This paper is primarily about metaphysics; specifically, about a Cartesian view of the self, according to which it is a simple, enduring, non-material entity.I take a critical look at Nida-Rümelin’s novel conceptual arguments for this view and argue that they don’t give us decisive reasons to uphold the Cartesian view. But in Nida-Rümelin’s view, what is at stake in these arguments is not merely theoretical: the truth – and our beliefs about it – has practical consequences as well. In her (...) view, if the Cartesian simple view of the self were false, we would have no reason to love and care for family and friends, and our special interest in our own future would be pointless. In the last section of this paper, I will say something about the sense in which it is right and the sense in which it is wrong to think that the metaphysics of the self has broader relevance for our lives. (shrink)
In her essay, “People and their Bodies,” Judith Thomson writes an evaluation of several formulations of the psychological criterion for personal identity and attempts a strategy of criticizing each formulation of the psychological theory. This is done in order to conclude that a physical theory must be the only remaining viable sufficient candidate for explaining personal identity that is both necessary and sufficient, despite its theoretical weaknesses. This paper seeks to analyze Thomson's critique and explain why her chosen formulations of (...) psychological criterion are inadequate and easy to refine against some of her rather hasty objections. In addition, counterarguments in favor of an 'impure' psychological criterion for personal identity are presented in the hopes of clarifying the philosophical discourse. (shrink)
In this chapter, we outline the interdisciplinary contributions that philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience have provided in the understanding of the self and identity, focusing on one specific line of burgeoning research: the importance of morality to perceptions of self and identity. Of course, this rather limited focus will exclude much of what psychologists and neuroscientists take to be important to the study of self and identity (that plethora of self-hyphenated terms seen in psychology and neuroscience: self-regulation, self-esteem, self-knowledge, self-concept, self-perception, (...) and more). We will likewise not engage with many canonical philosophical treatments of self and identity. But we will lay out a body of research that brings together classic themes in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience to raise empirically tractable philosophical questions, and philosophically rigorous empirical questions about self and identity. More specifically, in section 4.2, we will review some recent research that has treated traditional philosophical questions about self and identity as empirical questions. Within this body of work, we will be primarily concerned with the finding that morality (more so than memory) is perceived to be at the core of self and identity. Then, in section 4.3, we raise and respond to a variety of questions and criticisms: first, about the operationalization of identity concepts in the empirical literature; second, about the generalizability of the moral self effect; third, about the direction of change; fourth, about connections with recent work in neuroscience; and fifth, about the target of evaluation. Finally, in section 4.4, we consider a variety of implications and applications of this work on the moral self. Throughout, we aim to highlight connections between classical themes in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, while also suggesting new directions for interdisciplinary collaboration. (shrink)
The following seems to be a truism in modern day philosophy: No agent can have had other parents (IDENTITY). IDENTITY shows up in discussions of moral luck, parenting, gene editing, and population ethics. In this paper, I challenge IDENTITY. I do so by showing that the most plausible arguments that can be made in favor of IDENTITY do not withstand critical scrutiny. The paper is divided into four sections. In the first, I document the prevalence of IDENTITY. In the second, (...) I examine a defense of IDENTITY on the basis of genetic considerations. In the third, I examine a defense of IDENTITY that I call gamete essentialism. In the fourth, I return to genetic considerations to wrap up the paper. (shrink)
Many philosophers have become sceptical of the use of thought experiments in theorising about personal identity. In large part this is due to work in experimental philosophy that appears to confirm long held philosophical suspicions that thought experiments elicit inconsistent judgements about personal identity, and hence judgements that are thought to be the product of cognitive biases. If so, these judgements appear to be useless at informing our theories of personal identity. Using the methods of experimental philosophy, we investigate whether (...) people exhibit inconsistent judgements and, if they do, whether these judgements are likely to be the source of cognitive bias or, instead, sensitivity to some relevant factor. We do not find that people’s judgements are sensitive to any of the factors we investigate (relevant or irrelevant), nor that people have inconsistent judgements across cases. Rather, people’s judgements are best explained by them having a very minimal account of what it takes for a person to survive. Since this pattern of judgements is no reason to think that we are subject to cognitive bias, we see no reason, as things stand, to be sceptical of our judgements. (shrink)
La intuición de que uno sólo puede ser responsable de sus propios actos es extraordinariamente fuerte y parece establecer un vínculo entre la identidad personal y la responsabilidad moral. Las teorías neo-lockeanas de la identidad personal obtienen parte de su atractivo por su capacidad para dar cuenta de dicho vínculo. En este artículo analizo cómo el problema de la duplicación para las teorías neo-lockeanas afecta a su capacidad para dar cuenta del vínculo entre la identidad personal y la responsabilidad moral. (...) Concluyo que, dentro de un marco neo-lockeano, las teorías cuatridimensionalistas son las que mejor pueden dar cuenta de dicho vínculo. (shrink)
In the industrial era, advanced science and technology make immortality-obsessed human beings constantly develop, modify, and reshape their bodies and consciousness, to overcome the fragility and transience of their bodies and approach the dream of immortality. The transformation of the body, in turn, drives society to confront the co-existence of cyborg, transhuman, information subject, nomadic posthuman and other life forms. Focusing on Chinese-American writer Ken Liu’s science fiction the Future Trilogy, Arc, and The Waves, this paper attempts to explore the (...) metamorphosis of the body and the ethical choices in the tension between death and immortality, embodiment and disembodiment. Immortality is not a Utopian paradise but causes many ethical problems and loss of continuity of time, space, history, and identity. Liu’s works suggest that the solution to the problem of posthuman disembodiment involves embracing embodiment and recognizing the importance of memory and social interaction in the formation of one’s identity, affirming that memory and the interaction with others are necessary conditions for the formation of the subject’s identity. Blending genesis myths and technological immortality, Liu explores the possibility of creating new life different from human beings. The posthumans depicted are always in the status of becoming, eager to discover the new world, and indicate the author’s expectations for the bright new future. (shrink)
A common interpretation of Philip K. Dick’s texts _Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?_ and _We Can Build You_ is that they attempt to answer the question “What does it mean to be human?” -/- Unfortunately, these interpretations fail to deal with the fact that the term “human” has both metaphysical and moral connotations. Metaphysical meanings associated with theories of human nature and moral meanings associated with theories of moral status are thus blurred in the novels and in the literature (...) that discusses them. This is problematic on many levels. The conclusion argued for in this paper is that we should carefully disentangle these meanings. Doing so has many benefits, both for literary criticism and moral philosophy. For literary criticism, disentanglement helps solve some puzzling elements of the texts that are unlikely to be solved if the entanglements are not undone. -/- Furthermore, disentangling the moral and the metaphysical meanings of “human” provides an opportunity to showcase how theories of moral status can be used as an interpretive lens. For moral philosophy, exploring the entanglements of the novels can suggest new ideas about which non-humans—animals, robots, artificial intelligence—are part of the moral community. Finally, disentangling these meanings highlights problems that arise when one assumes that answers to metaphysical questions entail clear moral answers to questions about moral status. (shrink)
Suppose that it was possible to teletransport. The teletransporter would destroy your old brain and body and construct an identical brain and body at a new location. Would you survive teletransportation? Many people think that teletransportation would kill you. On their view, the person that emerges from the teletransporter would be a replica of you, but it wouldn't be you. In contrast, I argue that there's no relevant difference between teletransportation and ordinary survival. So, if you survive ordinary life, then (...) you survive teletransportation. Yet my argument may also show that we have little prudential reason to care about our survival in general. (shrink)
Conventionalists hold that the sorts of events that one survives—such as teletransportation, or a brain transplant—is at least partly determined by our attitudes. But if Conventionalism is true, whose attitudes directly determine whether one survives? Do the individual's attitudes do all the work as Private Conventionalists hold, or do the community's attitudes also factor in as Public Conventionalists hold? There has recently been a greater push towards Private Conventionalism, while explicit arguments for Public Conventionalism are difficult to come by. In (...) this paper, I attempt to rectify the situation by presenting my case for Public Conventionalism. (shrink)
Good physical experiments conform to the basic methodological standards of experimental design: they are objective, reliable, and valid. But is this also true of thought experiments? Especially problems of personal identity have engendered hypothetical scenarios that are very distant from the actual world. These imagined situations have been conspicuously ineffective at resolving conflicting intuitions and deciding between the different accounts of personal identity. Using prominent examples from the literature, I argue that this is due to many of these thought experiments (...) not adhering to the methodological standards that guide experimental design in nearly all other disciplines. I also show how empirically unwarranted background assumptions about human physiology render some of the hypothetical scenarios that are employed in the debate about personal identity highly misleading. (shrink)
The Centred View offers an account of the connection between imagination and possibility that combines the centred world framework with some allegedly appealing intuitions regarding our persistence over time. In particular, Dilip Ninan suggests that the Centred View has the theoretical advantage of respecting our intuitions about cases of personal identity in certain imaginative scenarios while also being compatible with physicalism. Unfortunately, the Centred View faces a series of serious objections and should ultimately be rejected.
African perspectives on personhood and personal identity and their relation to those of the West have become far more central in mainstream Western discussion than they once were. Not only are African traditional views with their emphasis on the importance of community and social relations more widely discussed, but that emphasis has also received much wider acceptance and gained more influence among Western philosophers. Despite this convergence, there is at least one striking way in which the discussions remain apart and (...) that is on a point of method. The Western discussion makes widespread use of thought experiments. In the African discussion, they are almost entirely absent. In this article, we put forward a possible explanation for the method of thought experiment being avoided that is based on considerations stemming from John Mbiti’s account of the traditional African view of time. These considerations find an echo in criticism offered of the method in the Western debate. We consider whether a response to both trains of thought can be found that can further bring the Western and African philosophical traditions into fruitful dialogue. (shrink)
In a successful series of papers, Schroer and Schroer presented a reductionist narrative account of personal identity. They claimed that their reductionist account had advantages over traditional narrative theories. In this paper I intend to show that they were wrong. Although it is possible to defend a reductionist narrative account, the Schroers’ theory has a problem of circularity. And solving that problem will cause their theory to have much more problems than non-reductionist narrative theories. Consequently, they should either present a (...) new and improved reductionist narrative account, or accept that non-reductionist narrative theories are better suited to account for the problem of personal identity. (shrink)
This article deals with an argument reported by Razi (d. 1210) that attempted to undermine the immaterialist position about human nature. After some introductory remarks and explanation of the conceptual background, the article analyses the structure of the argument, with special attention to the idea of soul-switching.’ Some comparisons are made between the argument reported by Razi and a number of arguments from modern and contemporary eras of philosophy. One section is devoted to the critique of the argument and its (...) conceptual basis. This article shows that the argument reported by Razi is a methodological antecedent of a family of contemporary epistemological arguments against substance dualism. It is also shown that discussion of the argument could be useful to highlight a weakness in some, but not all, versions of immaterialism about human nature. (shrink)
Ordinary judgments about personal identity are complicated by the fact that phrases like “same person” and “different person” have multiple uses in ordinary English. This complication calls into question the significance of recent experimental work on this topic. For example, Tobia (2015) found that judgments of personal identity were significantly affected by whether the moral change described in a vignette was for the better or for the worse, while Strohminger and Nichols (2014) found that loss of moral conscience had more (...) of an effect on identity judgments than loss of biographical memory. In each case, however, there are grounds for questioning whether the judgments elicited in these experiments engaged a concept of numerical personal identity at all (cf. Berniūnas and Dranseika 2016; Dranseika 2017; Starmans and Bloom 2018). In two pre-registered studies we validate this criticism while also showing a way to address it: instead of attempting to engage the concept of numerical identity through specialized language or the terms of an imaginary philosophical debate, we should consider instead how the identity of a person is described through the connected use of proper names, definite descriptions, and the personal pronouns “I”, “you”, “he”, and “she”. When the experiments above are revisited in this way, there is no evidence that the differences in question had an effect on ordinary identity judgments. (shrink)
En este ensayo, evaluaremos el problema de la identidad personal en el contexto del transhumanismo. En primer lugar, en contra de la tesis de que el transhumanismo representa una amenaza a la persistencia de la identidad personal argumentaremos lo siguiente: los individuos humanos que son personas no tienen características esenciales. En segundo lugar, con la ayuda del primer episodio de la segunda temporada de la serie de ciencia ficción Black Mirror, defenderemos la tesis de que hay propiedades que realmente importan (...) en el problema de la identidad personal: las propiedades relacionales(esta tesis tiene como consecuencia que nuestros seres queridos son irremplazables, incluso por duplicados exactos). Finalmente, concluiremos que el uso de las tecnologías de mejoramiento humano no representa una amenaza a la identidad personal de un individuo en tanto que no altera sus propiedades relacionales importantes. (shrink)
When does a human being cease to exist? For millennia, the answer to this question had remained largely unchanged: death had been diagnosed when heartbeat and breathing were permanently absent. Only comparatively recently, in the 1950s, rapid developments in intensive-care medicine called into question this widely accepted criterion. What had previously been deemed a permanent cessation of vital functions suddenly became reversible. -/- A new criterion of death was needed. It was suggested that the destruction of the brain could indicate (...) the death of the organism in the presence of external life support. Soon the so-called brain death became the new worldwide standard. In recent years, however, doubts about this neurological criterion have been growing. Is brain death really our death? -/- This is the question that this thesis seeks to answer. To this end, we shall connect the medical debate about the definition of death to the philosophical debate about personal identity. While we will find that the destruction of its brain does in fact not correspond to an organism’s death, we shall also ask whether the assumption that we are essentially organisms is correct. May brain death be the ceasing to exist of a different entity? -/- Substituting clinical case reports and considerations about human physiology for the use of thought experiments, the thesis takes a novel and philosophically unconventional approach to the problem of what we essentially are. We shall analyse various pathological conditions and their respective effects on the bodily and mental characteristics of our existence. We will conclude that brain death is indeed our death – but for reasons entirely different from those cited in the original justification of this criterion. (shrink)
Spesso i filosofi paiono pensare di poter trarre conclusioni radicali sulla base di una semplice discussione di scenari immaginari, scenari che a volte sembrerebbero tratti da un racconto di fantascienza. Questo stile argomentativo lascia molti studenti (e anche alcuni filosofi di professione) perplessi: come può il semplice riflettere su di uno scenario immaginario permetterci di trarre conclusioni su come stanno le cose nella realtà? Questo volume cerca di giustificare l'uso di esperimenti mentali in filosofia, concentrandosi su due casi studio, entrambi (...) tratti dalla letteratura sull'identità personale: la trasformazione di un essere umano in un'entità sintetica, e la divisione di una persona in due individui distinti. (shrink)
Your replica is created on Mars and you, on Earth, are destroyed. Parfit claims that your replica may still have what prudentially matters for you – provided that you are psychologically connected and continuous with your replica. If someone accidentally destroys the tapes containing your psychological profile used in the production of your replica and this same action fortuitously produces a functionally equivalent tape, Ehring claims that Parfit should maintain that the resulting new individual may still have what matters. Nihilism (...) about what matters follows, or so Ehring claims. I argue that Ehring is wrong and that the difference between the two ways of creating a replica is not trivial – there is no trivial survival. (shrink)
Derek Parfit’s argument against the platitude that identity is what matters in survival does not work given his intended reading of the platitude, namely, that what matters in survival to some future time is being identical with someone who is alive at that time. I develop Parfit’s argument so that it works against the platitude on this intended reading.
In der Diskussion um personale Identität nehmen die einflussreichen Arbeiten Derek Parfits eine Sonderstellung ein, insofern Parfit nicht bestrebt ist, eines der gängigen Identitätskriterien zu verteidigen, sondern vielmehr behauptet, dass unsere alltäglichen wie philosophischen Vorstellungen von personaler Identität unrettbar inkohärent sind und deshalb aufgegeben werden sollten. In seinem Beitrag beleuchtet Sascha Settegast die verschiedenen Argumente, die Parfit für diese provokante These vorbringt, und unternimmt insbesondere den Versuch einer systematischen Dekonstruktion der wichtigsten Gedankenexperimente Parfits, die zeigen soll, dass sich diese Gedankenexperimente (...) auf eine Weise auflösen lassen, die unsere alltäglichen Intuitionen über personale Identität intakt belässt. Settegast entwickelt dabei die Grundzüge einer Konzeption personaler Identität, die sich einerseits von den gängigen neo-lockeanischen und animalistischen Ansätzen abgrenzt und andererseits bewusst an den zeitgenössischen Neo-Aristotelismus in der Ethik anknüpft, wie er etwa bei Philippa Foot und Michael Thomp-son anzutreffen ist. Die diachrone numerische Identität menschlicher Personen gründet nach Settegasts Auffassung darin, dass der Verlauf ihres Lebens eine zeitliche Einheit aufweist, die dadurch bedingt ist, dass ihre Lebensführung die menschliche Lebensform auf eine individuell charakteristische Weise exemplifiziert. Insofern dies aber nur durch Kultivierung der Tugen-den zu erreichen ist, handelt es sich laut Settegast bei personaler Identität letztlich nicht um eine Tatsache, die einfach vorliegt oder nicht, sondern um eine Aufgabe, die uns als Menschen gegeben ist und wesentlich darin besteht, in bewusster Orientierung auf das gute Leben hin ein stabiles, sich zeitlich durchhaltendes Selbst allererst auszubilden. (shrink)
Many philosophers hypothesize that our concept of personal identity is partly constituted by the one-person-one-place rule, which states that a person can only be in one place at a time. This hypothesis has been assumed by the most influential contemporary work on personal identity. In this paper, we report a series of studies testing whether the hypothesis is true. In these studies, people consistently judged that the same person existed in two different places at the same time. This result undermines (...) some widely held philosophical assumptions, supports others, and fits well with recent discoveries on identity judgments about inanimate objects and non-human animals. (shrink)
David Lewis defends the following "non-circular definition of personhood": "something is a continuant person if and only if it is a maximal R-interrelated aggregate of person-stages. That is: if and only if it is an aggregate of person-stages, each of which is R-related to all the rest (and to itself), and it is a proper part of no other such aggregate." I give a counterexample, involving a person who is a part of another, much larger person, with a separate mental (...) life. I then offer an easy repair, which preserves the virtues of Lewis's definition without introducing any new vices. (shrink)
In a recent series of papers, Beck and Wagner have been arguing about the general role that thought experiments can play in the debate on personal identity, showing their disagreement about the famous criticisms that Wilkes’ launched against their use. In this article I come back to Wilkes’ criticisms to show that her position is deeply problematic. If we adopt instead the mental model account of thought experiments, we can accommodate Wilkes’ criticisms and justify the use of thought experiments in (...) the debate of personal identity. This will allow us to see why Beck and Wagner were both half right and half wrong in their discussion. (shrink)
The reduplication argument advanced by Bernard Williams in 1956 has greatly stimulated the contemporary debate on personal identity. The argument relies on a famous thought experiment that, although not new in the history of philosophy, has engaged some of the most influential contemporary philosophers on the topic. I propose here an interpretation of the argument and a reconstruction of the early reception that Williams’ paper had in the 6 years immediately after its publication. The works discussed include papers by C. (...) B. Martin, G. C. Nerlich, R. Coburn, and J. M. Shorter. (shrink)
I argue that a form of animalism that does not include the belief that ‘human animal’ is a substance-sortal has a dialectical advantage over other versions of animalism. The main reason for this advantage is that Phase Animalism, the version of animalism described here, has the theoretical resources to provide convincing descriptions of the outcomes of scenarios problematic for other forms of animalism. Although Phase Animalism rejects the claim that ‘human animal’ is a substance-sortal, it is still appealing to those (...) who believe that our nature is continuous or of a similar kind to that of other physical entities. (shrink)
Theories of personal identity face a paradox, which traces back to Bernard Williams: some scenarios obviously show that mental continuity is what solely matters in survival; others, on the contrary, show with equal obviousness that it is bodily continuity. Different authors have produced diverging and partly conflicting answers in response to that problem. Based on recent research concerning the structure of philosophical thought experiment, this paper reevaluates and, for the first time, neatly classifies those answers. What is more, several existing (...) approaches of how to answer the paradox are developed further, and two new answers are introduced. (shrink)
The paper begins with a characterization of thought experiments, followed by a general outline of contemporary debates in the field. The discussion reveals that the most significant controversy involved is the dispute over the epistemic status of thought experiments between empiricists, Platonists, and the proponents of mental models. After a critical analysis of these approaches, a new theoretical framework proposed by Paul Bartha is introduced. It is suggested that Bartha’s approach, which appeals to a theory of analogy, offers new insights (...) into the structure of thought experiments. The paper concludes with general remarks on the state of the art in the field. (shrink)
Paul Ricoeur and Marya Schechtman express grave doubts about the acceptability and informativeness of the thought-experiments employed by analytic philosophers (notably Derek Parfit) in the debate about personal identity, and for what appear to be related reasons. I consider their reasoning and argue that their reasons fail to justify their doubts. I go on to argue that, from this discussion of possible problems concerning select thought-experiments, something positive can be learned about personal identity.
Nils-Frederic Wagner takes issue with my argument that influential critics of “transplant” thought experiments make two cardinal mistakes. He responds that the mistakes I identify are not mistakes at all. The mistakes are rather on my part, in that I have not taken into account the conceptual genesis of personhood, that my view of thought experiments is idiosyncratic and possibly self-defeating, and in that I have ignored important empirical evidence about the relationship between brains and minds. I argue that my (...) case still stands and that transplant thought experiments can do damage to rivals of a psychological continuity theory of personal identity like Marya Schechtman’s Person Life View. (shrink)
What are we? What is the nature of the human person? Animalism has a straightforward answer to these long-standing philosophical questions: we are animals. After being ignored for a long time in philosophical discussions of our nature, this idea has recently gained considerable support in metaphysics and philosophy of mind. Containing mainly new papers as well as two highly important articles that were recently published elsewhere, this volume's contributors include both emerging voices in the debate and many of those who (...) have been instrumental in shaping it. Some of their contributions defend animalism, others criticize it, still others explore its more general implications. The book also contains a substantial introduction by the editors explaining what animalism is, identifying leading issues that merit attention, and highlighting many of the issues that the contributors have raised. (shrink)
In this paper, I identify and discuss the following feature of our judgments about hypothetical scenarios concerning the identity of persons: with respect to the vast majority of scenarios, both members of a pair of logically complementary propositions about personal identity are conceivable. I consider a number of explanations of this feature that draw on the metaphysics and the epistemology of personal identity, none of which prove to be satisfactory. I then argue that in order to give an adequate explanation, (...) one needs to recognize an important characteristic of our concept of personal identity: it is such that if there are mental substances (or the like), they constitute personal identity. At the same time, there can still be persons if there are no such substances. Since this finding casts doubts on the way that thought experiments about personal identity are usually set up, I end by outlining its potential consequences for the debate over the identity of persons. (shrink)
Marya Schechtman has raised a series of worries for the Psychological Continuity Theory of personal identity (PCT) stemming out of what Derek Parfit called the ‘Extreme Claim’. This is roughly the claim that theories like it are unable to explain the importance we attach to personal identity. In her recent Staying Alive (2014), she presents further arguments related to this and sets out a new narrative theory, the Person Life View (PLV), which she sees as solving the problems as well (...) as bringing other advantages over the PCT. I look over some of her earlier arguments and responses to them as a way in to the new issues and theory. I argue that the problems for the PCT and advantages that the PLV brings are all merely apparent, and present no reason for giving up the former for the latter. (shrink)
Pummer : 43–77, 2014) ingeniously wraps together issues from the personal identity literature with issues from the literature on desert. However, I wish to take issue with the main conclusion that he draws, namely, that we need to rethink the following principle: Desert.: When people culpably do very wrong or bad acts, they deserve punishment in the following sense: at least other things being equal they ought to be made worse off, simply in virtue of the fact that they culpably (...) did wrong—even if they have repented, are now virtuous, and punishing them would benefit no one. :43–77, 2014: 43–44) Pummer offers an argument that is intended to show that this principle, along with widely-held views about personal identity, entails an inconsistent triad of propositions. I agree. But I think Pummer's argument attacks a straw man. I believe that no-one holds Desert, at least as it is stated, and that once the principle is stated correctly it is easy to see that no inconsistent triad follows from it. So, Desert does not need rethinking. It just needs to be stated correctly. (shrink)
This paper—written for nonspecialist readers—asks whether life after death is in any sense possible given the apparent fact that after we die our remains decay to the point where only randomly scattered atoms remain. The paper argues that this is possible only if our remains are not in fact dispersed in this way, and discusses how that might be the case. -/- 1. Life After Death -- 2. Total Destruction -- 3. The Soul -- 4. Body-Snatching -- 5. Radical Resurrection (...) -- 6. Irreversibility -- 7. Atomic Reassembly -- 8. The Transporter -- 9. Replicas and Originals -- 10. Survival and Causal Connections. (shrink)
I respond to David Shoemaker's arguments for the conclusion that personal identity is irrelevant for death. I contend that we can accept Shoemaker's claim that loss of personal identity is not sufficient for death while nonetheless maintaining that there is an important theoretical relationship between death and personal identity. I argue that this relationship is also of practical importance for physicians' decisions about organ reallocation.
Phineas Gage’s story is typically offered as a paradigm example supporting the view that part of what matters for personal identity is a certain magnitude of similarity between earlier and later individuals. Yet, reconsidering a slight variant of Phineas Gage’s story indicates that it is not just magnitude of similarity, but also the direction of change that affects personal identity judgments; in some cases, changes for the worse are more seen as identity-severing than changes for the better of comparable magnitude. (...) Ironically, thinking carefully about Phineas Gage’s story tells against the thesis it is typically taken to support. (shrink)
‘Transplant’ thought-experiments, in which the cerebrum is moved from one body to another, have featured in a number of recent discussions in the personal identity literature. Once taken as offering confirmation of some form of psychological continuity theory of identity, arguments from Marya Schechtman and Kathleen Wilkes have contended that this is not the case. Any such apparent support is due to a lack of detail in their description or a reliance on predictions that we are in no position to (...) make. I argue that the case against them rests on two serious misunderstandings of the operation of thought-experiments, and that even if they do not ultimately support a psychological continuity theory, they do major damage to that theory’s opponents. (shrink)
Among the questions to be raised under the heading of “personal identity” are these: “What are we?” (fundamental nature question) and “Under what conditions do we persist through time?” (persistence question). Against the dominant neo-Lockean approach to these questions, the view known as animalism answers that each of us is an organism of the species Homo sapiens and that the conditions of our persistence are those of animals. Beyond describing the content and historical background of animalism and its rivals, this (...) entry explores some of the arguments for and objections to this controversial account of our nature and persistence. (shrink)
Conjoined twinning is said to show that the number of human people—the number of us—can differ from the number of human organisms, and hence that we are not organisms. The paper shows that these arguments either assume the point at issue, rely on dubious and undefended assumptions, or add nothing to more familiar arguments for the same conclusion.
It seems plausible that (i) how much punishment a person deserves cannot be affected by the mere existence or nonexistence of another person. We might have also thought that (ii) how much punishment is deserved cannot increase merely in virtue of personal division. I argue that (i) and (ii) are inconsistent with the popular belief that, other things being equal, when people culpably do very wrong or bad acts, they ought to be punished for this—even if they have repented, are (...) now virtuous, and punishing them would benefit no one. Insofar as we cannot deny (i), we are either forced to abandon the popular belief in desert, or else allow that personal division could, as I put it, “multiply desert.” Some may not find the latter, considered by itself, troubling. But I argue that the thesis that division multiplies desert faces a potentially serious problem, which arises in the context of personal fusion. It is difficult to see how to maintain a particular family of desert views in light of the cases here presented. (shrink)
According to animalism, each of us is numerically identical to a human animal. Disunity cases—cases in which a human animal lacks some form of mental unity—are often thought to pose a problem for animalism. Tim Bayne (2010) has recently offered some novel arguments against animalism based on one particular disunity case, namely Cerberus: a single animal with two heads, each housing its own stream of consciousness. I show that Bayne's arguments are flawed, and that animalism is capable of handling the (...) case. (shrink)
Können wir als Personen irreversible Gedächtnisverluste überleben? Wie steht es mit Teletransportationen? Wie mit jahrelangem Einfrieren? Fragen wie diese sind weit davon entfernt, bloße Denksportaufgaben für Science-Fiction-Fans zu sein. Vielmehr verraten uns Antworten darauf, welche unserer Eigenschaften uns wirklich wichtig sind und was unser Wesen ausmacht. -/- Unglücklicherweise beantworten Vertreter unterschiedlicher Theorien personaler Identität diese Fragen auf völlig verschiedene Weise. Manche schöpfen die Plausibilität ihrer Positionen aus phantasievollen Gedankenexperimenten; anderen sind dieselben Gedankenexperimente für eine ernsthafte Einbeziehung in die philosophische Theoriebildung (...) schlicht zu wirklichkeitsfern. Es überrascht daher kaum, dass jene Anhänger unterschiedlicher Theorien einander oft wenig zu sagen haben. Im ersten Teil des Buches wird untersucht, unter welchen Umständen Gedankenexperimente aussagekräftige philosophische Werkzeuge sind. Auf der Basis dieser Analyse werden die diversen zeitgenössischen Theorien personaler Identität dann im zweiten Teil einer Neubewertung unterzogen – nicht ohne dass dabei mit vielen selbstverständlich erscheinenden Überzeugungen aufgeräumt wird. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy is one of the most recent and controversial developments in philosophy. Its basic idea is rather simple: to test philosophical thought experiments and philosophers’ intuitions about them with scientific methods, mostly taken from psychology and the social sciences. The ensuing experimental results, such as the cultural relativity of certain philosophical intuitions, has engaged – and at times infuriated – many more traditionally minded "armchair" philosophers since then. In this volume, the metaphilosophical reflection on experimental philosophy is brought yet (...) another step forward by engaging some of its most renowned proponents and critics in a lively and controversial debate. In addition to that, the volume also contains original experimental research on personal identity and philosophical temperament, as well as state-of-the-art essays on central metaphilosophical issues, like thought experiments, the nature of intuitions, or the status of philosophical expertise. -/- This book was originally published as a special issue of Philosophical Psychology. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss a set of problems concerning the method of cases as it is used in applied ethics and in the metaphysical debate about personal identity. These problems stem from research in social psychology concerning our access to the data with which the method operates. I argue that the issues facing ethics are more worrying than those facing metaphysics.
Thought-experiments in which one person divides into two have been important in the literature on personal identity. I consider three influential arguments which aim to undermine the force of these thought-experiments – arguments from David Wiggins, Patricia Kitcher and Kathleen Wilkes. I argue that all three fail, leaving us to face the consequences of splitting, whatever those may be.