Parfit's Fission Dilemma: Why Relation R Doesn't Matter

Theoria 84 (4):284-294 (2018)

In his work on personal identity, Derek Parfit makes two revolutionary claims: firstly, that personal identity is not what matters in survival; and secondly, that what does matter is relation R. In this article I demonstrate his position here to be inconsistent, with the former claim being defensible only in case the latter is false. Parfit intends his famous fission argument to establish the unimportance of identity – a conclusion disputed by, among others, Mark Johnston. My approach is to critically assess their debate, focusing on Johnston's reductio of Parfit's position. I contend that although Parfit's own response fails, there are other ways to save the fission argument. The unimportance of identity then comes at a cost, however, because the reductio can only be avoided by accepting either that nothing matters in survival, or else that facts about particles and forces do. Either way, relation R cannot be what matters.
Keywords Johnston  Parfit  argument from above  argument from below  fission  personal identity  relation R  what matters
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DOI 10.1111/theo.12152
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References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
The Unimportance of Identity.Derek Parfit - 1995 - In H. Harris (ed.), Identity. Oxford University Press. pp. 13-45.
Identity, Consciousness, and Value.Robert C. Coburn - 1993 - Philosophical Review 102 (1):131.
Why There Still Are No People.Jim Stone - 2005 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (1):174-191.
Reasons and Reductionism.Mark Johnston - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):589.

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