Personal Identity and the Methodology of Imaginary Cases
Cohnitz (Daniel)
Source: Petrus - On Human Persons, 2003
Paper - Abstract

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Author's Abstract

The problem of what the necessary and sufficient conditions for diachronic personal identity are, is generally discussed with the help of imaginary cases. The fact that in the metaphysics of personal identity this method is more frequently employed than in other fields of philosophy has led to a rich discussion of the reliability of the philosophical methodology in this area. This paper surveys most of the arguments put forward against the reliability of thought experiments1 in the personal identity debate. None of them turns out to be conclusive. The final part of the paper gives an outlook to what a positive theory of imaginary cases might look like.

Section Headings

  1. General Criticism of Thought Experiments2 in Philosophy
    1.1 Thought Experiments3 are to be Abandoned in Philosophy because there is no Positive Theory to Support Them
    1.2 We Simply Don’t Know What We Would Say
    1.3 The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction and the Method of Metaphysics
    … 1.3.1 The Essential/Accidental Distinction
    … 1.3.2 Revisionary Metaphysics – Yet Another Ballgame
  2. The Very Concept of a Person Makes it Impossible to Learn From Thought Experiments4
    2.1 ‘Person’ is not a Natural-Kind Term and therefore Thought Experiments5 are Unreliable
    2.2 ‘Person’ is a Natural-Kind Term (or Pretty Much Like One) and therefore Thought Experiments6 are Unreliable
    … 2.2.1 Neo-Descriptivism
    … 2.2.2 The Putnam-Kripke Orthodoxy
    … 2.2.3 Moderate Descriptivism
  3. Conclusion: The Psychology of Context and The Explaining Away of Intuitions


On-line draft available at Link (Defunct).

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