Conceptions of Persons and Persons through Time
McInerney (Peter K.)
Source: American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Apr., 2000), pp. 121-133
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. The naturalist conception of persons is that they are evolved social animals who develop in a culture, have distinctive mental abilities, and have complex conceptions of themselves. People's conceptions of themselves and other people have important effects on their behavior, thought processes, and development through time.
  2. Personal identity over time is a specially compelling philosophical issue, because normal people conceive and care greatly about how they themselves and other people are defined by and related to their pasts and futures.
  3. Philosophical theories can challenge, confirm, or offer revisions for people's deeply held ideas about the connection of people-now to their pasts and futures. The most influential contemporary theories of personal identity through time have failed to appreciate the effects of people's conceptions of the unity of a person through time on the unity of a person through time1.
  4. Most theories assume that personal identity (or survival2) consists of or is supervenient upon psychological facts that do not include conceptions of persons' existence through time or assume that personal identity consists of or is supervenient upon such psychological facts plus bodily facts (including neurological facts). By neglecting the functions of representations of an extended-through-time self in the psychological processing of a personal psychological system3, the most influential theories mistakenly portray the common sense category "person" to be easily eliminable from more scientific accounts of humans.
  5. In this paper I will argue that self conceptions and societal conceptions concerning persons establish and support important direct psychological connections between person-stages that are major parts of the unity of a person through time4. A person's conceptions of herself normally increase the degree of psychological connectedness5 of (her) person-stages at different times by making each stage's psychological activities more dependent on and more influential for other stages' psychological activities and personal behavior.
  6. Through the influence of conceptions of self, a person at a time is better able to access and use relevant information from her past and about her future in ways that psychologically connect her with this past and future6. Societal conceptions concerning personal identity connect a person-now to his past and future by requiring the person-now to take this past and future into account in his thought, emotion, and action. Psychological features that exist at different times are more unified with each other into one temporally extended person through the causal influence of various conceptions of a person's unity through time.



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Footnote 2: Footnote 3: Footnote 4: Footnote 6:

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