The Owner and the Moral Dog were somewhat at odds this morning over the redistribution of some items from the table to the floor. I explain that it was not my fault that her items refused to share the table with me. It is also not my fault that I have rather lot of legs and space is at a premium. Finally I add that I needed to climb up there for a better vantage point. Then I look Meaningful.
I cannot say more without revealing my Alter Ego, Superdog.
She raises a dubious eyebrow. She says the Moral Dog would take responsibility for the actions of all parts of his body, starting with looking a bit more sorry about her broken coffee cup. Pointedly, she does not give me a biscuit.
Should I be responsible for the actions of all parts of my body? When my body needs to wee I cannot, after all, tell it not to. My teeth have an urge to chew which is all of their own, they clearly do not listen to me. To what extent is the Moral Dog truly responsible for the actions of the Physical Dog?
I explain that it is by no means clear that the Moral Dog is the Whole Dog, rather than a subset of Dog. I ascribe to the views of my friend John Harris, who says that Moral Personhood is a collection of psychological characteristics, inhabiting a body which, without them, has no Moral Status per se. I point out that most accounts of personhood from contemporary philosophers see personhood as encapsulated in a disembodied mind. I agree that the Body of the Moral Dog can appear, just occasionally, to be a Bad Dog but (I say Even More Meaningfully) even this may not be what it seems. I decide again that I cannot say more.
She says that’s the kind of Cartesian dualism that got Descartes a bad name. She says that ideas of disembodied personhood are challenged by circularity because we are our bodies, they create our personhood through memory and decision and feeling and response to others. Personhood is biologically integral to the body and so it’s perfectly obvious that Embodiment theory best describes the relationship between the Moral Dog and the Dog. Mind and Body are as one.
She says this means that the Physical Dog is the Moral Dog and stays the Moral Dog forever. She says that’s the point of her research and that Morality is just not a way of thinking but a way of behaving in relation to others. She says one can only be Moral in a Moral Community, and to be in the Moral Community requires the Physical Dog. Moreover, she says, it is only through the Physical Body that the Moral Dog experiences the rewards of Morality. The Whole Dog climbs on tables not FOR the Moral Dog but AS the Moral Dog. This is why, when the Moral Dog gets on the table he does not experience such rewards, since the biscuit is withheld.
It strikes me that she may have a point, since the Moral Dog could not be Superdog without his Physical Body. How else would he launch so effectively off the table?
I am still considering what John Harris would say about this when she says Embodiment Theory also means that a Deceased Human is also still a Moral Human, and that’s why, when they found the Titanic, the moral community decided to give it UNESCO protection. She says this means Deceased Humans in the Titanic are still Morally Persons for the same reason that the Moral Dog is the Whole Dog. She says this is what her thesis is all about.
The Moral Dog and the Physical Dog roll their eyes and sigh, the one metaphorically, the other actually. There’s no arguing once she gets onto the Moral Status of Deceased Persons. She says she’s writing a book to explain it all and, incidentally, the Moral Dog had better not chew that when it’s done since it won’t only be the Physical Dog that gets shut in the kitchen. Then she logs in and all conversation ceases.
Behind her I suddenly notice Superdog’s cape, still where I left it. Quietly, as she fiddles with her computer, I drag it away.
Next time, Superdog will launch off the bed.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.