South African Journal of Philosophy 17 (3):211-225 (1998)

Simon Beck
University of the Western Cape
The thought-experiment presented by Bernard Williams in 'The self and the future' continues to draw the attention of writers in the debate about personal identity. While few of them agree on what implications it has for the debate, almost all agree that those implications are significant ones. Some have even claimed that it has consequences not only for personal identity, but also concerning the viability of thought-experiment as a method. This paper surveys what these consequences might be at both levels - as a substantive contribution to the debate on identity, and as to what it shows about the usefulness of thought-experiments. It argues ultimately that thought-experiments like Williams's do provide a useful philosophical tool as long as we temper our expectations of them, and that it offers some support to a view of personal identity but one which is at odds with Williams's own view.
Keywords Thought-Experiments  Personal Identity  Psychological Continuity Theory
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DOI 10.1080/02580136.1998.10878162
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References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Human Beings.Mark Johnston - 1987 - Journal of Philosophy 84 (2):59-83.
The Self and the Future.Bernard Williams - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (2):161-180.
Paradoxes.R. M. Sainsbury - 1991 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 51 (2):455-459.
Identity, Consciousness, and Value.Robert C. Coburn - 1993 - Philosophical Review 102 (1):131.

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Citations of this work BETA

Transplant Thought-Experiments: Two Costly Mistakes in Discounting Them.Simon Beck - 2014 - South African Journal of Philosophy 33 (2):189-199.

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