Reasons, causes and identity

Journal of Medical Ethics 44 (1):70-71 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In their book Identity, Personhood and the Law,1 authors Charles Foster and Jonathan Herring seek, among other things, to show that the law is based on overly simplistic assumptions about the nature of personal identity. In their Author Meets Critics précis, they summarise the main contentions of the book on this issue. Difficulties in the law’s simplistic approach are, they claim, exposed when we think about people with dementia, ‘where [in advanced cases] I may turn into a person with no apparent continuity at all with my own self’ and where: > X2 will simply inhabit a body composed of some of the same cells as belonged to X1. Deep brain stimulation ‘may similarly transform ‘my’ attributes to such an extent that it seems false to continue to talk about ‘me’ at all.’ Other examples, including cases of patients suffering severe anorexia or who have fallen into a permanent vegetative state, are given. All of them ‘call into question the atomistic, billiard-ball model of identity used by the law and by our uninterrogated intuitions.’ The authors’ approach is to begin with these and a number of other examples and raise several philosophical and ethical issues. They then discuss the issues and develop principles which they apply to the same examples at the end of the book. In this commentary, I cannot do justice to all the claims and challenges to the law the authors make in their rich and highly recommended book. I will focus only on the issue of personal identity and their remarks about the simplistic assumptions made by the courts on this issue. Although my comments will not always be in agreement with theirs, these remarks should be taken …



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 93,642

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Reasons, causes and identity.Andrew McGee - 2017 - Journal of Medical Ethics Recent Issues 44 (1):70-71.
The Role of the Brainstem in Personal Identity.Eric T. Olson - 2016 - In Andreas Blank (ed.), Animals: New Essays. Munich: Philosophia.
Personal identity and brain transplants.Paul F. Snowdon - 1991 - In Human Beings. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 109-126.
Identity, Personhood and the Law.Charles Foster - 2017 - Cham: Imprint: Springer. Edited by Jonathan Herring.
The unimportance of identity.Derek Parfit - 1997 - In H. Harris (ed.), Identity. Oxford University Press. pp. 13-45.
Personal Identity and Reidentification.Adeleke Segun Adeofe - 1991 - Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles


Added to PP

8 (#517,646)

6 months
22 (#694,291)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

Identity, personhood and the law: a response to Ashcroft and McGee.Charles Foster & Jonathan Herring - 2017 - Journal of Medical Ethics Recent Issues 44 (1):73-74.

Add more citations

References found in this work

We Are Human Beings.Andrew McGee - 2016 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 41 (2):148-171.
Identity, personhood and the law: a response to Ashcroft and McGee.Charles Foster & Jonathan Herring - 2017 - Journal of Medical Ethics Recent Issues 44 (1):73-74.
Best interest determinations and substituted judgement : personhood and precedent autonomy.Andrew McGee - 2014 - In Charles Foster, Jonathan Herring & Israel Doron (eds.), The law and ethics of dementia. Portland, Oregon: Hart Publishing.

Add more references