Thomson notes

Thomson notes - Thomson: People and Their Bodies Thomson...

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Thomson: People and Their Bodies Thomson starts out considering a simple view about the metaphysics of people (she tries to avoid the term ‘persons’ because she thinks it is philosophically loaded). That simple view is: Physical Thesis : People are their bodies. She thinks that there might be a natural inclination to resist such a view that arises from thoughts about death. Consider a normal kind of death, the death of Bob. In a normal kind of death, the body sticks around for a while before decomposing. But we might have some inclination to say that after his death, Bob is gone while his body is still in the bed. If Bob is gone while the body is still around, then Bob couldn’t have been identical with his body: the body exists, but Bob is gone. Thomson thinks that this inclination should be resisted. Rather, after death (but before the body is destroyed), Bob is still around. There is a person in the bed still, it’s just that it’s a dead person. Another reason to resist the view that people are their bodies arises from Locke’s view, according to which people are ‘thinking intelligent beings’. Dead bodies aren’t thinking things, so if we thought that people were, necessarily, thinking things, then they couldn’t be identical with their bodies: sometimes (esp. after death) our bodies are non-thinking things. Physical thesis entails an answer to the question that we are centrally interested in during this section of the class, namely the question about personal identity: what relation do you, person, have to bear to a thing existing at another time in order to be identical with that thing. The answer entailed by Physical Thesis is this: Physical Criterion: x = y if and only if x’s body = y’s body (where the variables x and y range only over people). One advantage of Physical Criterion over something like Psychological Criterion: x = y if and only if x and y are psychologically connected (we can be a bit vague about just what psychological connectedness amounts to, because we’re mainly interested in this paper in contrasting a psychological approach with a somatic one.) is that the physical criterion matches up quite nicely and naturally with a metaphysics of what people are : namely, their bodies. Psychological Criterion doesn’t seem to do that so well. What kind of things are people according to someone that accepts Psychological Criterion? Some kind of soulish thinking thing, or a non-physical thinking substance? Most contemporary philosophers don’t want to say those things, so it’s unclear what kind
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This note was uploaded on 10/19/2011 for the course PHIL 104 taught by Professor Bunzl during the Spring '08 term at Rutgers.

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Thomson notes - Thomson: People and Their Bodies Thomson...

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