Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Identity Theory

Is the following proposition really controversial?

Consciousness is a necessary condition of personhood.
Or as Julian Sanchez nicely puts it:
Moral status doesn't supervene on DNA. In other words, it's not something inscrutably wonderful about the order of human genes that makes us deserving of respect from our fellows, but our minds—the fact that we're thinking beings, capable of desiring and loving and hating and making plans and feeling pain. It isn't, I think, a terribly controversial position. All our common sense moral talk about why you shouldn't harm people implicitly makes reference to those features: We say things like "don't do that; imagine how you'd feel if someone did that to you." We use consent to distinguish between ranges of things it's permissible and impermissible to do to people, which would be hard to make sense of if it were our genes and bodies that were carriers of intrinsic worth. Boxing and assault can affect bodies identically; the mind makes the difference.
Somehow, this is news to Wesley J. Smith. Actually not news, so much as an axiom of Nazism. Wasn't there a time, and mightn't it be now, in which conservatives liked to profess a greater interest in philosophy than liberals? I guess it just must be that every credible philosopher working on identity theory has a hidden agenda that has something to do with the devaluation of life.

And on a parallel note, I'd rather like to know what caused Ralph Nader to start penning opinion pieces for the Discovery Institute [N.B.: that's Smith's employer and the premier (and only) thinktank for "scientific" creationism (er, intelligent design theory)].


At 1:49 AM, Blogger jeremy said...

Hey Finn, thanks for the Hip plug.

About the Wesley Smith thing -- in the link he calls her a "cognitively disabled person." Into the Hall of Fame of cultural paradoxes must go the spectacle of vicious right wingers who have staunchly protested or at least whined about every piece of "political correctness," disabilities law, movement, etc. etc., not to mention civl rights, now referring to flesh-bots with zero brain electrical activity as "cognitively disabled persons."


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