Consciousness and synchronic identity

Dialogue 29 (4):523-530 (1990)
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The question “What makes a group of simultaneous experiences the experiences of a single person?” has been nearly ignored in the philosophical literature for the past few decades. The most common answer to this much neglected question is “Two simultaneous experiences belong to a single person if there is a common consciousness or awareness of them.” However, consciousness and awareness are difficult concepts to analyze, so that little of substance has been said of the answer. Recently, Oaklander has argued that the awareness answer is deficient for a different reason, claiming that it fails because “it ultimately rests on an analysis of the unity of consciousness that is itself circular or otherwise inadequate” Oaklander 1987, p. 525). Oaklander's criticism is especially interesting because, according to it, the awareness account of synchronic personal identity falls prey to the main problem facing the memory account of diachronic identity, namely the problem of branching. In this paper, I shall argue that there is no important symmetry. Whatever its other flaws may be, the awareness account is immune to the branching problem; its immunity is due to formal differences between synchronic and diachronic identity.



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Carl Alan Matheson
University of Manitoba

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Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.

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