Combining Philosophers

Ideas for Jonathan Kvanvig, A.J. Ayer and Michael Lavers

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8 ideas

16. Persons / B. Nature of the Self / 1. Self and Consciousness
Consciousness must involve a subject, and only bodies identify subjects [Ayer]
     Full Idea: It may not make sense to talk of states of consciousness except as the experiences of some conscious subject; and it may well be that this conscious subject can not be identified except by reference to his body.
     From: A.J. Ayer (The Concept of a Person [1963], §IV)
     A reaction: It strikes me that Ayer deserves more credit as a pioneer of this view. It tracks back to what may turn out to be the key difficulty for Descartes - how do you individuate a mental substance? I may identify me, but how do I identify you?
16. Persons / B. Nature of the Self / 5. Self as Associations
If the self is meaningful, it must be constructed from sense-experiences [Ayer]
     Full Idea: The self, if it is not to be treated as a metaphysical entity, must be held to be a logical construction out of sense-experiences.
     From: A.J. Ayer (Language,Truth and Logic [1936], Ch.7)
     A reaction: It is striking how people differ in their reports when they try to see the self by introspection. The self could be beyond sense-experience, and yet still be the best explanation of what we actually DO experience. It is a 'transcendental sensation'?
Qualia must be united by a subject, because they lead to concepts and judgements [Ayer]
     Full Idea: The ground for thinking that qualia are only experiences because they relate to a unifying subject is that they have to be identified, by being brought under concepts, and giving rise to judgements which usually go beyond them.
     From: A.J. Ayer (The Central Questions of Philosophy [1973], §VI.B)
     A reaction: Thus one of Hume's greatest fans gives the clearest objection to Hume. It strikes me as a very powerful objection, better than anything Carruthers offers (1394,1395,1396). The conceptual element is very hard to disentangle from the qualia.
Is something an 'experience' because it relates to other experiences, or because it relates to a subject? [Ayer]
     Full Idea: Is the character of being an item of experience one that can accrue to a quale through its relation to other qualia, or must it consist in a relation to a subject, which is conscious of these elements and distinct from them?
     From: A.J. Ayer (The Central Questions of Philosophy [1973], §VI.B)
     A reaction: When nicely put like this, it is hard to see how qualia could be experiences just because they relate to one another. It begs the question of what is causing the relationship. There seems to be a Cogito-like assumption of a thinker.
16. Persons / B. Nature of the Self / 7. Self and Body / a. Self needs body
Bodily identity and memory work together to establish personal identity [Ayer]
     Full Idea: In general the two criteria of memory and bodily identity work together.
     From: A.J. Ayer (The Central Questions of Philosophy [1973], §VI.B)
     A reaction: This seems better than any simplistic one-criterion approach. In life we use different criteria for our own identity, as when dreaming, or waking with a hangover, or wondering if we are dead after an accident.
Two experiences belong to one self if their contents belong with one body [Ayer]
     Full Idea: For any two sense-experiences to belong to the sense-history of the same self it is necessary and sufficient that they should contain organic sense-contents which are elements of the same body.
     From: A.J. Ayer (Language,Truth and Logic [1936], Ch.7)
     A reaction: This makes more sense if you are a realist about organic bodies, but less sense if (like Ayer) you define the body in terms of sense-experiences. It is a stab at what is now called 'animalism', but needs an account of brain transplant thought-experiments.
Empiricists can define personal identity as bodily identity, which consists of sense-contents [Ayer]
     Full Idea: We have solved Hume's problem by defining personal identity in terms of bodily identity, and bodily identity is to be defined in terms of the resemblance and continuity of sense-contents.
     From: A.J. Ayer (Language,Truth and Logic [1936], Ch.7)
     A reaction: This is a phenomenalist account of personal identity, so it has no independent account of the body apart from the contents of the mind. Personally I think we must distinguish 'central' mental events from 'peripheral' ones.
People own conscious states because they are causally related to the identifying body [Ayer]
     Full Idea: I think personal identity depends on the identity of the body, and that a person's ownership of states of consciousness consists in their standing in a special causal relation to the body by which he is identified.
     From: A.J. Ayer (The Concept of a Person [1963], §IV)
     A reaction: I think with this is right, with the slight reservation that Ayer talks as if there were two things which have a causal relationship, implying that the link is contingent. Better to think of the whole thing as a single causal network.