Animalism, dicephalus, and borderline cases
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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ABSTRACT: The rare condition known as dicephalus occurs when (prior to implantation) a zygote fails to divide completely, resulting in twins who are conjoined below the neck. Human dicephalic twins look like a two-headed person, with each brain supporting a distinct mental life. Jeff McMahan has recently argued that, because they instance two of us but only one animal, dicephalic twins provide a counter-example to the animalist’s claim that each of us is identical with a human animal. To the contrary, I argue that in cases of dicephalus it is obvious neither that there is one animal nor that there are two of us. Consequently, the animalist criterion does not straightforwardly apply to cases of dicephalus. I defend an account of dicephalus that is both sensitive to the complexity of twinning phenomena and not inconsistent with animalism. On my view, dicephalic twins are a borderline case of the concept human animal. I conclude with some speculative remarks about the normative import (if any) of my claim that dicephalic twins are a borderline case
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