Most philosophers writing about personalidentity in recent years claim that what it takes for us to persist through time is a matter of psychology. In this groundbreaking new book, Eric Olson argues that such approaches face daunting problems, and he defends in their place a radically non-psychological account of personalidentity. He defines human beings as biological organisms, and claims that no psychological relation is either sufficient or necessary for an organism to persist. Olson rejects (...) several famous thought-experiments dealing with personalidentity. He argues, instead, that one could survive the destruction of all of one's psychological contents and capabilities as long as the human organism remains alive--as long as its vital functions, such as breathing, circulation, and metabolism, continue. (shrink)
Locke’s account of personalidentity has been highly influential because of its emphasis on a psychological criterion. The same consciousness is required for being the same person. It is not so clear, however, exactly what Locke meant by ‘consciousness’ or by ‘having the same consciousness’. Interpretations vary: consciousness is seen as identical to memory, as identical to a first personal appropriation of mental states, and as identical to a first personal distinctive experience of the qualitative features (...) of one’s own thinking. There is wide agreement, however, that Locke’s theory of personalidentity is meant to complement his moral and theological commitments to a system of divine punishment and reward in an afterlife. But these commitments seem to require also a metaphysical criterion, and Locke is insistent that it cannot be substance. The difficulty reconciling the psychological and metaphysical requirements of the theory has led, at worst, to charges of incoherence and, at best, to a slew of interpretations, none of which is widely accepted. (shrink)
Memory of past episodes provides a sense of personalidentity — the sense that I am the same person as someone in the past. We present a neurological case study of a patient who has accurate memories of scenes from his past, but for whom the memories lack the sense of mineness. On the basis of this case study, we propose that the sense of identity derives from two components, one delivering the content of the memory and (...) the other generating the sense of mineness. We argue that this new model of the sense of identity has implications for debates about quasi-memory. In addition, articulating the components of the sense of identity promises to bear on the extent to which this sense of identity provides evidence of personalidentity. (shrink)
When is there no fact of the matter about a metaphysical question? When multiple candidate meanings are equally eligible, in David Lewis's sense, and fit equally well with ordinary usage. Thus given certain ontological schemes, there is no fact of the matter whether the criterion of personalidentity over time is physical or psychological. But given other ontological schemes there is a fact of the matter; and there is a fact of the matter about which ontological scheme is (...) correct. (shrink)
What is the self? And how does it relate to the body? In the second edition of PersonalIdentity, Harold Noonan presents the major historical theories of personalidentity, particularly those of Locke, Leibniz, Butler, Reid and Hume. Noonan goes on to give a careful analysis of what the problem of personalidentity is, and its place in the context of more general puzzles about identity. He then moves on to consider the main (...) issues and arguments which are the subject of current debate, including the work of Bernard Williams and Derek Parfit, and makes new and challenging interpretations of them. This new edition contains additional material assessing the biological approach which has become increasingly popular in recent years, and extends the treatment of indeterminate identity to take account of the epistemic view of vagueness. This book covers the problem of personalidentity from its origin in Locke's work to the most recent debates in the philosophical literature, and will be invaluablereading for any student of the topic. (shrink)
Locke’s theory of personalidentity was philosophically groundbreaking for its attempt to establish a non-substantial identity condition. Locke states, “For the same consciousness being preserv’d, whether in the same or different Substances, the personalIdentity is preserv’d” (II.xxvii.13). Many have interpreted Locke to think that consciousness identifies a self both synchronically and diachronically by attributing thoughts and actions to a self. Thus, many have attributed to Locke either a memory theory or an appropriation theory of (...)personalidentity. But the former stumble on circularity and the latter is insufficient for Locke’s moral theory insofar as he is committed to a theory of divine rectification. The common problem is that Locke’s theory seems to demand an objective, or metaphysical, fact of a continuing consciousness that does not appeal to a traditional notion of substance for the continuity. I’m suggesting something new. In II.xxvii of the Essay, we see an ambiguity in Locke’s use of the term ‘consciousness’. Locke seems to see consciousness as both a mental state by means of which we are aware of ourselves as perceiving and as the ongoing self we are aware of in these conscious states. First, I make the textual argument why we should read Locke as having a conception of a metaphysical fact of a continuing consciousness that does not appeal to thinking or bodily substance to establish its continuity. I then argue that the metaphysical fact of an enduring consciousness is revealed to us as a phenomenological fact of experience. Due to the nature of certain kinds of perceptual situations we have an experience of ourselves as temporally extended. Although the text bears out that Locke seemed to think there is a fact of an ongoing consciousness, I argue that it is consistent with his reluctance elsewhere that he makes no further epistemological or ontological claims about it. Finally, I provide an account of Locke’s understanding of memory and its relation to consciousness that supports the claim that consciousness is something ontologically distinct from either thinking or bodily substance. (shrink)
Compatibilists disagree over whether there are historical conditions on moral responsibility. Historicists claim there are, whilst structuralists deny this. Historicists motivate their position by claiming to avoid the counter-intuitive implications of structuralism. I do two things in this paper. First, I argue that historicism has just as counter-intuitive implications as structuralism when faced with thought experiments inspired by those found in the personalidentity literature. Hence, historicism is not automatically preferable to structuralism. Second, I argue that structuralism is (...) much more plausible once we accept that personalidentity is irrelevant to moral responsibility. This paves the way for a new structuralist account that makes clear what it takes to be the diachronic ownership condition (which is normally taken to be personalidentity) and the locus of moral responsibility (which is normally taken to be ‘whole’ person), and helps to alleviate the intuitive unease many have with respect to structuralism. (shrink)
In this paper, I present an informational approach to the nature of personalidentity. In “Plato and the problem of the chariot”, I use Plato’s famous metaphor of the chariot to introduce a specific problem regarding the nature of the self as an informational multiagent system: what keeps the self together as a whole and coherent unity? In “Egology and its two branches” and “Egology as synchronic individualisation”, I outline two branches of the theory of the self: one (...) concerning the individualisation of the self as an entity, the other concerning the identification of such entity. I argue that both presuppose an informational approach, defend the view that the individualisation of the self is logically prior to its identification , and suggest that such individualisation can be provided in informational terms. Hence, in “A reconciling hypothesis: the three membranes model”, I offer an informational individualisation of the self, based on a tripartite model, which can help to solve the problem of the chariot. Once this model of the self is outlined, in “ICTs as technologies of the self” I use it to show how ICTs may be interpreted as technologies of the self. In “The logic of realisation”, I introduce the concept of “realization” (Aristotle’s anagnorisis ) and support the rather Spinozian view according to which, from the perspective of informational structural realism, selves are the final stage in the development of informational structures. The final “Conclusion: from the egology to the ecology of the self” briefly concludes the article with a reference to the purposeful shaping of the self, in a shift from egology to ecology. (shrink)
The special and unique attitudes that we take towards events in our futures/pasts—e.g., attitudes like the dread of an impeding pain—create a challenge for “Reductionist” accounts that reduce persons to aggregates of interconnected person stages: if the person stage currently dreading tomorrow’s pain is numerically distinct from the person stage that will actually suffer the pain, what reason could the current person stage have for thinking of that future pain as being his? One reason everyday subjects believe they have a (...) substantially extended temporal existence stems from introspection—they introspectively experience their selves as being temporally extended. In this paper, I examine whether a Reductionist about personalidentity can co-opt this explanation. Using Galen Strawson’s recent work on self-experience as a resource, I reach both a negative and a positive conclusion about the prospects of such a position. First, the relevant kind of self-experience—i.e., the introspective experience of one’s self as being a substantially temporally extended entity—will not automatically arise within a person stage simply in virtue of that stage being psychologically connected to/continuous with other person stages. Second, the relevant kind of self-experience will arise, however, in virtue of person stages weaving together their respective experiences, actions, etc. via a narrative. This positive conclusion points towards a new Reductionist position that focuses upon a narrative, and not mere psychological continuity, in attempting to justify the special attitudes we take towards events in our futures/pasts. (shrink)
Part of the appeal of the biological approach to personalidentity is that it does not have to countenance spatially coincident entities. But if the termination thesis is correct and the organism ceases to exist at death, then it appears that the corpse is a dead body that earlier was a living body and distinct from but spatially coincident with the organism. If the organism is identified with the body, then the unwelcome spatial coincidence could perhaps be avoided. (...) It is argued that such an identification would be a mistake. A living organism has a different part/whole relationship and persistence conditions than the alleged body. A case will be made that the concept ‘human body’ is a conceptual mess, vague in an unprincipled manner, and that an eliminativist stance towards dead bodies is the appropriate response. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
This article explores the notion of the dislocated self following deep brain stimulation (DBS) and concludes that when personalidentity is understood in dynamic, narrative, and relational terms, the claim that DBS is a threat to personalidentity is deeply problematic. While DBS may result in profound changes in behaviour, mood and cognition (characteristics closely linked to personality), it is not helpful to characterize DBS as threatening to personalidentity insofar as this claim is (...) either false, misdirected or trivially true. The claim is false insofar as it misunderstands the dynamic nature of identity formation. The claim is misdirected at DBS insofar as the real threat to personalidentity is the discriminatory attitudes of others towards persons with motor and other disabilities. The claim is trivially true insofar as any dramatic event or experience integrated into one’s identity-constituting narrative could then potentially be described as threatening. From the perspective of relational personalidentity, when DBS dramatically disrupts the narrative flow, this disruption is best examined through the lens of agency. For illustrative purposes, the focus is on DBS for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. (shrink)
This paper explores the implications of extended and distributed cognition theory for our notions of personalidentity. On an extended and distributed approach to cognition, external information is under certain conditions constitutive of memory. On a narrative approach to personalidentity, autobiographical memory is constitutive of our diachronic self. In this paper, I bring these two approaches together and argue that external information can be constitutive of one’s autobiographical memory and thus also of one’s diachronic self. (...) To develop this claim, I draw on recent empirical work in human-computer interaction, looking at lifelogging technologies in both healthcare and everyday contexts. I argue that personalidentity can neither be reduced to psychological structures instantiated by the brain nor by biological structures instantiated by the organism, but should be seen as an environmentally-distributed and relational construct. In other words, the complex web of cognitive relations we develop and maintain with other people and technological artifacts partly determines our self. This view has conceptual, methodological, and normative implications: we should broaden our concepts of the self as to include social and artifactual structures, focus on external memory systems in the (empirical) study of personalidentity, and not interfere with people’s distributed minds and selves. (shrink)
In this introduction to the special issue of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics on the topic of personalidentity and bioethics, I provide a background for the topic and then discuss the contributions in the special issue by Eric Olson, Marya Schechtman, Tim Campbell and Jeff McMahan, James Delaney and David Hershenov, and David DeGrazia.
In this article, I argue that lawmakers must abandon their previous reluctance to engage with questions of personalidentity. While frequently seen as an esoteric subject, of limited interest outside of academic philosophy departments, I attempt to show that, in fact, assumptions about PI—and its durability in the face of certain psychological or genetic changes—underpin many current legal rules. This is most perhaps obviously exemplified with regard to reproductive technologies. Yet the Parfitian challenge to identify a victim of (...) ‘bad’ reproductive choices has been largely overlooked in framing legislative responses to such technologies. Furthermore, I argue, it is not only with regard to emerging technologies that questionable assumptions about PI play a role; legal responses to questions about the attribution of criminal responsibility, and about the treatment of demented or brain-injured people, necessitate a frank engagement with such questions. It may be, however, that a multi-faceted approach to PI, which takes account of genetic, psychological and social factors—will prove a better fit for the myriad needs of the legal system than any sort of ‘unified theory of identity’. (shrink)
The problem of personalidentity is often said to be one of accounting for what it is that gives persons their identity over time. However, once the problem has been construed in these terms, it is plain that too much has already been assumed. For what has been assumed is just that persons do have an identity. A new interpretation of Hume's no-self theory is put forward by arguing for an eliminative rather than a reductive view (...) of personalidentity, and by approaching the problem in terms of phenomenology, Buddhist psychology, and the idea of a constructed self-image. (shrink)
One reason why the Biological Approach to personalidentity is attractive is that it doesn’t make its advocates deny that they were each once a mindless fetus.[i] According to the Biological Approach, we are essentially organisms and exist as long as certain life processes continue. Since the Psychological Account of personalidentity posits some mental traits as essential to our persistence, not only does it follow that we could not survive in a permanently vegetative state or (...) irreversible coma, but it would appear that none of us was ever a mindless fetus. But what happens to the organism that was a mindless fetus when the _person_ arrives on the scene?[ii] Can the acquisition of thought destroy an organism? That would certainly be news to biologists. Does one organism cease to exist with the emergence of thought and another organism, one identical to the person, take its place? (Burke,1994) That doesn’t seem much more plausible than the previous move. Should identity and Leibniz. (shrink)
Awareness of, and respect for differences of gender, race, religion, language, and culture have liberated many oppressed groups from the hegemony of white, Western males. However, respect for previously denigrated collective identities should not be allowed to confine individuals to identities constructed around one main component used for political mobilisation, or to identities that depend on a priority of properties that are not optional, like race, gender, and language. In this article I want to sketch an approach for accommodating different (...) kinds of identity within a multicultural constitutional democracy. From a vantage point provided by a definition and explanation of personalidentity, I want to show how people define, construct and change their personal identities to make themselves into unique individuals. Next I show how democratic political institutions and the personal identities of individuals reciprocally influence one another. In the final section I sketch ways in which diverse personal identities ought to be accommodated in multicultural constitutional democracies. The conclusion is that a society which gives its members the liberty, space, and opportunity to freely construct their own identities might avoid the formation of closed groups committed exclusively to their own sectional interests. (shrink)
This paper offers an overview of consciousness and personalidentity in eighteenth-century philosophy. Locke introduces the concept of persons as subjects of consciousness who also simultaneously recognize themselves as such subjects. Hume, however, argues that minds are nothing but bundles of perceptions, lacking intrinsic unity at a time or across time. Yet Hume thinks our emotional responses to one another mean that persons in everyday life are defined by their virtues, vices, bodily qualities, property, riches, and the like. (...) Rousseau also takes persons to be fundamentally determined by our socially-mediated emotional responses to one another, though unlike Hume or Locke, he has little interest in placing this account of persons alongside a larger discussion of the human mind and its operations. Developing this idea further, Kant argues that our moral commitments require that we must take ourselves to be free. The fundamental equality that Rousseau sought in the political order is, for Kant, a requirement that reason puts on all of us. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemaker argues that the functionalist theory of mind entails a psychological-continuity view of personalidentity, as well as providing a defense of that view against a crucial objection. I show that his view has surprising consequences, e.g. that no organism could have mental properties and that a thing's mental properties fail to supervene even weakly on its microstructure and surroundings. I then argue that the view founders on "fission" cases and rules out our being material things. Functionalism (...) tells us little if anything about personalidentity. (shrink)
Many philosophers have thought that the problem of personalidentity over time is not metaphysically deep. Perhaps the debate between the rival theories is somehow empty or is a ‘merely verbal dispute’. Perhaps questions about personalidentity are ‘nonsubstantive’ and fit more for conceptual analysis and close attention to usage than for theorizing in the style of serious metaphysics, theorizing guided by considerations of systematicity, parsimony, explanatory power, and aiming for knowledge about the objective structure of (...) the world. I discuss a thesis about consciousness according to which there are perfectly natural phenomenal properties. Although I do not argue for this thesis, I believe that it is plausible, whether or not physicalism is true. Given the thesis, there are deep, substantive questions about which individuals or pluralities instantiate the relevant phenomenal properties. Equally substantive questions can then be asked about the duration and other spatiotemporal characteristics of those individuals or pluralities, both in actual cases and in hypothetical puzzle cases adapted from the personalidentity literature. I suggest that, at least prima facie, these questions interact with our future-directed egoistic concern in much the same way that the personalidentity question is often thought to. As a slogan: “you give me substantive, determinate facts about consciousness; I give you substantive, determinate facts about personalidentity”. (shrink)
According to one argument for Animalism about personalidentity, animal , but not person , is a Wigginsian substance concept—a concept that tells us what we are essentially. Person supposedly fails to be a substance concept because it is a functional concept that answers the question “what do we do?” without telling us what we are. Since person is not a substance concept, it cannot provide the criteria for our coming into or going out of existence; animal , (...) on the other hand, can provide such criteria. This argument has been defended by Eric Olson, among others. I argue that this line of reasoning fails to show Animalism to be superior to the Psychological Approach, for the following two reasons: (1) human animal , animal , and organism are all functional concepts, and (2) the distinction between what something is and what it does is illegitimate on the reading that the argument needs. (shrink)
The possibility of a human head transplant poses unprecedented philosophical and neuroethical questions. Principal among them are the personalidentity of the resultant individual, her metaphysical and social status: Who will she be and how should the “new” person be treated - morally, legally and socially - given that she incorporates characteristics of two distinct, previously unrelated individuals, and possess both old and new physical, psychological, and social experiences that would not have been available without the transplant? We (...) contend that this situation challenges linguistic conventions and conceptual binaries, and calls into question the major philosophical approaches to personalidentity: animalism and reductionism. We examine these views critically vis-a-vis head transplantation and conclude that they fail to provide an adequate account of the identity of the resultant individual because both neglect the key role of embodiment for personalidentity. We maintain that embodiment is central to personalidentity and a radical alteration of the body will also radically alter that person, making her a different person. Consequently, a human head transplant will result in an individual partly continuous with the head/brain, and partly continuous with the body donor. We conclude that the resultant person would be different from both the individual whose head was transplanted and the one to whose body the “new” head is attached. (shrink)
It has long been thought that certain key bioethical views depend heavily on work in personalidentity theory, regarding questions of either our essence or the conditions of our numerical identity across time. In this paper I argue to the contrary, that personalidentity is actually not significant at all in this arena. Specifically, I explore three topics where considerations of identity are thought to be essential – abortion, definition of death, and advance directives (...) – and I show in each case that the significant work is being done by a relation other than identity. (shrink)
There are two main views about the nature of personalidentity. I shall briehy describe these views, say without argument which I believe to be true, and then discuss the implications of this view for one of the main conceptions of rationality. This conception I shall call "C1assical Prudence." I shall argue that, on what I believe to be the true view about personalidentity, Classical Prudence is indefensible.
Let the moral question of personalidentity be the following: what is the nature of the entities we should focus our prudential concerns and ascriptions of responsibility around? (If indeed we should structure these things around any entities at all.) Let the semantic question of personalidentity be the question of what is the nature of the entities that ‘person’ is true of. A naive (in the sense of simple and intuitive) view would have it that (...) the two questions are so intimately connected that the entities we should focus our concerns and ascriptions around are, pretty trivially, the persons. In part, my aim here is to evaluate this naive view. However, I will not actually attempt to give a definite verdict on it. Rather, I will identify the assumptions under which the naive view is true, and discuss how to go about evaluating those assumptions. (shrink)
Some philosophers take personalidentity to be a matter of self-narrative. I argue, to the contrary, that self-narrative views cannot stand alone as views of personalidentity. First, I consider Dennett’s self-narrative view, according to which selves are fictional characters—abstractions, like centers of gravity—generated by brains. Neural activity is to be interpreted from the intentional stance as producing a story. I argue that this is implausible. The inadequacy is masked by Dennett’s ambiguous use of ‘us’: sometimes (...) ‘us’ refers to real human beings, and sometimes ‘us’ refers to selves or fictional characters. Second, I consider Schechtmann’s view that self-narratives create persons in order for there to be a self-narrative. Finally, I offer my own account of persons. (shrink)
The purpose of the present article is to disentangle both Parfit’s and Whitehead’s views on personalidentity. Issues regarding what it means to be a singular individual, how a person can remain the same over time, and what makes an individual an original being with specific characteristics will be examined.
Trenton Merricks has argued that given endurantism personalidentity is unanalysable in terms of psychological continuity, while Anthony Brueckner has argued against this claim. This article shows that neither philosopher has made a compelling case and also shows what it would take to settle the issue either way. It is then argued that whether personalidentity is analysable or not may not be of crucial importance to those wanting to defend a psychological continuity approach to (...) class='Hi'>personalidentity. (shrink)
I consider whether there is a plausible conception of personalidentity that can accommodate the ‘Multiplicity Thesis’ (MT), the thesis that some ways of creating and deploying multiple distinct online personae can bring about the existence of multiple persons where before there was only one. I argue that an influential Kantian line of thought, according to which a person is a unified locus of rational agency, is well placed to accommodate the thesis. I set out such a line (...) of thought as developed by Carol Rovane, and consider the conditions that would have to be in place for the possibility identified by MT to be realised. Finally I briefly consider the prospects for MT according to neo-Lockean and animalist views of personhood. (shrink)
Philosophers concerned with the question of personalidentity have typically been asking the so-called re-identification question: what are the conditions under which a person at one point in time is properly re-identified at another point in time? This is a rather technical question. In our everyday interactions, however, we do raise a number of personalidentity questions that are quite distinct from it. In order to explore the variety of ways in which the Internet may affect (...)personalidentity, I propose in this study to broaden the typical philosophical horizon to other more mundane senses of the question. In Section 2, I describe a number of possible meanings of personalidentity observed in everyday contexts and more philosophical ones. With some caveats, I argue that it is the specific context in which the question arises that disambiguates the meaning of the question. Online contexts are novel and peculiar insofar as they afford prolonged disembodied and anonymous interaction with others. In line with our previous conclusion, then, there is reason to suspect that such contexts generate new and sui generis answers to the personalidentity question. In Section 3, I examine this question and, contrary to expectations, largely dispel this suspicion. Finally, in Section 4, I discuss the often-heard claim to the effect that disembodiment and anonymity foster the creation of distinct and incompatible online and offline identities. (shrink)
Considerations of personalidentity bear on John Searle's Chinese Room argument, and on the opposed position that a computer itself could really understand a natural language. In this paper I develop the notion of a virtual person, modelled on the concept of virtual machines familiar in computer science. I show how Searle's argument, and J. Maloney's attempt to defend it, fail. I conclude that Searle is correct in holding that no digital machine could understand language, but wrong in (...) holding that artificial minds are impossible: minds and persons are not the same as the machines, biological or electronic, that realize them. (shrink)
A popular “Reductionist” account of personalidentity unifies person stages into persons in virtue of their psychological continuity with one another. One objection to psychological continuity accounts is that there is more to our personalidentity than just mere psychological continuity: there is also an active process of self-interpretation and self-creation. This criticism can be used to motivate a rival account of personalidentity that appeals to the notion of a narrative. To the extent (...) that they comment upon the issue, proponents of narrative accounts typically reject Reductionist metaphysics that (ontologically) reduce persons to aggregates of person stages. In contrast to this trend, we seek to develop a narrative account of personalidentity from within Reductionist metaphysics: we think person stages are unified into persons in virtue of their narrative continuity with one another. We argue that this Reductionist version of the narrative account avoids some serious problems facing non-Reductionist versions of the narrative account. (shrink)
Philosophers have long suggested that our attitude of special concern for the future is problematic for a reductionist view of personalidentity, such as the one developed by Derek Parfit in Reasons and Persons. Specifically, it is often claimed that reductionism cannot provide justification for this attitude. In this paper, I argue that much of the debate in this arena involves a misconception of the connection between metaphysical theories of personalidentity and our special concern. A (...) proper understanding of this connection reveals that the above-mentioned objection to reductionism cannot get off the ground. Though the connection I propose is weaker than the connection typically presupposed, I nonetheless run up against a conclusion reached by Susan Wolf in “Self-Interest and Interest in Selves.” According to Wolf, metaphysical theses about the nature of personalidentity have no significance for our attitude of special concern. By arguing against Wolf’s treatment of self-interest, I suggest that her arguments for this conclusion are misguided. This discussion leads to further clarification of the nature of the link between theories of personalidentity and our special concern and, ultimately, to a better understanding of the rationality of this attitude. (shrink)
Psychologically based accounts of personalidentity 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)
This article examines Derek Parfit's claim in Reasons and Persons that personalidentity consists in non-branching psychological continuity with the right kind of cause. It argues that such psychological accounts of our identity fail, but that their main rivals, biological or animalist accounts do not fare better. Instead it proposes an error-theory to the effect that common sense takes us to be identical to our bodies on the erroneous assumption that our minds belong non-derivatively to them, whereas (...) they in fact belong to them derivatively in virtue of belonging to some proper parts of them, namely certain features of their brains. However, these features do not meet another necessary condition of being the subject or owner of our minds: the condition of being “accessible” so that we can attribute our mental states to them in everyday life. There is also the problem of specifying these features more precisely. Nothing meets these two conditions, so we are not identical to anything. This conclusion fits well with Parfit's claim that personalidentity is not what matters. But although this negative claim is true, it is suggested that Parfit's positive account of what matters is mistaken: it is rather psychological similarity than psychological continuity/connectedness that matters. (shrink)
Hume’s theory of personalidentity is developed in response to Locke’s account of personalidentity. Yet it is striking that Hume does not emphasize Locke’s distinction between persons and human beings. It seems even more striking that Hume’s account of the self in Books 2 and 3 of the Treatise has less scope for distinguishing persons from human beings than his account in Book 1. This is puzzling, because Locke originally introduced the distinction in order to (...) answer questions of moral accountability and Hume’s discussion of the self in Book 2 provides the foundation of his moral theory in Book 3. In response to the puzzle I show that Locke and Hume hold different moral and religious views and these differences are important to explain why their theories of personalidentity differ. (shrink)
If personalidentity consists in non-branching psychological continuity, then the sharp breaks in psychological connectedness characteristic of Multiple Personality Disorder implicitly commit psychological continuity theories to a metaphysically extravagant reification of alters. Animalist theories of personalidentity avoid the reification of alternate personalities by interpreting multiple personality as a failure to integrate alternative autobiographical memory schemata. In the normal case, autobiographical memory cross-classifies a human life, and in so doing provides access to a variety of interpretative (...) frameworks with their associated clusters of general event memory and episodic memory. Multiples exhibit erratic behavior because they cannot access reliably the intersecting autobiographical memory schemata that permit graceful transitions between social roles, behavioral repertoire and emotional dispositions. Selves, in both normal and certain pathological cases, are best understood as semi-fictional narratives created by human animals to serve their social, emotional and physical needs. (shrink)
Recent developments in the field of neurosurgery, specifically those dealing with the modification of mood and affect as part of psychiatric disease, have led some researchers to discuss the ethical implications of surgery to alter personality and personalidentity. As knowledge and technology advance, discussions of surgery to alter undesirable traits, or possibly the enhancement of normal traits, will play an increasingly larger role in the ethical literature. So far, identity and enhancement have yet to be explored (...) in a neurosurgical context, despite the fact that 1) neurological disease and treatment both potentially alter identity, and 2) that neurosurgeons will likely be the purveyors of future enhancement implantable technology. Here, we use interviews with neurosurgical patients to shed light on the ethical issues and challenges that surround identity and enhancement in neurosurgery. The results provide insight into how patients approach their identity prior to potentially identity-altering procedures and what future ethical challenges lay ahead for clinicians and researchers in the field of neurotherapeutics. (shrink)
Recent legal rulings concerning the status of advance statements have raised interest in the topic but failed to provide any definitive general guidelines for their enforcement. I examine arguments used to justify the moral authority of such statements. The fundamental ethical issue I am concerned with is how accounts of personalidentity underpin our account of moral authority through the connection between personalidentity and autonomy. I focus on how recent Animalist accounts of personal (...) class='Hi'>identity initially appear to provide a sound basis for extending the moral autonomy of an individual - and hence their autonomous wishes expressed through an advance directive - past the point of severe psychological decline. I argue that neither the traditional psychological account nor the more recent Animalist account of personalidentity manage to provide a sufficient basis for extending our moral autonomy past the point of incapacity or incompetence. I briefly explore how analogies to similar areas in law designed to facilitate autonomous decision, such as wills and trusts, provide at best only very limited scope for an alternative justification for granting advance statements any legal or moral authority. I conclude that whilst advance statements play a useful role in formulating what treatment is in a patient’s best interests, such statements do not ultimately have sufficient moral force to take precedence over paternalistic best interest judgements concerning an individual’s care or treatment. (shrink)
In a recent article, Trenton Mericks argues that psychological continuity analyses of personalidentity over time are incompatible with endurantism. We contend that if Merricks’s argument is valid, a parallel argument establishes that PC-analyses of personalidentity are incompatible with perdurantism; hence, the correct conclusion to draw is simply that such analyses are all necessarily false. However, we also show that there is good reason to doubt that Merricks’s argument is valid.
The psychological continuity theory of personalidentity has recently been accused of not meeting what is claimed to be a fundamental requirement on theories of identity - to explain personal moral responsibility. Although they often have much to say about responsibility, the charge is that they cannot say enough. I set out the background to the charge with a short discussion of Locke and the requirement to explain responsibility, then illustrate the accusation facing the theory with (...) details from Marya Schechtman. I aim some questions at the challengers’ reading of Locke, leading to an argument that the psychological continuity theory can say all that it needs to say about responsibility, and so is not in any grave predicament, at least not with regard to this particular charge. (shrink)
In philosophy, the criteria for personhood (PH) at a specific point in time (synchronic), and the necessary and sufficient conditions of personalidentity (PI) over time (diachronic) are traditionally separated. Hence, the transition between both timescales of a person's life remains largely unclear. Personal habits reflect a decision-making (DM) process that binds together synchronic and diachronic timescales. Despite the fact that the actualization of habits takes place synchronically, they presuppose, for the possibility of their generation, time in (...) a diachronic sense. The acquisition of habits therefore rests upon PI over time; that is, the temporal extension of personal decisions is the necessary condition for the possible development of habits. Conceptually, habits can thus be seen as a bridge between synchronic and diachronic timescales of a person's life. In order to investigate the empirical mediation of this temporal linkage, we draw upon the neuronal mechanisms underlying DM; in particular on the distinction between internally and externally guided DM. Externally guided DM relies on external criteria at a specific point in time (synchronic); on a neural level, this has been associated with lateral frontal and parietal brain regions. In contrast, internally guided DM is based on the person's own preferences that involve a more longitudinal and thus diachronic timescale, which has been associated with the brain's intrinsic activity. Habits can be considered to reflect a balance between internally and externally guided DM, which implicates a particular temporal balance between diachronic and synchronic elements, thus linking two different timescales. Based on such evidence, we suggest a habit-based neurophilosophical approach of PH and PI by focusing on the empirically-based linkage between the synchronic and diachronic elements of habits. By doing so, we propose to link together what philosophically has been described and analyzed separately as PH and PI. (shrink)
In this paper, I compare John Locke’s “memory theory” of personalidentity and Memento. I argue that the plot of Memento is ambiguous, in that the main character seems to have two histories. As such, Memento is but a series of puzzle cases that intend to illustrate that, although our memories may not be chronologically related to one another, and may even be fused with the memories of other persons, those memories still constitute personalidentity. Just (...) as Derek Parfit argues, perhaps there is no personalidentity as such, since only survival matters to us. In Memento, Leonard Shelby is not identity to his former self, but survives to some extent. (shrink)
Humeans hold that the nomological features of our world, including causal facts, are determined by the global distribution of fundamental properties. Since persistence presupposes causation, it follows that facts about personalidentity are also globally determined. I argue that this is unacceptable for a number of reasons, and that the doctrine of Humean supervenience should therefore be rejected.
This paper considers the question whether a psychological approach to personalidentity can be formulated within an endurantist, as opposed to four-dimensionalist, framework. Trenton Merricks has argued that this cannot be done. I argue to the contrary: a perfectly coherent endurantist version of the psychological approach can indeed be formulated.
In this paper, I attempt to map out the 'logical geography' of the territory in which issues of mental content and of personalidentity meet. In particular, I investigate the possibility of combining a psychological criterion of personalidentity with an externalist theory of content. I argue that this can be done, but only by accepting an assumption that has been widely accepted but barely argued for, namely that when someone switches linguistic communities, the contents of (...) their thoughts do not change immediately, but only after the person becomes integrated within the new linguistic community. I also suggest that recent work on personalidentity, notably by Derek Parfit, has tacitly assumed internalism regarding mental content. I do not intend to argue for either externalism or a psychological criterion. My aim is merely to explicate the issues involved in making them compatible. (shrink)
In this introduction to the special issue of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics on the topic of personalidentity and bioethics, I provide a background for the topic and then discuss the contributions in the special issue by Eric Olson, Marya Schechtman, Tim Campbell and Jeff McMahan, James Delaney and David Hershenov, and David DeGrazia.
John Locke speaks of personalidentity and survival of consciousness after death. A criterion of personalidentity through time is given. Such a criterion specifies, insofar as that is possible, the necessary and sufficient conditions for the survival of persons. John Locke holds that personalidentity is a matter of psychological continuity. He considered personalidentity (or the self) to be founded on consciousness (viz. memory), and not on the substance of either (...) the soul or the body. (shrink)