The Human Animal: Personal Identity Without Psychology / Edition 1

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Overview

Most philosophers writing about personal identity in recent years claim that what it takes for us to persist through time is a matter of psychology. In this groundbreaking new book, Eric Olson argues that such approaches face daunting problems, and he defends in their place a radically non-psychological account of personal identity. He defines human beings as biological organisms, and claims that no psychological relation is either sufficient or necessary for an organism to persist. Rejecting several famous thought experiments dealing with personal identity, he instead argues that one could survive the destruction of all of one's psychological contents and capabilities as long as the human organism remains alive.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A very clear and powerfully argued defence of a most important and surprisingly neglected view."—Derek Parfit, author of Reasons and Persons (All Souls College, Oxford)

"For hundreds of years, almost all philosophers writing on the topic have supposed that personal identity is either entirely a matter of psychology or at least has an important and essential psychological component. This important book presents a powerful challenge to that assumption. If Dr. Olson is right, we are living animals and what goes on in our minds is wholly irrelevant to questions about our persistence through time. If this book receives the attention it deserves, it will transform philosophical thinking about personal identity."—Peter van Inwagen, author of An Essay on Free Will, Material Beings, and Metaphysics (University of Notre Dame)

"Olson's excellent and enjoyable book should be read by everyone with an interest in metaphysics. For those seriously interested in the philosophy of personal identity, or in our existence and identity, the matter is more serious; without much delay, you've got to get your hands on The Human Animal—Peter Unger, New York University

"A significant contribution to the field. It issues several important challenges to proponents of a psychological approach to personal identity."—Carol Rovane, Yale University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195134230
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 9/2/1999
  • Series: Philosophy of Mind Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 1,281,997
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Olson is a Lecturer in philosophy at Cambridge University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 Psychology and Personal Identity 7
2 Persistence 22
3 Why We Need Not Accept the Psychological Approach 42
4 Was I Ever a Fetus? 73
5 Are People Animals? 94
6 The Biological Approach 124
7 Alternatives 154
Notes 169
References 179
Index 187
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