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An argument for the identity of a person based on two premises

What follows is a long-ish! The First Night The Challenge Weirob challenges her friend Miller to comfort her on her death bed by showing that there is, at the very least, the mere possibility of her surviving after her death. The next three nights, then, are spent arguing whether such a thing is possible. Qualitative Identity Weirob is first careful to make the distinction between numerical identity and qualitative identity in the dialogue, Perry calls the former "identity" and the latter "exact similarity".

Numerical identity is the relation that each thing holds to itself--e.

Hume on identity over time and persons

Qualitative identity, on the other hand, is the relation that many things can have to many others, provided that they have the same properties in common. For example, in recitation I talked about how two pieces of chalk could all have the same properties--e. Rather, they merely share properties, but are not one and the same piece of chalk. The Soul View Miller's first stab at proving that survival after death is possible involves claiming that people are identical to souls, not bodies.

If this is right [so the argument would go] then survival after death is possible because even though your body dies, you--your soul--lives on. Weirob challenges this in the following way: Yet all we have access to are material bodies--things that can be seen or felt or touched or smelt, etc. Souls in principle cannot be seen or sensed in any way; that is, by their very nature they are inaccessible from the outside.

So, even though I might want to conclude that you are the same person in class this week as you were last week, the only thing I have to go by in concluding this is what I see or sense.

  1. That is, since rivers run, there will always be different waters flowing through the same river over time. Whatever changes he endures, his several parts are still connected by the relation of causation.
  2. Identity, Truth, and Value Oxford.
  3. A triangle cannot be said to exist if it only has two sides. Rather, personal identity is the whole stretch of conscious moments, connected together in the right psychological way.
  4. The former states that even though X would survive as Y1 or Y2 if the other did not exist, given that the other does exist, X ceases to exist. Could one deny premise 6?

I cannot, for example, see or sense that your soul is here--indeed, souls are just the sort of thing that one cannot see or sense! So Weirob's objection to the claim that people are identical to souls is that there is a serious problem of accessibility.

In class we will discuss one of the flaws of this kind of argument: Instead of finding fault with Weirob's reasoning, however, Miller instead claims that there is a correlation between bodies and souls, which is why we can conclude that a certain soul is around whenever a certain body is.

But as Weirob is keen to point out, we aren't justified in making such claims of correlation if we don't have some other, independent way of showing that souls are around whenever we think they are. Since we can never see or sense that souls are around, then we can never justify the claim that souls are correlated with bodies. The Soul View Take 2 Miller attempts the soul view again, this time claiming that we can legitimately establish a correlation between souls and bodies.

He claims that because bodies exhibit certain behavior that implies certain psychological characteristics--e. Weirob objects that we cannot judge from the sameness of psychological characteristics that we have the sameness of soul.

Personal Identity

To make her point, she proposes the following analogy: If we wanted to test whether a certain river--say, the Ohio River--was the Ohio River, as opposed to any other river, we would check to make sure that the water was of a certain quality, that it flows in a certain place, that our fishing hole we went to the other day is still there, etc.

If we found that the water of a certain river was of a decidedly different quality, or it suddenly had entirely different fish, or our fishing hole was no longer there, etc. That is, since rivers run, there will always be different waters flowing through the same river over time. Likewise, Weirob argues, souls might work the same way.

In fact, because we can't be certain that this isn't how souls work, Miller cannot conclude the sameness of souls from the sameness of psychological characteristics. Miller tries to respond that he at least knows he himself has a soul, and he can thus establish the correlation between soul and body in his own case.

Then, he can generalize by analogy to other cases, resulting in the general conclusion that there is a correlation between souls and bodies. For the river analogy still holds The problem, Weirob summarizes, is that by the very nature of what a soul is--i.

Second Night Personal Identity without Bodily Identity Miller begins the second night by proposing the following consideration: Indeed, as Descartes has shown us in the Meditations, we can close our eyes and introspect, and we can come to the conclusion that we exist without having to assume anything about having bodies at all. Miller's point is that we can affirm personal identity without having to affirm bodily identity, so the two must be different. His point, he thinks, is further supported by the fact that we can easily imagine waking up and finding ourselves in completely different bodies.

In lecture, I gave the example of swapping my current body for a younger, more fit one, thus showing that such a situation is at least imaginable. Weirob grants that all of this might be possible, but then what, she questions, does this show? For even if it shows that body identity is not necessary for personal identity, it still doesn't show that personal identity is soul identity. That is, it doesn't support Weirob's view, but it doesn't show Miller's original soul view either.

So, Weirob asks, where does all of this leave us? Person-Stages Miller explains that they had both been thinking about personal identity in the wrong way.

1. Introduction

Picking up Weirob's previous river analogy, Miller suggests that personal identity is more like the flow of a river or the expanse of a road, than it is like they were supposing the first night. Miller's idea is like this: Now suppose we take someone new to Oberlin and show him College St.

  • To deny this, one would have to argue that anti-reductionism is not only false but inconsistent;
  • I would like to argue, however, that the feature just identified is a general feature of our judgments about possible including actual cases involving personal identity;
  • Such a choice is both explicable and reasonable:

We point to the street and say, "This is College St. Rather, what makes something the same road is that it is connected in the right way by continuous road bits--e.

Likewise, Miller thinks, with personal identity.

What makes a person the same person over time is that it is connected in the right ways by continuous conscious bits. That is, so long as there is psychological continuity--a continuous flow of consciousness or psychology--this is all that is need for a person to be the same person over time. In this way, Miller discards the the thought that we are identical to some immaterial floating soul, and dismisses Weirob's idea that we are identical to material bodies.

Rather, personal identity is the whole stretch of conscious moments, connected together in the right psychological way. Miller thinks that if personal identity is thought of in this way, then the possibility of survival after one's death should be an easy thing to prove.

For all one need to imagine is that there is a Heaven, where some conscious being is psychologically connected to a being here on earth in the right wort of way. Memory View Weirob remains unconvinced, for she demands that in order for this to be possible, Miller will have to be more specific about what being connected "in the right sort of way" is supposed to mean.

He responds by saying that it all has to do with memories: Weirob is careful to point out that there is a difference between actually remembering something and seeming to remember. Also, any crazy nut can claim to remember being Abe Lincoln or Genghis Kahn, but even though this crazy nut might think he remembers being Abe Lincoln or Genghis Kahn, he doesn't actually remember unless he is indeed Abe Lincoln or Genghis Kahn.

But if we can't tell the difference from actually remembering and seeming to remember, how are we to tell the difference when we are imagining that the former, and not the latter, situation is possible? Cohen enters at this point and claims that the important difference between actual memories and merely apparent memories is that the former are causally connected in the right sort of way to the happenings of the world.

That is, actual memories are true, and are thus connected to facts of the world; that is, the world causes real memories to be what they are. Weirob grants Cohen that real memories can be distinguished from fake ones by appeal to the causal process that created them. But how, she wonders, does this help Miller prove that survival after death is possible? That is, all we have to do to get Weirob to see that it's at least possible for her to survive after death, is for her to imagine someone in heaven who has her memories and is causally connected in the right sort of way.

And we can imagine that God could create such a being in heaven--someone who had an argument for the identity of a person based on two premises of Weirob's memories caused in the right sort of way Memories plus God view Weirob responds as follows: Suppose God could create such a being in heaven--someone who had all of Weirob's memories caused in the right sort of way.

  • But now note that this wrecks talk about personal identity, since there are two different objects that I want to say are the same person as one past object;
  • This is not to say, however, that it is ruled out that lack of similarity over time may obliterate numerical personal identity:

Being God, couldn't he have also--if he had wanted to--created a second sort of being? That is, isn't it possible that God could have created TWO beings in heaven that had all of Weirob's memories that were caused in the right sort of way? Since God is all-powerful, it can't be that He is limited in how many copies of people he can make, so He must not be able to create someone identical to Weirob. Cohen intervenes and claims that it shouldn't matter: But since it's at least possible that he make one instead of many, this is enough to get that it's possible to survive after death.

  1. One argument that there should be answers to all our PI questions could go something like this.
  2. Now, if we are also prepared to accept the Big Assumption. Abstract In this paper, I identify and discuss the following feature of our judgments about hypothetical scenarios concerning the identity of persons.
  3. Further, if the judgments in question are necessarily true or are even explicitly judgments about necessity, one faces a problem if one also believes, as many do, that conceivability is evidence for possibility e. Pn is a list of those properties.
  4. The Paradox of Personal Identity One of the most influential thought experiments in recent personal identity theory is the case of fission.
  5. Weirob grants Cohen that real memories can be distinguished from fake ones by appeal to the causal process that created them. Since premise 2 relies on a claim about what is possible, a CP can then form the basis of the following type of argument in its favour.

Weirob correctly points out that this is a change in position, since now survival doesn't depend on memories that are causally connected in the right sort of way, but also on there being a lack of identical copies in heaven. This position is less defensible, Weirob thinks, because this makes identity dependent on something entirely external to the agent.

Personal identity

That is, it is because of something outside of Weirob viz. Third Night Cohen begins that third night questioning Weirob's view of personal identity--i. If people are identical to their bodies, then what becomes of cases where someone's brain can be transplanted into someone else's body? That is, what's essential for personal identity is the body that is involved, not the brain. Weirob maintains that even if the person after the operation has no memories of the body its now in, this doesn't matter.

For memories, she thinks, must be caused in the right way and she thinks that they would not be caused in the right way in this case. The idea is that in a choice between psychological continuity or bodily continuity as being responsible for personal identity, Weirob would choose the latter.