Animal Self-Awareness

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Abstract
Part of the philosophical interest of the topic of organic individuals is that it promises to shed light on a basic and perennial question of philosophical self-understanding, the question what are we? The class of organic individuals seems to be a good place to look for candidates to be the things that we are. However there are, in principle, different ways of locating ourselves within the class of organic individuals; organic individuals occur at both higher and lower mereological levels than the stereotypical bounded and physiologically unified vertebrate organism. The view that we are organic individuals smaller than the physiological organism is one that has recently been endorsed by Derek Parfit. This paper attempts to resolve a dispute between Parfit’s ‘embodied part’ view and a contrary ‘animalist’ view according to which we are whole organisms. It is explained why a problem of multiple thinkers presents a serious obstacle to a straightforward resolution of this dispute. Parfit’s own strategy for dealing with this obstacle is found to be problematic. However his strategy has a certain general shape, which can be instantiated in a different, and better, specific way. I close in the final section, not with a definite resolution of the dispute, but with illustration of how progress on the question of about which organic individuals we are requires engagement with questions about the nature and function of self-awareness.
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Archival date: 2017-08-07
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2017-06-10

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