"Animalism" is Topic of Ashland University Philosophy Lecture

4/1/11 ASHLAND, OH -- The Ashland University Philosophy Department, in conjunction with the Philosophy Club and Phi Sigma Tau, will present a colloquium titled "Animalism" by Dr. Kevin Sharpe of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held Thursday, April 14, at 4:30 p.m. in Room 105 in the Dauch College of Business and Economics.

According to Dr. Sharpe, "Animalism" is the view that human persons are all and only animals: biological organisms that belong to the species Homo Sapiens. Although seemingly non-controversial, such a view has been criticized on many grounds.

One important objection holds that human persons cannot be animals because an animal can survive changes that no human person could survive (e.g. losing all your brain except your brainstem, falling into a persistent vegetative state, etc.). Since it is not possible for a single thing to both survive and fail to survive some change, it follows that no human person is an animal.

Proponents of animalism have a ready response to this sort of argument. In short, they have held that the person does survive; he or she just ceases to be a person (in much the same way that a student survives graduation, she just ceases to be a student). This sort of response results in a dialectical stalemate, however.

In Dr. Sharpe's talk, he will propose to break the stalemate in favor of animalism. Dr. Sharpe will explain how both typical animalists and their opponents rely on a controversial assumption relating kind-membership with the sorts of changes that members of a kind can survive. Once this assumption is rejected, one will have no reason to think that animalism is inconsistent with the fact that animals and persons differ in what changes they can/cannot survive. If this is correct, then it follows that one of the most common reasons for rejecting animalism fails. Opponents of animalism, then, will have to look elsewhere for reasons to reject the claim that human persons are animals.
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