Nils-Frederic Wagner
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Brain transplant thought experiments figure prominently in the debate on personal identity. Such hypotheticals are usually taken to provide support for psychological continuity theories. This standard interpretation has recently been challenged by Marya Schechtman. Simon Beck argues that Schechtman's critique rests upon ‘two costly mistakes’—claiming that (1) when evaluating these cases, philosophers mistakenly try to figure out the intuitions that they think people inhabiting such a possible world ought to have, instead of pondering their own intuitions. Beck further asserts that (2) brain transplant thought experiments cannot confirm any given theory of personal identity but rather they can only rule out theories. I argue on grounds of the social ontology of personhood that Beck has things back to front. Since our concept of personhood is shaped and informed by contingent de facto norms and structures of the natural world, and as such is heavily normatively laden, the conceptual genesis of personhood must be taken into account. This calls for constructing thought experiments as realistically as possible in order to trigger reliable intuitions. Furthermore, drawing on recent evidence from cognitive science, an empirically informed look at brain transplant thought experiments considering ‘Embodied Cognition’ reveals that Beck's arguments not only fall short for supporting psychological continuity theories, but also suggests an advantage of Schechtman's ‘Person Life View’.
Keywords personal identity  brain transplants
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DOI 10.1080/02580136.2015.1106705
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References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Persons and Their Pasts.Sydney Shoemaker - 1970 - American Philosophical Quarterly 7 (4):269-85.
The Self and the Future.Bernard Williams - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (2):161-180.
Transplant Thought-Experiments: Two Costly Mistakes in Discounting Them.Simon Beck - 2014 - South African Journal of Philosophy 33 (2):189-199.

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Citations of this work BETA

Reconsidering a Transplant: A Response to Wagner.Simon Beck - 2016 - South African Journal of Philosophy 35 (2):132-140.

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