Contra Derek Parfit’s psychological continuity theory, I argue for an externalist conception of what matters in the survival of persons over time. Specifically, I claim that what matters in the survival of persons is the continuation of what I call their “life trajectories.” This condition on the quasi-continuation of the diachronic identity of persons comes from considering the implications of what certain kinds of cases of “complete virtual immersion”-- the immersion of a psychological subject in a completely virtual (...) world, a world in which experiences are de-correlated with events in the objective world. This hypothesis results in some fairly strong conditions on the synchronic identity of persons, conditions that demonstrate that psychological continuity over time is insufficient for having what matters in survival. Of course, the idea that externalist constraints are important in a complete account of what is metaphysically necessary for maintaining persons and what matters in their survival is not new, but I propose my own specific theory about how to understand these constraints. What’s more, I explain in detail why incorporating externalist constraints in an account of what matters in survival proves to rule out fission as a case in which we have what matters equally as much as we do in single case, and unlike the traditional way of rejecting these cases, I do so without requiring a commitment to an identity theory of what matters. The view I offer can also explain our reactions to different virtual immersion scenarios. Therefore, simply on explanatory grounds alone, my view is to be preferred over pure psychological continuity theories. (shrink)
Parfit argues that survival, Not identity, Is the important thing in cases of personal resurrection, Fission, Etc. I argue that parfit's and dennett's well known cases--And fantasies about cloning and telecloning--Suggest a distinction between type and token persons, Memories, Intentions, Etc. Parfit is wrong, I suggest, To think survival more determinate than identity; with quine I hold that there is no objective matter to be right or wrong about.
(Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1996: 17-36) I If I am to survive until some later date, what must happen, and what must not happen, over the intervening period? I am talking here about survival in the strict sense. Take an earlier and a later person, if they are one and the same, what is it about them that makes this so? In addressing this question the preferred tool has long been the exploitation of imaginary or science fiction cases. (...) We are asked to reflect on scenarios in which an ordinary person is subjected to some unusual treatment which effectively removes one or more of the elements that usually accompanies personal persistence. If we think the subject survives the treatment, the conclusion is drawn that the elements removed are not necessary to personal identity as we conceive it. The hope is that the repeated use of this method, with a variety of scenarios, will finally produce a convergence of intuitive responses as to what is necessary and sufficient for survival. Unfortunately, this method has failed to produce the goods. The literature is brimming with cunningly constructed scenarios yet consensus as to what personal persistence involves seems as elusive as ever. So it is hardly surprising that the method has come in for some criticism recently. There is a feeling that much time has been wasted on devising fantastic stories about which many people have no firm or reliable intuitions. Hence the demand for a different approach. As for the direction the new approach should take, a general trend can be detected: a focusing on human beings, biological entities of a particular kind, with species-specific identity conditions - a move away from science fiction, towards science. I shall be arguing here that this response is premature. Although it would be a mistake to expect too much from the standard method, it delivers at least one significant result: that of the several strands that make up a human life, we believe that one particular strand is of overriding importance in regard to our continued existence. (shrink)
In this paper I shall argue that if the Parfitian psychological criterion or theory of personal identity is true, then a good case can be made out to show that the psychological theorist should accept the view I call “psychological sequentialism”. This is the view that a causal connection is not necessary for what matters in survival, as long as certain other conditions are met. I argue this by way of Parfit’s own principle that what matters in survival (...) cannot depend upon a trivial fact. (shrink)
Do I have a special reason to care about my future, as opposed to yours? We reject the common belief that I do. Putting our thesis paradoxically, we say that nothing matters in survival: nothing in our continued existence justifies any special self-concern. Such an "extreme" view is standardly tied to ideas about the metaphysics of persons, but not by us. After rejecting various arguments against our thesis, we conclude that simplicity decides in its favor. Throughout the essay we (...) honor Jim Rachels, whose final days exemplified his own unselfish morality as well as the “neutralist” ideal we espouse. As an appendix, we include the last original work to be published by James Rachels, in which he criticizes Sidgwick’s most famous defense of egoism. (shrink)
I examine Derek Parfit’s claim that it doesn’t matter whether he survives in the future, if someone survives who is psychologically connected to him by “Relation R.” Thus, were his body to perish and be replaced by an exact duplicate, both physically and psychologically identical to him, this would be just as good as “ordinary” survival. Parfit takes the corollary view that replacement of loved ones by exact duplicates is no loss. In contrast, Peter Unger argues that we place (...) nontransferable value in the lives of individualpersons. I argue that the question of the preferability of Relation R over identity is unanswerable at present, as such hypothetical situations are too far removed from our experience to allow any reliable responses. I contrast cases involving artifacts, where we can make informed judgments concerning whether a given object’s value would be transferred to a duplicate. (shrink)
Following Wallace’s suggestion, Darwin framed his theory using Spencer’s expression “survival of the fittest”. Since then, fitness occupies a significant place in the conventional understanding of Darwinism, even though the explicit meaning of the term ‘fitness’ is rarely stated. In this paper I examine some of the different roles that fitness has played in the development of the theory. Whereas the meaning of fitness was originally understood in ecological terms, it took a statistical turn in terms of reproductive success (...) throughout the 20th Century. This has lead to the ever-increasing importance of sexually reproducing organisms and the populations they compose in evolutionary explanations. I will argue that, moving forward, evolutionary theory should look back at its ecological roots in order to be more inclusive in the type of systems it examines. Many biological systems (e.g. clonal species, colonial species, multi-species communities) can only be satisfactorily accounted for by offering a non-reproductive account of fitness. This argument will be made by examining biological systems with very small or transient population structures. I argue this has significant consequences for how we define Darwinism, increasing the significance of survival (or persistence) over that of reproduction. (shrink)
We propose a framework for analyzing the development, operation and failure to survive of all things, living, non-living or organized groupings. This framework is a sequence of developments that improve survival capability. Framework processes range from origination of any entity/system, to the development of increased survival capability and development of life-forms and organizations that use intelligence. This work deals with a series of developmental changes that arise from the uncovering of emergent properties. The framework is intended to be (...) general, but we see a potential to apply it to scientific topics such as the exploration of the origin of life or the search for life beyond Earth, and to understand some biological issues in evolution and symbiosis, and also to apply to social systems that do not seem to be operating well, to determine their problems and correct them. (shrink)
Here I advance two related evolutionary propositions. (1) Natural selection is most often considered to require competition between reproducing “individuals”, sometimes quite broadly conceived, as in cases of clonal, species or multispecies-community selection. But differential survival of non-competing and non-reproducing individuals will also result in increasing frequencies of survival-promoting “adaptations” among survivors, and thus is also a kind of natural selection. (2) Darwinists have challenged the view that the Earth’s biosphere is an evolved global homeostatic system. Since there (...) is only one biosphere, reproductive competition cannot have been involved in selection for such survival-promoting adaptations, they claim. But natural selection through survival could reconcile Gaia with evolutionary theory. (shrink)
Do I have a special reason to care about my future, as opposed to yours? We reject the common belief that I do. Putting our thesis paradoxically, we say that nothing matters in survival: nothing in our continued existence justifies any special self-concern. Such an "extreme" view is standardly tied to ideas about the metaphysics of persons, but not by us. After rejecting various arguments against our thesis, we conclude that simplicity decides in its favor. Throughout the essay we (...) honor Jim Rachels, whose final days exemplified his own unselfish morality as well as the "neutralist" ideal we espouse. As an appendix, we include the last original work to be published by James Rachels, in which he criticizes Sidgwick's most famous defense of egoism. (shrink)
Given the possibilities of synthetic biology, weapons of mass destruction and global climate change, humans may achieve the capacity globally to alter life. This crisis calls for an ethics that furnishes effective motives to take global action necessary for survival. We propose a research program for understanding why ethical principles change across time and culture. We also propose provisional motives and methods for reaching global consensus on engineering field ethics. Current interdisciplinary research in ethics, psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary theory (...) grounds these proposals. Experimental ethics, the application of scientific principles to ethical studies, provides a model for developing policies to advance solutions. A growing literature proposes evolutionary explanations for moral development. Connecting these approaches necessitates an experimental or scientific ethics that deliberately examines theories of morality for reliability. To illustrate how such an approach works, we cover three areas. The first section analyzes cross-cultural ethical systems in light of evolutionary theory. While such research is in its early stages, its assumptions entail consequences for engineering education. The second section discusses Howard University and University of Puerto Rico/Mayagüez (UPRM) courses that bring ethicists together with scientists and engineers to unite ethical theory and practice. We include a syllabus for engineering and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) ethics courses and a checklist model for translating educational theory and practice into community action. The model is based on aviation, medicine and engineering practice. The third and concluding section illustrates Howard University and UPRM efforts to translate engineering educational theory into community action. Multidisciplinary teams of engineering students and instructors take their expertise from the classroom to global communities to examine further the ethicality of prospective technologies and the decision-making processes that lead to them. (shrink)
This paper investigates the allegation that behavior such as the Allais Paradox reduces the probability of survival. Examples are demonstrated where maximizing probability of survival in two choice situations imply a set of choices that add up to the Allais Paradox.
Parfit’s Branch Line argument is intended to show that the relation of survival is possibly a one-many relation and thus different from numerical identity. I offer a detailed reconstruction of Parfit’s notions of survival and personal identity, and show the argument cannot be coherently formulated within Parfit’s own setting. More specifically, I argue that Parfit’s own specifications imply that the “R-relation”, i.e., the relation claimed to capture of “what matters in survival,” turns out to hold not only (...) along but also across the branches representing the development of a reduplicated person. This curious fact of ‘interbranch survival,’ as I call it, has gone unnoticed so far. The fact that the R-relation also holds across branches creates a trilemma for Parfit’s approach. Either the envisaged notion of personal identity is circular, or the R-relation fails as a reconstruction of the common sense notion of survival, or talk about persons ‘branching’ (being reduplicated etc.) remains semantically empty. In the paper’s last section I suggest that my criticism does not detract from the larger systematic significance of Parfit’s argument. The argument is simply terminologically miscalibrated. Even though Parfit’s branch line argument fails to establish the conceptual separability of survival and identity, it can be used to show the separability of sameness and numerical identity, which should have similar implications for meta-ethics as the original argument. (shrink)
We discuss how academically-based interdisciplinary teams can address the extreme challenges of the world’s poorest by increasing access to the basic necessities of life. The essay’s first part illustrates the evolving commitment of research universities to develop ethical solutions for populations whose survival is at risk and whose quality of life is deeply impaired. The second part proposes a rationale for university responsibility to solve the problems of impoverished populations at a geographical remove. It also presents a framework for (...) integrating science, engineering and ethics in the efforts of multidisciplinary teams dedicated to this task. The essay’s third part illustrates the efforts of Howard University researchers to join forces with African university colleagues in fleshing out a model for sustainable and ethical global development. (shrink)
You can survive after death in various kinds of artifacts. You can survive in diaries, photographs, sound recordings, and movies. But these artifacts record only superficial features of yourself. We are already close to the construction of programs that partially and approximately replicate entire human lives (by storing their memories and duplicating their personalities). A digital ghost is an artificially intelligent program that knows all about your life. It is an animated auto-biography. It replicates your patterns of belief and desire. (...) You can survive after death in a digital ghost. We discuss a series of digital ghosts over the next 50 years. As time goes by and technology advances, they are progressively more perfect replicas of the lives of their original authors. (shrink)
The so-called “problem of personal identity” can be viewed as either a metaphysical or an epistemological issue. Metaphysicians want to know what it is for one individual to be the same person as another. Epistemologists want to know how to decide if an individual is the same person as someone else. These two problems converge around evidence from mediumship and apparent reincarnation cases, suggesting personal survival of bodily death and dissolution. These cases make us wonder how it might be (...) possible for a person to survive death and either temporarily or permanently animate another body. And they make us wonder how we could decide if such postmortem survival has actually occurred. In this essay I argue, first, that metaphysical worries about postmortem survival are less important than many have supposed. Next, I'll consider briefly why cases suggesting postmortem survival can be so intriguing and compelling, and I'll survey our principal explanatory options and challenges. Then, I'll consider why we need to be circumspect in our appraisal of evidence for mind-body correlations. And finally, I'll try to draw a few tentative and provocative conclusions. (shrink)
It is not easy to be a materialist and yet believe that there is a way for human beings to survive death. Peter van Inwagen identifies the central obstacle the materialist faces: Namely, the need to posit appropriate “immanent-causal” connections between my body as it is at death and some living body elsewhere or elsewhen. I offer a proposal, consistent with van Inwagen’s own materialist metaphysics, for making materialism compatible with the possibility of survival.
In this article I show that the argument in John Harris's famous "Survival Lottery" paper cannot be right. Even if we grant Harris's assumptions—of the justifiability of such a lottery, the correctness of maximizing consequentialism, the indistinguishability between killing and letting die, the practical and political feasibility of such a scheme—the argument still will not yield the conclusion that Harris wants. On his own terms, the medically needy should be less favored (and more vulnerable to being killed), than Harris (...) suggests. (shrink)
Most views of personal identity allow that sometimes, facts of personal identity can be borderline or indeterminate. Bernard Williams argued that regarding questions of one’s own survival as borderline “had no comprehensible representation” in one’s emotions and expectations. Whether this is the case, I will argue, depends crucially on what account of indeterminacy is presupposed.
As for Avicenna the human soul is a complete substance which does\nnot inhere in the body nor is imprinted in it, asserting its survival\nafter the death of the body seems easy. Yet, he needs the body to\nexplain its individuation. The paper analyzes Avicenna's arguments\nin the De anima sections, V, 3 and 4, of the Shifa' in order to explore\nthe exact causal relation there is between the human soul and its\nbody and confronts these arguments with relevant passages in the\nMetaphysics. It (...) argues that the causal relation between body and\nsoul remains obscure and that, though Avicenna claims that there\nis a personal immortality and that the disembodied soul remains individuated,\nhe does not provide a satisfactory ontological account for it. (shrink)
Various hypotheses about the importance of psycho-neural concomitants are reviewed and their implications discussed for the 'easy' and 'hard' problems of consciousness -- especially, as viewed by cognitive and ecological psychology. In Ecological Psychology, where the subjective-objective dichotomy is repudiated, these concepts are without foundation, and are replaced by informed awareness, which is argued to play an important, perhaps, indispensable role in goal- directed actions and thus to have survival value. The significance of informed awareness is illustrated in several (...) real- world goal-directed tasks. (shrink)
This book is a major contribution to the philosophical literature on the nature of the self, personal identity, and survival. Its distinctive methodology is one that is phenomenologically descriptive rather than metaphysical and normative. On the basis of this approach Raymond Martin shows that the distinction between self and other is not nearly as fundamental a feature of our so-called egoistic values as has been traditionally thought. He explains how the belief in a self as a fixed, continuous point (...) of observation enters into our experience of ourselves and the world. He also reveals the explosive implications this thesis has for recent debates over personal identity and what matters in survival. This is the first book of analytic philosophy directly on the phenomenology of identity and survival. It builds bridges between analytic and phenomenological traditions and, thus, to open up a new field of investigation. (shrink)
Our biological survival is often taken as an argument in favour of the validity of our present conceptual scheme and cognitive frame of reference. A twofold counterargument is offered: (1) Given any notion of ?knowledge?, ?insight?, etc. within our present scheme, it is possible, even plausible, that such ?knowledge? and ?insight? be extended and perfected beyond what is beneficial to the survival of mankind; (2) The alleged link between survival and veridicality is not logical but contingent and (...) tenuously tangential. Since the prevailing scheme may prove to serve ends not just other than, but opposed to survival, e.g. the end of unmasking the world and man's lot therein, survivalism may require a radical reconsideration of that scheme, including its prejudice in favour of survival. From the point of view of all current schemes or frames of reference, such a project appears inherently paradoxical. (shrink)
Susan Mills and John Beatty proposed a propensity interpretation of fitness (1979) to show that Darwinian explanations are not circular, but they did not address the critics' chief complaint that the principle of the survival of the fittest is either tautological or untestable. I show that the propensity interpretation cannot rescue the principle from the critics' charges. The critics, however, incorrectly assume that there is nothing more to Darwin's theory than the survival of the fittest. While Darwinians all (...) scoff at this assumption, they do not agree about what role, if any, this principle plays in Darwin's theory of natural selection. I argue that the principle has no place in Darwin's theory. His theory does include the idea that some organisms are fitter than others. But greater reproductive success is simply inferred from higher fitness. There is no reason to embody this inference in the form of a special principle of the survival of the fittest. (shrink)
A new academic discipline, Survival Research, is proposed to investigate how the survival of the human species and its civilizations can be assured. Today nuclear weapons, overpopulation, and the deteriorating environment threaten our future. These phenomena are interconnected, and must be considered together in their complexity in an interdisciplinary manner. Some major obstacles to a wider awareness of the problems and solutions are described. Survival issues, primarily ecological ones, have lately lost ground, especially in the United States. (...) It is essential that those still concerned, especially teachers and journalists, be informed about the problems and the urgency for finding solutions. (shrink)
In a well-known paper entitled, ‘Survival Lottery’, published in a philosophical journal, John Harris proposed for discussion an interesting idea for saving the lives of certain kinds of patients who are at the point of death. Let us assume that there are two such patients, one that could be saved by a heart transplant and the other by the transplantation of a pair of lungs. However, no suitable organs are available for this purpose. Might it perhaps not be immoral (...) to select, by national lottery, a healthy person, who would be sacrificed, his organs used as transplants, and thus two lives be saved through the sacrifice of only one? This proposal is subjected first to a critical philosophical and ethical analysis, and then to a critical analysis from the point of view of Jewish Ethics as embodied in Halakhah. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)