Personal Identity and Extrinsicness
Garrett (Brian)
Source: Philosophical Studies 59, pp. 177-194, 1990
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. On one familiar and very broad view of personal identity1, the continued existence of a person over time admits of analysis in terms of relations of non-branching physical and/or psychological continuity2.1 (One version of this view is the Psychological Criterion3, according to which A at t1 is identical to B at t2 iff A and B stand to each other in the relation of non-branching psychological continuity4.)
  2. The need for a non-branching or no-competitors clause is occasioned by the most plausible description of the division or fission of persons, a situation in which one individual stands to each of two later individuals in qualitatively identical relations of physical and psycho logical continuity.
  3. The inclusion of such a clause is necessary in order to avoid the consequence that the earlier person is identical to both resulting persons. The inclusion of a non-branching component in theories of personal identity over time has been thought to incur the charge of absurdity. The charge can be pressed as follows: any best-candidate5 theory of personal identity, which incorporates a non-branching component, violates a necessary constraint which governs our concept of strict numerical identity6 and - absurdly - implies, in a sense to be characterised, that the identity of a person over time can be extrinsically determined. Consequently, any best-candidate7 theory of personal identity over time is untenable.
  4. If so, it follows that we must redescribe the transtemporal identities which hold in a case of division, e.g., along the lines suggested by Lewis, Perry and Noonan8 (according to which the distinct post-division persons both occupy the single pre-division body), or else9 give up entirely the attempt to analyse the identity of a person over time in terms of physical and/or psychological continuity10 (and embrace instead, e.g., Cartesian dualism). However, my ultimate aim in this paper is to show how commitment to the extrinsicness of identity on the part of best-candidate11 theorists can be accepted without absurdity.


From "Noonan (Harold), Ed. - Personal Identity (Readings)".

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Footnote 8:
  • D. Lewis, 'Survival and Identity' in A. 0. Rorty (ed.), The Identities of Persons, Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1976; J. Perry, 'Can the Self Divide?', Journal of Philosophy, 1972; H. Noonan, 'The Closest Continuer Theory of Identity', Inquiry 28, 1985.
Footnote 9:
  • This disjunction follows on the assumption, defended below, that division is a genuine metaphysical possibility for persons.

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