Physical Continuity, Self and the Future

Philosophia 41 (1):257-269 (2013)
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Jeff McMahan's impressive recent defence of the embodied mind theory of personal identity in his highly acclaimed work The Ethics of Killing has undoubtedly reawakened belief that physical continuity is a necessary component of the relation that matters in our self-interested concern for the future. My aim in this paper is to resist this belief in a somewhat roundabout way. I want to address this belief in a somewhat roundabout way by revisiting a classic defence of the belief that enormous changes in the contents of a person's psychology does not preclude justified fear of future pain. I have in mind Bernard Williams' The Self and the Future (1970) in which he argues, against the psychological view, that physical continuity is necessary for survival. I examine Williams' second thought experiment which ostensibly supports that intuition and afterwards defend two related claims. First, I argue that a close examination of the second thought experiment reveals that one's prior commitments to a particular criterion of personal identity can influence one's response to that thought experiment. Second, I argue that Williams' second thought experiment is set out in questionbegging terms. I do not claim, however, that the intuition under consideration lacks justification; I only claim that Williams' second thought experiment does not provide the needed support



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Oritsegbubemi Anthony Oyowe
University of KwaZulu-Natal

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