubstitutivity salve veritate. As I am understanding it, then, the real personal identity relation is symmetrical, transitive, and reflexive, but these familiar formal features of classical identity are applied over the mereological metonymy relation between proper finite spatiotemporal parts and immanently-structured unified finite spatiotemporal wholes. These, in turn, are not numerically (aka “token-token”) identical. Leibniz’s Laws fail for them. They do not share all their non-modal, non-normative, and more generally non-intensional properties properties in common And you cannot freely substitute one for the other, without changing anything. On the contrary: if you tried to intersubstitute proper finite spatiotemporal parts and their immanently-structured unified finite spatiotemporal wholes, then everything would go all pear-shaped. But they are, nevertheless, literally the very same. That makes the real personal identity relation a conservatively non-classical but still modally strict (that is, non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” necessary) identity relation, just like most other accounts of personal identity, but now in a special mereological and metonymous way.
Moreover, the special mereological relation of metonymous identity is not at all unique to personal identity. For example, every successive moment of a single day is literally the very same day, and that very day is metonymously present in each and all of its successive moments. Every successive note of a single piece of music is literally the very same piece of music, and that very piece of music is metonymously present in each and all of its successive notes. Every successive play in a single game is literally the very same game, and that very game is metonymously present in each and all its successive plays. And the same holds, mutatis mutandis, for all proper parts p1, p2, p3…pn of every irreversible, goal-directed spatiotemporal process P. So too, then, every successive stage of my complete, finite, and unique life is literally the very same life, and that very same life is metonymously present in each and all of its successive stages.
People often say, with some truth, and drawing at least implicitly on a famous Kierkegaardian metaphor in Stages on Life’s Way, that a person’s life is a journey. Yet it is much more accurate, although somewhat less catchy, to say that each real person’s life is a holistic, essentially embodied, biophenomenologically, biologically-neurobiologically, and volitionally irreversible, goal-directed spatiotemporal process, continuously divisible into a plurality of distinct spatially situated and temporally irreversible ordered stages, each bearing the personal identity relation to each and all of the other stages and thus to the whole life itself. In other words, according to Minded Animalism, the metaphysics of real personal identity is a mereological, natural-teleological, and process-based dynamicist real metaphysics—as it were, macroscopic Whiteheadianism[vi]—and not primarily a real metaphysics of material substances, although it does also include material substances as derivative or secondary facts about self-organizing complex thermodynamic systems. Each preliminary stage prior to the achievement of actual real personhood marks a proper spatiotemporal part of a complete, finite, unique real personal life that is essentially a unified spatiotemporal process that naturally terminates and is teleologically completed only at death.
Thus the individual living organism, or S-type animal, is, quite literally, identically the same real person from the very beginning of that life when it is a neo-person (for normal humans, roughly 25-32 weeks after conception or fertilization), and also at every distinct stage through the point or threshold at which it reaches actual non-autonomous, lower-level, or Frankfurtian real personhood (for normal humans, roughly one year of age), and beyond, until it later reaches actual autonomous, higher-level, or Kantian real personhood (for normal humans, roughly eighteen years of age). Then, still, quite literally, identically the same real person, it passes again beyond that stage, all the way to its death—which, for normal humans living in Canada or the USA, other things being equal,[vii] amounts to a span of roughly four score, or 80, years.
So, assuming that real personal identity is a mereological relation of metonymous identity between proper temporal parts and immanently-structured unified spatiotemporal wholes that are unique, finite, and complete irreversible, goal-directed life-processes running from births to deaths, then while it is true that real human persons are always and everywhere essentially real human persons—hence a real human person cannot be self-identical with anything other than a real human person—is also a mistake to hold that self-identical real human persons are always and everywhere actualized real human persons. They can also be what I call strongly potential real human persons.[viii] Correspondingly, the difference between the actuality and the strong potentiality, respectively, of actualized real persons and the strongly potential earlier versions of them with which they are strictly identical, is one of those modal and intensional differences to which classical identity and its non-classical conservative extensions are systematically insensitive.
As I pointed out above, before we humans achieve fully-constituted real personhood at approximately one year of age, we are “neo-persons,” where neo-persons are all and only those living organisms that have manifested the capacity for consciousness, and are not yet actualized real persons, but will become actualized real persons in the natural course of their later neurobiological and psychological development, other things being equal. Neo-persons are part-to-whole identical with the actualized persons they later become. Or more precisely, neo-persons are identical with what they will be, namely actualized real persons, provided that certain further ceteris paribus conditions are satisfied. But classical identity and its conservative extensions requires both of its terms to have the same kind of existence.
Formulated in linguistic-semantic terms, my view is that the term “real person” is not a substance sortal term that applies to one and only one substance, where this substance is classically understood to be a unchanging bearer of changing attributes whose nature is determined by intrinsic non-relational properties, and which therefore is able to exist (at least as a matter of logical, conceptual, analytic, or “weak metaphysical” possibility) even if everything else fails to exist—thereby having what David Lewis evocatively called a “lonely existence.” Nor, according to my view, is the term “real person” a phase sortal term that applies to such a substance for only certain parts of its total spacetime career.[ix] Instead, by contrast to both of these, the interpreted noun phrase “real person” is what I will call a process sortal term. More specifically, “real person” applies to each and all of the distinct spatiotemporal proper parts, and also to the unified spatiotemporal whole composed of these, of a far-from-equilibrium, asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, organismic, finegrainedly normatively attuned, conscious, intentional, caring, 2D rational, deeply free and deeply (non-)morally responsible thermodynamic process, insofar as all those spatiotemporal parts are indeed continuously bound together into a single, multi-termed, immanently-structured unfied spatiotemporal whole, and each distinct proper part bears a reflexive, symmetrical, and transitive literally-the-very-same-S relation to each and all parts of that immanently-structured unified spatiotemporal whole, under that sortal S.
In this regard, then, the syntax and semantics of the term “real person” are highly similar to the syntax and semantics of these more familiar and ordinary process sortal count-nouns in English, listed alphabetically:
piece of music
and—perhaps not altogether surprisingly—
The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity can also be smoothly extended to real personal identity over space at a given time—that is, synchronic personal identity—by restricting conditions (iiia), (iiib), and (iiic) to a single time (whether a moment or a duration), which guarantees localized biophenomenological and biological/neurobiological continuity, and localized freedom-dominance. On this reformulation of The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity—with changes underlined—a person X is one and the same thing as Y at that same time (whether a moment or a duration) if and only if
(i) X is a minded animal and Y is a minded animal,
(ii) X is a real person in the sense defined in chapter 6, whether a Frankfurtian non-autonomous real person or a Kantian autonomous real person, and so is Y,
(iiia) X is intrinsically spatiotemporally, essentially embodied-ly, biophenomenologically continuous with Y at that same time, which is to say that X has enough of the same consciousness-based online psychological capacities and enough of the same conscious intentional contents as Y at that same time,
(iiib) X is intrinsically spatiotemporally, essentially embodied-ly, biologically and neurobiologically continuous with Y at that same time, which is to say that X has enough of the same necessary and complete biological/neurobiological embodiment as Y at that same time, and
(iiic) X has a freedom-dominated life at that same time, which is to say that enough of the dual biophenomenological and biological/neurobiological events constituting the continuous life of X at that same time are also deeply free and up to her, and so does Y.
This version of The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity has a direct bearing on cases of dicephalus (or two-brained conjoined) twins, and ensures that they are distinct real persons by virtue of their distinct necessary and complete neurobiological embodiments, despite their sharing all or most of the same vital organs other than their brains.
A closely related but even more complex kind of case of conjoined twins is the real-world case of twins in the Philippines, born in 2002, who originally shared a single “fused” brain, although each possessed a distinct set of all their other vital organs, and were later surgically separated in 2004.[x] For clarity’s sake, I will call twins of this sort janus conjoined twins[xi] in order to distinguish them from dicephalus conjoined twins. Prior to their surgical separation, the Filipino janus twins were said by neurosurgeons to share literally the same consciousness and literally the same thought-processes, and yet also have somewhat distinct personalities—one of them, for example, would spontaneously reach around and smack the other, and appeared to enjoy it, while the other did not appear to enjoy it. The surgical separation was “successful,” in the sense that it produced two fully distinct 2 year-old human individuals and real human persons, Carl and Clarence Aguirre. The application of The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity to this subtly difficult but philosophically quite instructive case has three parts:
(i) prior to surgical separation at the age of 2, the Filipino janus twins jointly constituted a single human individual[xii] and a single real person—call him “Carl/Clarence Aguirre”—with a unique embodied consciousness and a unique complete neurobiological embodiment, but also with a duplicated set of vital organs (analogous to being born with a second set of teeth, or an extra nipple), and also a somewhat dissociated personality, in a way that is similar to neo-commissurotomy cases, including the strange case of the wife-smacking man,[xiii]
(ii) the surgical separation of the Filipino janus twins produced two new real human persons, Carl A. and Clarence A, and
(iii) the surgical separation of the Filipino janus twins therefore corpselessly killed Carl/Clarence Aguirre by destroying the neurobiological basis of his unique embodied consciousness.
In short, the surgical separation of the Filipino twins was an unusual case of toddlericide. As such, there is a further and equally subtly difficult ethical question as to whether it was a morally permissible killing or not. It is unclear to me what the precise moral reasoning of the parents and doctors was, but let us suppose for the purposes of argument that on the basis of good medical evidence, they all reasonably believed that if surgical separation did not occur, then Carl/Clarence would die. Assuming that, then I think it was a case relevantly similar to the permissible Trolley Problem cases—in this case, killing 1 in order to save 2—and that it was therefore morally permissible to kill Carl/Clarence A. in order to create the two new distinct real persons, Carl A. and Clarence A. If, for the same moral reasons, the surgical separation had occurred during the neo-personhood of Carl/Clarence A., significantly prior to the advent of his Frankfurtian actualized real personhood (just for argument’s sake, let us say that the advent of real personhood occurs at roughly at 6 months of age, and the operation occurred at 3 months of age), then it would also have been a morally permissible case of infanticide for essentially the same reasons.[xiv]
One further point in this connection. As I have said, according to The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity, since as far as we now know, fetal consciousness in normal human fetuses begins roughly 25-32 weeks after conception or fertilization, and since a real person’s life begins when she enters the phase of strong potentiality for actualized real personhood, that is, when she first acquires consciousness, then it follows that I am identical with my third trimester fetus, a neo-person. But if, like the unfortunate Terry Schiavo, some time after I have achieved actualized real personhood I suffer a permanent loss of consciousness by the shut-down of most of my brain-functions and also a corresponding transition to a persistent vegetative state, then my real personal life will have ended in my death at precisely the point of shut-down and transition, despite the fact that (most of) my living body still exists. Nevertheless, even if I escape the fate of Terry Schiavo, I might still at some point later in life—by the slings and arrows of accident, disease, or just aging—be reduced to the conscious and cognitive state of an infant, as e.g., in the case of the brilliant philosopher Iris Murdoch during the later stages of her poignant succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease.[xv]
If so, then my real personal life will not have ended in my literal death (as in the Schiavo case), but instead (as in the Murdoch case) it will have ended in what I will call my quasi-death. My neurobiologically continuous successor after my quasi-death will be what, following Jeff McMahan’s lead, I will call a post-person,[xvi] who is identically the same individual S-type animal as I am, although he will not share a real personal identity with me, since he fails the biophenomenological continuity criterion. As we will see below in my discussion of the basic thought-experiment case that Parfit calls Psychological Spectrum, post-persons have essentially the same metaphysical and ethical status as a biological-neurobiological continuant of me who retains some phenomenological continuity with me, but not enough to constitute his being a genuine biophenomenological continuant of me, which thereby triggers the termination of my real personal identity and the end of my life, i.e., which thereby triggers my death. There is so much to say about the morality of the beginning and/or ending of a real person’s life! As Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade facetiously says in a slightly different but closely related connection, somebody ought to write a book about it.[xvii] In any case, the crucial point here is that there is a striking metaphysical and ethical asymmetry between
(i) the beginning of a real person’s life, which extends identically all the way back to one’s neo-personhood and connects continuously with an individual S-type animal that has a strong potentiality for being a real person, and
(ii) the end of a real person’s life, for example, my death, even though there may still exist a biological-neurobiological continuant of me who also bears my proper name and has some minimal biophenomenological continuity with me.
The crucial difference that grounds this metaphysical and ethical asymmetry is the fact that it is true of my neo-person that he will actually be me, if he is allowed to go on living, whereas this is false of my post-person: he will never actually be me, no matter how long he goes on living. It is prospectively rather a sad thought, but still quite true, that my post-person will always be nothing but a “has-been” me.
[ii] B. Williams, “The Self and the Future,” in B. Williams, Problems of the Self (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1973), pp. 46-63.
[iii] It is clear enough, in this context, what “body-based suffering” means. But there is also an important distinction to be made between body-based suffering and mere bodily pain. See Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, ch. 4.
[iv] For the other three arguments, see section 4.5 above.
[vi] Indeed, it is Griffin’s commitment to classical microscopic Whiteheadianism, and to the idea that macroscopic, manifestly real beings, including real human persons, are ultimately “societies” of microscopic, humanly unperceivable Whiteheadian “actual entities,” that is the least plausible commitment of his view and Whitehead’s alike—in fact, it is simply a residual Leibniz-style monadological thesis in noumenal metaphysics. See Griffin, Unsnarling the World-Knot; Rosenberg, A Place for Consciousness; and A.N. Whitehead, Process and Reality (London: Macmillan, 1929).
[vii] –Which means, basically: being middle class or above, and a US citizen or permanent resident, with adequate income to pay for the kind of good health care that, in fact, everyone, no matter what their class or income, immigrant status, race, etc., etc., should be receiving for free, as a requirement of respect for human dignity. But as of September 2017, perhaps the proposed Medicare For All act provides some ground for hope.
[x] See, e.g., M. Spicuzza, “Doctors Separate Twin Boys Despite Finding Brains Were Fused,” New York Times (6 August 2004), available online at URL = <http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/06/nyregion/doctors-separate-twin-boys-despite-finding-brains-were-fused.html>.
[xi] For a fascinating account of another set of janus conjoined twins, born in Canada in 2006, Krista and Tatiana Hogan, see S. Dominus, “Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind?,” New York Times (25 May 2011), available online at URL = <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/magazine/could-conjoined-twins-share-a-mind.html>.
[xii] The crucial difference between (1) totipotent human cells between 14 and 18 days after conception or fertilization, which are not human individuals, and (2) the Filipino janus twins, which do jointly constitute a single human individual, is that the biological structure of totipotent cells is inherently open to fission or fusion during the natural course of its development between 14 and 18 days after conception or fertilization, whereas the organism constituted by the Filipino janus twins is not inherently open to fission or fusion during the natural course of its development, even though a surgical intervention can produce an artificial fission. Many thanks to Kelly Vincent for pressing me on this point.
[xiii] Correspondingly, I also hold that the Canadian janus twins Krista and Tatiana Hogan jointly constitute a single real person. And, in turn, judging by the news reports and interviews, this seems to be the basic moral reason why Krista/Tatiana’s parents decided against surgical separation in 2011. As of Fall 2017, Krista/Tatiana remains unseparated. Assuming that surgical separation never occurs, precisely how the rest of her amazing life plays out in personal, moral, and legal terms, remains to be seen.
[xiv] For an in-depth discussion of the morality of abortion and infanticide, and also of the Trolley Problem, see Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, chs. 3 and 5.
[xvii] “Somebody ought to write a book about people sometime—they’re peculiar,” in “Too Many Have Lived,” in D. Hammett, The Adventures of Sam Spade and Other Stories, available online at URL = < http://www.fadedpage.com/showbook.php?pid=20120735>, p. 11 Or at least, part of a book. For my attempt, see Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, chs. 3 and 6.
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