Personal Identity and Persistence: An Evolving Bundle of Mental and Physical Features

Abstract

The problem of personal identity contains various questions and issues, but the main issue is persistence; how can one person remain the same over time? Modern philosophers have proposed various solutions to this problem; however, none are without problems. David Hume rejected the notion of personal identity as fictitious and posited a theory that personal identity is merely a bundle of perceptions which does not remain the same over time. Hume’s approach to personal identity is flawed, and Derek Parfit pushed back against Hume’s complete rejection of personal identity through his argument of psychological continuity; a continuous chain of overlapping cognitive connections between beliefs, preferences, memories, and other characteristics can meet the criterion of identity. However, Parfit falls short in only acknowledging mental features as the essential property of personal identity; physical features such as age, race, sex, etc. have a significant impact on one’s understanding of themselves. Through a combination of Hume’s bundle theory and Parfit’s psychological continuity, an understanding of what personal identity is and how it is able to remain constant over time can be reached. In this paper, I argue that personal identity is a bundle of mental and physical features that persists through time through psychological continuity.

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