|What Is Found At The Center?|
|Source: Johnston (Mark) - Surviving Death, 2010|
|Paper - Abstract|
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Chapter Four begins with some thought experiments2 concerning different kinds of creatures with different kinds of selves. For example, Johnston describes "the Hibernators" as a group of people with a brain chemistry that keeps them awake constantly for 9 months during which they are enormously productive. They then sleep3 for three months. Before going to sleep4 they write down very detailed instructions concerning where to pick up on the various projects they are working on, as they conceive of themselves as different persons. Johnston discusses such a possibility, as well as others, to illustrate that there is no metaphysical justifier, i.e. a soul or self, which can independently justify which parts of nature should be our concern. In other words, nothing outside of the natural world can determine how we ought to organize our lives. Johnston believes that the different conceptions of personal identity all simply work from different starting points, and without any metaphysical justifier to determine which is the right starting point, the best way to conceive of personal identity is as something which constantly changes, i.e. the self is Protean in Johnston's language. Johnston does not believe that relativism about personal identity is coherent, so he instead introduces the notion of the Protean self that can change embodiment. Johnston believes personal identity must be Protean as individuals are able to, at least plausibly based upon the thought experiments5 at the beginning of the chapter, change the arena of presence and action by changing certain dispositions. The conception of identity as Protean is central to Johnston's claim that we are able to survive death. As he states, "Given that we are Protean, following the command of agape would mean that we would thereby implement personal identity in such a way that we would survive wherever and whenever interests are to be found. We would, quite literally, live on in the onward rush of humankind." (pg. 296) Thus, the survival of death6 is about changing one's disposition and changing it in a particular way.
Footnote 1: From "Caldwell (Christopher M.) - Review - 'Surviving Death' by Mark Johnston".
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