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Summary Theories of personal identity are, most often, theories of what makes X, a person, at one time numerically identical to Y at another time.  Such theories fall into two very general categories.  On reductionist views, the facts about identity across time simply consist in facts about brains, bodies, or interrelated physical or mental events.  On nonreductionist views, the facts about identity do not consist simply in such facts, but also consist in facts about, e.g., souls or Cartesian egos.  Among reductionist theories, there are two general approaches: psychological and biological.  On psychological approaches, what makes X and Y identical is typically continuity of some subset of psychological features.  On biological approaches, what makes X and Y identical is typically continuity of the person's biological (animal) organism.
Key works Derek Parfit offers and explains the distinction between nonreductionist and reductionist views of personal identity in Parfit 1984 (a distinction he originally labeled as between "simple" and "complex" views in Parfit 1973).  For the original statement of a psychological criterion of identity, see John Locke's "persistence of consciousness" view in Locke 1979.  For nonreductionist rejoinders, see Thomas Reid's Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man and Butler 1736.  For contemporary advocacy of a psychological criterion, see, in addition to Parfit, Harold Noonan's Personal Identity and Sydney Shoemaker's contribution in Shoemaker & Swinburne 1984 (and for contemporary nonreductionism about identity, see Swinburne's contribution).  For contemporary advocacy of a biological criterion, see Olson 1997.
Introductions Good introductions include Perry 1978, Perry 1975, and Olson 2002.
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Psychological Theories of Personal Identity
  1. Nicholas Agar (2003). Functionalism and Personal Identity. Noûs 37 (1):52-70.
    Sydney Shoemaker has claimed that functionalism, a theory\nabout mental states, implies a certain theory about the\nidentity over time of persons, the entities that have\nmental states. He also claims that persons can survive a\n"Brain-State-Transfer" procedure. My examination of these\nclaims includes description and analysis of imaginary\ncases, but--notably--not appeals to our "intuitions"\nconcerning them. It turns out that Shoemaker's basic\ninsight is correct. But there is no implication that it is\nnecessary. (edited).
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  2. George J. Agich & Royce P. Jones (1986). Personal Identity and Brain Death: A Critical Response. Philosophy and Public Affairs 15 (3):267-274.
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  3. Steinvör Thöll Árnadóttir (2010). Functionalism and Thinking Animals. Philosophical Studies 147 (3):347 - 354.
    Lockean accounts of personal identity face a problem of too many thinkers arising from their denial that we are identical to our animals and the assumption that our animals can think. Sydney Shoemaker has responded to this problem by arguing that it is a consequence of functionalism that only things with psychological persistence conditions can have mental properties, and thus that animals cannot think. I discuss Shoemaker’s argument and demonstrate two ways in which it fails. Functionalism does not rid the (...)
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  4. James Baillie (1997). Personal Identity and Mental Content. Philosophical Psychology 10 (3):323-33.
    In this paper, I attempt to map out the 'logical geography' of the territory in which issues of mental content and of personal identity meet. In particular, I investigate the possibility of combining a psychological criterion of personal identity with an externalist theory of content. I argue that this can be done, but only by accepting an assumption that has been widely accepted but barely argued for, namely that when someone switches linguistic communities, the contents of their thoughts do not (...)
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  5. Lynne Baker (2007). Persons and Other Things. Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (s 5-6):17-36.
    In the large recent literature on the nature of human persons, persons are usually studied in isolation from the world in which they live. What persons are most fundamentally, philosophers say, are human animals, or brains, or perhaps souls -- without any consideration of the social and physical environments without which persons would not exist. In this article, I want to compensate for such overly narrow focus. Instead of beginning with the nature of persons cut off from any environment, I (...)
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  6. Lynne Rudder Baker, “What Does It Mean to Be One of Us?” A Response to Bransen.
    Bransen takes the first question to pose “the problem of man’s uniqueness,” and his ultimate aim is to dissolve that problem. His method of dissolving it is by way of a detailed answer to the second question, which is the most fundamental. I want to show that Bransen’s answer to the second question actually provides an answer to each of the other questions, and that instead of dissolving the problem of man’s uniqueness (posed by question #1), what he offers is (...)
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  7. Lynne Rudder Baker (2008). Big-Tent Metaphysics. Abstracta 2 (3):8-15.
    Eric Olson won the hearts of my graduate students by dedicating his book “to the unemployed philosophers.” (The students subsequently got fine jobs, but it’s the thought (or rather the sympathy) that counts.) As appreciated as the dedication was, however, I doubt that it was responsible for the wonderful reception that Olson’s book, The Human Animal, has had. Rather, the cleverness of his arguments, the vigor with which Olson writes, and the new interpretations of old thought experiments and arguments have (...)
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  8. Lynne Rudder Baker (2008). Review: Eric T. Olson: What Are We? A Study in Personal Ontology. [REVIEW] Mind 117 (468):1120-1122.
  9. Lynne Rudder Baker (2008). Response to Eric Olson. Abstracta 3 (3):43-45.
  10. Lynne Rudder Baker (2007). Persons and Other Things. Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (5-6):5-6.
  11. Lynne Rudder Baker (2005). When Does a Person Begin? Social Philosophy and Policy 22 (2):25-48.
    According to the Constitution View of persons, a human person is wholly constituted by (but not identical to) a human organism. This view does justice both to our similarities to other animals and to our uniqueness. As a proponent of the Constitution View, I defend the thesis that the coming-into-existence of a human person is not simply a matter of the coming-into-existence of an organism, even if that organism ultimately comes to constitute a person. Marshalling some support from developmental psychology, (...)
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  12. Lynne Rudder Baker, Precis of Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View. A Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind.
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  13. Lynne Rudder Baker (2000). Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View. Cambridge University Press.
    What is a human person, and what is the relation between a person and his or her body? In her third book on the philosophy of mind, Lynne Rudder Baker investigates what she terms the person/body problem and offers a detailed account of the relation between human persons and their bodies. Baker's argument is based on the 'Constitution View' of persons and bodies, which aims to show what distinguishes persons from all other beings and to show how we can be (...)
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  14. Lynne Rudder Baker (1999). What Am I? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (1):151 - 159.
  15. Lynne Rudder Baker (1999). What Am I? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (1):151-159.
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  16. Simon Beck (2013). Am I My Brother's Keeper? On Personal Identity and Responsibility. South African Journal of Philosophy 32 (1):1-9.
    The psychological continuity theory of personal identity has recently been accused of not meeting what is claimed to be a fundamental requirement on theories of identity - to explain personal moral responsibility. Although they often have much to say about responsibility, the charge is that they cannot say enough. I set out the background to the charge with a short discussion of Locke and the requirement to explain responsibility, then illustrate the accusation facing the theory with details from Marya Schechtman. (...)
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  17. Simon Beck (2011). Causal Copersonality: In Defence of the Psychological Continuity Theory. South African Journal of Philosophy 30 (2):244-255.
    The view that an account of personal identity can be provided in terms of psychological continuity has come under fire from an interesting new angle in recent years. Critics from a variety of rival positions have argued that it cannot adequately explain what makes psychological states co-personal (i.e. the states of a single person). The suggestion is that there will inevitably be examples of states that it wrongly ascribes using only the causal connections available to it. In this paper, I (...)
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  18. Simon Beck (2001). Let's Exist Again (Like We Did Last Summer). South African Journal of Philosophy 20 (2):159-170.
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  19. Simon Beck (1992). Should We Tolerate People Who Split? Southern Journal of Philosophy 30 (1):1-17.
  20. Kathy Behrendt (2005). Impersonal Identity and Corrupting Concepts. Southern Journal of Philosophy 43 (2):159-188.
    How does the concept of a person affect our beliefs about ourselves and the world? In an intriguing recent addition to his established Reductionist view of personal identity, Derek Parfit speculates that there could be beings who do not possess the concept of a person. Where we talk and think about persons, selves, subjects, or agents, they talk and think about sequences of thoughts and experiences related to a particular brain and body. Nevertheless their knowledge and experience of the world (...)
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  21. Kathy Behrendt (2003). The New Neo-Kantian and Reductionist Debate. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 84 (4):331-350.
    Has Derek Parfit modified his views on personal identity in light of Quassim Cassam’s neo-Kantian argument that to experience the world as objective, we must think of ourselves as enduring subjects of experience? Both parties suggest there is no longer a serious dispute between them. I retrace the path that led to this truce, and contend that the debate remains open. Parfit’s recent work reveals a re-formulation of his ostensibly abandoned claim that there could be impersonal descriptions of reality. I (...)
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  22. Henk Bij de Weg, Can a Person Break a World Record?
    Most philosophers in the analytical philosophy answer the question what personal identity is in psychological terms. Arguments for substantiating this view are mainly based on thought experiments of brain transfer cases and the like in which persons change brains. However, in these thought experiments the remaining part of the body plays only a passive part. In this paper I argue that the psychological approach of personal identity cannot be maintained, if the whole body is actively involved in the analysis, and (...)
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  23. Stephan Blatti (2012). A New Argument for Animalism. Analysis 72 (4):685-690.
    The view known as animalism asserts that we are human animals—that each of us is an instance of the Homo sapiens species. The standard argument for this view is known as the thinking animal argument . But this argument has recently come under attack. So, here, a new argument for animalism is introduced. The animal ancestors argument illustrates how the case for animalism can be seen to piggyback on the credibility of evolutionary theory. Two objections are then considered and answered.
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  24. Stephan Blatti & Paul Snowdon (eds.) (forthcoming). Essays on Animalism: Persons, Animals, and Identity. Oxford University Press.
    Arguably the most significant development in the recent history of the personal identity debate has been the emergence of the view known as "animalism." This volume brings together original contributions on this topic written by both well-known and emerging philosophers. Contributors: Lynne Rudder Baker, Stephan Blatti, David Hershenov, Jens Johansson, Mark Johnston, Rory Madden, Jeff McMahan & Tim Campbell, Eric Olson, Derek Parfit, Mark Reid, Denis Robinson, David Shoemaker, Sydney Shoemaker, Paul Snowdon.
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  25. Ruth Boeker (2014). The Moral Dimension in Locke's Account of Persons and Personal Identity. History of Philosophy Quarterly 31 (3):229-247.
    I offer an interpretation of John Locke’s account of persons and personal identity that gives full credit to Locke’s claim that “person” is a forensic term, sheds new light on the relation between Locke’s characterizations of a person in sections 9 and 26, and explains how Locke links his moral and legal account of personhood to his account of personal identity in terms of sameness of consciousness. I show that Locke’s claim that sameness of consciousness is necessary for personal identity (...)
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  26. Ruth Boeker, John Locke: Identity, Persons, and Personal Identity. Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy.
  27. Ruth Boeker (2013). Locke on Personal Identity: Consciousness and Concernment. [REVIEW] British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (4):803-6.
  28. Montserrat Bordes Solanas (1998). Filosofía en clave de ciencia ficción: las personas y sus condiciones de supervivencia en el tiempo. Teorema 17 (2):59-75.
    Disagreements about the criteria for personal identity are usually discussed by means of thought experiments, which describe counterfactual science fiction situations, in order to test the explanatory force of the different accounts. In this paper the basic analyzes of the survival of persons through time are presented and the higher plausibility of psychological criteria to solve the puzzle cases is stressed. I argue that because of their capability to account for fission and fusion cases psychological criteria rooted in a four-dimensionalist (...)
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  29. Ingar Brinck, Persons, Ontology, Methodology, Values.
    So-called “Wide Psychological Reductionism”, and similar neo-Lockean views of personal identity, are both important and popular. Yet they seem to demand of their adherents commitment to controversial views both in ontology and in philosophical methodology. The consequent debates interweave methodological, ontological, and evaluative issues in interesting ways. We will examine some of these issues, and explore some of the more recent developments and transformations which Psychological views have led to. The focus will be selective and we will look only at (...)
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  30. Anthony Brueckner (2009). Endurantism and the Psychological Approach to Personal Identity. Theoria 75 (1):28-33.
    This paper considers the question whether a psychological approach to personal identity can be formulated within an endurantist, as opposed to four-dimensionalist, framework. Trenton Merricks has argued that this cannot be done. I argue to the contrary: a perfectly coherent endurantist version of the psychological approach can indeed be formulated.
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  31. Anthony L. Brueckner (2005). Branching in the Psychological Approach to Personal Identity. Analysis 65 (288):294-301.
    In this introduction to the special issue of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics on the topic of personal identity and bioethics, I provide a background for the topic and then discuss the contributions in the special issue by Eric Olson, Marya Schechtman, Tim Campbell and Jeff McMahan, James Delaney and David Hershenov, and David DeGrazia.
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  32. Anthony Brueckner & Christopher T. Buford (2008). The Psychological Approach to Personal Identity: Non-Branching and the Individuation of Person Stages. Dialogue 47 (02):377-.
    ABSTRACT: We begin by discussing some logical constraints on the psychological approach to personal identity. We consider a problem for the psychological approach that arises in fission cases. The problem engenders the need for a non-branching clause in a psychological account of the co-personality relation. We look at some difficulties in formulating such a clause. We end by rejecting a recently proposed formulation of non-branching. Our criticism of the formulation raises some interesting questions about the individuation of person stages.RÉSUMÉ: Ce (...)
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  33. Allen Buchanan (1988). Advance Directives and the Personal Identity Problem. Philosophy and Public Affairs 17 (4):277-302.
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  34. Andrei A. Buckareff & Joel S. Van Wagenen (2010). Surviving Resurrection. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 67 (3):123-139.
    In this paper we examine and critique the constitution view of the metaphysics of resurrection developed and defended by Lynne Rudder Baker. Baker identifies three conditions for an adequate metaphysics of resurrection. We argue that one of these, the identity condition, cannot be met on the constitution view given the account of personal identity it assumes. We discuss some problems with the constitution theory of personal identity Baker develops in her book, Persons and Bodies . We argue that these problems (...)
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  35. Christopher Buford (2009). Baker on the Psychological Account of Personal Identity. Acta Analytica 24 (3):197-209.
    Lynne Rudder Baker’s Constitution View of human persons has come under much recent scrutiny. Baker argues that each human person is constituted by, but not identical to, a human animal. Much of the critical discussion of Baker’s Constitution View has focused upon this aspect of her account. Less has been said about the positive diachronic account of personal identity offered by Baker. Baker argues that it is sameness of what she labels ‘first-person perspective’ that is essential to understanding personal identity (...)
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  36. Christopher Buford (2009). Memory, Quasi-Memory, and Pseudo-Quasi-Memory. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (3):465 – 478.
    Bishop Butler objected to Locke's theory of personal identity on the grounds that memory presupposes personal identity. Most of those sympathetic with Locke's account have accepted Butler's criticism, and have sought to devise a theory of personal identity in the spirit of Locke's that avoids Butler's circularity objection. John McDowell has argued that even the more recent accounts of personal identity are vulnerable to the kind of objection Butler raised against Locke's own account. I criticize McDowell's stance, drawing on a (...)
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  37. Christopher T. Buford (2013). Does Indeterminacy Matter? Theoria 79 (2):155-166.
    Derek Parfit has offered numerous arguments in an attempt to establish that identity is not what matters. Jens Johannson has recently argued that Parfit's various arguments for the claim that identity is not what matters fail to establish what Parfit takes such arguments to establish. Johannson contends that this is due in part to the invalidity of one of Parfit's key arguments, and the fact that Parfit ignores a position that is compatible with the conclusions of his successful arguments and (...)
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  38. Christopher T. Buford (2008). The Psychological Approach to Personal Identity. Dialogue 47 (2):377-386.
    We begin by discussing some logical constraints on the psychological approach to personal identity. We consider a problem for the psychological approach that arises in fission cases. The problem engenders the need for a non-branching clause in a psychological account of the co-personality relation. We look at some difficulties in formulating such a clause. We end by rejecting a recently proposed formulation of non-branching. Our criticism of the formulation raises some interesting questions about the individuation of person stages.
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  39. Dana E. Bushnell (1993). Identity, Psychological Continuity, and Rationality. Journal of Philosophical Research 18:15-24.
    Derek Parfit claims that all that rationally matters for a person is psychological connectedness or continuity, even without identity. A psychological replica of a person whose body is destroyed upon the replication rationally should be considered just as valuable as the original person. I argue against this, maintaining that any such copying procedure would be objectionable. First, I argue that a copy of an original person does not preserve identity to the original person. And second, I argue that because a (...)
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  40. Scott Campbell (2006). The Conception of a Person as a Series of Mental Events. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (2):339–358.
    It is argued that those who accept the psychological criterion of personal identity, such as Parfit and Shoemaker, should accept what I call the 'series' view of a person, according to which a person is a unified aggregate of mental events and states. As well as defending this view against objections, I argue that it allows the psychological theorist to avoid the two lives objection which the 'animalist' theorists have raised against it, an objection which causes great difficulties for the (...)
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  41. Scott Campbell (2001). Animals, Babies, and Subjects. Southern Journal of Philosophy 39 (2):157-167.
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  42. Scott Campbell (2001). Neo-Lockeanism and Circularity. Philosophia 28 (1-4):477-489.
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  43. Scott Campbell (2001). Persons and Substances. Philosophical Studies 104 (3):253-67.
    I have argued elsewhere that the psychological criterion of personalidentity entails that a person is not an object, but a series ofpsychological events. As this is somewhat counter-intuitive,I consider whether the psychological theorist can argue that a person, while not a substance, exists in a way that is akin to theway that substances exist. I develop ten criteria that such a`quasi-substance' should meet, and I argue that a reasonablecase can be made to show that the psychological theorist's conception of a (...)
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  44. W. R. Carter (1999). Will I Be a Dead Person? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (1):167 - 171.
  45. Arthur W. Collins (1997). Personal Identity and the Coherence of Q-Memory. Philosophical Quarterly 47 (186):73-80.
    Brian Garrett constructs cases satisfying Andy Hamilton’s definition of weak q‐memory. This does not establish that a peculiar kind of memory is at least conceptually coherent. Any ‘apparent memory experiences’ that satisfy the definition turn out not to involve remembering anything at all. This conclusion follows if we accept, as both Hamilton and Garrett do, a variety of first‐person authority according to which memory judgements may be false, but not on the ground that someone other than the remembering subject had (...)
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  46. Sharon Crowley (2000). Memory, Identity, Community: The Idea of Narrative in the Human Sciences (Review). [REVIEW] Philosophy and Rhetoric 33 (2):187-191.
  47. Lawrence H. Davis (2001). Functionalism, the Brain, and Personal Identity. Philosophical Studies 102 (3):259-79.
    One might expect functionalism to imply that personal identity is preserved through various operations on the brain, including transplantation. I argue that this is not clearly so even where the whole brain is transplanted. It is definitely not so in cases where only the cerebrum is transplanted, a conceivable kind of hemispherectomy, and even certain cases in which the brain is "gradually" replaced by an inorganic substitute. These results distinguish functionalism from other accounts taking what Eric T. Olson calls the (...)
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  48. Lawrence H. Davis (1998). Functionalism and Personal Identity. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58 (4):781-804.
    Sydney Shoemaker has claimed that functionalism, a theory about mental states, implies a certain theory about the identity over time of persons, the entities that have mental states. He also claims that persons can survive a "Brain-State-Transfer" procedure. My examination of these claims includes description and analysis of imaginary cases, but-notably-not appeals to our "intuitions" concerning them. It turns out that Shoemaker's basic insight is correct: there is a connection between the two theories. Specifically, functionalism implies that "non-branching functional continuity" (...)
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  49. Frederick Doepke (1996). The Kinds of Things: A Theory of Personal Identity Based on Transcendental Argument. Open Court Publishing Company.
    The Kinds of Things strongly supports the commonsense belief that in normal human life even changes in our deeply-held affections and ideals do not erode the ...
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  50. Igor Douven (1999). Marc Slors on Personal Identity. Philosophical Explorations 2 (2):143 – 149.
    Theories of personal identity purport to specify truth conditions for sentences of the form 'x-at-ti is the same person as y-at-tj. Most philosophers nowadays agree that such truth conditions are to be stated in terms of psychological continuity. However; opinions vary as to how the notion of psychological continuity is to be understood. In a recent contribution to this journal, Slors offers an account in which psychological continuity is spelled out in terms of narrative connectedness between mental states.The present paper (...)
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