Thursday, May 23, 2019

On a twist on too-many-thinkers arguments

One of the ways to clinch a too-many-thinkers argument (say, Merricks’ argument against perdurantism, or Olson’s argument for animalism) is to say that the view results in an odd sceptical worry: one doesn’t know which of the many thinkers one is. For instance, if both the animal and the person think, how can you know that you are the animal and not the person: it seems you should have credence 1/2 in each.

I like too-many-thinkers arguments. But I’ve been worried about this response to the sceptical clinching: When the animal and the person think words like “I am a person”, the word “I” refers to the person, even when used by the animal, and hence both think the truth. In other words, “I” means something like: the person colocated with the the thinker/speaker.

But I think I have a good response to this response. It would be a weird limitation on our language if it did not allow speaker or thinker self-reference. Even if in fact “I” means the person colocated with the the thinker/speaker, we should be able to stipulate another pronoun, “I*”, one that refers just to the thinker/speaker. And it would be absurd to think that one not be able to justifiably assert “I* am a person.”

No comments: