Analysis 69 (2):388-390 (2009)

Authors
E. J. Lowe
Durham University
Abstract
In the Second Meditation, Descartes famously asks at one point, ‘But what then am I?’ – to which his immediate answer is ‘A thing that thinks.’ It is this question, or rather the plural version of it, that Eric Olson examines in this excellent book. He thinks that it is – today, at least – a rather neglected question. He points out that it is wrong to confuse the question with the much more frequently examined question of what personal identity consists in. In fact, he thinks that possible answers to the two questions, even if not entirely independent of one other, constrain each other only to a rather limited extent. It is important to appreciate that Olson is not inquiring into what persons in general are, but only into what we human persons are. Olson explores all the major, and some of the less well-known, answers that have been offered to this question. He begins with the answer that he himself has defended in an earlier book, The Human Animal – the answer that we are human animals, that is, biological organisms of a certain kind. Indeed, Olson is, along with Peter van Inwagen, one of the best known ‘animalists’ – although he admits to being a little more tentative in his endorsement of this position now, for reasons that we shall come to later. The other views that he considers are these: that we are entities that are ‘constituted’ by, but not identical with, human animals (the view of Lynne Rudder …
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DOI 10.1093/analys/anp021
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