“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
7.3 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 7.3 Against and Beyond Parfit 2: Four More Reasons
Third, Parfit is wrong about Reductionism about persons. According to Minded Animalism:
(i) it is false that a real person is either identical with or logically supervenient on a particular brain, body, and a series of interrelated physical and mental events, and
(ii) it is also false that a real person is a separately existing entity over and above a particular brain, body, and a series of interrelated physical and mental events.
In sharp contrast to both of these, according to Minded Animalism, a real person is an inherently integrated and non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” necessarily indissoluble living psychophysical totality, an essentially embodied mind or minded animal, whose conscious will has a certain desire-based hierarchical constitution, and who is deeply free, with all that entails. Thus the failures of Reductionism (either downwards identity from the mental to the physical, or upwards logical supervenience of the mental on the physical), non-reductive physicalism (the strong supervenience of the mental on the physical, without reduction), and Dualism (the mutual modal independence of the mental and the physical) about real persons, alike, follow directly from the non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” necessary two-way interdependence of a real person’s fundamental mental and physical properties. And this, in turn, follows directly from The Essential Embodiment Theory of the mind-body relation.[i]
Fourth, Parfit is wrong that personal identity is not always determinate. On the contrary, real personal identity is always (in a real-metaphysical sense, at least, even if not epistemically) determinate, and The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity yields definite and authoritative rationally intuitive results for each one of the central thought-experiment cases he describes. I will now survey these central cases and briefly justify my philosophical rational intuitions about each of them.
At the beginning of my story, the Scanner destroys my brain and body. My blueprint is beamed to Mars, where another machine makes an organic Replica of me. My Replica thinks that he is me, and he seems to remember living my life up to the moment when I pressed the green button. In every other way, both physically and psychologically, we are exactly similar. If he returned to Earth, everyone would think that he was me.[ii]
According to The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity, I clearly do not survive teletransportation, precisely because condition (iiib), that is, the biological/neurobiological continuity condition, is not satisfied. If my actual living body is destroyed, then I am destroyed, even if a replica of me with an exactly similar (but not literally the same) body and exactly similar (but not literally the same) psychology comes out of the teletransporter at the other end. No matter how positively disposed I might be towards my replica and his future career, he simply does not have my own essentially embodied conscious life. I do not survive what the Scanner did to me. I died on Earth, and my replica’s life began on Mars. Since according to my view of the nature of properties, the orientable spatiotemporal properties of things are also intrinsic relational, or immanent structural, properties of those things, then it follows that I have one complete biological/neurobiological embodiment, and that my replica necessarily has a distinct complete biological/neurobiological embodiment. For these reasons, I would never let the original Star Trek’s Scotty beam me up—or down, or sideways for that matter.
I am the prisoner of some callous neuro-surgeon, who intends to disrupt my psychological continuity by tampering with my brain. I shall be conscious while he operates, and in pain. I therefore dread what is coming. The surgeon tells me that, while I am in pain, he will do several things. He will first activate some neurodes that will give me amnesia. I shall suddenly lose all of my memories of my life up to the start of my pain. Does this give me less reason to dread what is coming? Can I assume that, when the surgeon flips this switch, my pain will suddenly cease? Surely not. The pain will so occupy my mind that I would fail even to notice the loss of all these memories. The surgeon next tells me that, while I am still in pain, he will later flip another switch, that will cause me to believe that I am Napoleon, and will give me apparent memories of Napoleon’s life. Can I assume that this will cause my pain to cease? The natural answer is again No. To support this answer, we can again suppose that my pain will prevent me from noticing anything. I shall not notice my coming to believe that I am Napoleon, and my acquiring a whole new set of apparent memories. When the surgeon flips the second switch, there will be no pain at all in what I am conscious of. The changes will be purely dispositional. It will only become true that, if my pain ceased, so that I could think, I would answer the question “Who are you?” with the name ‘Napoleon’. Similarly, if my pain ceased, I would then start to have delusory apparent memories, such as those of reviewing the Imperial Guard, or of weeping with frustration at the catastrophe of 1812. If it is only such changes in my dispositions that will be brought about by the flipping of the second switch, I would have no reason to expect this to cause my pain to cease. The surgeon then tells me that, during my ordeal, he will later flip a third switch, that will change my character so that it becomes just like Napoleon’s. Once again, I have no reason to expect the flipping of the switch to end my pain. It might at most bring some relief, if Napoleon’s character, compared to mine, involved more fortitude.[iii]
The Callous Neuro-surgeon case is obviously designed by Parfit to mimic Williams’s torture-in-the-future case. According to The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity, I clearly do survive the surgery, precisely because condition (iiia), namely, the biophenomenological continuity condition, is satisfied at the level of my pre-reflective or first-order consciousness of experiencing bodily pain, even if it is not satisfied at the level of self-reflective or self-conscious consciousness. Now if my actual inner life, both at the level of pre-reflective or first-order consciousness and also at the level of self-reflective or self-conscious consciousness, were to have been permanently replaced by a pain-free psychic replica of Napoleon’s inner life, then clearly according to The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity (iiia), I would not have survived the operation. But as the case is described in detail by Parfit, I definitely do continue to exist, painfully, in a pre-reflective or first-order conscious way, and therefore as ultimately as a suffering animal, throughout the operation, even despite my permanently acquiring the self-reflective or self-conscious aspects of Napoleon’s life, and even despite my also permanently losing the relevant self-reflective or self-conscious aspects of my own life.
As I noted above, Williams’s claim that I would fear being tortured in the future gains its intuitive force and plausibility entirely from the implicit or unarticulated assumption that I retain at least a pre-reflective, non-self-conscious, or first-order biophenomenological continuity, with my tortured body-to-be. On this construal of the situation, the biological/neurobiological basis of my essentially embodied consciousness continues to play the same functional role of detecting internal or external damage to the animal or living organism that I am now, and I also continue pre-reflectively or first-order consciously to “live” my living animal body, which then tomorrow becomes the vehicle of my body-based suffering.
Callous Neuro-surgeon also raises another very important and more general point about real human personal identity. I have so far assumed that when the neuro-surgeon flips one of the switches, the radical replacement of the memory-contents and character-traits of my conscious life by a replica of Napoleon’s memory-contents and character-traits, is permanent. But what if this is only a temporary radical change of memory-contents and character-traits? And what about temporary insanity—as, for example, in the Ketema Ross case—temporary radical amnesia, temporary massive agnosia, temporary unconsciousness, deep sleep, and so-on?
Here we need to make a distinction between:
(i) terminations of my real personal identity (and, consequently, my literal death, even if it is only a quasi-death in which a post-person succeeds me and continues to exist), and
(ii) hibernations of my real personal identity.
Although it is sometimes true that hibernations are also terminations, this is not always or perhaps even mostly so. A strict entailment from hibernations to terminations would hold if and only if the hibernation of my real personal identity is permanent. But in cases of temporary radical change of memory-contents or character-traits, temporary insanity, and so-on, then my real personal identity is only temporarily latent during that period, although I do not really personally literally die, and indeed I do really personally survive through that period in a dispositional sense. Otherwise put, my real personal identity remains in dispositional existence and resides in the temporarily latent and temporarily offline, but still undestroyed, psychological and volitional capacities that continue to exist by means of a necessary connection with the biological-neurobiological basis, or natural matrix, of my capacity for either pre-reflective/non-self-conscious/first-order or self-reflective/self-conscious consciousness.
This notion of temporary hibernations, temporary offline periods, or what I will call latency phases within one’s real personal life, in turn explains one important way in which I can fail to be deeply (non-)morally responsible for something I only apparently choose or do. This is because the deeply free real person I am is temporarily not available during any latency phase in my ongoing real personal life, due to temporary radical change of memory-contents or character-traits, temporary insanity, one or more of my basic psychological capacities being temporarily offline, and so-on. During a latency phase, I am temporarily absent as a real person, and as we aptly colloquially say, I’m “not myself,” “out of it,” “a zombie,” “zonked,” or perhaps even, in extreme cases, “completely out of my head.” In turn, and in either case, my merely apparent choices and acts, hence my “choices” and “acts” during a latency phase cannot be deeply free. Therefore, I am not deeply (non-)morally responsible for such “choices” and “acts” of my own living organismic body during a latency phase, either. The phenomenology of merely apparent choices and acts, correspondingly, would exemplify non-veridical psychological freedom, not veridical freedom—see section 5.3 above, especially, again, the Ketema Ross case. But I do personally survive latency phases, so it is also colloquially correct to say that it is I who am “out of my head” and “not myself.” Hence it is also at least colloquially correct to attribute scare-quoted “choices” and “actions” to the surviving hibernating and dispositionally deeply free me in a complete, finite, and unique life that exemplifies freedom-dominance. And this is so, even though those particular so-called “choices” and “acts” are not under my control, even though they are subjectively experienced as non-veridical psychological freedom, and even though the real person I am is not deeply morally responsible for them—again, see section 5.3 and the Ketema Ross case,
on the one hand, (i) real personal identity according to The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity,
and, on the other hand, what I will call (ii) real personal manifestation, that is, my real personal identity’s being fully non-latent,
are not necessarily equivalent. Although real personal manifestation strictly entails real personal identity, the converse does not hold: my real personal identity is consistent with the occurrence of latency phases within my real personhood.
As the point about non-veridical psychological freedom already indicates, the phenomenon of latency phases in real personal identity also directly raises a hard problem about those very phases in my essentially embodied biophenomenological and biological/neurobiological life that are not also phases in my life as a free agent. And by a natural extension, it also raises a hard problem about all those external facts in the world that directly affect who I am and what I choose or do, but over which I had and have little or no control whatsoever—the things that merely happen to me. The overarching hard problem here, as Nagel and Williams have correctly pointed out, and as I briefly discussed already in section 6.2 above, is precisely how to deal both metaphysically and morally with the phenomenon of moral luck insofar as it bears directly on my own real personal life, and more specifically how to deal with the brute fact of Problematic Episodes in my life, now fully generalized to the phenomenon of non-moral luck too: that is, taking creative responsibility for things in my life over which I had no control.
Now, I have said that in order to achieve principled authenticity, at least partially or to some some degree, I must not only choose and act wholeheartedly in accordance with my own personal projects, my moral principles, and with some absolute moral principles, but also I must sometimes take deep (non-)moral responsibility for things over which I had no control. This passionately stoic act of taking deep (non-)moral responsibility, in turn, can take the form of what I will call appropriation, which is
either (i) my taking deep (non-)moral responsibility for some phases in my biophenomenological and biological/neurobiological life which were also latency phases in my real personal life in which certain things merely happened to me (I will call this “centrifugal” or inner–>outer appropriation),
or else (ii) my taking deep (non-)moral responsibility for some of the external facts in the world that directly affected who I am, and what I choose and do, but over which I had and have little or no control (I will call this “centripetal” or outer–>inner appropriation),
in order to achieve what I called authentic personal identity. In other words, via centrifugal or centripetal appropriation, I can resolve at least some Problematic Episodes in my life by freely taking deep (non-)moral responsibility for things which merely happened to me or for some external facts over which I had no control, all of which were therefore facts for which I was not deeply (non-)morally responsible at that time.
If and when either centrifugal or centripetal appropriation actually happens, then an authentic personal identity emerges for someone from the basic metaphysical fact of her real personal identity, And then she thereby, at least partially or to some degree, achieves authenticity in an Existentialist sense, but also more specifically in my contemporary Kantian sense—that is, she thereby at least partially or to some degree achieves principled authenticity—and it is a truly sublime normative achievement. In addition to the 19th and 20th century Existentialists and some contemporary Kantians, also the classical Stoics, Augustine, Pascal, Spinoza, and some contemporary New Compatibilists in the tradition of Frankfurt’s theory of free will and personhood[iv] have all made similar points.
In turn, once these points have been philosophically recognized, they are easy enough to write down. But it must be stressed that actually achieving an authentic personal identity, and thereby at least partially or to some degree achieving principled authenticity via centripetal or centrifugal appropriation, is often immensely difficult to manage as a personal and practical matter. For there is poor tragic Sisyphus, painfully pushing that awful rock up the mountain, over and over again throughout all eternity, and yet as Camus puts it in his famous essay’s stunning final paragraph:
I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.[v]
Or, less cosmically, although perhaps equally poignantly, consider the problems faced by Williams’s well-known fictional “lorry driver, who through no fault of his [own], runs over a child,”[vi] and by the real-life Ketema Ross, who beat two old people with a broomstick during his schizophrenic episode. Sisyphus, the unfortunate truck driver, and Ketema Ross must all appropriate some thoroughly nonideal facts about the world and about themselves, in order to achieve an authentic personal identity, at least partially or to some degree. These cases also show that someone’s taking deep moral responsibility for X is perfectly consistent with her full recognition that X has happened through no fault of her own. Deep moral responsibility, therefore, can be supererogatory moral responsibility—freely taking upon oneself certain attitudes, choices, and acts that go creatively and substantially beyond what is merely morally required, in full recognition of the fact that, in that context, they are not morally required. Sisyphus does this by concluding that “all is well,” and continuing to push his rock up that mountain forever. And perhaps the unfortunate truck driver does this by trying to help the family of the child he has accidently and blamelessly killed, and by subsequently creatively and substantially changing his life in some other ways—perhaps he gives a substantial part of his income to UNICEF, or becomes a part-time worker at a safe house/shelter for homeless mothers and children. Or perhaps, like the dying civil servant Kanji Watanabe in Akira Kurosawa’s iconically Existentialist 1952 film Ikiru, he devotes himself entirely to creating a children’s playground on the site of a fetid swamp. And in the real world, Ketema Ross has been trying to change his life creatively and substantially since his release from confinement, by legally advocating on behalf of other people who have committed crimes “by reason of insanity.”
At first, for most of us, it is cognitively difficult to imagine how these sorts of supererogatory acts of taking-deep-moral-responsibility could ever be really and truly performed by real-world people. But in fact, as Larissa MacFarquhar’s Strangers Drowning vividly demonstrates, some real-world people really and truly choose and do these things. Moreover, I think that the cognitive failure of imagination that most of us experience here is in fact nothing but a cognitive illusion, induced by a wicked one-two punch combination of
(i) the false presupposition that all happiness is exclusively shallow happiness, namely pleasure or preference-satisfaction via the satisfaction of first-order desires, together with
(ii) the Enlightenment-induced Hobbesian cognitive myth of universal human egoism and mutual antagonism.
But when real-world altruists take supererogatory deep moral responsibility for awful things over which they had and have little or no control, then to that extent they have a good will, and they subjectively experience the deep happiness, or “negative satisfaction in one’s existence, in which one is conscious of needing nothing,” that Kant calls “self-fulfillment” or Selbstzufriedenheit (see section 3.4 above). Now some people actually do choose and act in this way. And if they actually do, then some real human persons really can. Moreover, every Kantian real human person ought to choose and act in this way, at least sometimes. Therefore you and I really can and ought to, too.
This deep happiness defies comprehension in terms of Humean instrumental reasons, and it requires a Kierkegaardian leap of non-instrumental passionate Kantian stoical rational moral faith. Being able to say that “all is well” in this sense is categorically not the same as an ordinary “feeling good about things” or an ordinary “feeling good about yourself.” On the contrary, it is a wholehearted, activist Kantian version of what the classical Stoics call ataraxia, what the Buddhists call nirvana, or what Nietzsche calls amor fati. It is a state of mind in which The Dear Self finally “shrinks to an extensionless point,” and the whole wide world, especially including all the other real persons in The Realm of Ends, and including all the things that ought to be chosen and done with them and for them, appears in its place. In such a state of mind, you do not merely passively accept things exactly as they are: instead, you actively affirm or, in effect, actively love things exactly as they are, and thereby change your life around them—as per Wallace Stevens’s man with the blue guitar:
The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.
They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”
The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.”
And they said then, “But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,
A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are.”[vii]
In a seeming paradox, things as they are are changed upon the blue guitar. Or in Wittgenstein’s terminology, the world is all that is the case, and all the facts can stay exactly the same, yet the world of the happy person is a different world from that of the unhappy person. In other words, this sublime emotional phenomenology is nothing more and nothing less than the subjective experience of an autonomous, higher-level, or Kantian real person’s own principled authenticity in action, and indeed partially or to some degree attained.
[Callous Neuro-surgeon is a] single case in which, after a few changes, there will be psychological continuity. I shall discuss a spectrum, or range of cases, each of which is very similar to its neighbours. These cases involve all of the possible degrees of psychological connectedness.… In the case at the far end, the surgeon would cause very many switches to be simultaneously flipped. This would cause there to be no psychological connections between me and the resulting person. This person would be wholly like Napoleon. In the cases at the near end, the surgeon would cause to be flipped only a few switches. If he flipped the first switch, this would merely cause me to lose a few memories, and to have a few apparent memories that fit the life of Napoleon. If he flipped the first two switches, I would merely lose a few more memories, and have a few more of these new apparent memories. Only if he flipped all of the switches would I lose all my memories, and have a complete set of Napoleonic delusions.[viii]
According to The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity, I clearly do survive whenever the “enough” conditions in the biophenomenological continuity condition (iiia) and the biological/neurobiological contintuity condition (iiib) are both satisfied. And clearly I do not survive whenever either of the “enough” conditions in The Minded Animalist Criterion (iiia) or particular members of some particular pair of cases in the psychological spectrum, I myself go out of existence forever and pseudo-Napoleon begins. In this connection, Parfit remarks that
[i]t is hard to believe both that I would survive in one of these cases, and that, in the next case, I would cease to exist. Whether I continue to exist cannot be plausibly thought to depend on whether I would lose just a few more memories, and have a few more delusory memories, and have my character changed in some small way.[ix]
On the contrary, however, as I reach and pass the precise threshold between satisfying The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity (iiia) and then not satisfying it, then I simply go out of existence forever.
We can look at it this way. Suppose that I am fainting. As I faint, I also necessarily pass through some series of definite degrees between consciousness and unconsciousness. So at some particular point between the particular members of some particular pair of cases in the biophenomenological spectrum of degrees of intensity of consciousness, I pass some precise threshold and suddenly become unconscious—just as my laptop computer suddenly goes into hibernation mode after a few minutes of not being used—and my occurrent consciousness thereby suddenly disappears. To be sure, the continuity of my consciousness is guaranteed by the fact that I remain dispositionally conscious, due to the continued existence of the neurobiological basis, or natural matrix, of my conscious states. But apart from that, how is this natural phenomenon of what Kant rather inelegantly called “elanguescence” (CPR B414) relevantly different from crossing a precise psychic threshold between being me and becoming pseudo-Napoleon, in the variant on Callous Neuro-surgeon in which both my pre-reflective/first-order consciousness and also my self-reflective/self-conscious consciousness are wiped clean and replaced with a pain-free Napoleonic biophenomenology?
The correct answer is that it is not relevantly different. Precisely somewhere or another along the spectrum of cases, the biophenomenological foundation of my life breaks up like a dropped cell-phone call, or a dropped Skype connection, my life thereby suddenly disappears forever, and pain-free pseudo-Napoleon’s life begins. Presumably—assuming that I am fortunate enough and wholehearted enough to have a natural, timely death and not an accidental, untimely one[x]—then my own natural death will be just like that, only without any psychic successor, and without any biological-neurobiological continuant.
But as I noted above, even for my natural, non-accidental death there is still also the prospectively sad-seeming possibility that, like the unfortunate Iris Murdoch, my real personal life will literally end in my quasi-death. And in turn this would be followed by a post-personal psychic successor who shares some minimal degree of biophenomenological continuity with me, and is also a post-personal biological/neurobiological continuant who bears my proper name, but who himself is not actually me and will never actually be me, and instead is nothing but a has-been-me. It therefore seems undeniably true that at some particular point, Iris Murdoch literally quasi-died, such that a psychological continuant and her own body both lived on as jointly constituting her post-person. By the same token, Parfit’s judgment about Psychological Spectrum is refuted, and Minded Animalism is further confirmed.
Suppose … that I am one of a pair of identical twins, and that both my body and my twin’s brain have been fatally injured. Because of advances in neuro-surgery, it is not inevitable that these injuries will cause us both to die. We have between us one healthy brain and one healthy body. Surgeons can put these together…. Let us suppose … that the surgeons are able to connect my brain to the nerves in my twin’s body. The resulting person would have no paralysis, and would be completely healthy. Who would his person be? This is not a difficult question…. If all my brain continues to exist and to be the brain of one living person, who is psychologically continuous with me, I continue to exist.[xi]
According to The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity (iiib), namely, the biological-neurobiological continuity condition, I clearly do not survive the transplantation of my brain into my twin’s body. This is because, according to The Essential Embodiment Theory and Minded Animalism, an essentially embodied mind is necessarily and completely biologically and neurobiologically embodied, that is, it must be embodied not only in the higher brain (cerebrum) and brain stem (cerebellum) of the living animal, but also in its nervous system, endocrine system, immune system, and cardiovascular system, right out to the skin. As complete, this biological-neurobiological embodiment can never be transplanted, since there is nothing left to transplant it into, although, to be sure, it could, thought-experimentally, be fully replicated, as in Simple Teletransportation. But replication in that teletransporting sense would, again, entail that I do not survive.
Notice, however, that The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity (iiib) does not imply that no changes can be made to someone’s body without killing that person. As long as there is enough of the same complete biological-neurobiological embodiment, then my real personal identity can still be preserved under various changes. Here the phrase “enough of the same complete neurobiological embodiment” can be interpreted to mean “whatever constitutes the same total set of vital biological-neurobiological bodily systems,” where vital bodily systems are just those systems whose permanent shut-down would normally cause the death of the entire organism. So, any bodily change that causally preserves the constitutive operations of all the vital bodily systems—up to and including various amputations, organ replacements, and certain kinds of permanent brain damage—also permits the continued survival of the person who is necessarily and completely neurobiologically embodied by the total set of such systems. Thus, like the tragically unfortunate protagonist of Dalton Trumbo’s starkly powerful 1939 anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun, or like the somewhat less tragically unfortunate protagonist of Paul Voerhaven’s weirdly compelling 1987 dystopian science fiction film, Robocop, the first in the Robocop series, at least in principle, I could really personally survive losing a limb, going blind, becoming deaf, losing my sense of smell, taste, or touch, the removal of one of my kidneys, a kidney transplant, a liver transplant, a heart transplant, commissurotomy, lobotomy, and various sorts of significant brain damage up to and including the destruction of one of my brain hemispheres, as long as it were replaced by something that causally preserved the integrity of the constitutive operations of my vital systems. Hence, at least in principle, I could also, as the same real human person, survive a hemispherectomy in that special causal preservationist sense.
This raises a crucial point. Gradual replacement of my body parts over time is allowed under The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity (iiib), provided that the continuity of all my vital bodily systems, as vital bodily systems, is ensured. Thus a real human person’s necessary and complete biological/neurobiological embodiment is embodiment in a unified set of self-organizing complex thermodynamic living organismic systems that are severally constituted by their specific causal powers and goal-directed operations, and also by their specific roles in a real person’s overall biological/neurobiological constitution. Necessary and complete biological/neurobiological embodiment is, therefore, not a merely compositional embodiment in a certain aggregate of parts made out of a certain kind of stuff. Hence classical Theseus’s-ship type examples—whereby there is a gradual and eventually complete proper-part-by-proper-part replacement of something’s compositional stuff, although the basic causal powers of each of those proper parts are preserved under each replacement—as applied to my living organismic body, are not only really possible, but also are not counterexamples to my biological/neurobiological continuity under The Minded Animalism Criterion (iiib). In point of fact, I have already survived the gradual natural organismic modification and compositional replacement of all of my body parts, and the frequent replacement of my skin, as have you. But none of us could survive the permanent disruption or shut-down of our higher or lower brain, nervous system, endocrine system, immune system, or cardiovascular system, or indeed the permanent destruction (without an equivalent causal-functional replacement) of our skin—which we should therefore think of as an epidermal self-organizing, organismic thermodynamic sub-system, the outer membrane of our necessary and complete biological-neurobiological embodiment, and not as a mere static compositional envelope or “bag of bones.”
Thus Brain Transplant vividly brings out how The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity’s requiring both biophenomenological and biological-neurobiological continuity sets it importantly apart from the classical approaches to personal identity. As I noted in section 6.1, these have almost universally fallen into one of two opposed categories: either the Psychological Approach, which says that some psychological relation is necessary and sufficient for diachronic personal identity, or the Somatic Approach, which says that on the contrary no psychological relation is necessary and sufficient for our persistence and that instead some fundamentally physical relation is necessary and sufficient. In this connection, Olson aptly notes the following:
Here is a test case. Imagine that your cerebrum—the upper brain thought to be chiefly responsible for your mental features—is transplanted into my head. Two beings result: the person who ends up with your cerebrum and your mental features, and the empty-headed being left behind, which may still be alive but will have no mental features. If you would be the one who gets your cerebrum, that is presumably because some relation involving psychology suffices for you to persist, as the Psychological Approach says. If you would be the empty-headed vegetable, your identity consists in something non-psychological, as the Somatic Approach has it.[xii]
Now according to The Minded Animalism Criterion, given this test case, clearly you are neither the one who gets the cerebrum nor the empty-headed vegetable. This because the empty-headed vegetable fails The Minded Animalism Criterion (iiia), namely, the biophenomenological condition, while the one who gets the cerebrum fails The Minded Animalism Criterion (iiib), namely, the biological-neurobiological continuity condition. In short, according to The Minded Animalism Criterion, clearly you die on either option of the test case, and it therefore follows that The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity is importantly distinct from each of the two classical approaches. This distinctness thereby holds even quite apart from The Minded Animalism Criterion’s crucially important supplementary inclusion of The Minded Animalism Criterion (iiib), namely, the freedom-dominance condition, which itself, curiously enough, is completely overlooked by both of the classical approaches.
Or perhaps not so very curiously after all. This is because it does certainly seem as though the Psychological criterion as Parfit construes it, and also the Somatic criterion as Olson construes it, are both, in effect, intentionally designed so as to conform metaphysically to the doctrine of Compatibilism plus Soft Determinism. And this doctrine is clearly falsified by each of the four arguments for Local Incompatibilism with Respect to Natural Mechanism (see section 4.5 above and also Argument 4 earlier in the present section).
I assume that I am one of three identical triplets…. My body is fatally injured, as are the brains of my two brothers. My brain is divided, and each half is successfully transplanted into the body of one of my brothers. Each of the resulting people believes that he is me, seems to remember living my life, has my character, and is every other way psychologically continuous with me. And he has a body that is very like mine.[xiii]
According to The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity condition (iiib), namely, the biological-neurobiological continuity condition, just as in the case of the whole brain transplant, again clearly I do not survive either of the hemispheric transplants. The consciousness of a real human person must be biologically-neurobiologically embodied in all of its vital bodily systems; the brain system is one of those vital bodily systems; therefore transplanting either my left brain hemisphere or my right brain hemisphere into some other body cannot suffice for my biological/neurobiological continuity.
To be sure, if we concede to Parfit that this division case is medically possible, then two different people exist after the accident and transplants—and I will call them, following Parfit’s lead, “Lefty” and “Righty.” But neither Lefty nor Righty is me, despite their having psychologies that replicate mine, and despite their having bodies that are very similar to mine. Lefty and Righty are new people. The accident and transplant brought about their creation. At best, they are replicas of me.
One can think of it this way. Xerox copies or scanned .pdfs of some orginal, real-world hard copy document are not the same as the original document. Instead they are just newly created replicas of the original document. The original document is what it is, and not another thing. Often the difference between the original and the several replicas does not matter very much. But sometimes the original vs. replica difference does matter quite a lot. For example, not altogether unreasonably, the US government goes to considerable expense and trouble to preserve the original US Constitution. The same thing goes, with appropriate changes made for differences in context, for art galleries and most original works of art. So by analogy, Lefty and Righty are just replicas of my life. Now replicas of my life, like Lefty and Righty, are correspondingly not the owners of my original life, which is the sole possession of its author, namely, me.
It can be easily conceded by me that as an existential Kantian ethicist, and also as a real human person, a crooked timber, and “human, all too human,” who would quite naturally have some selfish, egoistic, hedonistic, or consequentialist interest in replicas of his own biophenomenology and biology-neurobiology, I would no doubt have a non-trivial degree of special concern for Lefty and Righty and for their careers. Presumably I would wish them all the best, and also help them if I could by making provisions for them in my will, and so-on. Possibly, if, counterfactually, I were an exceptionally altrustic person, or perhaps, if, again counterfactually, I were a serious classical act-Utilitarian, then I might well be prepared to lay down my life for them right now and thereby bring Lefty and Righty into existence. And possibly, thinking now again of The Trolley Problem, it might also be morally permissible in some special circumstances for someone else to kill me in order to bring Lefty and Right into existence. But just because I naturally have some non-trivial degree of special concern for my replicas, and just because I might freely (or be permissibly forced to) lay down my life for them, obviously it would not follow that either of them really is me.
From an existential Kantian ethical point of view, I can be deeply interested in and deeply care for other rational animals or real persons (whether via moral respect or merely via special concern) even though they are not in any substantive sense personally identical to me. It is true that, on my contemporary Kantian approach to the real metaphysics of real personhood, we all share the same basic innately specified online psychological and moral capacities. That is what guarantees our belonging to the same universal intersubjective community of real persons under constraints of mutual equal consideration—The Realm of Ends.[xiv] But even though we must all live together in this morally substantive sense, nevertheless we do not thereby share literally the same life. In order to do that, we would have to share literally the same living animal body. But given The One-Living-Body-Per-One-Real-Person-and-One-Real-Person-Per-One-Living-Body Thesis (see section 6.2), that is non-logically, essentially non-conceptually, synthetic a priori, or “strongly metaphysically” impossible.
Fifth, Parfit is wrong that what fundamentally needs to be explained about the fact of personal identity are:
(i) the unity of consciousness at a time, and
(ii) the unity of a whole conscious life that also includes the unity of consciousness at any time as a necessary condition.
This is wrong in two different ways.
First, it is false that the unity of consciousness at a time, or the synchronic unity of consciousness, is a necessary condition of real personal identity. As Parfit correctly notes, neo-commissurotomy cases are logically, conceptually, analytically consistent, or “weakly metaphysically” (although Parfit does not use this particular label, which belongs to the philosophical jargon of the emerging Analytic metaphysics tradition in the 1980s and 1990s) consistent with the division or fission of consciousness into two branching psychological streams that are replicas of my conscious life, each of which depends on a single left or right brain hemisphere. But this does not entail that I would survive such a division. Indeed, according to The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity, such a division would clearly kill me. Moreover, Parfit neglects to note something important that I mentioned above, namely, that
(i) actual neo-commissurotomy patients, apart from the visual field experiments mentioned, are otherwise behaviorally identical with normal-brained patients, and
(ii) people with agenesis of the corpus callosum perform at the same level as normal-brained people on the visual field experiments.
In addition, the common experimental technique of “masking” in experimental psychology shows that concentration on one source of visual information, followed in rapid succession by another, tends to occlude conscious awareness of the second source, even though the second one explains definite “priming” results in later cognitive tasks. And it is a commonplace that almost everyone, to some extent, is capable of divided attention with self-conscious focus on only one of several effectively performed tasks (aka “multi-tasking”)—for example, skillfully driving on the interstate highway and also drinking hot coffee without spilling it, while at the same time thinking intensely about philosophy.
So the bottom line here is that the universality and necessity of the tripartite single-focus/multi-focal/non-focal structure of consciousness,[xv] shows us that synchronic unity is not a necessary condition of consciousness. And by implication, in light of The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity’s condition (iiia), namely, the biophenomenological continuity condition, the synchronic unity of consciousness is not a necessary condition of diachronic personal identity either. Subjective minimal coherence that is poised for free agency, and not unity, is the relevant necessary feature of consciousness.
Second, it is false that the unity of a real person’s conscious life, whether synchronic or diachronic, is what fundamentally needs to be explained in an explanation of real personal identity. For example, some or perhaps even many people self-consciously experience their past lives as a series of definite phases or stages, each one of which is decisively put behind them as they move on to the next thing—for example, as Scarlett O’Hara (aka Vivien Leigh) famously remarks in the classic 1939 Hollywood epic melodrama directed by Victor Fleming, Gone with the Wind: “tomorrow is another day.”
I am not saying that Scarlett O’Hara (or Vivien Leigh, for that matter) is (or was) a paragon of moral virtue, worthy of universal imitation. But Scarlett O’Hara does instantiate a genuine personality-type; and, frankly, there is also a certain amount of clear-sighted good moral-metaphysical common sense in what she says. For such people, it is not that they actually disown or forget their earlier phases or stages; it is rather just that they self-consciously experience themselves as significantly detached from, distanced from, and “beyond” those stages. You live, you make some choices and you do some things, and (as Nietzsche famously remarked) if they do not actually kill you, then you learn something from them that strengthens you, and afterwards you move on to the next thing. Indeed, an inability to move on to the next thing in this sense is the regrettable psychopathological phenomenon of nostalgia—as brilliantly explored, for example, in two entirely non-melodramatic Russian films directed by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 and 1983, Solaris and Nostalghia. But, in any case, the crucial point here is that even a fully Scarlett O’Hara-esque way of self-consciously experiencing one’s own life over time does not undermine one’s diachronic personal identity.
In one respect, the Scarlett O’Hara example is slightly misleading, since of course it is really possible that someone might really and truly have a diachronic unity of consciousness and at the same time also adopt an O’Hara-esque attitude towards her own past life. So the kind of case I am conceiving of is one in which a real person has an O’Hara-esque self-conscious experience of her own past life, throughout that entire life and not merely an O’Hara-esque attitude, now, towards her own past life. And that, I think, is really possible: more specifically, it seems to me really possible that a single real personal life possessing subjective minimal coherence poised for free agency can exist through a divided consciousness over time is just as real as the possibility that a single real personal life possessing subjective minimal coherence poised for free agency can exist through a divided consciousness at a time. All it would require, in effect, is getting up each and every morning, and wholeheartedly re-affirming to oneself: “today is another day.”
Therefore, a diachronic unity of consciousness is not a necessary feature of a diachronic real personal identity, and not what fundamentally needs to be explained in an explanation of real personal identity. What is relevantly necessary to diachronic real personal identity is not its narrative unity, but instead the pre-reflectively conscious awareness of one’s being, in addition to whatever else one might be, an ongoing, subjectively minimally coherent, freedom-dominated biological-neurobiological and personal project that is, at least as far as our deepest aspirations are concerned, autonomously and wholeheartedly asymmetrically directed towards the future and towards one’s own death, under the inherent guidance of personal projects and absolute moral principles. Or again, as Sartre puts it, the real person “exists only to the extent that he fulfills himself … [and] is nothing other than the ensemble of his acts, nothing other than his life.”
So as against either the synchronic or the diachronic unity of consciousness, what fundamentally needs to be explained in the explanation of real personal identity is a synchronically and diachronically unique, intrinsically spatiotemporal, spatially oriented and thermodynamically irreversible, living organismic, freedom-dominated, aspirationally autonomous and wholehearted, conscious, intentional, caring subject in its necessary and complete biological-neurobiological embodiment. In view of my metaphysical analysis of the tripartite structure of free agency in chapter 5 above, the same point can be restated now even more succinctly. What fundamentally needs to be explained in the explanation of real personal identity is how I am nothing more and nothing less than each and all of the stages of my whole essentially embodied, biological-neurobiological life-process from birth to death, insofar as it is is immanently structured by my naturally growing and evolving innately specified capacities for veridical psychological freedom, deep freedom and deep (non-)moral responsibility, and principled authenticity.
Sixth and finally, Parfit is wrong that (real) personal identity is not what matters. In this connection, he says:
[I]t may help to state, in advance, what I believe [My Division] to show. It provides a further argument against the view that we are separately existing entities. But the main conclusion to be drawn is that personal identity is not what matters.[xvi]
Minded Animalism is of course perfectly in line with Parfit’s thesis that persons are not separately existing entities. According to The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity, real persons are essentially embodied minds, or minded animals, of a certain special kind—namely, the class of 2D rational minded animals—and cannot be separated from their necessary and complete biological-neurobiological embodiment. But obviously it does not follow from this either that we are nothing but our bodies or that our real personal identity is not what matters.
On the contrary, real personal identity is precisely what matters, just as we always thought before we read Parfit, in view of the triadic or three-factor approach to real personal identity that is captured by The Minded Animalism Criterion of Personal Identity, along with the thesis that real personal identity is a special mereological relation of metonymous identity between proper spatiotemporal parts and unified spatiotemporal wholes. Insofar as one holds that real persons are essentially embodied minds and free agents, who are strictly identical with each and all the stages of their unique, finite, and complete lives, then at one and the same time one can also be a serious non-reductionist about real persons and about the absolute intrinsic value of their persistence, and also hold that real persons are neither separately existing entities nor strongly supervenient entities—and thus also be a serious non-dualist and non-non-reductive physicalist about real persons.
Nevertheless, as I mentioned above, it is easily conceivable that I might have a special egoistic concern, or even moral respect, for people who are not identical to me, but in fact are replicas of me, as in Simple Teletransportation, Brain Transplant, and My Division. Indeed, it is also easily conceivable that I might have a special egoistic concern, or even moral respect, for a successor person who has merely most of the same living body as mine, like pseudo-Napoleon in Psychological Spectrum, or more intimately and poignantly, like my eponymous post-person in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. That is, it is easily conceivable that I might come to feel about any of my replicas, or my post-person, as I already do about the people I love, my close friends, or my favorite students. In these cases, various psychological or physical similarities and other relations, whether genetic or socially produced, or even entirely accidental, are of considerable and even passionate importance to me, whether instrumentally or non-instrumentally, and thus the same sort of special egoistic concern or moral respect might well be extended to my replicas or to my post-person.
I conclude that we should reject Parfit’s theory of personhood and personal identity, and accept Minded Animalism instead, along with The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity. Parfit’s theory of reasons and persons is undoubtedly brilliant. But if Minded Animalism is correct, then Wollheim’s The Thread of Life, published the very same year, 1984, although largely philosophically overshadowed by the success of Parfit’s book, and largely neglected since then, was a much deeper and more brilliant book than Reasons and Persons. Such are the slings and arrows of faddism in professional academic philosophy. Moreover, I also conclude that if The Minded Animalism theory of personhood and personal identity in chapters 6 and 7 is conjoined with the Natural Libertarianism theory of free agency in chapters 1 to 5, then we now have before us the basic elements of an intelligible, defensible, and unified real metaphysics of rational human free agency, real human personhood, and real human personal identity. More specifically, the fundamental connections between Minded Animalism and Natural Libertarianism are these: insofar as the basic conditions on our Kantian/Kierkegaardian deep freedom and our Kantian/Frankfurtian practical agency are satisfied, so too the basic conditions on our identity as real persons are satisfied, and conversely.
The central claim of this book, as I pointed out in section 1.3, is that the full metaphysical and normative power of a Kantian theory of human free will, practical agency, and persons, with deep and radical ethical and political implications downstream, can be captured by a correct understanding of how biological life in general, and the lives of human minded animals in particular, relate to the rest of physical nature. Or to capsulize the whole book, in ten words:
You have freedom-in-life, and you are your life.
—Now go and do something with them.
[xii] E. Olson, “Personal Identity,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition), E.N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/identity-personal/>.
[xiv] In Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism, I distinguish between (i) The Realm of Ends per se, which is an ideal moral community containing all actual or possible finite or real persons, whether human or non-human, and (ii) The Real Realm of Ends, which is an actual-world-indexed and (as far as we know) Earth-bound, sociocultural and political, ethical community consisting of all and only real human persons, aka humanity.
[xv] See Hanna and Maiese, Embodied Minds in Action, chs. 1-2.
[xvi] Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 255.
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