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Discussing three common theories of personal identity the body theory soul theory and the conscious

The Problems of Personal Identity There is no single problem of personal identity, but rather a wide range of questions that are at best loosely connected. Here are the most familiar: The precise meaning of these phrases is hard to pin down.

It may be, for instance, that being a philosopher and loving music belong to my identity, whereas being a man and living in Yorkshire do not. Someone else could have the same four properties but feel differently towards them, so that being a man and living in Yorkshire belong to his identity but not being a philosopher or loving music.

Personal Identity

It contrasts with ethnic or national identity, which consists roughly of the ethnic group or nation one takes oneself to belong to and the importance one attaches to this. Ludwig 1997 is a typical discussion of this topic. What is it to be a person? What is necessary, and what suffices, for something to count as a person, as opposed to a nonperson? The most common answer is that to be a person at a time is to have certain special mental properties then e.

Chapter 5 - Maintaining Identity

Others propose a less direct connection between personhood and mental properties Chisholm 1976: What does it take for a person to persist from one time to another—to continue existing rather than cease to exist?

What determines which past or future being is you? What is it about the way she relates then to you as you are now that makes her you? For that matter, what makes it the case that anyone at all who existed back then is you? This is sometimes called the question of personal identity over time. An answer to it is an account of our persistence conditions. Imagine that after your death there really will be someone, in this world or the next, who resembles you in certain ways.

How would that being have to relate to you as you are now in order to be you, rather than someone else? What would the Higher Powers have to do to keep you in existence after your death? Or is there anything they could do?

The answer to these questions depends on the answer to the persistence question.

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How do we find out who is who? What evidence bears on the question of whether the person here now is the one who was here yesterday? One source of evidence is first-person memory: Another source is physical continuity: Which of these sources is more fundamental? Does first-person memory count as evidence all by itself, for instance, or only insofar as we can check it against publicly available physical facts?

What should we do when they support opposing verdicts? Ought we to conclude, on the basis of memory evidence, that the resulting person is not Charlie but Guy Fawkes brought back to life, or ought we instead to infer from the absence of physical continuity that he is simply Charlie with memory loss? What principle would answer this question? The evidence question dominated the literature on personal identity from the 1950s to the 1970s good examples include Shoemaker 1963, 1970 and Penelhum 1967, 1970.

It is important to distinguish it from the persistence question. What it takes for you to persist through time is one thing; how we might find out whether you have is another. If the criminal had fingerprints just like yours, the courts may conclude that he is you. But even if that is conclusive evidence, having your fingerprints is not what it is for a past or future being to be you: If the persistence question asks which of the characters introduced at the beginning of a story have survived to become those discussing three common theories of personal identity the body theory soul theory and the conscious the end of it, we may also ask how many are on the stage at any one time.

What determines how many of us there are now? If there are some seven billion people on the earth at present, what facts—biological, psychological, or what have you—make that the right number? The question is not what causes there to be a certain number of people at a given time, but what there being that number consists in. It is like asking what sort of configuration of pieces amounts to winning a game of chess, rather than what sorts of moves typically lead to winning.

But this is disputed. Some say that cutting the main connections between the cerebral hemispheres results in radical disunity of consciousness, and that because of this, two people share a single organism see e. Nagel 1971; Puccetti 1973 argues that there are two people within the skin of each normal human being.

Others say that a human being with split personality could literally be the home of two or more thinking beings Wilkes 1988: Still others argue that two people can share an organism in cases of conjoined twinning Campbell and McMahan 2010; see also Olson 2014. These terms need careful handling, however. They are apt to give the mistaken impression that identity comes in two kinds, synchronic and diachronic. The truth is simply that there are two kinds of situations where we can ask how many people or other things there are: What sort of things, metaphysically speaking, are you and I and other human people?

What are our fundamental properties, in addition to those that make us people? What, for instance, are we made of? Are we composed entirely of matter, as stones are, or are we partly or wholly immaterial? Where do our spatial boundaries lie, if we are spatially extended at all?

Do we extend all the way out to our skin and no further, for instance? If so, what fixes those boundaries? Are we substances—metaphysically independent beings—or is each of us a state or an aspect of something else, or perhaps some sort of process or event? Here are some of the main proposed answers Olson 2007: Snowdon 1990, 2014, van Inwagen 1990, Olson 1997, 2003a. We are temporal parts of animals: We are spatial parts of animals: We are partless immaterial substances—souls—or compound things made up of an immaterial soul and a material body Swinburne 1984: We are collections of mental states or events: There is nothing that we are: There is no consensus or even a dominant view on this question.

What matters in identity? What is the practical importance of facts about our persistence? Why does it matter? What reason have you to care whether you yourself continue to exist, rather than someone else just like you existing in your place? Imagine that surgeons are going to put your brain into my head and that neither of us has any choice about this. Suppose the resulting person will be in terrible pain after the operation unless one of us pays a large sum in advance. If we were both entirely selfish, which of us would have a reason to pay?

Will the resulting person—who will presumably think he is you—be responsible for your actions or for mine? Or both, or neither? The answer may seem to turn entirely on whether the resulting person would be you or I. Only I can be responsible for my actions. The fact that some person is me, by itself, gives me a reason to care about him. Identity itself matters practically. Perhaps what gives me a reason to care about what happens to the man people will call by my name tomorrow is not that he is me, but that he is then psychologically continuous with me as I am now see Section 4or because he relates to me in some other way that does not imply that we are the same person.

If someone other than me were psychologically continuous tomorrow with me as I am now, he would have what matters to me, and I ought to transfer my selfish concern to him. Likewise, someone else could be responsible for my actions, and not for his own. Identity itself has no practical importance.


That completes our survey. Though some of these questions may bear on others, they are to a large extent independent. It is important not to confuse them. Understanding the Persistence Question We turn now to the persistence question.

Few concepts have been the source of more misunderstanding than identity over time. The Persistence Question is often confused with other questions, or stated in a tendentious way. The question is roughly what is necessary and sufficient for a past or future being to be someone existing now. Suppose we point to you now, and then describe someone or something existing at another time.

Then we can ask whether we are referring twice to one thing, or once to each of two things.

Analysis of Perry’s Theories of Personal Identity

The persistence question asks what determines the answer to specific queries like this one. There are precisely analogous questions about the persistence of other objects, such as dogs. Some take the persistence question to ask what it means to say that a past or future being is you.

  • Under these conditions, there is the same soul but a different person;
  • Of course they won't use the phrase 'person-stage;
  • Yet on the non-branching view that is to prefer death over continued existence;
  • Opinions might be divided; undoubtedly many would say yes;
  • If a person x exists at one time and something y exists at another time, under what possible circumstances is it the case that x is y?
  • It follows that human animals are not people.

The answer would be knowable a priori if at all. It would also imply that necessarily all people have the same persistence conditions—that the answer to the question is the same no matter what sort of people we considered. Though some endorse these claims Noonan 2003: What it takes for us to persist might depend on whether we are biological organisms, which is something we cannot know a priori. And if there could be immaterial people, such as gods or angels, what it takes for them to persist might differ from what it takes for a human person to persist.