Is Romeo dead? On the persistence of organisms
According to a prominent view of organism persistence (“vitalicism”), organisms cease to exist at death. According to a rival view (“somaticism”), organisms can continue to exist as dead organisms. Most of the arguments in favor of the latter view rely on linguistic and common sense intuitions. I propose a new argument for somaticism by appealing to two other sources that have thus far not figured in the debate: the concept of naturalness, and biological descriptions of organisms, in particular in ethology and ecology. I show that if we hone in on the relevant notion of naturalness, we can show that organisms can (and often do) continue to instantiate the natural property being an organism after death.
KeywordsOrganisms Death Persistence Naturalness Biology
I would like to thank Berit Brogaard, Simon Evnine, Amy Kind, David Mark Kovacs, Mark Rowlands, Amie Thomasson, anonymous referees, and audiences at the “Animals and Death” conference at the University of Leeds and at the 2015 “Ontology and Metaontology” summer school at the Central European University for helpful feedback and comments on earlier versions of this paper. Special thanks to Rumya Sundaram for helpful discussions and insights about biology.
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