Personal Identity, Possible Worlds, and Medical Ethics

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy: A European Journal (3):429-437 (2022)
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Thought experiments that concoct bizarre possible world modalities are standard fare in debates on personal identity. Appealing to intuitions raised by such evocations is often taken to settle differences between conflicting theoretical views that, albeit, have practical implications for ethical controversies of personal identity in health care. Employing thought experiments that way is inadequate, I argue, since personhood is intrinsically linked to constraining facts about the actual world. I defend a moderate modal skepticism according to which intuiting across conceptually incongruent worlds constitutes ‘invalid intuitioninferences’—i.e., carrying over intuitions gathered from facts about possible worlds that are at odds with facts about the actual world, for the purpose of making claims about real-life persons and their identity, leads to conceptual incongruences. Such a methodological fallout precludes accurate, informative judgments about personal identity in the actual world, calling into question the adequacy of thought experimental considerations for potential real world applications in medical ethics.

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Nils-Frederic Wagner
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Freedom of the will and the concept of a person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man.Thomas Reid - 1785 - University Park, Pa.: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Derek R. Brookes & Knud Haakonssen.

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