Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Volume 81, Issue 3, November 2010

Kristie Miller
Pages 567-593

Persons as Sui Generis Ontological Kinds
Advice to Exceptionists

Many metaphysicians tell us that our world is one in which persisting objects are four-dimensionally extended in time, and persist by being partially present at each moment at which they exist. Many normative theorists tell us that at least some of our core normative practices are justified only if the relation that holds between a person at one time, and that person at another time, is the relation of strict identity. If these metaphysicians are right about the nature of our world, and these normative theorists are right about what justifies our normative practices, then we should be error theorists about the justification of at least some of our core normative practices and in turn, arguably we should eliminate those practices for which justification is lacking. This paper offers a way of resolving the tension between these two views that does not lead into the grips of error theory. It is a way that is amenable to "exceptionists" about persons: those who think there is something special about persons and the first-person perspective; that personhood cannot be explained naturalistically, and the first-person perspective is naturalistically irreducible. The conclusion is thus a conditional: given that one is an exceptionist, an attractive way to resolve this tension is to embrace the view that persons are sui generis ontological kinds.