What Matters in Survival: The Fission Problem, Life Trajectories, and the Possibility of Virtual Immersion

One goal here is to motivate and illustrate the possibility that we can accept Parfitian arguments about the importance of personal identity, while rejecting fission as an instance of preserving what matters in survival. That is, singular existence over time is required for preserving what matters, even if identity is not. The second goal is to develop and motivate a theory of persons and what matters in their survival that can accommodate and explain this possibility. At least one way we can realize this second goal is to accept an externalist conception of what matters, specifically, that what matters in the survival of persons is the continuation of what is called their “life trajectories,” which involves maintaining some of a person’s extrinsic properties in addition to standard psychological properties. The motivation for this externalist conception of what matters in survival comes from considering the implications of certain kinds of cases of complete virtual immersion – the immersion of a psychological subject in a completely virtual world, a world in which her experiences are de-correlated with events in the objective world. Replacing standard psychological continuity theory with the life trajectory theory not only rules out fission cases as those in which we have what matters equally as well as in single cases on metaphysical grounds, achieving our first goal, it can also explain our reactions to different virtual immersion scenarios. Therefore, simply on explanatory grounds alone, the life trajectory account is to be preferred over pure psychological continuity accounts. 
Keywords Personal identity  Psychological continuity theory  What matters in survival
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