There are two currently popular but quite different ways of answering the question of what constitutes personal identity: the one is usually called the psychological continuity theory (or Psychological View) and the other the narrative theory.1 Despite their differences, they do both claim to be providing an account—the correct account—of what makes someone the same person over time. Marya Schechtman has presented an important argument in this journal (Schechtman 2005) for a version of the narrative view (the ‘Self-Understanding View’) over (...) the psychological one, an argument which has received an overwhelmingly positive response from commentators (Gillett 2005; Heinemaa 2005; Phillips 2006). I wish to argue that .. (shrink)
‘Transplant’ thought-experiments, in which the cerebrum is moved from one body to another, have featured in a number of recent discussions in the personal identity literature. Once taken as offering confirmation of some form of psychological continuity theory of identity, arguments from Marya Schechtman and Kathleen Wilkes have contended that this is not the case. Any such apparent support is due to a lack of detail in their description or a reliance on predictions that we are in no position to (...) make. I argue that the case against them rests on two serious misunderstandings of the operation of thought-experiments, and that even if they do not ultimately support a psychological continuity theory, they do major damage to that theory’s opponents. (shrink)
The paper provides a semantic analysis of intervention effects in wh-questions. The interpretation component of the grammar derives uninterpretability, hence ungrammaticality, of the intervention data. In the system of compositional interpretation that I suggest, wh-phrases play the same role as focused phrases, introducing alternatives into the computation. Unlike focus, wh-phrases make no ordinary semantic contribution. An intervention effect occurs whenever a focus-sensitive operator other than the question operator tries to evaluate a constituent containing a wh-phrase. It is argued that this (...) approach can capture the universal as well as the crosslinguistically variable aspects of intervention effects, in a way that is superior to previous approaches. Further consequences concern other focus-related constructions: multiple focus data, NPI licensing, and alternative questions. (shrink)
A semantics for interrogatives is presented which is based on Karttunen's theory, but in a flexible manner incorporates both weak and strong exhaustivity. The paper starts out by considering degree questions, which often require an answer picking out the maximal degree from a certain set. However, in some cases, depending on the semantic properties of the question predicate, reference to the minimal degree is required, or neither specifying the maximum nor the minimum is sufficient. What is needed is an operation (...) which defines the maximally informative answer on the basis of the Karttunen question denotation. Shifting attention to non-degree questions, two notions of answerhood are adopted from work by Heim. The first of these is weakly exhaustive and the second strongly exhaustive. The second notion of answerhood is proven to be equivalent to Groenendijk and Stokhof's interrogative semantics. On the basis of a wide range of empirical data showing that questions often are not interpreted exhaustively, it is argued that a fairly rich system of semantic objects associated with questions is needed to account for the various ways in which questions contribute to the semantics and pragmatics of the utterances in which they appear. (shrink)
Research questions and backgroundThis study explores a highly controversial issue of medical care in Germany: the decision to withhold or withdraw mechanical ventilation in critically ill patients. It analyzes difficulties in making these decisions and the physicians’ uncertainty in understanding the German terminology of Sterbehilfe, which is used in the context of treatment limitation. Used in everyday language, the word Sterbehilfe carries connotations such as helping the patient in the dying process or helping the patient to enter the dying process. (...) Yet, in the legal and ethical discourse Sterbehilfe indicates several concepts: (1) treatment limitation, i.e., withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment (passive Sterbehilfe), (2) the use of medication for symptom control while taking into account the risk of hastening the patient’s death (indirekte Sterbehilfe), and (3) measures to deliberately terminate the patient’s life (aktive Sterbehilfe). The terminology of Sterbehilfe has been criticized for being too complex and misleading, particularly for practical purposes. Materials and methods An exploratory study based on qualitative interviews was conducted with 28 physicians from nine medical intensive care units in tertiary care hospitals in the German federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The method of data collection was a problem-centered, semi-structured interview using two authentic clinical case examples. In order to shed light on the relation between the physicians’ concepts and the ethical and legal frames of reference, we analyzed their way of using the terms passive and aktive Sterbehilfe. Results Generally, the physicians were more hesitant in making decisions to withdraw rather than withhold mechanical ventilation. Almost half of them assumed a categorical prohibition to withdraw any mechanical ventilation and more than one third felt that treatment ought not to be withdrawn at all. Physicians showed specific uncertainty about classifying the withdrawal of mechanical ventilation as passive Sterbehilfe, and had difficulties understanding that terminating ventilation is not basically illegal, but the permissibility of withdrawal depends on the situation. Conclusions The physicians’ knowledge and skills in interpreting clinical ethical dilemmas require specific improvement on the one hand; on the other hand, the terms passive and aktive Sterbehilfe are less clear than desirable and not as easy to use in clinical practice. Fear of making unjustified or illegal decisions may motivate physicians to continue (even futile) treatment. Physicians strongly opt for more open discussion about end-of-life care to allow for discontinuation of futile treatment and to reduce conflict. (shrink)
The view that an account of personal identity can be provided in terms of psychological continuity has come under fire from an interesting new angle in recent years. Critics from a variety of rival positions have argued that it cannot adequately explain what makes psychological states co-personal (i.e. the states of a single person). The suggestion is that there will inevitably be examples of states that it wrongly ascribes using only the causal connections available to it. In this paper, I (...) describe three distinct attacks on the psychological continuity theory along these lines. While I acknowledge that a number of interesting issues arise, I argue that the theory can withstand all three attacks. (shrink)
Our purpose in this article is to draw attention to a connection that obtains between two dilemmas from two separate spheres: sports and the law. It is our contention that umpires in the game of cricket may face a dilemma that is similar to a dilemma confronted by legal decision makers and that comparing the nature of the dilemmas, and the arguments advanced to solve them, will serve to advance our understanding of both the law and games.
Winter (2000) argues that so-called co-distributive or cumulative readings do not involve polyadic quantification (contra proposals by Krifka, Schwarzschild, Sternefeld, and others). Instead, he proposes that all such readings involve a hidden anaphoric dependency or a lexical mechanism. We show that Winter's proposal is insufficient for a number of cases of cumulative readings, and that Krifka's and Sternefeld's polyadic **-operator is needed in addition to dependent definites. Our arguments come from new observations concerning dependent plurals and clause-boundedness effects with cumulative (...) readings. (shrink)
The thought-experiment presented by Bernard Williams in 'The self and the future' continues to draw the attention of writers in the debate about personal identity. While few of them agree on what implications it has for the debate, almost all agree that those implications are significant ones. Some have even claimed that it has consequences not only for personal identity, but also concerning the viability of thought-experiment as a method. This paper surveys what these consequences might be at both levels (...) - as a substantive contribution to the debate on identity, and as to what it shows about the usefulness of thought-experiments. It argues ultimately that thought-experiments like Williams's do provide a useful philosophical tool as long as we temper our expectations of them, and that it offers some support to a view of personal identity but one which is at odds with Williams's own view. (shrink)
Marya Schechtman has raised a series of worries for the Psychological Continuity Theory of personal identity (PCT) stemming out of what Derek Parfit called the ‘Extreme Claim’. This is roughly the claim that theories like it are unable to explain the importance we attach to personal identity. In her recent Staying Alive (2014), she presents further arguments related to this and sets out a new narrative theory, the Person Life View (PLV), which she sees as solving the problems as well (...) as bringing other advantages over the PCT. I look over some of her earlier arguments and responses to them as a way in to the new issues and theory. I argue that the problems for the PCT and advantages that the PLV brings are all merely apparent, and present no reason for giving up the former for the latter. (shrink)
Marya Schechtman's The Constitution of Selves presented an impressive attempt to persuade those working on personal identity to give up mainstream positions and take on a narrative view instead. More recently, she has presented new arguments with a closely related aim. She attempts to convince us to give up the view of identity as a matter of psychological continuity, using Derek Parfit's story of the “Nineteenth Century Russian” as a central example in making the case against Parfit's own view, and (...) offers a form of narrative theory as a way out of the problem. In this paper I consider this new case, and argue that we should not be persuaded towards the narrative. (shrink)
This paper presents a systematic empirical investigation of so-called Rullmann Ambiguities (The helicopter was flying less high than a plane can fly). It is shown that many examples constructed after this pattern are in fact unambiguous, and that some but not all examples which replace less with ordinary more/-er are ambiguous. An analysis is proposed which takes into account the inferential properties of the degree predicate in the than-clause plus the way contextual information can be integrated into its meaning. The (...) analysis predicts which Rullmann examples are ambiguous and which are not. Consequences for the analysis of comparatives and for the meaning of adjectives are derived. (shrink)
While theories about interpreting biblical and other parables have long realised the importance of readers’ responses to the topic, recent results in social psychology concerning systematic self-deception raise unforeseen problems. In this paper I first set out some of the problems these results pose for the authority of fictional thought-experiments in moral philosophy. I then consider the suggestion that biblical parables face the same problems and as a result cannot work as devices for moral or religious instruction in the way (...) that they are usually understood to work. I examine a number of influential theories about interpretation of the parables which might appear to deflect the problems, and argue that none of them are ultimately successful in doing so. (shrink)
This paper investigates the semantics of adverbials like ‘page by page’ and ‘stone upon stone’. An analysis is developed in which sentences containing such adverbials have a pluractional semantics; that is, pluralization affects simultaneously the event- and the individual-argument slot of a predicate. Sternefeld's (1998) system of plural operators is used and extended for this purpose. The adverbial constrains the relation that is pluralized and makes visible a higher plural operator. In the case of ‘page by page’-type adverbials, this is (...) a fairly standard operator that leads to a simple divisional interpretation. In the case of ‘stone upon stone’-type adverbials, the operator has a stronger semantics that leads to a sequence interpretation. The generality of our theory permits straightforward extension to data like ‘she ran and ran’ and ‘she climbed higher and higher’, among others. Finally we propose that inclusive alternative ordering reciprocals (Dalrymple et al. 1998) have a pluractional sequence interpretation as well. (shrink)
Eric Olson argues in The Human Animal that thought-experiments involving body-swapping do not in the end offer any support to psychological continuity theories, nor do they pose any threat to his Biological View. I argue that he is mistaken in at least the second claim.
This paper develops a semantic analysis of data like It is getting colder and colder. Their meaning is argued to arise from a combination of a comparative with pluractionality. The analysis is embedded in a general theory of plural predication and pluractionality. It supports a semantic theory involving a family of syntactic plural operators.
Martha Nussbaum has argued in support of the view (supposedly that of Aristotle) that we can, through thought-experiments involving personal identity, find an objective foundation for moral thought without having to appeal to any authority independent of morality. I compare the thought-experiment from Plato’s Philebus that she presents as an example to other thought-experiments involving identity in the literature and argue that this reveals a tension between the sources of authority which Nussbaum invokes for her thought-experiment. I also argue that (...) each of her sources of authority presents further difficulties for her project. Finally, I argue that it is not clear that her thought-experiment is one that actually involves identity in any crucial way. As a result, the case she offers does not offer any satisfactory support for her view on the relation between identity, morality and thought-experiments, but we do gain some insights into what that relation really is along the way. (shrink)
Marya Schechtman and Grant Gillett acknowledge that my case in ‘The misunderstandings of the Self-Understanding View’ (2013) has some merits, but neither is moved to change their position and accept that the Psychological View has more going for it (and the Self-Understanding View less) than Schechtman originally contended. Schechtman thinks her case could be better expressed, and then the deficiencies of the Psychological View will be manifest. That view is committed to Locke’s insight about the importance of phenomenological connections to (...) identity, but cannot do justice to this insight and as a result fails to explain things that it should. I will argue that my case still applies, re-expression notwithstanding .. (shrink)
This paper proposes that elementary reciprocal sentences have four semantic readings: a strongly reciprocal interpretation, a weakly reciprocal interpretation, a situation-based weakly reciprocal reading, and a collective reading. Interpretational possibilities of reciprocal sentences that have been discussed in the literature are identified as one of these four. A compositional semantic analysis of all of these readings is provided in which the reciprocal expression is uniformly represented as 'the other ones among them' (recasting Heim, Lasnik and May 1991a, b). A reciprocal (...) sentence is thus a special kind of relational plural. Interpretational variability comes about by the same mechanisms of plural predication at work in relational plurals: pluralization operators, LF operations like QR, and addition of contextual information. (shrink)
The psychological continuity theory of personal identity has recently been accused of not meeting what is claimed to be a fundamental requirement on theories of identity - to explain personal moral responsibility. Although they often have much to say about responsibility, the charge is that they cannot say enough. I set out the background to the charge with a short discussion of Locke and the requirement to explain responsibility, then illustrate the accusation facing the theory with details from Marya Schechtman. (...) I aim some questions at the challengers’ reading of Locke, leading to an argument that the psychological continuity theory can say all that it needs to say about responsibility, and so is not in any grave predicament, at least not with regard to this particular charge. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss a set of problems concerning the method of cases as it is used in applied ethics and in the metaphysical debate about personal identity. These problems stem from research in social psychology concerning our access to the data with which the method operates. I argue that the issues facing ethics are more worrying than those facing metaphysics.
Paul Ricoeur and Marya Schechtman express grave doubts about the acceptability and informativeness of the thought-experiments employed by analytic philosophers (notably Derek Parfit) in the debate about personal identity, and for what appear to be related reasons. I consider their reasoning and argue that their reasons fail to justify their doubts. I go on to argue that, from this discussion of possible problems concerning select thought-experiments, something positive can be learned about personal identity.
Next SectionThis paper presents the results of an experimental study on multiple focus configurations, that is, structures containing two nested focus-sensitive operators plus two foci supposed to associate with those operators. There has been controversial discussion in the semantic literature regarding whether or not an interpretation is acceptable that corresponds to this association. While the data are unclear, the issue is of considerable theoretical significance, as it distinguishes between the available theories of focus interpretation. Some theories (e.g. Rooth's 1992) predict (...) such a pattern of association with focus to be impossible, while others (such as Wold’s 1996) predict it to be acceptable. The results of our study show the data to be unacceptable rather than acceptable, favouring important aspects of the theory of focus interpretation developed by Rooth. (shrink)
In reaching his narrative view of the self in Oneself as Another, Paul Ricoeur argues that, while literature offers revealing insights into the nature of the self, the sort of fictions involving brain transplants, fission, and so on, that philosophers often take seriously do not (and cannot). My paper is a response to Ricoeur's charge, contending that the arguments Ricoeur rejects are not flawed in the way he suggests, and that his own arguments are sometimes guilty of the very charges (...) he lays at the door of his opponents. (shrink)
This article is concerned with the place counterfactual reasoning occupies in South African law, and how philosophy might be able to help the law. I point out some of the more important and unavoidable uses of counterfactual reasoning in our law. Following this I make some suggestions as to how philosophy, and especially informal logic, can be of help to the law. Finally, I make some suggestions as to how the law in turn can help philosophy.
This paper examines the effect that focus has on repetitive versus restitutive again. It is argued that a pragmatic explanation of the effect is the right strategy. The explanation builds largely on a standard focus semantics. To this we add an anaphoric analysis of again’s presupposition and a detailed analysis of the alternatives triggered when focus falls on again.
Philosophers have traditionally used thought-experiments in their endeavours to find a satisfactory account of the self and personal identity. Yet there are considerations from empirical psychology as well as related ones from philosophy itself that appear to completely undermine the method of thought-experiment. This paper focuses on both sets of considerations and attempts a defence of the method.
In this paper I argue for a restriction on certain types of LF movement, which I call ‘wh-related LF movement’. Evidence comes from a number of wh-in-situ constructions in German, such as the scope-marking construction and multiple questions. For semantic reasons, the in situ element in those constructions has to move at LF to either a position reserved for wh-phrases, or even higher up in the structure. The restriction (the Minimal Quantified Structure Constraint, MQSC) is that an intervening quantified expression (...) blocks this movement. In the case of every, the MQSC leads to an unambiguously distributive interpretation of the question. In the case of all other intervening operators, including negation, it leads to ungrammaticality. (shrink)
The semantic literature takes degree operators like the comparative, but also measure phrases, the equative, the superlative and so on, to be quantifiers over degrees. This is well motivated by their semantic contribution, but leads one to expect far more scope interaction than is actually observed. This paper proposes an alternative-semantic analysis of certain degree constructions, in particular constructions with little and other negative antonyms. Restrictions on scope can then be explained as intervention effects.
The topic of this paper is the semantic analysis of the sentences in (1). (1a,b) contain the adverbial modifiers 'one after the other' and 'dog after dog', respectively, which add to the simple (1') information on how the overall event of the dogs entering the room is to be divided into subevents based on a division of the group of dogs into individual dogs. We call these adverbials pluractional adverbials, following e.g. Lasersohn's (1995) use of the term pluractionality for the (...) division of larger eventualities into subeventualities. (shrink)
The performance of 93 children aged 3 and 4 years on a battery of different counterfactual tasks was assessed. Three measures: short causal chains, location change counterfactual conditionals, and false syllogisms—but not a fourth, long causal chains—were correlated, even after controlling for age and receptive vocabulary. Children's performance on our counterfactual thinking measure was predicted by receptive vocabulary ability and inhibitory control. The role that domain general executive functions may play in 3- to 4-year olds' counterfactual thinking development is discussed.
This paper presents a cross-linguistic survey of the interpretations that decomposition adverbs like again permit. The survey distinguishes two different types of predicates that are combined with again: lexical accomplishments like ‘open the door’, on the one hand, and combinations of a motion verb with a directional Prepositional Phrase (PP) on the other (for example, ‘walk to the summit’). There is systematic cross-linguistic variation with the latter type of predicate: a language only permits a restitutive reading of again with such (...) a predicate if the language has resultative constructions. I argue that in these languages the PP can function as a result phrase. In languages without resultatives, the PP cannot be a result phrase, and a restitutive reading is impossible. The data support an analysis of restitutive again that is sensitive to the presence of a result phrase in the syntax. (shrink)
Derek Parfit argues in Reasons and Persons that acting according to your present desires is more rational, or at least as rational, as acting in your long-term self-interest. To do this, he puts forward a case supporting a 'critical present-aim theory' of rationality opposed to the self-interest theory, and then argues against a number of possible replies. This article is a response to these arguments, concluding that Parfit's favouring of the present-aim theory is unfounded, and that self-interest is the better (...) theory of rationality. (shrink)
Recent data show that human children (up to 8 years old) perform poorly when required to innovate tools. Our tool-rich culture may be more reliant on social learning and more limited by domain-general constraints such as ill-structured problem solving than otherwise thought.
This paper proposes a novel semantic analysis of the quantificational variability data discovered by Berman (1991). We suggest that the adverb of quantification in those data quantifies over semantic questions. Its domain is a division of the original question into subquestions, where a legitimate division into subquestions is one in which each member contributes towards the answer to the original question, and together the answers to all subquestions provide the complete answer to the original question. Thus the question itself is (...) associated with a part/whole structure, based on information. We show that there are quantificational variability effects in which the matrix verb is exclusively question‐embedding. These data pose a problem for other theories of quantificational variability in questions (specifically Berman 1991 and Lahiri 2002) and motivate our analysis. There are other desirable consequences of our theory, including flexibility in what counts as a subquestion and flexibility in what counts as a complete answer. Beyond quantificational variability, associating questions with a part/whole structure receives independent motivation from questions that occur in collective and cumulative embedded contexts. (shrink)
How are causal judgements such as 'The ice on the road caused the traffic accident' connected with counterfactual judgements such as 'If there had not been any ice on the road, the traffic accident would not have happened'? This volume throws new light on this question by uniting, for the first time, psychological and philosophical approaches to causation and counterfactuals. Traditionally, philosophers have primarily been interested in connections between causal and counterfactual claims on the level of meaning or truth-conditions. More (...) recently, however, they have also increasingly turned their attention to psychological connections between causal and counterfactual understanding or reasoning. At the same time, there has been a surge in interest in empirical work on causal and counterfactual cognition amongst developmental, cognitive, and social psychologists--much of it inspired by work in philosophy. In this volume, twelve original contributions from leading philosophers and psychologists explore in detail what bearing empirical findings might have on philosophical concerns about counterfactuals and causation, and how, in turn, work in philosophy might help clarify the issues at stake in empirical work on the cognitive underpinnings of, and relationships between, causal and counterfactual thought. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to re-evaluate the manner in which the Ticking Bomb Scenario (TBS), a thought experiment in philosophical enquiry, has been used in the discussion of the justifiability or otherwise of forward-looking interrogational torture (FLIT). The paper argues that criticisms commonly raised against the thought experiment are often inappropriate or irrelevant. A great many criticisms misunderstand the way in which thought experiments in general, and the TBS in particular, are supposed to work in philosophical (and for (...) that matter scientific) inquiry. The paper is not about the acceptability or otherwise of FLIT per se but rather an attempt to show that thought experiments such as the TBS are useful analytic tools and ought not to be rejected due to their inappropriate use by those engaged in the justifiability or otherwise of FLIT. By rescuing the TBS from its erroneous use the paper seeks to show its proper worth as part of an argumentative device in uncovering conflicting moral intuitions in our search for ethical truths. (shrink)