Published October 24, 2015
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Abstract: If we are physical things with parts, then accounts of what we are and accounts of when composition occurs have important implications for one another. Defenders of restricted composition tend to endorse a sparse ontology in taking an eliminativist stance toward composite objects that are not organisms, while claiming that we are organisms. However, these arguments do not entail that we are organisms, for they rely on the premise that we are organisms. Thus, sparsist reasoning need not be paired with animalism, but could instead be paired with other accounts according to which we are composites. The embodied mind account—a version of the brain view—is one such account. Replacing the premise that we are organisms with the premise that we are embodied minds, in arguments that otherwise parallel those supporting animalist sparsism, yields an account according to which composite objects include thinkers, but perhaps nothing else. Since animalism has implausible implications about scenarios which are handled better by the embodied mind account, this approach is preferable to animalist sparsism. Furthermore, the role of mental features in sparsism makes embodied mind sparsism the more reasonable conclusion. Meanwhile, adopting sparsism allows the embodied mind account to dodge objections that may not be as easily avoided by it or other versions of the brain view if not paired with sparsism. These include objections about brains that are not persons, inorganic part replacement, and another form of part replacement that might seem to allow one to get a new brain.