Persons and bodies: The metaphysics of human persons

Kevin Joseph Corcoran, Purdue University


What is a human person? Two general accounts have been offered in answer to this question. According to the one, human persons are immaterial minds or souls. According to the other, human persons are identical with the material bodies that constitute them. Both accounts have serious problems. In this dissertation I present a position that is not a version of any of the currently fashionable or unfashionable "isms"--Cartesian dualism, reductive materialism or property dualism. Taking my lead from recent work on the constitution relation by Mark Johnston, E. J. Lowe, Michael Burke and David Wiggins, I argue in my dissertation for a constitution account of human persons. A constitution account of human person solves many of the problems that plague traditional dualist and materialist theories of persons while at the same time doing justice to our well founded intuitions about persons. According to the constitution view, human persons are concrete physical particulars numerically distinct from the concrete physical particulars that constitute them. Not only are the relata involved in the constitution relation--the constituting object and the constituted object--numerically distinct but they are also objects that fall under different sortals. The constitution view is not without costs. Perhaps the biggest is this: it entails that in the same region of space that presently contains my body there is another numerically distinct physical entity--Me--that shares with my body all of the same parts. This seems to raise insurmountable problems for the constitution view. I supply plausible solutions to these problems and show how the "constitution" view preserves our most deeply held and well-founded beliefs about persons. ^




Major Professor: William L. Rowe, Purdue University.

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