The Nature of a Person-Stage
McInerney (Peter K.)
Source: American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Jul., 1991), pp. 227-235
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. An important feature of our form of life is that we consider normal adult humans to be persons. Normal adult humans are temporal beings. They exist in and through time. Any entity that endures or exists through time has some type of existence at each of the temporal parts of the period during which it exists. Contemporary discussions of personal identity have operated with the notion of "a person at a time" or "person-stage" without analyzing this notion in any detail. The notion of a person-stage has been taken for granted in order to investigate the identity over time of a person.
  2. A person's existence through time can never be reductively analyzed into a set of person-stages, because the defining conditions of a person-stage depend upon its relations with earlier and later parts of the person. A detached putative person-stage would not be fully defined, because the unity of psychological features in a person-stage depends upon how these features interact over time. Nevertheless, we need some notion of "a person at a time" because at any given time we can interact only with the current person-stage. The current person-stage is available for dialogue, interaction, and observation in a way that earlier and later stages are not. The nature of a current person-stage and how it is related to earlier and later parts of the person are very important issues. Our ways of treating, regarding, and interacting with a person now depend upon particular positions on these issues.
  3. This paper will explore three central features of the notion of a person-stage: the temporal extension of a person-stage, the nature of the "psychological connectedness" between person-stages, and the types of unity in a person-stage. Of particular concern is the issue of how to understand person-stages in light of the fact that the experienced and displayed characteristics of a person may fluctuate over relatively short periods of time. I will assume, rather than argue for, a theory of personal identity in which psychological connections are the primary "links" between temporally distant person-stages.

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