- Henry Harris argues that defining personal identity is simply a matter of defining what one chooses to call a person, and that fictional devices involving replication1 of persons or transplantation of brains are not only based on physiological misconceptions, but are also seriously misleading.
- For Harris, all questions of identity in the world of sticks and stones are empirical questions that can be answered, if at all, then only by empirical methods.
Philosophers Index Abstract
- ‘An Experimentalist looks at Identity’ examines two questions:
- Whether the philosophical notion of 'necessary' identity has any purchase in the material world; and
- Whether the concept of 'personal identity' can be sustained by thought experiments2 involving the bi-section, replication3 and transplantation of brains4.
- With respect to (1), the conclusion is reached that 'necessary' identity is a logical construct limited to formal systems with no application in the real world.
- With respect to (2), the conclusion is reached that thought experiments5 involving manipulation of the brain are based on misapprehension of clinical reality and cannot provide a workable definition of personal identity.
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