Rosenberg Thinking Clearly About Death Notes (Ch. 2 & 6)

Topics: Ethics, Soul, Positive liberty Pages: 11 (3305 words) Published: December 3, 2012
Rosenberg Ch 2 -

(2.1)The Having Theory: the relationship between either a person and a soul or a person and a body is some form of “possession” or “ownership” signaled by the word ‘has’.
Rosenberg’s argument: The questions regarding a person who dies “What becomes of the person?” and “Where does the corpse come from” cannot be answered coherently by the Having Theory.
His argument:
No account of the history of a person’s possessions following his death has any consequences regarding the history of the person himself following his death, so the Having theory does not have an answer for question 1.

An analogy: a pancreas is something a person has. Suppose when I die my pancreas will be surgically removed and kept healthy and alive. The history of my pancreas will continue after my death. It does not follow that my history will continue after my death. The fate of my pancreas does not equal my fate.

Rosenberg argues that knowing what becomes of the soul does not mean we know what becomes of ourselves. The fact that the history of my soul continues after death does not imply that my history does. Thus, the Having theory leaves my fate completely undetermined.

(2.2) Having a Soul - In a Manner of Speaking
A person’s “having” a soul is a very different sort of thing from a person “having” a pancreas. A person’s having a soul is not a form of ownership at all - souls and bodies that we are said to “have” are not things or entities but merely nominal objects, illusions of linguistic appearances.

(i) He has a muscular body
She has a generous soul
Taken at face value, (i) and (ii) appear to state a relationship of having, ownership. The surface grammar is fully analogous to the surface grammar of sentences which do state such a relationship (iii) & (iv): He has an enlarged liver

(iv) She has a red pontiac
(v) He has a short temper
She has an even disposition
Regarding (v) and (vi): There is no temptation to suppose that there are things or entities - a temper and a disposition- which have histories of their own, distinct from the histories of those who “have” them. They are idioms, or manners of speaking. Rather than stating a relationship between two things, these sentences simply attribute a property to one thing, saying what they are like, not what they possess. We can paraphrase them to remove misleading impressions:

(v*) He is irascible
(vi*) She is calm
The two sets of sentences state the same facts. We may conclude that (v) and (vi) are also each about only one thing- and the temper and disposition mentioned are not entities but nominal objects, such as smiles.

Souls and bodies are also merely nominal objects, and paraphrasing shows this:
(i*) He is muscular
(ii*) She is generous
Paraphrasing cannot be applied to sentences (iii) and (iv) for livers and Pontiacs are things in their own right and have a history of their own, and are things a person can possess.
The Having theory treats souls and bodies as if they were things in their own right which stand in special relationships to persons,
T1 Mistakes linguistic appearances for linguistic reality.
Even if we pretend that bodies and souls are things people have, the theory still fails to answer the question of what happens to the history of a person when they die.

(2.3) A Second Try - The ‘Team’ Theory
T2: A person is a soul and a body, that is, a person consists of a soul united with a body.
An analogy: The battery of a baseball club. According to a dictionary, a battery is “a team’s pitcher and catcher for a game considered as a unit.”
TB: A battery is a pitcher and a catcher, that is, a battery consists of a pitcher working with a catcher.
According to T2, death is a separation of soul and body, the dissolution of their union.
Analogously, if the pitcher or catcher is replaced, the battery composing them is retired. The pitcher or catcher can have a history which...
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