Animalism: The Claim That We Are Animals

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The view that we are human animals, "animalism", is a very unpopular view. However, those who deny it face an awkward choice. They must either deny that there are any human animals, deny that human animals can think, or deny that we are the thinking things located where we are. It is a truism that you and I are human beings and that a human being is a kind of animal: roughly a member of the primate species Homo sapiens. It would naturally seem to follow that we are animals. Yet that claim is deeply controversial and many famous philosophers have denied it, this is surprising to me. Isn't it obvious that we are animals? I will explain how I understand the claim that we are animals. However, my main purpose is to make a case for this unpopular view. My strategy is to ask what it would mean if we weren’t animals. Denying that we are animals is more difficult than one might think.
Eric Olson’s definition of animalism is that “each of us is numerically identical with an animal. There is a certain human
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Historically, one of the main reasons why animalism is so unpopular is because of hostility to materialism. Philosophers have always found it difficult to believe that a material object, no matter how physically complex, can produce thought or experience. An animal is a material object. Olson’s response is that these days, there is far less doubt that a material object can produce thought and experience. A detached cerebrum is no more an organism than a detached liver is an organism. The empty-headed thing left behind, is an animal. It may remain alive if the surgeons are careful when removing the cerebrum. The empty headed being into which your cerebrum is implanted is also an animal. Therefore there are two animals. One of them loses its cerebrum and gets an empty head. The other has its empty head filled with that organ. No animal moves from one organ to another, the surgeons merely move an organ from one animal to

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