Animals now and then

Dissertation, Baylor University (2018)
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Abstract

One aim of this dissertation is to remove ambiguities that have impeded a clear discussion and adequate evaluation of animalism. To that end I develop a taxonomy of different varieties of animalism and argue that there are substantive differences between them. In earlier debates about animalism, the previously elided distinctions that my taxonomy makes clear create unnecessary confusion and disagreement. My taxonomy resolves some of that confusion and provides the parties to the debate with a conceptual framework for importantly distinct accounts of personal identity. I also evaluate animalist arguments in light of the distinctions my taxonomy tracks. Specifically I identify which arguments support which varieties of animalism. The most popular varieties, I argue, are critically under-supported. All rely on a tacit presupposition that ‘animal’ is a natural kind term or a substance sortal, a supposition that animalists are under some pressure to reject. Thus, my evaluation prompts a refocusing of the standard defenses of animalism to prioritize defending the tacit presupposition. Finally, I defend a hylomorphic variety of animalism from two objections: first, from the objection that if animalism is true, then human persons cannot survive death, or at least they cannot exist in an intermediate, disembodied state between their deaths and resurrections. I do this by arguing that given hylomorphism, animals can become immaterial, and that this is less an affront to intuition and mereology than it might seem. Second, I defend a hylomorphic variety of animalism from the objection that if it is true, we are not the primary thinkers of our thoughts. The criticism is that if hylomorphism can solve certain puzzles, the resolving of which is one of the main points in hylomorphism’s favor, the view implies that our contingent mental properties primarily characterize something other than us. I argue that this criticism turns on a misunderstanding of how the hylomorphism at stake solves the relevant puzzles and that it can do so without major modification.

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