Raymond Martin and John Barresi trace the development of Western ideas about personal identity and reveal the larger intellectual trends, controversies, and ideas that have revolutionized the way we think about ourselves.
William Hazlitt's moment occurred in 1794, when he was sixteen years old. In that moment Hazlitt thought he realized three things: that we are naturally connected to ourselves in the past and present but only imagina-.
This book is a major contribution to the philosophical literature on the nature of the self, personal identity and survival. Its distinctive methodology is one that is phenomenologically descriptive rather than metaphysical and normative. On the basis of this approach Raymond Martin shows that the distinction between self and other is not nearly as fundamental a feature of our so-called egoistic values as has been traditionally thought. He explains how the belief in a self as a fixed, continuous point of (...) observation enters into our experience of ourselves and the world. He also reveals the explosive implications this thesis has for recent debates over personal identity and what matters in survival. This is the first book of analytic philosophy directly on the phenomenology of identity and survival. It builds bridges between analytic and phenomenological traditions and, thus, to open up a new field of investigation. (shrink)
This article examines the historical conception of the words self and person in philosophical theory. It discusses John Locke's definition of the self as the conscious thinking thing and the person as a thinking intelligent being. It describes the Platonist view of the self as spiritual substance and Aristotelian belief that the self is a hylomorphic substance. It also explores the relevant topics of Epicureanism atomism, Cartesian dualism, and the developmental and social origin of self-concepts.
_Naturalization of the Soul_ charts the development of the concepts of soul and self in Western thought, from Plato to the present. It fills an important gap in intellectual history by being the first book to emphasize the enormous intellectual transformation in the eighteenth century, when the religious 'soul' was replaced first by a philosophical 'self' and then by a scientific 'mind'. The authors show that many supposedly contemporary theories of the self were actually discussed in the eighteenth century, and (...) recognize the status of William Hazlitt as one of the most important Personal Identity theorists of the British Enlightenment, for his direct relevance to contemporary thinking. Now available in paperback, _Naturaliazation of the Soul_ is essential reading for anyone interested in the issues at the core of the Western philosophical tradition. (shrink)
Does anyone ever survive his or her bodily death ? Could anyone? No speculative questions are older than these, or have been answered more frequently or more variously. None have been laid to rest more often, or — in our times — with more claimed decisiveness. Jay Rosenberg, for instance, no doubt speaks for many contemporary philosophers when he claims, in his recent book, to have ‘ demonstrated ’ that ‘ we cannot [even] make coherent sense of the supposed possibility (...) that a person's history might continue beyond that person's [bodily] death’. (shrink)
By attending just to conceptual analysis and metaphysics in connection with Locke's theory of personal identity, but ignoring psychology, one can know that, in Locke's view, consciousness via memory unifies persons over time, but not how consciousness unifies persons, either over time or at a time, nor why, for Locke, the mechanisms of self-constitution are crucially important to personal identity. In explaining Locke's neglected thoughts on the psychology of personal identity, I argue, first, that he was not trying to analyze (...) personal identity so as to allow that persons could persist through change of substance and were accountable for their thoughts and deeds and, second, that to do this Locke tried to explain how persons are byproducts of the development in at least normal humans of reflexive consciousness. (shrink)
My thesis is that there is a deep, intractable difference, not between history and science per se, but between paradigmatically central kinds of historical interpretations-call them humanistic historical interpretations-and theories of any sort that are characteristic of the physical sciences. The difference is that unlike theories in the physical sciences, good humanistic historical interpretations reveal subjectivity, agency, and meaning. I use the controversy provoked by Gordon Wood's recent reinterpretation of the American Revolution to illustrate and substantiate this thesis. I also (...) use it to support the claim that unless one attends to the ways in which humanistic historical interpretations reveal subjectivity, agency, and meaning one has no hope whatsoever of getting the epistemology of historical studies right. (shrink)
What really matters fundamentally in survival? That question—the one on which I focus—is not about what should matter or about metaphysics. Rather, it is a factual question the answer to which can be determined, if at all, only empirically. I argue that the answer to it is that in the case of many people it is not one’s own persistence, but continuing in ways that may involve one’s own cessation that really matters fundamentally in survival. Call this the surprising result. (...) What are we to make of it? According to several philosophers, not much. I argue that these philosophers are wrong. What best explains the surprising result is that in the case of many people one’s special concern for oneself in the future is not fundamental, but derived. I explain what this means. Finally I explain why the task of explaining empirically what matters fundamentally in survival is in some ways more like a meditative quest than a traditional inquiry in western philosophy or social science and, as such, is best answered not by psychologists, but by philosophers. (shrink)
It is argued that the debate over the positivist theory of historical explanation has made only a limited contribution to our understanding of how historians should defend the explanations they propose importantly because both positivists and their critics tacitly accepted two assumptions. The first assumption is that if the positivist analysis of historical explanation is correct, then historians ought to attempt to defend covering laws for each of the explanations they propose. The second is that unless a historian can justify (...) an explanation that he proposes, then his preference for that explanation is not rationally defensible. It is argued that the first assumption is false and that if in order to justify an explanation, one must justify a covering law for it, then the second assumption is also false. A program for investigating how historians should defend their explanations is suggested. (shrink)
This exceptional anthology immerses students in such powerful ideas that they will find themselves not just reading about, but actually participating in, the kind of philosophical thinking that can change the way they look at their lives and the world around them. Now in a new edition, The Experience of Philosophy features eighty-five readings that challenge students' thinking about God, freedom, reality, nothingness, death, and their own identities. Provocative and accessible, these selections have been carefully chosen for their ability to (...) draw students out of an ordinary frame of reference into exciting new territory. Although the editors include many classic sources from philosophers such as Plato, Descartes, Locke, and Kant, the emphasis is on contemporary writings. Articles by Derek Parfit, Bertrand Russell, and others help students see philosophy's links to literature, the natural sciences, and the physical and social sciences. The sixth edition features twelve new essays--by Augustine, Alvin Plantinga and Daniel Kolak, Georges Rey, Fred Dretske, David Reisman, Paul Teller, Clea F. Rees, Padmasiri de Silva, Daniel Kolak, Karl Marx, Anand Chandavarkar, and Vincent Hendricks--as well as more text boxes offering excerpts from other relevant works. The Experience of Philosophy, Sixth Edition, integrates helpful pedagogical aids including section introductions, a brief introduction to each selection, biographical information on each author, and questions before and after each reading to reinforce main ideas and promote thinking. Further readings after each selection direct students to additional material on related issues. Ideal for introductory philosophy courses, The Experience of Philosophy, Sixth Edition, encourages students to "do" philosophy, rather than just read about its history. (shrink)
“You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all, . . . Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.” – Luis Buñuel..
Everyone with their feet on the ground admits that in the physical sciences there has been progress. One can debate the niceties. The hard rock is that our ability to predict and control natural events and processes is greater now than it has ever been. And there has been astonishing technological fallout.
Many contemporary historians and philosophers are dissatisfied both with the accounts traditional analytic philosophers have given of the epistemological dimensions of historical studies and also with the ways many continental philosophers more recently have brushed aside the need for any such accounts. Yet no one has yet proposed a unified research program that could serve as the central focus for a better epistemologically-oriented approach. Such a research program would not only address epistemological problems from a perspective that would be of (...) methodological interest to historians but would also be directly responsive to fundamental motivations people have for caring about historical studies in the first place. The main purpose of this review essay is to sketch and then illustrate the main outlines of such a research program.Basic to this research program is the recognition that the overwhelmingly central epistemological complication that arises in the attempt to say what happened in the past and what it means that it happened is that there are always competing ways to interpret evidence. The problem is to discover which among these competing interpretations is best, which involves, among other things, discovering which among them is most likely to be true. Strategies are suggested for solving this problem, which, at the limit, would result in the articulation of generally applicable criteria for assessing competing historical interpretations. (shrink)
himself or a proper object of his egoistic self-concern. Hazlitt concluded that belief in personal identity must be an acquired imaginary conception and that since in reality each of us is no more related to his or her future self than to the future self of any other person none of us is 2 ‘.
Secular academic historians of religious subject matter often characterize their approach as objective, contrasting it with the approaches of religiously-oriented historians. On the assumption that the denial of a theological claim is itself a theological claim, I question this characterization. After a brief discussion of Spinoza and Hume on miracles, I survey the work of several secular, academic historians of the New Testament in order to illustrate how on the issue of miracles they are committed to theological conclusions in advance (...) of their study of the evidence. I point this out not as a criticism, but merely as something that needs to be taken into account in assessing their claims to objectivity. In my view, secular historians, like all historians, bring to their study of the historical evidence a certain framework of real possibilities. It is only within this framework, if anywhere, that they are genuinely open-minded. What lies outside their frameworks has already been exclu. (shrink)
Judgments which assign relative importance to the causes of particular results can be objective. Historians usually do and can use a factual principle of selection to distinguish between causes and conditions and between more and less important causes. The judgments which distinguish between causes and conditions and the judgments which distinguish between more and less important causes require radically different analyses. In A. M. Jones's work on the decline and fall of Rome, he argued that increased barbarian pressure on the (...) West was the most important cause of Rome's fall. It is possible to understand this statement as an instantiation of the following: A was a more important cause of P relative to 0 than was B if 1) A and B were each a cause of P relative to 0 and 2) either A was necessary for P or B was not necessary for P and 3) had B not occurred, something would have occurred which more closely approximates P than had A not occurred. (shrink)
In this essay, I argue that scientists and historians employ different strategies to overcome a common problem: subjectivity. The difference in their strategies is symptomatic of a fundamental difference between science and the humanities. It is that whereas physical scientists, in trying to be objective, aspire to the view from nowhere, humanistic historians, in trying to be objective, aspire to the views from everywhere.
1. In the Essay, Locke’s most controversial claim, which he slipped into Book IV almost as an aside, was that matter might think (Locke1975:IV.iii.6;540-1).i Either because he was genuinely pious, which he was, or because he was clever, which he also was, he tied the denial that matter might think to the claim that God’s powers are limited, thus, attempting to disarm his critics. It did not work. Stillingfleet and others were outraged. If matter can think, then for explanatory purposes (...) the immaterial soul might be dispensable. But throughout the eighteenth century explanatory purposes were at the top of the agenda. And what had always made the soul so handy for proving immortality - that it is non-composite, static, and inaccessible to empirical examination - is also what made it so useless for investigating human nature. By contrast, consciousness is multifaceted, dynamic, and open to empirical investigation. Early in the century a Clarke might take the high road and resist descent into the merely probable and contingent. But when it came to investigating persons, the emerging science of human nature was the only game in town. One either played it or took oneself out of the action. (shrink)
From the thirteenth through the sixteenth centuries, European philosophers were preoccupied with using their newfound access to Aristotle’s metaphysics and natural philosophy to develop an integrated account, hospitable to Christianity, of everything that was thought to exist, including God, pure finite spirits, the immaterial souls of humans, the natural world of organic objects and inorganic objects. This account included a theory of human mentality. In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, first in astronomy and then, later, in physics, the tightly (...) knit fabric of this comprehensive medieval world view began to unravel. The transition from the old to the new was gradual, but by 1687, with the publication by Isaac Newton of his Principia Mathematica, the replacement was all but complete. Modern physical science had fully arrived, and it was secular. God and angels were still acknowledged. But they had been marginalized. Yet, there was a glaring omission. Theorists had yet to expand the reach of the new science to incorporate human mentality. This venture, which initially was called “moral philosophy” and came to be called “the science of human nature,” became compelling to progressive eighteenth century thinkers, just as British empiricism began to seriously challenge an entrenched Cartesian rationalism. Rationalism and Empiricism. (shrink)
A good historian often can assess the relative likelihood of competing historical claims more reliably on implicit grounds - intuitively, if you like - than in any other available way. This idea has been a persistent theme of Verstehen-theorists. It is, in essence, the old saw that there is no substitute for the brewmaster's nose, adapted to the art of producing historical brew. If true, it augments the importance of the historian relative to that of his arguments, and thereby gives (...) him a dignity that he might otherwise lack. And some have thought that it marks an important methodological difference between historical studies and the natural sciences. It is, in its way, a humane idea. But is it true? (shrink)
In this rich and sensible assessment of historians' practice and prospects, Allan Megill focuses on the obligation that historians have to support their accounts with evidence. He does this, first, by illustrating the difference between real and merely claimed evidence and, then, by giving an analysis of the underlying nature of evidence in historical accounts. Turning later to the question of how historians and their public should feel about diminishing unity in historiography and the practices that generate it, Megill explains (...) the sources of fragmentation and then argues that it doesn't matter whether historians are doing the same thing and/or doing it in the same way. What matters, rather, is whether they are doing interesting things and doing them well. (shrink)