The Sense and Reality of Personal Identity

Erkenntnis 83 (6):1139-1155 (2018)
Thomas Sattig
University of Tuebingen
The vast majority of philosophers of personal identity since John Locke have been convinced that the persistence of persons is not grounded in bodily continuity. Why? As numerous ‘textbooks’ on personal identity attest, their conviction rests, to a large extent, on an objection to the bodily approach, which concerns episodic memory. The objection invites us to a thought experiment in which we meet a person who experientially remembers events from the past of a person with a different body. The nature of such first-personal memory-links is viewed as strongly suggesting that the rememberer is identical with the remembered, and hence, given the possibility of such a case, as suggesting that a person can transgress its bodily limits. The memory objection is as influential as it gets in the metaphysics of personal identity. Textbooks often portray it as the starting point of the contemporary debate about personal identity. And it has been widely perceived as a success. As everyone who has taught an introductory course on personal identity knows, the recognition of episodic-memory links in body-switching cases has the power to turn any group of novice students against bodily criteria of personal identity. In this essay, I shall specify and undermine the memory objection. I shall attempt to establish two theses. The first thesis is that the memory objection is only viable if construed as resting on the view that episodic memory contains a sense of personal identity, which teaches us about the reality of personal identity. The second thesis is that there is no such sense of personal identity, that episodic memory teaches us nothing at all about personal identity.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10670-017-9933-z
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 37,988
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Memory and Identity.Marya Schechtman - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 153 (1):65-79.
Personal Identity.R. G. Swinburne - 1973 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 74:231 - 247.
John Locke on Personal Identity.N. Nimbalkar - 2011 - Mens Sana Monographs 9 (1):268.
A Defence of Quasi-Memory.Rebecca Roache - 2006 - Philosophy 81 (2):323-355.
Memory, Quasi-Memory, and Pseudo-Quasi-Memory.Christopher Buford - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (3):465 – 478.
Locke's Theory of Personal Identity.Paul Helm - 1979 - Philosophy 54 (208):173 - 185.
John Locke, Personal Identity and Memento.Basil Smith - 2006 - In Mark T. Conard (ed.), The Philosophy of Neo-Noir. University of Kentucky Press.
Personal Identity.John Perry (ed.) - 1975 - University of California Press.
Identity, Personal Identity and the Self.John Perry - 2002 - Hackett Publishing Company.
Extended Mind and Identity.Robert A. Wilson & Bartlomiej Lenart - 2014 - In Jens Clausen & Neil Levy (eds.), Handbook of Neuroethics. Springer. pp. 423-439.
Personal Identity and Memory Transfer.Karl Ameriks - 1976 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 14 (4):385-391.
XI—Intention and the Self.Rory Madden - 2011 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 111 (3pt3):325-351.


Added to PP index

Total views
24 ( #276,182 of 2,312,292 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #134,437 of 2,312,292 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature