PERSONS, ANIMALS, AND BODIES
William S. Larkin
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
The philosophical problem of personal identity starts with something like Descartes’ famous question—“But what then am I?”—construed as an inquiry into the most fundamental nature of creatures like us. Let us stipulate that creatures like us are most fundamentally persons. That is, ‘person’ is the name of our primary kind, meaning that creatures like us cannot persist without being persons. The problem of personal identity is to give an account of the persistence conditions of persons—the conditions under which creatures like us continue to exist.
Everyone remembers that Descartes ultimately answers his famous question by saying that he is “a thing which thinks.” But earlier, Descartes stopped to “consider the thoughts which of themselves spring up in my mind…when I apply myself to the consideration of my being”; and he answered,
In the first place, then, I considered myself as having…all that system of members composed of bones and flesh as seen in a corpse which I designated by the name of body. In addition to this I considered that I was nourished, that I walked…and I referred all these actions to a soul. (Descartes, 150-151)
So before declaring that he was most fundamentally a thinking thing, Descartes considered two other possibilities: that he is most fundamentally a bodily thing and that he is most fundamentally a thing with a soul or anima, i.e., an animal. The problem of personal identity as I will address it here is the problem of determining which of the three options considered by Descartes is the most intuitively satisfying. The question I am asking is whether creatures like us are most fundamentally thinking things, living things, or bodily things; and I take it that the best available way of answering that question is by explicating the broadest and most coherent idea we have of ourselves and determining which of the three approaches best accommodates that idea.
The ultimate answer to his famous question that Descartes endorses, that he is a thinking thing, is essentially the view that persons continue to exist just in case their consciousness, thoughts, memories, etc. continue to exist. Persons go where their cognitive contents and capacities go. This psychological approach to personal identity is the considered view of most people, including most materialist philosophers. It is supported by strong intuitions about cases that we very naturally think of as ‘body switching’ cases. An important contemporary proponent of such a materialist psychological account of persons is Lynn Baker, who defends that view in Persons and Bodies: A Constitution Approach.
The penultimate answer considered by Descartes, that he was a thing with properties that he ‘refers to the soul’, is essentially the view that persons are most fundamentally animals that continue to exist just in case their metabolism, circulation, digestion, etc. continue to exist. Persons go where their life-supporting functions go. Such a biological approach to personal identity has been recently and influentially defended by Eric Olson in his Human Animal: Personal Identity without Psychology. Olson uses a couple of simple and effective arguments to uncover clear intuitions that conflict with the psychological account and favor the view that persons are most fundamentally living things.
The answer that first sprang to Descartes’ mind, that he was a thing composed of flesh and bones like a corpse, is essentially the view that persons are most fundamentally corporeal things that continue to exist just in case their material bodies continue to exist. Persons go where their most basic material properties go. I aim to defend this bodily approach to personal identity by (a) defending Olson’s arguments against the psychological approach, but then (b) showing that if those arguments work against the psychological in favor of the biological approach, then analogous arguments are equally effectively against the biological in favor of the bodily approach. In the first instance I aim to reveal Olson’s biological approach to personal identity as unstable, showing that either the psychological approach is preferable or the bodily approach is. But I also hope to show that the balance of our clearest and strongest intuitions ultimately favor the bodily view that creatures like us continue to exist so long as our bodies do, regardless of whether those bodies are conscious or alive.
1. Cerebral Transplants, Permanent Vegetative States, and Fetuses
We are interested here in the question of what a person is—what, most fundamentally, creatures like us are. To get at this, we are going to consider various hypothetical cases or thought experiments. We will consider somewhat extraordinary situations and ask whether a particular person survives in those situations. The point here is not to determine what we should say about the rather extreme circumstances we will consider, but to determine what we in fact would be most naturally inclined to say about them. So responding to a question like where is person so and so in such and such a situation by saying that it depends on what we mean by ‘person’ is to miss the point of the exercise. The point is to determine which account fits our common sense notion of persons best—which account is most intuitively satisfying. The intuitions revealed by our natural responses to extraordinary cases will tell us something about what we mean by our ordinary uses of ‘person’ and about our ordinary understanding of human nature.
Let us begin our investigation with a story designed to help us distinguish the psychological, biological, and bodily views of personal identity.
1a. The Cerebral Transplant Case
Joe the billionaire prince has a degenerative disease that is slowly destroying his body. Fortunately, his princely fortune is more than sufficient to secure the best available scientists and doctors. These specialists tell Joe that they can transfer his cerebrum into Chuck the erstwhile cobbler’s perfectly healthy body. Chuck is presently in a permanent vegetative state—he has a relatively healthy body and adequate lower brain functioning, but due to an irreparably damaged cerebrum he has no higher brain functioning. Chuck has forever lost his ability to be aware, to think, to feel, to remember, etc. There is nothing mentally/psychologically going on with Chuck. His lower brain is functioning fine however and continues to support his life-sustaining functions like breathing, circulation, digestion, metabolism, etc.
The doctors and scientists tell Joe that they can attach his healthy cerebrum to Chuck’s healthy brain stem and body in such a way as to preserve all of Joe’s thoughts, feelings, memories, intentions, etc. The post-op patient will wake up thinking he is Joe, remembering Joe’s princely past, and resolving to act on Joe’s intentions to lead a ‘richer’ more productive life. Joe reflects for a while on these prospects and decides to submit to the procedure. The surgery is an unqualified success; everything turns out just as the doctors and scientists said. The patient wakes relieved and grateful for a ‘second chance’ at life. To celebrate, the patient takes off for a month of rest and relaxation in Hawaii. The body with the degenerative disease and no cerebellum remains in a mainland hospital bed in a permanent vegetative state. The disease progresses and in a few weeks the lower brain stops functioning and the body dies.
Now the first question we can ask is where is Prince Joe the person one week after the surgery? Is he recuperating on a tranquil beach or languishing in a hospital bed? If you think that Joe is hanging out in Hawaii, then your intuitions at this point favor the psychological approach. You are inclined to the view that Joe goes wherever Joe’s mental capacities and contents go; and Joe’s mental capacities and contents are presently concerned with some frozen concoction and tropical scenery. If you think that poor Joe winds up in a permanent vegetative state, then your intuitions at this point favor either the biological or the bodily approach. You are inclined to the view that Joe goes wherever his life-sustaining functions or basic material properties go; and those are presently engaged in a losing battle to keep blood flowing to a degenerating brain stem.
Now to decide between the biological and the bodily approaches, we would have to ask a second question: Where is Joe three weeks after the surgery? Is he gone completely—having utterly ceased to exist—or is he in a drawer in the hospital morgue? If you think that Joe is just gone, then your intuitions at this point favor the biological approach. You are inclined to the view that Joe goes wherever his life-sustaining functions go; and Joe’s life-sustaining functions have completely ceased. If you think that Joe is chilling out in the hospital morgue waiting for a ride to the cemetery, then you favor the bodily approach. You are inclined to the view that Joe goes wherever his body goes; and Joe’s body is in cold storage in the hospital basement.
Most people have a fairly strong initial reaction that Joe winds up on a beach in Hawaii. Most people, that is, at first favor the psychological approach to personal identity. Intuitions about this one case, however, are insufficient to settle the issue. First, it does not take a great deal of sophistication to see through the thought experiment relatively quickly. That is, most people see very quickly what the various answers to the experiment’s questions imply regarding the three approaches to personal identity. The answers of relatively sophisticated subjects may therefore be theoretically biased. In which case they do not reveal the natural inclinations that will tell us what we want to know about our pre-theoretical common sense notion of persons. Second, there may be other cases where most people would spontaneously and naturally give responses that reveal even stronger or clearer intuitions that conflict with the psychological view.
1b. Permanent Vegetative States
In the transplant case our intuition is that Joe the prince winds up in Hawaii in Chuck the cobbler’s body. The intuitive support thus provided for the psychological approach begins to waver ever so slightly however when we realize that this intuition commits us to the view we would not survive in a permanent vegetative state. In a permanent vegetative state (PVS) there is a continuity of life-supporting functions and bodily properties, but mental capacities and contents are irretrievably lost. In the transplant case Joe’s body winds up in a PVS, but our intuition is that Joe the person goes where his consciousness, memories, cognitive capacities, etc. go.
If we think that Joe does not survive in a PVS in the transplant story, then we should think that we would not survive in a PVS even in the more normal situation where one’s consciousness, memories, cognitive capacities, etc. do not find their way into another body but are simply lost forever. This seems to be what we think about Chuck the cobbler’s body at the beginning of the transplant story. We would not be so willing to say that Joe winds up in Chuck’s body, I submit, if we thought that Chuck was still in there. At any rate, it is clear that the psychological view is committed to the position that a person does not survive in a PVS. As a body enters a PVS there is a definite and permanent break in the continuity of one’s psychological properties. One’s mental contents and capacities do not survive in a PVS, and so on the psychological view no person survives in a PVS.
Many people seem willing to bite a little bullet here and admit that they would not survive in a PVS; but the clarity and strength of their intuitions in support of the psychological view have been diminished. The intuitive support for the psychological approach takes a more substantial hit when we realize that the PVS case is a mirror image of the fetus case. For, most people have a clear and strong intuition that they were once fetuses. This is a problem. We have conflicting intuitions about like cases. The PVS case involves an individual going from having various mental contents and capacities to not having any; whereas the fetus case involves going from not having any to having various mental contents or capacities. The PVS case involves losing one’s psychological properties as one moves in the direction of the future, whereas the fetus case involves losing one’s psychological properties as one moves in the direction of the past. Since temporal direction does not seem relevant here, these cases ought to be treated equally. What were once relatively clear and strong intuitions in favor of the psychological approach have been undermined by equally clear and strong but conflicting intuitions. We tend to think that we would switch bodies in the cerebral transplant case, but we suspect that we would survive in a PVS and we are pretty sure that we were once fetuses.
2. Fetuses and Human Animals
Eric Olson argues that psychology is simply not relevant to personal identity—that having certain psychological properties is neither necessary nor sufficient for the continued existence of creatures like us. His strategy is to (a) explain away the relevance of the transplant intuition, and (b) marshal some intuitions that undermine the psychological approach and favor the biological approach to personal identity. I will focus here on (b) and say nothing about (a). Olson argues that creatures like us are human animals and that we were once fetuses. These views are incompatible with the psychological approach. In this section I will run through Olson’s arguments and raise the most significant objection to them. In the next section I will defend Olson’s arguments against that objection.
2a. The Fetus Argument
Our intuition about the fetus case is that we go where our life-sustaining functions go; and it seems to be at least as strong as our intuition about the transplant case that we go where our mental contents and capacities go. Eric Olson, defending the biological view over the psychological view, takes this opening to make the following argument:
Premise 1: If the psychological view is correct, then I was never a fetus.
Premise 2: I was once a fetus.
Conclusion: So the psychological view is not correct.
The first premise is straightforward. The psychological view says that I am essentially a thinking thing. That is, there was never a time when I was not a thinking thing. A fetus, at least an early-term fetus, is not a thinking thing. Therefore if the psychological view is correct, then I was never a fetus.
Most people find the second premise pretty intuitive on its face, but Olson gives us an argument that uncovers further intuitive support for the idea that we were once fetuses: It is intuitively undeniable that there is a particular fetus, related to me in some particular way, in my past. If you trace what is here and now where I am back through time, you will at some point you come across a fetus. Now, if that fetus is not identical to me, what happened to it when I came into existence? There are only two possibilities. Either the fetus ceased to exist when I began to exist, or it continued to exist as something distinct from me. Neither possibility is intuitively palatable. If the fetus ceased to exist when I began to, then the fetus ceased to exist when it gained some positive psychological capacity. But it is difficult to swallow the idea that something can cease to exist by gaining some positive capacity or property. If on the other hand the fetus continued to exist as something distinct from me, then there is something here and now where I am that is not me. But is difficult to swallow the idea that there can be two things occupying exactly the same region of space at the same time. So the fetus must have continued to exist as something identical to me—that is to say, I was once a fetus.
Before we take a look at how proponents of the psychological approach would respond to this argument, let’s look at Olson’s other main argument against the psychological approach. This second argument has the same basic structure and is supported by very similar reasoning; and proponents of the psychological view will respond to it in the very same way that they respond to the fetus argument.
2b. The Human Animal Argument
Where Olson’s first argument exploits the common intuition that we were once fetuses, his second argument exploits the equally common intuition that we are now human animals:
The Human Animal Argument
Premise One: If the psychological view is correct, then I am not a human
Premise Two: I am a human animal.
Conclusion: So, the psychological view is not correct.
The first premise is again straightforward. The psychological view says that I am essentially a thinking thing. That is, there was never a time in the past and there can never be a time in the future at which I am not a thinking thing. But there was a time in the past of every human animal when it was not a thinking thing—every human animal was an early term fetus; and there could come a time in the future of any human animal when it ceases to be a thinking thing—a human animal could end up in a PVS. A human animal was once a fetus and might some day survive in a PVS. But since on the psychological view I was never a fetus and could never survive in a PVS, it follows that on the psychological view I am not a human animal.
The simple and compelling argument for the second premise is just this: It is intuitively undeniable that there is a human animal here and now where I am. There is something here with human DNA that metabolizes energy, circulates blood, etc. If I am not identical to that human animal, then there are two things existing in exactly the same region of space at the same time. But that cannot be, so I must be the human animal that is here. I am here and so is a human animal; and there cannot be two distinct things here. So I am identical to a human animal.
2c. The Constitution Objection
Both the fetus argument and the human animal argument depend for the justification of their second premise on the impossibility of two distinct things occupying just the same place at just the same time. The philosophically sophisticated proponent of the psychological approach would object that this is not absurd and is in fact a virtual commonplace. It happens whenever one object constitutes another. To take just one ordinary example, it happens when a hunk of marble constitutes a statue. The statue as such is essentially a work of art, in the same way that a person is essentially a thinking thing (on the psychological view). A statue as such cannot exist without being a work of art. The hunk of marble, though, is not essentially a work of art. The hunk of marble exists before any work of art comes into existence, in the same way that a fetus exists before any thinking thing comes into existence; and a hunk of marble might one day cease to be a work of art, in the same way that a human animal may one day cease to be a thinking thing.
So the proponent of the psychological view can claim that a fetus does continue to exist as a human animal that is distinct from but constitutes me the person. Thus the proponent of the psychological view can reject the claims that I am identical to a fetus and a human animal by saying that I am constituted by a human animal that was once a fetus. 
3. A Problem with the Constitution View
Olson’s arguments against the psychological approach are convincing so long as we resist the idea that a person and a distinct human animal can be at the same place at the same time. If we can make sense of the idea that persons are constituted by human animals, then Olson’s arguments are not sufficient grounds for preferring the biological over the psychological approach to personal identity. But as I will show in this section, if persons are material objects, there is good reason to think that we cannot make good sense of the idea that persons are constituted by human animals.
That there are constitution relations is widely accepted by philosophers despite the intuitive weirdness of having two distinct things at the same place at the same time. The motivation for constitution comes from arguments like the following: Consider a statue S made out of a certain hunk of marble M. S and M occupy exactly the same region of space at the same time. S is essentially a work of art—S cannot exist without being a work of art. M is not essentially a work of art—M can exist without being a work of art. So it is possible for M to exist but not S. But given the necessity of identity, if S = M it is not possible for M to exist but not S. So S is not identical to M. Thus we have a case of distinct objects occupying the exact same region of space at the same time. We must then accept that there is a relation somewhere between separate existence and numerical identity. That relation is constitution.
The very idea of constitution faces a pretty serious problem, however, concerning property doubling. Consider: We want to say that a certain statue weighs a ton. We also want to say that the hunk of marble that occupies the same spatio-temporal location weighs a ton. On the constitution view, then, we have two distinct things each weighing a ton occupying the same location. Thus there would seem to be two tons of stuff there. But when we put everything at that location on a perfectly accurate scale, the scale tells us that there is only one ton of stuff there. If some object A constitutes another object B, there is a worry that there will be an intuitively unacceptable doubling up of some properties at a single spatio-temporal location. There are only two possible strategies for dealing with this worry and avoiding property doubling. For any property P, the constitution theorist must either say that A has it but B does not (or vice versa) or that A and B are in some sense sharing an instance of P. Taking the first strategy, one would say that while the hunk of marble weighs a ton the statue does not weigh anything. Taking the second strategy, one would say that the statue and the hunk of marble both weigh a ton but that there is still only one instance of the property of weighing a ton at a particular location. The statue and the hunk of marble are sharing that instantiation. The statue instantiates the property of weighing a ton at that location, and the hunk of marble instantiates the property of weighing a ton at the same location; but there is only one ton of stuff there because the ‘two’ instantiations are really the same—the statue’s instantiating the property just is the hunk’s instantiating the property.
Proponents of the psychological approach to personal identity can avoid Olson’s arguments only by saying that a thinking person and a distinct human animal can occupy exactly the same region of space at the same time. The best available way of understanding this would be in terms of the kind of constitution relation independently motivated by considering the relation between such things as statues and hunks of marble. Proponents of the psychological approach can argue as follows: Consider a person P and a human animal H that occupy the same location. P is essentially a thinking thing; but H is not. So H can exist without P. Given the necessity of identity, if H is identical to P it cannot exist without P. So H is not identical to P.
But the idea that a person is constituted by a human animal must contend with the property doubling problem. In particular, it seems that we will have two persons where we should only have one. On the psychological constitution view, the human animal here and I are at the same location but are numerically distinct. But since I am a person and the human animal is a person, we have two persons at the same location. This however is no more intuitively acceptable than saying that we have 300 lbs of stuff here because both the human animal and I weigh 150 lbs.
There are only two possible ways of dealing with the problem of having too many persons just where I am. We can either deny that the human animal here has the property of being a person, or we can say that the human animal and I are sharing a single instance of the property of being a person. Assuming that persons and human animals are material objects, the first option is problematic. If the human animal and are both material objects, then each of us has the intrinsic properties we do solely in virtue of the kind and arrangement of the matter out of which we are composed. The human animal and I are composed out of the same arrangement of matter. So we ought to have all the same intrinsic properties. Being a person is an intrinsic property. So if I have it, then so does the human animal. If this argument does not amount to a proof that either both or neither of us has the property of being a person, it at least raises some serious philosophical problems and would require some relatively fancy philosophical footwork to refute. I think it thus safe to conclude that the first option for avoiding the doubling of persons here is at least intuitively problematic.
The second option for avoiding the doubling up of persons at my location is also problematic. On this option, both the human animal and I have the property of being a person; but there are not two persons here because there is only one instance of the property of being a person that is being shared by the animal and me. Here is a problem for this view: I have the property of being a person essentially. That just follows from taking person to be our primary kind. The human animal here, on the psychological approach, does not have the property of being a person essentially. This human animal can exist, as a fetus or in a PVS, without having the kind of psychological capacities required for personhood on the psychological approach. So I instantiate the property of being a person in a different way than this human animal does. Thus my instantiating the property of being a person cannot be the same as the human animal’s instantiating the property of being a person. That is, we cannot be sharing a single instantiation of the property of being a person. Again, if this does not amount to proof that the human animal and I cannot share the property of being a person, it at least raises some difficulties that will require some theoretical finagling to avoid. Thus I think it safe to conclude that the property-sharing option for avoiding the doubling up of persons here is also intuitively problematic.
Given the intractability of the property doubling problem facing the very idea of material constitution, the prospects for avoiding Olson’s attack on the psychological approach by claiming that persons are distinct from but constituted by human animals are not intuitively appealing so long as we want to be materialists about persons. So from a materialist point of view, Olson’s biological approach appears to enjoy a significant advantage over the psychological approach. The biological approach can account for our strong intuitions that we were once fetuses and are now human animals, and the psychological approach cannot account for them without relying on the problematic idea that persons are constituted by human animals.
4. Corpses and Human Bodies
I have just defended Olson’s main positive arguments against the psychological approach to personal identity. I think his arguments do give us reason to prefer the biological approach to the psychological approach. We have strong and clear intuitions that we were once fetuses and that we are now human animals; strong enough to outweigh our original intuition in the transplant case that we would ‘switch bodies’. However, I think that analogues of Olson’s arguments can be used to favor the bodily approach to personal identity over the biological approach.
3a. The Corpse Argument
I now want to argue that just as the psychological view has a fetus problem, the biological view has a corpse problem. I think that the following argument is at least as plausible as Olson’s fetus argument:
The Corpse Argument
First Premise: If the biological view is correct, then I will not become a corpse.
Second Premise: I will become a corpse.
Conclusion: The biological view is not correct.
The first premise is straightforward. If the biological view is correct, then I am essentially a living thing. I cannot exist without being alive. A corpse is not alive. Therefore, if the biological view is correct, I will not become a corpse.
The second premise is more troubling. On its face it is not as appealing as the corresponding premise of the fetus argument. I suspect that when most people are asked whether they will one day become a corpse, they will after a little reflection say that they will not. There is of course a corpse in all of our futures, but most people want to say that they will not be those corpses—they will rather speak of those things as distinct from themselves, as their “bodily remains” or something of the sort. Despite its initial lack of appeal though, something very like the reasoning that supports the claim that we were once fetuses supports the idea that we will become corpses: If you follow what is here and now where I am forward in time, you will at some point come across a corpse. Now, if that corpse is not identical to me, then where did it come from? There are only two possibilities. Either the corpse sprang into existence at my death, or something that is here now but distinct from me turned into the corpse. Neither possibility is intuitively palatable. If the corpse began to exist when I died, then a 150 lb materially complex object sprang fully formed into existence in an instant. Such a thing is pretty hard to swallow. If on the other hand something distinct from me turned into the corpse, then there is something here and now where I am that is not me. But again, it is difficult to swallow the idea that there can be two things occupying exactly the same region of space at the same time; and we have lately found good reason for rejecting the idea of material constitution, so we do not want to say that the human animal here is constituted by a body that will turn into a corpse. So something here where I am turns into a corpse, but there are not two distinct things here. So it is me that will become a corpse.
The defender of the biological approach will note that there is a pretty big difference between the argument that I was once a fetus and the argument that I will become a corpse. At one point, the former argument relies on the intuitive implausibility of something ceasing to exist as a result of gaining a certain positive capacity. At an analogous point, however, the latter argument relies on the intuitive implausibility of a medium-sized, complexly arranged, material object springing fully formed into existence in an instant. Perhaps it can be argued that an object ceasing to exist by gaining a property is considerably more implausible than a materially complex object popping into existence.
I doubt that such an argument would be convincing however. Because, it seems to me, the implausibility of these possibilities actually derives from the same source. What is really odd about the idea of a fetus ceasing to exist and being replaced by a person when it gains the capacity to think is the idea that a complex object—namely, the person—can spring into existence as the result of something that happens to some distinct object—namely, a fetus. This is also what is really odd about the idea of a corpse springing into existence when I die; it is the idea that a complex object—namely, a corpse—can spring into existence as the result of something that happens to a distinct complex object—a human animal or person.
Given the intuitive implausibility of some medium sized material object springing fully formed into existence in an instant, we are pushed to say that there is something here where I am now that will become (slowly, I hope) a corpse. Given the intuitive implausibility of material constitution, we must say that the thing here that will turn into a corpse is identical to me. So I will one day become a corpse. Only the bodily approach to personal identity can countenance this fact.
3b. The Human Body Argument
Olson’s human animal argument urged, contrary to what the psychological view would have us believe, that I am now a human animal. I will now urge, contrary to what the biological view would have us believe, that I am now a human body:
The Human Body Argument
Premise One: If the biological view is correct, then I am not a human
Premise Two: I am a human body.
Conclusion: So, the biological view is not correct.
Premise one can be supported as follows: On the biological view, I am essentially a living organism. That is, there can never be a time at which I exist but am not alive. But for every human body there comes a time when that body still exists but is not alive—namely, when it is a (relatively fresh) corpse. Since I can never be a corpse on the biological view, it follows that if the biological view is correct, then I am not identical to any human body.
Premise two can be supported in the same way that Olson supports the second premise of the human animal argument. Olson’s reasoning was essentially as follows: There is a human animal here and now where I am, but there are not two things at this particular location. So the human animal and I must be identical. The only possible rejoinder was to claim that there is a constitution relation between the human animal and I; but constitution relations, as we have seen, are problematic. Well, there is a human body here and now where I am just as sure as there is a human animal here now; for you cannot have a human animal without a human body. And since there is not more than one thing at just this particular location, the human body and I must be identical.
3c. Olson Against the Bodily View
While Olson does not directly consider the above arguments against the biological approach, he does say some things against the bodily approach to personal identity that can be turned into an objection to them. He says,
I claim that if ‘my body’ is supposed to be a material object other than myself, this human animal, then there is no such thing as my body. (150)
His view is that either my body is not distinct from this human animal and will cease to exist when I die or there is no such thing—there is no body here that will continue to exist when I die.
This can be turned into an objection to P2 of the corpse argument, since it amounts to embracing the idea that a corpse can spring into existence at my death. Such an idea seems so implausible, it might be argued, because we think that there is something here that turns into the corpse. After all, as I said in the support for P2 of the corpse argument, if we follow what is here now into the future we will eventually come across a corpse. Olson contends however that spatio-temporal continuity is not sufficient to guarantee that any thing (material substance) has survived/persisted. He argues:
Imagine that Descartes’ demon rearranges your atoms until they compose a pig (not a superintelligent pig with your psychology, but an ordinary pig. The pig is in some sense spatio-temporally continuous with you. But there is no obvious reason to think that any thing larger than an atom survived the change. (151)
But what Olson misses here is that there is more than spatio-temporal continuity between something here where I am and the corpse in my future, something more than what obtains between me and the demon-arranged pig. There is a continuity of both the kind and the arrangement of atoms between something here and the corpse. In other words, there is bodily continuity between something here now and the corpse in my future. This is why it is so natural to think that something that is here now turns into a corpse.
Olson’s claim that either my body ceases to exist when I die or there is no such thing, can be turned into either an objection to P1 or P2 of the human animal argument. If we say that there is no such thing as my body, then we can deny P2. But it is extremely odd to say that there is a human animal here but no human body. For it is extremely natural to say that there can be no animal without a body or that it is bodies that metabolize, circulate, digest, etc. So this attack strategy appears weak. The other strategy is to say that there is a body here but that it will cease to exist when I die. If this is right, it undermines the support for P1 of the human body argument. That support relied on the claim that there will be a time at which my body is not alive. But on the present strategy, my body ceases to exist when I die. Again, this is difficult to maintain given that there is bodily continuity between my body and the corpse in my future.
Given the intuitive implausibility of the claim that my body ceases to exist when I die, why does Olson maintain it? He thinks that death is a significant enough change to prevent the survival of any material substance. He says. “The changes that go on in an animal when it dies are really quite dramatic…If it looks like there isn’t all that much difference between a living animal and a fresh corpse, that is because the most striking changes take place at the microscopic level” (151-152). I would say that it looks like there is not much difference between a living animal and a fresh corpse because there is an extremely high degree of bodily continuity between them, despite the dramatic changes at the microscopic level.
Olson adds the following to his argument:
If there is such a thing as your body, it must cease to exist at some point (or during some vague period) between now and a million years from now, when there will be nothing left of you but dust. The most salient and most dramatic change that takes place during that history would seem to be your death. Everything that happens between death and dust (assuming that your remains rest peacefully) is only slow, gradual decay. So whatever objects there may be that your atoms now compose, it is plausible to suppose that the cease to exist no later than your death. There is no obvious reason to suppose that any 150-pound object persists through that change. (152)
I would say that the obvious reason to suppose that some 150-pound object does persist through the change that is my death is the fact that there is a significantly high degree of continuity in the kind and arrangement of atoms that make up the living animal and the fresh corpse. And a salient and rather dramatic thing that occurs between death and dust, though it occurs slowly and perhaps during a vague period, is that a certain bunch of atoms cease to be arranged human-body-wise. This is just what we call the ‘decay’ that occurs. What decays is a human body—a certain arrangement of certain atoms.
Olson’s biological approach to personal identity is unstable. We are either going to allow that a person can be constituted by some spatially coincident but numerically distinct object or we are not. If we do not allow constitution, then the arguments that Olson uses effectively against the psychological approach can be turned with equal force against the biological approach. If we do allow constitution, then Olson’s arguments against the psychological approach are ineffective and the biological approach is put at a serious disadvantage. One way or another, Olson’s biological approach will need to deal with a significant threat.
If we do not allow that a person can be constituted by some distinct object, then the same kind of intuitions and reasoning that support that we were once fetuses and are now human animals support that we will one day become corpses and are now human bodies. Only the bodily approach can account for the fact that I am now identical to a human body that will one day turn into a corpse. So if we do not allow that persons are constituted objects, then the bodily approach is preferable to the biological (as well as the psychological).
If we do allow that a person can be constituted by some distinct object, then the proponent of the psychological approach could reject both the fetus and the human animal arguments by maintaining that a person is essentially a thinking thing that is constituted by a human animal that was once a fetus. So the proponent of the biological approach needs a new strategy of attack against the psychological approach. Moreover, if we allow constitution the psychological approach seems to enjoy a couple of advantages over the biological. First, it is easier to accept that persons are constituted entities if they are immaterial, since then it is easier to avoid the property doubling problem by claiming that a person can have properties that a materially constituting object does not have. And it seems significantly easier to maintain that thinking things are immaterial than to maintain that animals are immaterial. Second, the biological approach (that still relies on something like the fetus or human animal argument) would need to say that while a human animal is constituted by a human body, a thinking thing is not constituted by but rather identical to a human animal. This different treatment would require an explanation. Why can human animals be constituted objects but not thinking things? The psychological approach does not need to come up with an answer to this, since it can maintain that thinking things are constituted by human animals that are in turn constituted by human bodies. The psychological approach can say that thinking things and human animals are both constituted objects.
Given that it faces serious threats either from above (the psychological approach) or below (the bodily approach), the biological approach is best left as a last resort. With the biological approach out of the way, the bodily approach looks pretty strong. For the bodily approach enjoys a couple of advantages over the psychological. First, the bodily approach is compatible with the powerful intuition that we were once fetuses and with the somewhat weaker intuition that we would survive in a PVS; whereas the psychological approach is compatible with neither. The combined intuitive force of the intuitions that I was once a fetus, would survive in a PVS, and will become a corpse pretty clearly outweighs the intuition that I would ‘switch bodies’ in a cerebral transplant case. Despite the prima facie intuitive appeal of the psychological approach, the bodily approach is at the end of the day on firmer intuitive footing.
Finally, all of the problems with the very idea of material constitution favor the bodily approach over the psychological. The psychological approach has to provide some answer to the property doubling problem facing the idea that a person is constituted by a human body. This will likely involve something drastic and counter-intuitive; like accepting that persons are not material entities, or maintaining that being a person is not an intrinsic property, or making sense of the idea that one object’s having a property essentially just is some other object’s having that property contingently. On the bodily approach, there is no need for problematic constitution relations. A person is most fundamentally a human body that continues to exist so long as that human body does. The human body begins as a fetus, develops into a mature animal, acquires various psychological contents and capacities along the way, dies, and slowly decays. On the bodily approach, a person is primarily a human body that goes through various biological and psychological phases.
Whether we can make sense of the very idea of material constitution or not, the biological approach to personal identity is vulnerable to either the psychological or the bodily approach. With the biological approach out of the way, the balance of strong intuitions and the problems with the notion of material constitution favor the bodily approach to personal identity over the psychological. I conclude that if we want to be materialists about persons at all, we ought to go all the way and say that persons are most fundamentally bodily things.
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(2002) Identity, Perosnal Identity, and the Self. (Cambridge: Hackett Publishing)
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(1980) Sameness and Substance. (Cambridge: Harvard UP)
Williams, Bernard (1973). Problems of the Self. (Cambridge: Cambridge UP)
 The ‘primary kind’ terminology is due to Lynne Baker (2000) who says, “To answer the question ‘What most fundamentally is x?’ we cite x’s primary kind…”, and “An individual has the de re persistence conditions of its primary kind and thus has its primary-kind property essentially.” I am simply stipulating that person is our primary kind, whatever that primary kind turns out to be. I am not using ‘person’ in the Lockean ‘forensic’ sense that presupposes that the fundamental nature that separates us from other animals involves such psychological features as rationality and self-consciousness. While such psychological attributes may be distinctive features of creatures like us, they may not be essential features of creatures like us. In somewhat different terminology, I am stipulating that person is what Wiggins (1980) calls a ‘substance concept’ rather than a ‘phase sortal’; where a substance concept provides the most fundamental answer to the question “What is it?” and provides the persistence conditions of an individual, and a phase sortal is a kind that something can belong to temporarily. See Olson, Ch. 2.
 I follow the trend of the most recent debates about personal identity in construing it in terms of persistence conditions rather than in terms of re-identification criteria. The debate between Olson and Baker has a different flavor, for example, from that between Shoemaker and Williams. Where the former are concerned with the conditions under which creatures like us continue to exist, the latter are concerned with the criteria by means of which we can determine when this is the same person as that. The focus on re-identification criteria, inspired in part it seems by Wittgensteinian critiques of traditional metaphysics, allows epistemic considerations to affect the metaphysical question of what kind of thing creatures like us are most fundamentally. That approach also seems to have a preference for subjective criteria that it deems to be more epistemically privileged, and so it favors from the outset a psychological approach to personal identity. More recent discussions are not constrained in the same way by epistemic considerations. It may well turn out that the best account of personal identity makes it very difficult or even impossible for creatures like us to determine whether a creature like us has continued to exist. The hegemony of the re-identification criteria approach to the problem of personal identity might largely explain the predominance of the pscychological approach; and the fairly recent shift (back?) to a persistence condition approach may explain the renewed interest in non-psychological approaches.
 By framing the problem this way, I am favoring a property analysis over a substance analysis—what makes us persons is that we possess certain properties/abilities/capacities, not that we are made out of a certain type of stuff. I am thus siding with Locke over Reid, as Locke emphasized the importance for personal identity of a continuity of memory or consciousness where Reid emphasized the endurance of an individual substance. (See Perry 1975)
 I take the metaphysical project here to be partly descriptive and partly revisionist. We are trying to get at or describe the notion we in fact have of ourselves, but we will make revisions to that idea in order to make it coherent. As I understand it, this project aims at getting at the nature of reality, however, and not just at how we do or should think about it. I am presupposing that that our idea of ourselves matches up at least in broad outline with the reality.
 We are not concerned here with some specific set of psychological properties that might be fundamental to persons, but only more generally with a psychological approach to personal identity. Olson’s goal in his 1997 is to show that psychology is not even relevant to personal identity, so he has no need to specify a particular psychological view—with a specific list of psychological properties/capacities—as a target. Since I will be supporting Olson’s arguments against the psychological approach, I follow him in leaving the list of psychological properties somewhat vague and open-ended.
 The problem of personal identity as I understand it here is not primarily about whether persons are immaterial or material objects. Even the psychological approach can be taken from within a materialist framework, as is the case with Lynn Baker. All of the approaches here are compatible with either a materialist ontology or a dualist ontology. It may turn out that we are fundamentally thinking things but are wholly material objects; or it may turn out that we are fundamentally bodily things though not wholly material. Previous debates like that between Shoemaker and Swinburne thus have a significantly different focus than the debate I am interested in here.
 Since I am interested in showing that there is something wrong with a biological approach to personal identity—that biology is simply not relevant at all to personal identity—I have no need to specify a particular set of biological properties, for the same reasons that Olson does not need to specify a set of psychological properties. (see note 5 above)
 Others have defended a ‘bodily view’ of personal identity, but they have generally been considered bodily theorists only in contrast to immaterialists (Shoemaker vs. Swinburne) or memory theorists (Williams and Wiggins vs. Lockeans). As such, it is not clear that these ‘bodily theorists’ would go for what I call the bodily approach understood in contrast to the biological as well as the psychological approach to the persistence conditions of persons. Olson even takes most proponents of a bodily criterion view to still maintain that psychology is relevant to the persistence conditions of persons. (See his Ch. 1) I know of no contemporary theorist who has defended a bodily approach to personal identity over a psychological or a biological—no one who is willing to say, as I will do, that neither psychology nor biology are relevant to the persistence conditions of persons.
 See Olson, Ch. 1.
 Third, there may be a rational incoherence intrinsic to the view. Such a thing might be what is essentially revealed by the infamous reduplication (or fission) problem—where we preserve psychological continuity by storing information in a computer, and then re-program two different material bodies with that same information. Here, the psychological approach is committed to two different individuals at time t2 being the same person as a single individual at t1. Proponents of the psychological approach have had to do a great deal of philosophical finagling to salvage the coherence of their view in the face of this difficulty. (See selections in Rorty 1976; particularly Lewis, “Survival and Identity”). Putting this problem out there and showing how difficult or counter-intuitive it is to avoid is Olson’s first wave of attack on the psychological approach; and it does have the effect certainly of weakening the intuitive convictions that people first have concerning the cerebral transplant case. Some of the issues involved however might concern more general metaphysical issues concerning persistence through time that cut across the different approaches to personal identity. That is, the biological and bodily approaches may have to deal with versions of the fission problem too. Thus I am not focusing in the text on the types of worries surrounding fission, reduplication, split brains, etc.
 One might try distinguish the PVS and fetus cases by emphasizing psychological capacities or potential. But an early term fetus cannot even be said to have the capacity for various psychological properties; and the mere potential to have psychological properties does not seem sufficient to confer personhood. Even if there is a way of making one of these approaches work, it will have to go beyond strong/clear/natural/sponataneous intuitions and rely on some fairly subtle conceptual analysis, abstract theoretical principles, or arbitrary stipulation.
 Olson’s basic strategy (pursued in his Ch.3) to explain away the transplant intuition is to say that it derives from our intuitions about prudential concern—we have a strong, and perhaps correct intuition that we ought to be prudentially concerned in various ways with what happens to the thing that makes up with our cerebellum. But, Olson contends, in agreement with Parfit and Shoemaker, that prudential concern does not always have to follow strict identity. Much of the recent literature on personal identity has been concerned with matters relating to this and the question of whether survival matters. (See selections in Rorty 1976.)
 See Olson, Ch. 4.
 See Olson, Ch. 5.
 This is how Baker defends the psychological approach.
 Baker speaks of having properties ‘derivatively’ rather than of property ‘sharing’. But it is clear that on her view when some object has a property derivatively in virtue of being in a constitution relation with something that has the property independently, there is a single instance of the property involved. For example she says, “Because the body constitutes a person, the body’s property of having a blood alcohol level of 1.2 percent is ipso facto the person’s property of having a blood alcohol level of 1.2 percent” (55, my emphasis) Baker does not want to say that when X has a property derivatively in virtue of being in a constitutional relation with Y that Y and not X really has the property and that we just say that X has it derivatively. She explicitly says “My point here is metaphysical and not linguistic.” (54)
 Since being a person is an essential property of creatures like us, we ought to say that it is an intrinsic property. We cannot say that being a person requires that a person be related to some other object or external environment; for then the person would have to exist (in order to enter into the requisite relations) in order to exist. Baker wants to say that being a person is a relational property, since it requires the capacity for a first-person perspective that in turn requires being related to a certain type of environment. If essential properties need to be intrinsic for the type of reason just given, this is a (another) problem for her view.
 Problems with material constitution are complex, and a full defense of the quick argument just given would require a good deal of space and technical qualifications. I claim here only that the prospects for understanding persons as materially constituted entities are intuitively unappealing—requiring some fancy philosophical footwork to render acceptable. (See Burke, Johnston, Lowe, and Noonan)
 The argument here assumes that having a property essentially or contingently involves different ways of having the property in the actual world. Some would say that having a property essentially or contingently does not say anything about how that property is had in the actual world but only about the number of worlds in which the property is had (in the one and only way properties are had in any world). On the view I am presupposing, something has a property in certain other possible worlds or not depending on how that property is had in the actual world. I believe generally that the space and nature of possible worlds is determined by how things are in the actual world.
 Baker also accuses Olson of having a corpse problem. She says, “Whereas I have rebutted the charge that what the Constitution View has to say about fetuses is a problem, I believe that Olson has a problem about corpses—a problem that I see no way to solve without undermining his own view.” (207) She, however, does not go into detail about what the problem is or consider how Olson could respond given what he did have to say about corpses. At any rate, she would not of course be willing to endorse my Corpse Argument, as it is incompatible with the Psychological Approach.
 Thanks to a pair of anonymous reviewers for very helpful suggestions concerning the scope and significance of my arguments.