The Owner and I have found a Wonderful Stick. One end is Leafy and the other end is Barky, and the Middle is Perfect for Grasping. When the Owner throws it, it spins and whistles, then lands with a Perfect Thud.
I Retrieve the Stick. I Run Around Joyfully, sharing the Park with the Stick. I Carry the Stick Up the Hill. I Carry the Stick Down the Hill. Occasionally, when she becomes Particularly Agitated, I return the Stick to the Owner so that it can have the Pleasure of being Thrown Again.
I Can see that you Like this Stick, says the Owner.
It is a Stick of Extraordinary Stickness, I say. It speaks to me. It is the Epitome of Stick. The Essence of Stick. The Philosophical Soul of Stick.
I agree it is a Stick of Great Merit, says Owner, and even as she says the words she throws the Stick Particularly Well and it hits the ground and Breaks Neatly in Two.
There is Silence. Heaven is holding its Breath.
Oh Dear, says the Owner.
I Gulp. My Stick is No More, I say.
I am sorry Hergest, says the Owner. We will find you Another Stick.
I stare at the Remnants of my Former Stick. It will not be My Stick, I say. My Stick is No More. It is Gone Forever.
That depends what you Understand by Your Stick. Says the Owner.
What do you mean? I ask, with a Hiccup.
I see Two Sticks, says the Owner. One is Leafy and One is Barky. Both Appear to be Still Here. And Whilst Neither of them are Your Stick, at the same time Both are Your Stick.
They Cannot Both be My Stick, I say. There is now a Leafy Stick and a Sticky Stick but neither has a Middle that is Perfect for Grasping. The Philosophical Soul of My Stick is No More.
Ah, says the Owner, you are raising Aristotle’s Point. Aristotle saw the Soul of a Stick as its Capacity to Be What It Truly Is – in this case to Be both Leafy and Sticky and with a Middle that is Perfect for Grasping. Aristotle would therefore take the view that the Soul of the Stick you Knew is No More.
Aristotle is Right, and I will never Forget My Stick, I say. I will eschew All Other Sticks and enter a Period of Mourning.
Not So Fast, says the Owner. Hume says that Identity is Only a Bundle of Perceptions, and the Concept of a Single Identity results only from our habit of attributing Unified Existence to Collections of Associated Parts.
So my Leafy and Sticky Stick was in Fact Two Sticks All Along, I say and the Fact that I imagined it as One Stick with a Middle Perfect for Grasping was a mere Artefact of the Perception of the Moral Dog?
Exactly, says the Owner. So there is no need to hiccup, only to Choose Which Stick you would now Like Me to Throw. Shall I throw the Leafy One or the Sticky One?
Not So Fast, I say. This Casual Attitude to the Fungibility of the Component Parts brings to mind a Recent Discussion with the Vet. Is the Owner Now Suggesting that the Moral Dog is a Mere Bunch of Constituent Parts, any of which can Be Removed without Harm to my Moral Dogness? I say this out of Concern regarding the Necessity of Certain Parts of the Moral Dog to the Whole of the Moral Dog.
Look, says the Owner, the Moral Dog is Not Like a Stick which, although it may be Philosophical Stick Perfection, is Not Moral. The Moral Dog is an Unchanging Moral Being with an Identity which comes from his Capacity for Knowing Himself and that of Others for Knowing Him. Derek Parfitt saw the Identity of the Moral Dog as far more than his Component Parts. He saw Personal Identity as Psychological Connectedness and Continuity, held in the Moral Dog’s Reason and Perception, in the Connections he Shares with Others such as his Owner, and in the Overlapping Connectedness of these Elements over Time and Memory.
So, I say, if I Know Myself as Myself Today, and you Know Me as Myself Today, and if Tomorrow We Not Only still Recognise Me but we also Remember that We Knew Me Today, then in that we can Locate My Identity.
That is Right, says the Owner. The Moral Dog may Change from Puppy to Adult, he may even Lose Parts along the way (although let us Hope Not) but to his Owner he will always Be the Moral Dog. This Concept resembles that of the Ship of Theseus, which was always the Same Ship, no matter how many Parts were Replaced. Or in this case, perhaps, the Dog of Theseus.
But how will you recognise the Dog of Theseus when he is Old? I ask, keen to Divert the Owner from all this Worrying Talk of Parts. After all, I add, Your Glasses are Already Strong and you are Not Getting Any Younger Yourself.
The Recognition Owners have for their Moral Dogs is called Love, says the Owner. Love survives the Changing Appearance of the Moral Dog through Age. It survives the loss of Parts and, even, the Loss of Memory of those Parts. It even, and this is Perhaps Surprising, survives his Comments Regarding the Age of his Owner. As John Lennon says, Love is the Answer.
I like this Concept I say. I am Happy Knowing Not Only that I am both a Dog of Theseus and will Keep all of My Parts but also that my Stick is Not Deceased but is now Two Sticks and that Love is the Answer. John Lennon was a Wise Man, I say.
The Owner and I share a profound John Lennon Moment. So, she says after this Moment is complete, which of these Two Non-Moral but Perfectly Serviceable Sticks Shall I Throw for the Moral Dog?
I look at the Non-Moral Sticks. They are Wonderful Sticks but, I realise, what Matters is not Which Stick is thrown but the Fact that I have an Owner prepared to throw one. You Choose, I say.
I cannot Choose, says the Owner, they are both Lovely.
We Put the Sticks under a Bush where they will Both be Happy and head home, Stickless.
Philosophy is all very well, but it is No Help with Sticks.
Categories: Aristotle Derek Parfitt dignity dog dog philosophy Hume Ship of Theseus stick
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.
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