My Body has a Limp

Over at TAR Brian Weatherson offers an argument for thinking that the mind and body are not identical. He begins by discussing Ryle’s example of a limp and ask us to consider two sentences

5. I have a limp

6. My body has a limp

He suggests that 5 is true but 6 is false and that it is a kind of category mistake. This suggests that I am not my body (since I seem to have properties that my body doesn’t). He then goes on to say that this provides evidence for his favored view that people are events and so natually couldn’t be bodies.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that 6 will be true or false depending on whether 7 is true or false.

7. I am my body

If 7 is true then 6 will be true if 5 is. If 7 is false then 6 will be false independently of whether 5 is or not. Weatherson’s 6 is defective in the way that 8 is

8. Superman wears glasses

It sounds weird but we will ultimately admit that it is true because we accept ‘superman is Clark Kent’ and 8 follows from that and ‘Clark Kent wears glasses’. So his intuition that 6 is defective isn’t evidence that the mind and body are distinct; it is evidence that Weatherson thinks that they are.

4 thoughts on “My Body has a Limp

  1. I take it that you are reading (7) as an identity; because if the predication is asymmetric then the propagation from (5) to (6) isn’t guaranteed. (Consider the difference, for instance, if we read (7) constitutionally, along the lines of Lynne Baker.)

  2. Yeah that’s the idea Brandon. (6) doesn’t seem defective unless you already reject (7) as an identity but then taking (6) as defective can’t be evidence that (7) is false taken as an identity claim.

  3. There’s clearly something badly wrong with Weatherson’s claim, though I admit I didn’t go over and read his thing. Consider:

    I have a headache.
    My mind has a headache,
    My body has a headache.

    So I am not my mind or my body.

    But whatever. We may talk certain ways and not realize we are referring to one underlying thing/event/process/substance/put-your-less-than-clear-philosophical-word-here.


    Water tastes good.
    H2O tastes good.


    I love alcohol.
    I love C2H6O.

    You can imagine folks in a state of ignorance assigning different truth values to these sentences. But theory tells us that would be a mistake. So if theory tells us that I am my body, then if I have a limp, my body has a limp. Or maybe theory will tell us something else. But why should we worry about these ordinary language intuitions?

    (Or maybe I missed the point! Still recovering from my body’s abuse of C2H6O last night!)

    PS Why can’t bodies be events?

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