Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

A World Without Persons

Joseph Kamp

There are no tables, chairs, statues, or even persons! In fact, there are no composite macrophysical particulars. There are only atoms arranged table-wise, chair-wise, statue-wise, and person-wise. While this view, known as eliminativism, may appear to be radical and contradictory, I plan to present several lines of reasoning that support the theory. In discussing composition, I first offer the Argument Against Epiphenomenal Objects that concludes that all composite macrophysical particulars are epiphenomenal and as such should be eliminated from our ontology. This eliminativistic view is held up against competing theories of composition, including unrestricted composition, restricted composition, vague composition, and brute composition. Rejecting these opposing conceptions of composition leaves only the eliminativistic principle: xs compose a y if and only if y is not epiphenomenal. This principle of composition endangers human persons as well as all other composite macrophysical particulars. The discussion of the ontology of persons within this eliminativistic framework is focused on refuting arguments aimed at maintaining persons within the ontology. Specifically, I will discuss the work of Trenton Merricks, who claims that persons, in virtue of their being conscious, can survive elimination by their capability of causal activity above and beyond that of their constituent simples. Merricks’s thesis implies the denial of consciousness as supervenient upon the microphysical. I argue to the contrary: consciousness is both supervening and intrinsic. Against Theodore Sider, who argues that consciousness is a property that is maximal and extrinsic, I propose that the proper way to look at consciousness is as minimal and intrinsic. Consciousness is a minimal property inasmuch as it is an attribute of the smallest proper part of a human person from where consciousness arises. My argument that consciousness is a minimal property provides a response to Merricks’s reductio of microphysical supervenience, establishing humans as epiphenomenal and candidates for elimination from our ontology. I conclude with a discussion of how it is possible for there to be consciousness in a world devoid of persons.