Self: Personal Identity
Olson (Eric)
Source: W. Banks, ed., Encyclopedia of Consciousness (Elsevier Academic Press), vol. 2, 301-312
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Synopsis

  1. Personal identity deals with the many philosophical questions about ourselves that arise by virtue of our being people. The most frequently discussed is what it takes for a person to persist through time.
  2. Many philosophers say that we persist by virtue of psychological continuity1. Others say that our persistence is determined by brute physical facts, and psychology is irrelevant.
  3. In choosing among these answers we must consider not only what they imply about who is who in particular cases, both real and imaginary, but also their implications about our metaphysical nature in general.

Author’s Introduction
  1. Personal identity deals with philosophical questions about ourselves that arise by virtue of our being people (or persons). Some of these questions are familiar ones that occur to all of us: What am I2? When did I begin? What will happen to me when I die? Others are more abstruse.
  2. Many philosophers, following Locke and Hume, give consciousness a central role in answering questions of personal identity. They say that many of these questions are nothing more than questions about the unity and continuity of consciousness, or at least that facts about consciousness and related psychological matters suffice to settle the facts about personal identity. Others disagree, saying that consciousness is irrelevant to most questions of personal identity.
  3. (A terminological note; this article is about the self in the sense that my self is simply myself – me, the author – and not about other senses of the word self.)

  1. Introduction
  2. The problems of personal identity
    1. The persistence question
    2. The population question
    3. The personal-ontology question
    4. The question of what matters3 in identity
  3. The persistence question
  4. Proposed answers to the persistence question
  5. The psychological-continuity view
  6. Fission
  7. The beginning and end of life
  8. The persistence question and personal ontology
  9. The too-many-minds4 problem
  10. Conclusion


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