Personal Identity (Stanford, 2010)
Olson (Eric)
Source: Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, 2002-10
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

Personal identity deals with questions that arise about ourselves by virtue of our being people (or, as lawyers and philosophers like to say, persons). Many of these questions are familiar ones that occur to nearly all of us now and again: What am I1? When did I begin? What will happen to me when I die? Others are more abstruse. Personal identity has been discussed since the origins of Western philosophy, and most major figures have had something to say about it. (There is also a rich literature on this topic in Eastern philosophy, which I am not competent to discuss; Collins 1982 and Jinpa 2002 are useful sources.)

I will first survey the main questions of personal identity. Most of the entry will then focus on the one that has received most attention in recent times, namely our identity over time. I will discuss what the question means and the main proposed answers. I will also say a little about how these answers relate to some of the other questions of personal identity and to more general questions in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind.

  1. The Problems of Personal Identity
  2. Understanding the Persistence Question
  3. Accounts of Our Identity Through Time
  4. The Psychological Approach
  5. Fission
  6. The Too-Many-Thinkers2 Problem
  7. The Somatic Approach
  8. Wider Issues
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