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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 31, 2015

Animalism and Person Essentialism

Kevin W. Sharpe
From the journal Metaphysica


Animalism is the view that human persons are human animals – biological organisms that belong to the species Homo sapiens. This paper concerns a family of modal objections to animalism based on the essentiality of personhood (persons and animals differ in their persistence conditions; psychological considerations are relevant for the persistence of persons, but not animals; persons, but not animals, are essentially psychological beings). Such arguments are typically used to support constitutionalism, animalism’s main neo-Lockean rival. The problem with such arguments is that they wrongly assume that animalism is incompatible with our essentially being psychological beings. In this paper, I discuss a formulation of animalism, what I call psychologically-serious animalism, according to which human persons are essentially human animals and essentially persons. I show how the availability of this neglected formulation of animalism undermines objections based on the essentiality of personhood.


I am grateful to Emily Esch, Casey Swank, and Omar Mirza for their comments on an earlier version of this paper. I am also grateful to audiences at the 2010 meeting of the Alabama Philosophical Association, the 2011 meeting of the Pacific American Philosophical Association (especially my commentator Todd Long), and Ashland University, where I presented distant ancestors of this paper. I owe a special debt to Jeff Brower, who provided invaluable feedback and encouragement.


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Published Online: 2015-3-31
Published in Print: 2015-5-25

©2015 by De Gruyter

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