Thesis - Chapter 01 (Introduction)
Todman (Theo)
Paper - Abstract

Paper StatisticsLink to Latest Write-Up Note


Write-up2 (as at 14/07/2019 18:05:46): Thesis - Chapter 01 (Introduction)

  • This Chapter provides a motivating statement for the study of the particular path through the topic of Personal Identity I intend to pursue and a brief historical survey of the subject to situate my particular stance.

Research Methodology
  • Follow this Link3 for a generic statement of how I intend to pursue each Chapter.
  • The method is broken down into 12, possibly iterative, stages.
  • Follow this Link4 for my progress dashboard on these tasks.
  • The methodology for this Chapter differs somewhat from most other Chapters in that there is little real work, other than background reading and checking that the Thesis as a whole hangs together.
  • However, I do need to record while reading the general surveys anything that needs to go into the Historical Survey.
  • Another couple of “clearing up” tasks5 specific to this Chapter are:-
    1. To ensure that all the Papers on Identity that I have actually read are referenced somewhere6 in this Thesis.
    2. To ensure that all the Notes on Identity that I have actually produced are referenced somewhere7 in this Thesis.

Links to Notes
  1. General Surveys8,
  2. Locke9,
  3. My Current Stance10
  4. Maybe others11 (to be supplied).

Chapter Introduction
  1. Why should we care about the topic of Personal Identity? The question hardly needs answering, as it’s just about the most important question to be posed by a reflective (if selfish) person. Historically, answers to this question have provided – or so Locke hoped – grounds for the possibility of life after death. Yet, the question is difficult, and has had many attempted solutions offered – and while some philosophers think there is no problem left to solve, there is no consensus as to the answer.
  2. My favourite paradigm – in the sense of the one I think most likely to be correct, rather than necessary the one I’d like to be correct – is Animalism. This is the claim that we are human animals and that consequently death is the end of us. This sensible view is only supported by around 17% of philosophers, according to a 2009 poll12 with about twice as many supporting some form of psychological view.
  3. In one sense it is just obvious that we are – in some sense of that weasel word “are” – human animals. But then the problem cases kick in – whether actual real-life cases or thought experiments that may never be real-life possibilities.
  4. About 36% of the respondents in the aforementioned survey though we could survive teletransportation – though 31% thought that the result would be death.
  5. Transhumanists13 think we can be uploaded to computers, which makes no sense if we are animals.
  6. So, as noted, there’s no consensus.
  7. Further detail to be supplied14.

Main Text: Brief historical survey of the topic of Personal Identity
  1. As already noted, there are many fine introductory books on this topic, and I don’t intend to compete with them here. What I want to do is situate what I want to say in its historical context. I don’t intend to supply this section with a detailed scholarly apparatus.
  2. it was Locke who first –or at least most famously – made the distinction between the PERSON and the MAN.
  3. The Person15 is individuated by a locus of consciousness and extends as far at that consciousness16 extends. No doubt for most of the time since Locke, this locus of consciousness was thought of as an immaterial Soul17, which makes the thought experiments – from Locke’s Prince and Cobbler onwards – easier to credit, though for some time this has been no longer an option for most philosophers.
  4. The Man is variously cashed out as the Human Being18 or Human Animal19, though for much of the time since Locke the division has been between the Mind (thought of as what the person really is) and the Body20.
  5. It is occasionally claimed that philosophers prefer the mind to the body, and are naturally inclined to take the “mental” side in these debates. While that may be true, the consciousness envisaged is not that of philosophical contemplation, but the everyday sort enjoyed by cobblers and the rest of us. It includes appreciation of all things bodily, and is the ground of everything that matters21 to us.
  6. In the ensuing arguments between those supporting psychological continuity22 and connectedness23, and those preferring bodily continuity24, the question what we are25 seemed to have been forgotten. Maybe it had been assumed that Person was a substance26-concept?
  7. This is still assumed by those who think that Persons – whether as souls or reified First-Person Perspectives27 – are separable from the infrastructure that – in normal circumstances – “grounds” them.
  8. But, for most people these days it is – or ought to be – obvious that the default position is that “we” are human animals, and that the consequences that stem from this have to be lived with.
  9. But it is difficult not to be – and maybe correct to be –dissatisfied with this. We may end up in what has been called a “disjunctivist” account: we are animals, but even so, we “go where our psychology goes”. In particular, the brain transplant28 intuition is difficult to escape from.
  10. If this is so, the answers to our questions will rest on just where our “psychology” does – or can (in the widest sense) “go”.
  11. As already noted, Transhumanists29 imagine all sorts of scenarios whereby “we” are uploaded to a computer. Even were this practical – we will discuss it in the next chapter – it assumes that “we” are our mental contents rather than the things that enjoy these contents. This strikes me as continuing a mistaken route in the history of philosophy taken by supporters of the psychological view, and continued by Parfit30 and his supporters.
  12. Further text to be supplied31 in due course.

Concluding Remarks
  1. To make any progress on this topic, we need to come to a conclusion as to what sort of thing we are. We discuss this in the next Chapter32.
  2. Further details to be supplied33.

Links to Books / Papers to be Addressed34
  1. In this Chapter I will consider the following papers or book chapters (together with some others referenced by these). There are doubtless many more that are relevant and which will be addressed in the course of the thesis, but these are probably sufficient to get us going.
  2. The purpose of this Chapter is to introduce and motivate the Thesis. As such, I need to situate it in the history of the topic. This is done in a number of introductory books, General Surveys, or collections of Papers that are standard fodder in courses on Personal Identity.
  3. Consequently, I will review the various Surveys of Personal Identity that feature in the standard reading lists, both to demonstrate that I’ve read them, and to ensure I’ve missed nothing major.
  4. If a Paper in a Collection or Chapter in an Introduction is specific to a later Chapter in this Thesis, its consideration may be reserved until a later Chapter, even if the Book itself is not. These will be noted in due course.
  5. As the topic of Personal Identity stems primarily from Locke’s account, I need a brief statement of what this is. Most of the relevant material will appear in due course in the anthologies, but I few items not anthologised are listed below.
  6. Other works were considered and either cut or reserved for later, as indicated below. The easiest way to see all the works considered is via the reading list at the end of this Note.
  7. Introductory or General Books
  8. Standard Collections
  9. Locke

The Cut
  1. Various works were considered for this Chapter, but were either reserved for consideration in other Chapters, or were rejected, at least for the time being.
  2. Priority Works to be read later for other Chapters:-
  3. Secondary Works to be “parked” for the time being:

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 2:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (14/07/2019 18:05:46).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
Footnote 5:
  • These will be left until all Chapters have completed Task 7.
Footnote 6:
  • This may either be “as utilised” or “as ignored”.
  • Follow this link for those Papers I’ve read.
  • As of mid-Oct 2014, this task is now complete!
Footnote 7:
  • This may either be “as utilised” or “as ignored”.
  • Follow this link for the Jump-Table of all my Notes related to Personal Identity.
Footnote 11:
  • A large number of Notes are referenced in the text of this Chapter, but only those whose primary reference is not to other Chapters should feature in this list.
Footnote 12: Footnote 34:
  • See the section on Research Methodology for what is to be done with these.
  • The author’s surname is repeated in the text to make it easier for me to see what’s going on in the encoded text I work on.
Footnote 35: As this is a PhD Thesis in my general subject-area, I ought at least to have read it!

Footnote 36: Somewhat elementary, but worth (re-)reading quickly

Footnote 37:
  • This is a course of lectures on Metaphysics, at the advanced undergraduate / beginning graduate level.
  • All the issues raised – in the discussion of standard papers – many of them covered elsewhere in my Thesis – are useful background.
Footnote 38: This is a set of papers for discussion in a research seminar. Most are probably covered elsewhere, but in case not …

Footnote 39: For a review, see "Lerner (Berel Dov) - Review of 'Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction' by David Shoemaker".

Footnote 40: Decide where to park the various Chapters of this book after reading the précis.

Footnote 41:
  • Harris is an interesting case, in that it includes three important papers and three that are off-topic, but important in illustrating the divergent usages of the term “identity”.
Footnote 42: This is more recent than the others.

Footnote 47: But note that Baker’s account of constitution differs from the mereological account assumed in Rea’s anthology.

Footnote 48: The works by Reuscher and Trupp are too eccentric to be given any priority.

Footnote 49: The works by Slors may be worth reading as a fairly contemporary defence of the psychological view; just not yet.

Footnote 50: The work by Vesey is too out of date for a priority item.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - June 2020. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page