the meditations on first philosophy presents us with an alleged proof for the existence of God that proceeds from the existence of an idea of an infinite being in the human mind—an idea of God—to the existence of God himself. Insofar as we have an idea of an infinite being, an idea with “infinite objective reality,” we can legitimately ask whence it came to us. The only possible cause of this idea, claims Descartes, is an infinite being, namely, God. The (...) occurrence of just this idea in the proof is essential. In fact, Descartes maintains that any such causal proof for God’s existence crucially relies on this idea: “it seems to me that all these proofs based on his effects are reducible to a single one; and also .. (shrink)
Descartes notoriously characterizes substance in two ways: first, as an ultimate subject of properties ; second, as an independent entity. The characterizations have appeared to many to diverge on the definition as well as the scope of the notion of substance. For it is often thought that the ultimate subject of properties need not—and, in some cases, cannot—be independent. Drawing on a suite of historical, textual, and philosophical considerations, this essay argues for an interpretation that reconciles Descartes's two characterizations. It (...) proposes that both characterizations invoke a type of independence that obtains just in case there is no relation to another entity that holds by the nature of the entity in question. Even though the ultimate subject of properties is sometimes not independent in other respects, it satisfies this independence-by-nature condition. (shrink)
Marya Schechtman offers a new theory of personal identity, which captures the importance of being able to reidentify people in our daily lives. She sees persons as loci of practical interaction, and defines the unity of such a locus in terms of biological, psychological, and social functions, mediated through social and cultural infrastructure.
Abstract A small but significant number of residents of Second Life (SL) insist that SL is as real to them as Real Life (RL) and that their SL avatars are as much themselves as their offscreen selves. This paper investigates whether this claim can be literally true in any philosophically interesting way. Using a narrative account of personal identity I argue that there is a way of understanding these identity claims according to which the actions and experiences of the offscreen (...) user and the online avatar are indeed actions and experiences of a single person. In the course of describing how this is so, the paper also uncovers new insights into how a narrative approach to personal identity should be structured and developed. Content Type Journal Article Category Special Issue Pages 1-15 DOI 10.1007/s13347-012-0062-y Authors Marya Schechtman, Department of Philosophy M/C 267, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1423 University Hall, 601 South Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607, USA Journal Philosophy & Technology Online ISSN 2210-5441 Print ISSN 2210-5433. (shrink)
This article examines the narrative approach to self found in philosophy and related disciplines. The strongest versions of the narrative approach hold that both a person's sense of self and a person's life are narrative in structure, and this is called the hermeneutical narrative theory. This article provides a provisional picture of the content of the narrative approach and considers some important objections that have been raised to the narrative approach. It defends the view that the self constitutes itself in (...) narrative and argues for something less than the hermeneutical view insofar as the narrative is less agency-oriented and without an overarching thematic unity. (shrink)
Steven Luper offers richly-textured arguments against the Embodied Part View developed by Jeff McMahan and offered as an answer to the “too many thinkers” problem. One of the major objections he raises is connected to McMahan's claim that the mind, and so the person, is to be identified with the part of the brain in which consciousness is directly realized. This view has the implausible consequence, Luper argues, that persons do not and cannot think or reason or have desires or (...) interests. While this is indeed a worrisome consequence, it is not clear that McMahan is committed to the understanding of what constitutes “the part of the brain in which consciousness is directly realized” that Luper attributes to him. Making reference to McMahan's Theory of Time-Relative Interests, I develop an alternate way of reading this phrase, one which avoids the difficulties Luper raises. I acknowledge that my understanding yields a view that, while formally consistent, is unattractive in a variety of ways. I suggest, however, that this should not be taken as a reason to favor animalism, since animalism has its own difficulties, which are not entirely unlike those faced by the Embodied Part View. (shrink)
Philosophical discussions of personal identity depend upon thought experiments which describe psychological vicissitudes and question whether the original person survives in the person resulting from the described change. These cases are meant to determine the types of psychological change compatible with personal continuation. Two main accounts of identity try to capture this distinction; psychological continuity theories and narrative theories. I argue that neither fully succeeds since both overlook the importance of a relationship I call “empathic access.” I define empathic access (...) and discuss its role in a complete account of personal identity. (shrink)
Among the many topics covered in Sven Bernecker’s impressive study of memory is the relation between memory and personal identity. Bernecker uses his grammatical taxonomy of memory and causal account to defend the claim that memory does not logically presuppose personal identity and hence that circularity objections to memory-based accounts of personal identity are misplaced. In my comment I investigate these claims, suggesting that the relation between personal identity and memory is more complicated than Bernecker’s analysis suggests. In particular, I (...) argue that while he shows that some memories do not presuppose personal identity he fails to show that those that are appealed to in memory-based accounts of personal identity do not, and that the features of his view that allow him to define memory without reference to personal identity also obscure important features of memory that must be part of a complete account. (shrink)
Traditionally, it has been assumed that metaphysical and practical questions about personhood and personal identity are inherently linked. Neo-Lockean views that draw such a link have been problematic, leading to an opposing view that metaphysical and ethical questions about persons should be sharply distinguished. This paper argues that consideration of this issue suffers from an overly narrow conception of the practical concerns associated with persons that focuses on higher-order capacities and fails to appreciate basic practical concerns more directly connected to (...) our animality. A more inclusive alternative is proposed. (shrink)
In the spirit of the discussion in Daniel Kolak’s I Am You: The Metaphysical Foundation for Global Ethics, I consider the way in which divisions that we usually think of as borders between distinct people occur within a single life. Starting with the dispute between constructionist and non-constructionist views of persons, I argue for a view that places the unity of persons in the dynamic generated by simultaneously taking a constructionist and non-constructionist view of oneself. In order to unify ourselves (...) as agents we need to treat past and future selves as others, but to motivate this endeavor we need to think of ourselves as temporally extended agents, and so identify with past and future selves. Understanding this dynamic illuminates the structure of our agency and the unity of the self. (shrink)
Psychologically based accounts of personal identity over time start from a view of persons as experiencing subjects. Derek Parfit argues that if such an account is to justify the importance we attach to identity it will need to provide a deep unity of consciousness throughout the life of a person, and no such unity is possible. In response, many philosophers have switched to a view of persons as essentially agents, arguing that the importance of identity depends upon agential unity rather (...) than unity of consciousness. While this shift contributes significantly to the discussion, it does not offer a fully satisfying alternative. Unity of consciousness still seems required if identity is to be as important as we think it is. Views of identity based on agential unity do, however, point to a new understanding of unity of consciousness which meets Parfit's challenge, yielding an integrated view of identity which sees persons as both subjects and agents. Footnotesa I am indebted to many friends and colleagues for their input in the course of writing this essay. I would like especially to thank David DeGrazia, Anthony Laden, Ray Martin, Marc Slors, and the editors of Social Philosophy and Policy. (shrink)
It is a commonplace of contemporary thought that the mind is located in the brain. Although there have been some challenges to this view, it has remained mainstream outside of a few specialized discussions, and plays a prominent role in a wide variety of philosophical arguments. It is further assumed that the source of this view is empirical. I argue it is not. Empirical discoveries show conclusively that the brain is the central organ of mental life, but do not show (...) that it is the mind's location . The data are just as compatible with a view where mentality is a human capacity on the model of circulation or respiration, with the brain playing the same kind of role as the heart or lungs. The standard conception of the brain as the locus of mind stems, I claim, from the imposition of a Cartesian conception of the self on a materialist ontology. Recognizing that the empirical data do not justify such a move casts doubt on the foundations of a number of philosophical discussions and raises new questions about the nature of the psychological subject. (shrink)
This article uncovers difficulties with a widely-held account of the kind of agential unity required for autonomous action and offers an alternative account that avoids these difficulties. One influential approach to characterizing agency holds that autonomous action occurs only when an agent is wholeheartedly committed to the motivation on which he or she acts. The basic idea behind this approach is that autonomous action is action that flows from motivations that are truly internal to the agent, and that it is (...) an agent’s wholehearted commitment to a motivation that makes it internal in the relevant sense. Reflection on the diachronic aspects of agency reveals some serious challenges for this approach. These challenges are diagnosed as stemming from a fundamental structural tension between two of its key elements; on the one hand the requirement of absolute wholeheartedness about our commitments, and on the other the claim that questions of agency and autonomy must take as their target the principles, plans, and projects that individual actions represent rather than the actions themselves. The article argues that this tension is unavoidable in the approach as usually defended and outlines a different strategy for characterizing agential unity that does not require wholeheartedness. (shrink)
Paul Ricoeur and Marya Schechtman express grave doubts about the acceptability and informativeness of the thought-experiments employed by analytic philosophers (notably Derek Parfit) in the debate about personal identity, and for what appear to be related reasons. I consider their reasoning and argue that their reasons fail to justify their doubts. I go on to argue that, from this discussion of possible problems concerning select thought-experiments, something positive can be learned about personal identity.
Marya Schechtman's The Constitution of Selves presented an impressive attempt to persuade those working on personal identity to give up mainstream positions and take on a narrative view instead. More recently, she has presented new arguments with a closely related aim. She attempts to convince us to give up the view of identity as a matter of psychological continuity, using Derek Parfit's story of the “Nineteenth Century Russian” as a central example in making the case against Parfit's own view, (...) and offers a form of narrative theory as a way out of the problem. In this paper I consider this new case, and argue that we should not be persuaded towards the narrative. (shrink)
This is a response to three critical discussions of my book Memory: A Philosophical Study (Oxford University Press 2010): Marya Schechtman, Memory and Identity , Fred Adams, Husker Du? , and Sanford Goldberg The Metasemantics of Memory.
This book presents, in method, logical form, and philosophical content, a counterproposal to mainstream personal identity theory. The lotter's purported conflation of logical questions, i.e. reidentification with characterization, leads to an implausible reductionism about selves. A self-constituting narrative is the basis for identity, and contra reductionism, the ontological primitive of a person. As a dynamic valuational and intentional system, the narrative meaningfully constructs the autobiographical past through memory and both causally directs and emotively anticipates the experiences and form of future (...) selves. Schechtman's account, in contrast to mainstream theories, rightly connects identity to those four features that weigh heavily in our values, viz. survival, self-concern, responsibility, and compensation. Though bold and original, the account dispels a couple of important issues along with its rejection of mainstream theory. These issues, encountered most notably through fission cases, are taken up in the evaluation with a “narrative split”. (shrink)