Do dead bodies pose a problem for biological approaches to personal identity?

Mind 114 (453):31-59 (2005)
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Abstract

One reason why the Biological Approach to personal identity is attractive is that it doesn’t make its advocates deny that they were each once a mindless fetus.[i] According to the Biological Approach, we are essentially organisms and exist as long as certain life processes continue. Since the Psychological Account of personal identity posits some mental traits as essential to our persistence, not only does it follow that we could not survive in a permanently vegetative state or irreversible coma, but it would appear that none of us was ever a mindless fetus. But what happens to the organism that was a mindless fetus when the _person_ arrives on the scene?[ii] Can the acquisition of thought destroy an organism? That would certainly be news to biologists. Does one organism cease to exist with the emergence of thought and another organism, one identical to the person, take its place? (Burke,1994) That doesn’t seem much more plausible than the previous move. Should identity and Leibniz.

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David B. Hershenov
State University of New York, Buffalo

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