On not knowing what or who one is: Reflections on the intelligibility of dualism

Topoi 7 (March):57-63 (1988)
Beginning with Descartes' caution not “imprudently” to “take some other object in place of myself”, I consider first the problems of self-identification confronted by various amnesiacs , both ordinary and Cartesian. Noting that cogitationes as such do not individuate, I proceed to examine conclusions drawn from certain sorts of “body-switching” thought experiments. This, in turn, gives rise to a general critique of “psychological connectedness” or “unity of consciousness” as a candidate criterion of personal identity. I conclude that our ability to apply any notion of personal identity is parasitic upon the existence of a conceptual apparatus for individuating, identifying, and reidentifying objects. Finally, I argue that, if ‘person’ is a proper sortal predicate to begin with, Descartes' res cogitans cannot be understood as a species of the genus res , distinct from res extensa and only problematically in “interaction” with it. Cartesian dualism is a multiply untenable doctrine
Keywords Dualism  Metaphysics  Philosophical Psychology  Self-identity  Descartes
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DOI 10.1007/BF00776209
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