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Human Life: Our Essentially Biological Nature and the Role of Mental Capabilities

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Animalism is the view that we are primarily living beings of the species Homo sapiens. Being alive consists in the realization of biological processes. Accordingly, our conditions of existence and persistence have nothing to do with things like mental continuity. Hence, mental capabilities seem to be irrelevant to understanding the core of our nature as human beings. In recent years, the debate on animalism has focused on certain intractable ontological puzzles. However important these puzzles may be, they do not get to the heart of the widespread reluctance to accept animalism. One crucial reason lies in the fact that this view does not seem to respect our deeply entrenched understanding of ourselves as mental beings. The aim of my paper is thus to provide a stronger conception of the ontological relevance of our mental capabilities – without giving up the cen- tral claims of animalism. In particular, I discuss three proposals: first, the idea that being a human being involves the potential to develop mental capabilities; second, the idea that it is an essential feature of human beings to have a brain with the natural function of developing mental capabilities; and third, the idea that the ontological relevance of mental capabilities may emerge in the context of specifying something like the general human form of life.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2020

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  • The journal Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, appearing since 1946, is among the most important academic German language journals. It is open to all topics, approaches, and positions of philosophical thought. Given the increasing differentiation and specialization of the field, it thus constitutes a forum offering its various disciplines the opportunity for mutual recognition and exchange. The articles published in it are subject to an anonymous peer review in which internationally renowned scholars of all areas of contemporary philosophical research participate.

    Die seit 1946 erscheinende Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung gehört zu den wichtigsten deutschsprachigen Fachzeitschriften und steht allen Themen, Richtungen und Positionen der philosophischen Forschung offen. Angesichts der zunehmenden Ausdifferenzierung und Spezialisierung des Faches bietet sie damit auch ein Forum, in dem die verschiedenen Teildisziplinen sich gegenseitig wahrnehmen und in ein gemeinsames Gespräch kommen können. Die in ihr publizierten Abhandlungen durchlaufen ein anonymes Begutachtungsverfahren, an dem international anerkannte Forscher aus allen Spezialgebieten der gegenwärtigen philosophischen Forschung beteiligt sind.
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