I See Dead People – But Are There Any Dead Persons?Dr Patrick Stokes (Deakin University)
221 Burwood Hwy
Marya Schechtman’s recently offered “Person Life View” (PLV) aims to give an account of personal identity according to which a) persons are the unified loci of our various forms of practical judgment; b) each of us is essentially a person; and c) person-identity is literal rather than metaphorical identity. She also argues that PLV recognizes the personhood of prelinguistic infants, patients in permanent vegetative states, and even developmentally impaired infants who will never achieve ‘forensic’ moral identity, even if these are ‘degenerate’ forms of personhood. As such, PLV promises to capture much of what is intuitively compelling about the two main rival theories of identity, namely animalism and neo-Lockeanism. In this paper, I argue that the features of PLV that confer degenerate personhood also entail that the dead are still persons too, contrary to the widely-accepted ‘Termination Thesis’ according to which persons cease to exist when they die. Far from being an objection to Schechtman’s position, however, this actually counts in its favour: in light of our person-tracking practices and attitudes with regards to the dead, PLV turns out to handle the question of whether there are dead persons better than its competitors.
Patrick Stokes is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University and a Research Fellow in Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire. He has previously held research fellowships in the UK, US, and Denmark. He is the author of The Naked Self: Kierkegaard and Personal Identity (Oxford UP, 2015) and Kierkegaard's Mirrors (Palgrave, 2010). He is also co-editor, with John Lippitt, of Narrative, Identity, and the Kierkegaardian Self (Edinburgh UP, 2015) and, with Adam Buben, of Kierkegaard and Death (Indiana UP, 2011). Patrick is also a regular contributor to publications including The Conversation and New Philosopher, and a media commentator on philosophical matters.