What Matters in Survival: Life Trajectories and the Possibility of Virtual Immersion

The immediate goal of this paper is to establish that one can both agree with Parfit that identity is not what matters in survival and yet still maintain that the concept of a persisting person requires singularity over time. That is, fission cannot preserve what matters in survival. This can be maintained once one recognizes an externalist constraint on preserving what matters. Specifically, I claim that what matters in the survival of persons is something Parfit might call the “quasi-continuation” of what I term their “life trajectories.” 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. Of course, the idea that externalist constraints are important in a complete metaphysical account of the nature of persons is not new, but I propose my own specific account about how to understand these constraints. Furthermore, this account not only rules out fission cases as those in which we have what matters equally as well as in single cases on metaphysical grounds, it also can be used to explain our reactions to different virtual immersion scenarios. Therefore, simply on explanatory grounds alone, my view is to be preferred over pure psychological continuity theories.
Keywords Personal identity  Psychological continuity theory  What matters in survival
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