What Are We?: A Study in Personal Ontology by Eric T. Olson

By Eric T. Olson

From the time of Locke, discussions of private identification have usually neglected the query of our easy metaphysical nature: no matter if we human individuals are organic organisms, spatial or temporal elements of organisms, bundles of perceptions, or what have you ever. the results of this overlook has been centuries of untamed proposals and clashing intuitions. What Are We? is the 1st basic examine of this significant query. It beings via explaining what the query ability and the way it differs from others, corresponding to questions of non-public id and the mind-body challenge. It then examines in a few intensity the most attainable money owed of our metaphysical nature, detailing either their theoretical virtues and the usually grave problems they face. The publication doesn't recommend any specific account of what we're, yet argues that the problem activates extra basic matters within the ontology of fabric issues. If composition is universal--if any fabric issues no matter what make up anything bigger--then we're temporal components of organisms. If issues by no means compose whatever greater, in order that there are just mereological simples, then we too are simples--perhaps the immaterial components of Descartes--or else we don't exist in any respect (a view Olson takes very seriously). The intermediate view that a few issues compose larger issues and others don't leads virtually necessarily to the belief that we're organisms. which will detect what we're via figuring out whilst composition happens.

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Shoemaker believes that human organisms typically ‘‘constitute’’ such things. It is important to see just how surprising this view is. Suppose you and I are physically just like human animals. ) Then the view implies that beings with the same physical properties and surroundings can differ radically in their mental properties. In fact this happens regularly: every human person coincides with an animal physically indistinguishable from her—a perfect physical duplicate— that has no mental properties whatever.

A being that says ‘I’ in normal circumstances refers thereby to the person who says it. This too is supposed to be a contingent fact about how we use language. 37 38 what are we ? These two claims, together with the cohabitation view, yield the startling conclusion that first-person utterances (and presumably firstperson thoughts as well) do not always refer to the beings that utter or think them. In particular, when your animal body says ‘I’, it doesn’t refer to itself, as it isn’t a person. But presumably you have F; so you are a person, and when you say or think ‘I’, you do refer to yourself.

Animalism implies that we have the metaphysical nature of human animals; but what that nature amounts to is a further question (see below). My own view, and that of most philosophers, animalists or not, is that animals are animals essentially; but few arguments for or against our being animals turn on this claim. 2 What Is an Animal? Saying that we are animals will tell us little about what we are unless we have some idea of what sort of thing an animal is. I mean by ‘animal’ what biologists mean by it: animals are biological organisms, along with plants, bacteria, protists, and fungi.

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