Personal identity and thought-experiments

Philosophical Quarterly 52 (206):34-54 (2002)
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Abstract

Through careful analysis of a specific example, Parfit’s ‘fission argument’ for the unimportance of personal identity, I argue that our judgements concerning imaginary scenarios are likely to be unreliable when the scenarios involve disruptions of certain contingent correlations. Parfit’s argument depends on our hypothesizing away a number of facts which play a central role in our understanding and employment of the very concept under investigation; as a result, it fails to establish what Parfit claims, namely, that identity is not what matters. I argue that Parfit’s conclusion can be blocked without denying that he has presented an imaginary case where prudential concern would be rational in the absence of identity. My analysis depends on the recognition that the features that explain or justify a relation may be distinct from the features that underpin it as necessary conditions.

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2009-01-28

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Tamar Gendler
Yale University

Citations of this work

The limits of self-awareness.Michael G. F. Martin - 2004 - Philosophical Studies 120 (1-3):37-89.
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Generic Animalism.Andrew M. Bailey & Peter van Elswyk - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (8):405-429.
Thought Experiments.Yiftach J. H. Fehige & James R. Brown - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 25 (1):135-142.

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References found in this work

Philosophical papers.David Kellogg Lewis - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Human Animal: Personal Identity Without Psychology.Eric Todd Olson - 1997 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.
Love as a moral emotion.J. David Velleman - 1999 - Ethics 109 (2):338-374.
People and their bodies.Judith Jarvis Thomson - 2008 - In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary debates in metaphysics. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Human Beings.Mark Johnston - 1987 - Journal of Philosophy 84 (2):59-83.

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