Animalism, dicephalus, and borderline cases

Philosophical Psychology 20 (5):595-608 (2007)
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Abstract

The rare condition known as dicephalus occurs when (prior to implantation) a zygote fails to divide completely, resulting in twins who are conjoined below the neck. Human dicephalic twins look like a two-headed person, with each brain supporting a distinct mental life. Jeff McMahan has recently argued that, because they instance two of us but only one animal, dicephalic twins provide a counterexample to the animalist's claim that each of us is identical with a human animal. To the contrary, I argue that in cases of dicephalus it is obvious neither that there is one animal nor that there are two of us. Consequently, the animalist criterion does not straightforwardly apply to cases of dicephalus. I defend an account of dicephalus that is both sensitive to the complexity of twinning phenomena and not inconsistent with animalism. In my view, dicephalic twins are a borderline case of the concept HUMAN ANIMAL. I conclude with some speculative remarks concerning the normative import (if any) of my claim that dicephalic twins are a borderline case

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Stephan Blatti
University of Maryland, College Park

Citations of this work

Generic Animalism.Andrew M. Bailey & Peter van Elswyk - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (8):405-429.
Animalism.Andrew M. Bailey - 2015 - Philosophy Compass 10 (12):867-883.
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Conjoined twinning & biological individuation.Alexandria Boyle - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (8):2395-2415.

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Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
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Mortal Questions.Thomas Nagel - 1979 - Cambridge University Press.
Material Beings.Peter van Inwagen - 1990 - Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.

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