Folk Concepts of Person and Identity: a Response to Nichols and Bruno
Berniunas (Renatas) & Dranseika (Vilius)
Source: Philosophical Psychology , 29 (1), 96-122
Paper - Abstract

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Author's Abstract

  1. "Nichols (Shaun) & Bruno (Michael) - Intuitions about Personal Identity: An Empirical Study" (2010) claims that the folk judge that psychological continuity is necessary for personal identity.
  2. In this article we attempt to evaluate this claim.
    1. First, we argue that it is likely that in thinking about hypothetical cases of transformations folk do not use a unitary concept of personal identity but rely on different concepts of a person and of identity of an individual. Identity can be ascribed even when post-transformation individuals are no longer categorized as persons.
    2. Second, we provide new empirical evidence suggesting that (if we assume, along with Nichols and Bruno, that folk judgments about identity can be read off their use of proper names) psychological continuity is not considered by the folk to be necessary for an individual to be placed in a category of person and for ascribing identity over time and transformations.
    3. Furthermore, we raise some doubts about the ability of current experimental designs to adequately distinguish between qualitative and numerical identity judgments.
  3. We conclude that these claims give us a good reason to be skeptical about prospects of using folk intuitions in philosophical theorizing about personal identity.


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