Personal Identity and Individuation
Williams (Bernard)
Source: Williams - Problems of the Self
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. There is a special problem about personal identity for two reasons.
    1. The first is self-consciousness1 – the fact that there seems to be a peculiar sense in which a man is conscious of his own identity. This I shall consider in Section 3 of this paper.
    2. The second reason is that a question of personal identity is evidently not answered merely by deciding the identity of a certain physical body. If I am asked whether the person in front of me is the same person as one uniquely present at place a at time t, I shall not necessarily be justified in answering 'yes' merely because I am justified in saying that this human body is the same as that present at a at t. Identity of body is at least not a sufficient condition of personal identity, and other considerations, of personal characteristics and, above all, memory, must2 be invoked.
  2. Some have held, further, that bodily identity is not a necessary condition of personal identity. This, however, is ambiguous, and yields either a weak or a strong thesis; depending on one's view of the necessity and sufficiency of the other conditions.
    1. The weaker thesis asserts merely that at least one case can be consistently constructed in which bodily identity fails, but in which the other conditions will be sufficient for an assertion of personal identity; even though there may be some other imaginable case in which, some other condition failing, bodily identity is a necessary condition of personal identity.
    2. The stronger thesis asserts that there is no conceivable situation in which bodily identity would be necessary, some other conditions being always both necessary and sufficient. I take it that Locke's theory is an example of this latter type.
  3. I shall try to show that bodily identity is always a necessary condition of personal identity, and hence that both theses fail. In this connexion I shall discuss in detail a case apparently favourable to the weaker thesis (Section 1). I shall also be concerned with the stronger thesis, or rather with something that follows from it – the idea that we can give a sense to the concept of a particular personality without reference to a body. This I shall consider chiefly in Section 4, where the individuation3 of personalities will be discussed; the notion occurs, however, at various other places in the paper. The criterion of bodily identity itself I take for granted. I assume that it includes the notion of spatio-temporal continuity, however that notion is to be explained.
  4. In discussions of this subject, it is easy to fall into ways of speaking that suggest that "bodily " and other considerations are easily divorced. I have regrettably succumbed to this at some points, but I certainly do not believe that this easy divorce is possible; I hope that both the general tenor of my thesis and some more direct remarks on the subject (Section 2) will show why.

  1. Deciding another's identity
  2. Some remarks on bodily interchange
  3. A criterion for oneself
  4. Multiple personality and individuation4


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 2: Did Williams change his mind on this very non-animalist notion?

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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