Failing To Agree Or Failing To Disagree?: Personal Identity Quasi-Relativism
Robinson (Denis)
Source: Monist, Oct2004, Vol. 87 Issue 4, p512-536, 25p;
Paper - Abstract

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Philosopher’s Index


Author’s “Preliminaries”
  1. I hold a view I call "Personal Identity Quasi-Relativism," PIQR for short. (Related views have been expressed by Mark Johnston, David Braddon-Mitchell and Caroline West, Stephen White, and Carol Rovane. I've also been influenced by remarks by Michael Dummett.)
  2. Relativism about X says truths about X are relative to alternative agents or standpoints, apparent disagreements about X due to different standpoints thus really being non-disagreements, PIQR differs on the last point (hence 'quasi'). It claims diverse person-concepts may be legitimate, no non-question-begging standards declaring any of them unfaithful to facts or established usage, or plainly irrational: but also that from such divergences, a kind of real disagreement springs. This kind of disagreement is not easily clarified, but in Part III try to make a start.
  3. I call the claim that some disputes about personal identity stem from different but equally legitimate person-concepts, the "no-fault" condition; the claim that such disputes nevertheless involve genuine disagreement, the "genuine disagreement" condition. It's puzzling how these conditions can be met simultaneously. Part I of this paper defends the no-fault claim and its inherent pluralism; Part II explores the genuine disagreement condition.
  4. I assume familiarity with the technical notion constitution which, though controversial, seems to me essential in discussing personal identity. I assume an ontology I dub "Rich Four-Dimensionalism," closed under temporal partition and mereological summation, and view constitution as sharing of a temporal part.
  5. Given Rich Four-Dimensionalism, questions about identity through time — persistence — equate to questions about aggregates of temporal parts. An account of personal persistence determines which such aggregates count as persons, hence fixing a unity relation which must hold between stages of a single person. A fully-specified person-concept will entail a view of this unity-relation, thus of personal persistence.

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