Philosophy of Mind Visiting Speakers Seminar (Friday - Week 9, TT21)

Philosophy of mind

Animalism is standardly framed as the thesis that we are animals. So understood, cases of dicephalus conjoined twins are widely regarded as posing a serious challenge. For such twins would appear to be numerically distinct individuals associated with a single animal (e.g., Campbell and McMahan 2016). In reply, animalists have claimed either that such twins are two animals (e.g., Liao 2006, Snowdon 2014), or that they are not numerically distinct (e.g., Olson 2014, Boyle 2020). Both approaches face serious objections. This motivates a neglected response on which there is only a single human animal associated with each pair of dicephalus conjoined twins, yet neither twin is identifiable with that animal. Supposing that each twin is instead a distinct proper part of an animal, this proposal quickly encounters an especially severe version of the “thinking parts” objection to animalism. For if the twins are thinking parts of animals, what prevents our all having proper parts which think in their own right (Olson 2014)? By combining Madden’s (2016) reply to the traditional “thinking parts” objection with a more sophisticated, pluralist account of function, I show how this objection can be defused. What emerges is a view on which we – on one significant understanding of that pronoun – are not all animals. Our natures are diverse. Animalism is thus not a universal panacea. It is the truth about some but not all of us.


Places are stricly limited and anyone who wishes to attend in person needs to email Mike Martin by midday 23 June. However, access will continue to be available over Zoom. 

The seminar will be read ahead, so contacting Mike Martin ahead of time will be essential.

Philosophy of Mind Work-in-Progress convenor: Mike Martin and Dominic Alford-Duguid