A Major Problem With Parfit
Alexander (Ronald)
Source: Alexander (Ronald) - The Self, Supervenience and Personal Identity, 1997, Chapter 9
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract1

  1. In Chapter IX, I try to show that the philosophical demise of personal identity as generated by Parfit was misguided from the beginning because of his careless use of thought experiments2. The thought experiments3 devised by Parfit have unfortunately shaped the direction of much of the recent discussion on the problem of personal identity.
  2. I do not claim that thought experiments4 should be banned in the analysis of concepts. For example, the discussions emerging from Putnam's 'Brain-in-a-Vat' and Searle's 'Chinese Room' experiments have been very fruitful. However, one must not let the thought experiment5 lose significant contact with the background conditions that serve as the context for the phenomenon under consideration.
  3. I contend that Parfit is guilty of this error. Of course, the point of using imaginative variation in respect to the properties of a phenomenon being investigated is to gain a better understanding of the nature of the phenomenon. But this cannot be accomplished if the background conditions are arbitrarily varied as well.


Photocopy of complete Book filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 01 (A)".

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Taken from "Alexander (Ronald) - The Self, Supervenience and Personal Identity: Introduction", pp. 4-5.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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