Thought experiments, sentience, and animalism

Synthese 202 (5):148 (2023)
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Animalism is prima facie the most plausible view about what we are; it aligns better with science and common sense, and is metaphysically more parsimonious. Thought experiments involving the brain, however, tend to elicit intuitions contrary to animalism. In this paper, I examine two classical thought experiments from the literature, brain transplant and cerebrum transplant, and a new one, cerebrum regeneration. I argue that they are theoretically possible, but that a scientifically informed account of what would actually happen shows that in none of the cases would the person be separated from the animal. Our intuitions in these cases, when adequately informed by neuroscience, do not conflict with animalism – rather, they suggest a correction of the animalist position: the persisting animal should be at least minimally sentient. Sentience animalism is a new formulation of the animalist account of personal identity that allows us to reconcile facts about our biological persistence conditions with the intuition that human persistence should involve some kind of psychological continuity.

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Margarida Hermida
King's College London


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