Presentation: Elizabeth Schechter, “On the Possibility of Plural Personhood”

Elizabeth Schechter (Washington University at St. Louis, Philosophy), who is currently a fellow at the National Humanities Center, will present a work-in-progress paper entitled “On the Possibility of Plural Personhood” at the next PPRG meeting, which will be Thursday, May 7 from 7:30-9:00pm in room 213 of Caldwell Hall. RSVP to Dan if you plan to attend or if would like a copy of the paper. Abstract: I have argued that there are within a split-brain subject two distinct thinkers of I-thoughts, Righty and Lefty. These I-thinkers do not recognize each other as such (lack of mutual recognition) and indeed cannot distinguish themselves from each other on ordinary first-personal grounds (lack of self-distinction). Righty and Lefty are therefore not distinct quo persons, but are instead thinking parts of one person: the split-brain subject as a whole. This chapter concerns the possibility and desirability of plural personhood in the split-brain subject. Righty and Lefty cannot be distinct persons unless they develop the capacity for self-distinction and mutual recognition. Their living the lives of distinct persons would further require that second parties learn to recognize and relate to them as such (social recognition). Although such achievement would be difficult, they probably aren’t impossible. The possibility of plural personhood raises a troubling question, however: is there, or was there, an unmet obligation to encourage Righty and Lefty to develop into distinct persons? The only defensible negative answer to this question requires accepting the intrinsic moral significance of the individual human animal.