Personal identity and thought-experiments

Philosophical Quarterly 52 (206):34-54 (2002)
Abstract
Through careful analysis of a specific example, Parfit’s ‘fission argument’ for the unimportance of personal identity, I argue that our judgements concerning imaginary scenarios are likely to be unreliable when the scenarios involve disruptions of certain contingent correlations. Parfit’s argument depends on our hypothesizing away a number of facts which play a central role in our understanding and employment of the very concept under investigation; as a result, it fails to establish what Parfit claims, namely, that identity is not what matters. I argue that Parfit’s conclusion can be blocked without denying that he has presented an imaginary case where prudential concern would be rational in the absence of identity. My analysis depends on the recognition that the features that explain or justify a relation may be distinct from the features that underpin it as necessary conditions.
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DOI 10.1111/1467-9213.00251
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