What Are We?: A Study in Personal Ontology

Hardcover | September 20, 2007

byEric T. Olson

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From the time of Locke, discussions of personal identity have often ignored the question of our basic metaphysical nature: whether we human people are biological organisms, spatial or temporal parts of organisms, bundles of perceptions, or what have you. The result of this neglect has beencenturies of wild proposals and clashing intuitions. What Are We? is the first general study of this important question. It beings by explaining what the question means and how it differs from others, such as questions of personal identity and the mind-body problem. It then examines in some depth the main possible accounts of our metaphysical nature,detailing both their theoretical virtues and the often grave difficulties they face. The book does not endorse any particular account of what we are, but argues that the matter turns on more general issues in the ontology of material things. If composition is universal--if any material things whatever make up something bigger--then we are temporal parts of organisms. If thingsnever compose anything bigger, so that there are only mereological simples, then we too are simples--perhaps the immaterial substances of Descartes--or else we do not exist at all (a view Olson takes very seriously). The intermediate view that some things compose bigger things and others do notleads almost inevitably to the conclusion that we are organisms. So we can discover what we are by working out when composition occurs.

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From the time of Locke, discussions of personal identity have often ignored the question of our basic metaphysical nature: whether we human people are biological organisms, spatial or temporal parts of organisms, bundles of perceptions, or what have you. The result of this neglect has beencenturies of wild proposals and clashing intuit...

Eric Olson is Professor in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 6.42 × 9.21 × 0.91 inPublished:September 20, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195176421

ISBN - 13:9780195176421

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Table of Contents

1. The Question2. Animals3. Constitution4. Brains5. Temporal Parts6. Bundles7. Souls8. Nihilism9. What Now?

Editorial Reviews

"This is a good book. Its philosophical sophistication and rigor should recommend it to anyone working on the metaphysics of persons, and its scope and readability should recommend it to anyone teaching metaphysics to upper level undergraduates or graduate students. Whether or not this is a question with an answer, accompanying Olson on his trip through the logical space it carves out is enjoyable and rewarding."--Michael O'Rourke, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews