The Identities of Persons
Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg), Ed.
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
Colour-ConventionsDisclaimerBooks / Papers Citing this BookNotes Citing this Book


Back Cover Blurb

  1. In this volume, thirteen philosophers contribute new essays analyzing the criteria for personal identity and their import on ethics and the theory of action.
  2. It presents contemporary1 treatments of the issues discussed in "Perry (John), Ed. - Personal Identity" (University of California Press, 1975).

In-Page Footnotes ("Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg), Ed. - The Identities of Persons")

Footnote 1:

University of California Press, 1976

"De Sousa (Ronald) - Rational Homunculi"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976

  1. Homunculi in the Theory of Mind and Action
  2. Akrasia: A Case Study
  3. Rationality

"Dennett (Daniel) - Conditions of Personhood"

Source: Dennett - Brainstorms - Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology, Chapter 14
Write-up Note1

Dennett suggests that the concepts of “person” and “human being” are not necessarily co-extensive. He also distinguishes the two intertwined notions of personhood – moral and metaphysical. He defends the following 6 “themes” as necessary conditions of personhood:-
  1. Persons are rational beings.
  2. Persons are beings to which states of consciousness are attributed, or to which psychological or mental or intentional predicates are ascribed.
  3. Whether something counts as a person depends in some way on an attitude taken toward it, a stance adopted with respect to it.
  4. The object toward which this personal stance is taken must be capable of reciprocating in some way.
  5. Persons must be capable of verbal communication.
  6. Persons are distinguishable from other entities by being conscious in some special way: there is a way in which we are conscious in which no other species is conscious. Sometimes this is identified as self-consciousness of one sort or another.
Dennett addresses three issues to do with these 6 themes:
  1. How (on his interpretation) are these 6 themes dependent on one another?
  2. Why are they necessary conditions of moral personhood?
  3. Why is it so hard to say whether they are jointly sufficient conditions for moral personhood?
For further discussion, Click here for Note, together with a supervision - Click here for Note - discussion on this paper.


"Frankfurt (Harry) - Identification and Externality"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976

  1. Really to do with the philosophy of Action,
  2. See Link for a set of “Class Notes”.

"Lewis (David) - Survival and Identity"

Source: Lewis - Philosophical Papers Volume I, Part 1: Ontology, Chapter 5

Oxford Scholarship Online
  1. Prompted by Derek Parfit1's early work on personal identity, Lewis advances the view that persons are best regarded as suitably related aggregates of person-stages. Parfit2 argues that what matters3 in survival is either identity or mental continuity and connectedness; that the two cannot both be what matters4 in survival (because the former is a one-one relation and does not admit of degree, whereas the latter can admit of degree and may be a one-many or many-one relation); and that what matters5 in survival is not identity.
  2. Contra Parfit6, Lewis contends that the opposition is a false one, since it obscures the fact that mental continuity and connectedness is a relation between two person-stages (i.e., time-slices of continuant persons), whereas identity is a relation between temporally extended continuant persons with stages at different times.
  3. The postscript includes both Lewis’ rejoinder to Parfit7's objections, as well as a further defense of person-stages.

  1. Photocopy filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 09 (L)";
  2. Also in:-
  3. For Notes, see "Funkhouser (Eric) - Notes on Lewis, “Survival and Identity”".

"Parfit (Derek) - Lewis, Perry, and What Matters"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976

Author’s Introduction
  1. ‘We can agree with Parfit’1, Lewis writes, ‘… that what matters2 in questions of personal identity is mental continuity or connectedness … At the same time we can consistently agree with common sense … that what matters3 in questions of personal identity is identity’ (p. 194).
  2. Despite the great resourcefulness of Lewis’s paper, I still believe this cannot be done. I shall first explain why, then suggest what this might show, and end with some remarks about Perry’s paper5.

In-Page Footnotes ("Parfit (Derek) - Lewis, Perry, and What Matters")

Footnote 4: See "Lewis (David) - Survival and Identity".

Footnote 5: See "Perry (John) - The Importance of Being Identical".

"Penelhum (Terence) - Self-Identity and Self-Regard"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976

Author’s Abstract
  1. In his discussion of personal identity Hume draws a distinction to which his readers have not paid much attention. It is a distinction between "personal identity, as it regards our thought or imagination, and as it regards our passions or the concern we take in ourselves. "
  2. I want in this paper to examine this distinction and the use Hume makes of it. Although in doing so, I will be commenting some of the time on questions of Humean exegesis, my main concern is to try to throw some light on the role that the idea of oneself plays in our thinking about some of the areas of the emotional life that Hume considers.

"Perry (John) - The Importance of Being Identical"

Source: Perry - Identity, Personal Identity and the Self, 2002, Chapter 8

Author’s Introduction
  1. Most of us have a special and intense interest in what will happen to us. You learn that someone will be run over by a truck tomorrow; you are saddened, feel pity, and think reflectively about the frailty of life; one bit of information is added, that the someone is you, and a whole new set of emotions rise in your breast.
  2. An analysis of this additional bit of information, that the person to be run over is you, is offered by theories of personal identity, for to say it is you that will be hit is just to say that you and the person who will be hit are one and the same. And so it seems that those theories should shed some light on the difference this bit of information makes to us. If it gives us more reason to take steps to assure that the person is not run over, our theory should help explain why that is so. And if this bit of information gives us reasons of a different kind than we could have if it were not us to be hit, our theory should help explain this too.

  1. Introduction
  2. A Theory of Personal Identity
  3. Can We Explain Self-Concern?
  4. Identification
  5. Special Reasons
  6. The Ego Project
  7. Conclusions: Smith, Methuselah2, Lewis, Parfit3

COMMENT: Also in "Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg), Ed. - The Identities of Persons".

In-Page Footnotes ("Perry (John) - The Importance of Being Identical")

Footnote 1: My numbering and titles.

"Rey (Georges) - Survival"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976

Author’s Introduction
  1. The philosophical problem of personal identity can seem a matter of life and death. For what matters1 to us in our personal survival seems to involve, partly because in our experience it always has involved, the preservation of at least our bodily identity over time.
  2. The supposition that it does, however, the supposition that what matters2 is some form of identity, is susceptible to certain intractable logical difficulties arising from some recent results in neurophysiology. The Sperry experiments on epileptics whose Corpora Collosa have been cut present fairly persuasive evidence that the human brain exists as a pair of very similar hemispheres, each one of which could in principle exist and (with a little tampering) function fully independently of the other.
  3. Only technological (and perhaps some moral) difficulties prevent a brain being divided into two, one hemisphere being transplanted3 to one new skull, the other to another. In such a case, our usual criteria of personal identity — bodily or psychological continuity4 — would break down. For they would present us with two (over time) equally eligible, but (at a given time) bodily and psychologically quite distinct candidates for the continued identity of the original person. And that would involve a violation of the transitivity of that relation: the original person could not be identical with both of the resulting persons without both of the resulting persons being, as they fairly clearly are not, identical with each other.
  4. On the other hand, whatever it is that matters to us in our personal survival would seem to be preserved between the original and each of the resulting persons. There is no reason to suppose there to be at any time even a break in the (diverging) streams of consciousness. Such duplication couldn't be as bad as death: it might arguably be preferable to the usual uniqueness.
  5. Rather, then, than have what matters5 to us in survival be contravened by logical law, it seems more reasonable to suppose, as Derek Parfit6 has recently done us the service of supposing, that what matters7 to us is not identity over time:
      The relation of the original person to each of the resulting ones contains all that interests us — all that matters — in any ordinary case of survival.... Identity is a one-one relation. [This] case serves to show that what matters8 in survival need not be one-one.
    Indeed, not only may what matters9 be one-many, as in the envisaged case of fission, but, considering fissions of two brains followed by fusions of the odd halves, what matters10 may also be many-one.
  6. This would, to be sure, involve a travesty of ordinary talk. A person, on this account, may survive yet not continue to exist, since she may survive as two different persons. For example: a candidate for fission would survive but not continue to exist as (would not be identical with) either of the resulting persons. Where it will be important to avoid equivocation between this and ordinary use, I shall speak instead of a relation "S" which preserves what matters11 in x's survival. Similarly, I shall use 'death' to refer not to the end point of a single personal existence, but, rather, to the furthest temporal point(s) of the longest stretch of any given S-related chain. It may well have been the obvious awkwardness of this manner of speaking that obscured for so long this way of dealing with Sperry's results.

"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Characters, Persons, Selves, Individuals"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976

COMMENT: Also in "Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind"

"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - The Identities of Persons: Introduction"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976

Author’s Abstract
  1. Disagreements about the criteria for personal identity have been persistently unresolved, the battle lines repetitively drawn over the same terrain, along familiar geographical strongholds. Although they disagree among themselves about its analysis, defenders of a physical or a spatio-temporal criterion are ranged against defenders of a psychological criterion1, themselves uneasily allied.
  2. Peacemakers who argue that neither the psychological nor the physical criterion can be applied without implicitly reintroducing the other have been drawn into the battle — as peacemakers often are — as third or fourth parties.
  3. Although the controversy has a long history, and although many arguments have been refined by repeated firings, there is little reason to expect a resolution that will not in time lead to renewed hostilities. What is required is not more ingenuity for more elaborate strategies, but an understanding of the conflicting interpretations of what has been at issue.

"Shoemaker (Sydney) - Embodiment and Behavior"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976

Author’s Introduction
  1. A prominent question in recent philosophy of mind is whether some of the connections between mental states and behavior are (in some interesting sense) "logical," "necessary," "internal," or "conceptual," as opposed to being "purely contingent."
  2. Another prominent question, a much older one, is whether subjects of mental states, in particular persons, can exist in "disembodied1 form," that is, whether it is possible (logically possible) for there to be something (or someone) that has mental states without having (or being) a body and so without having any physical states whatever.
  3. While both of these questions concern the relationships that hold between the realm of the mental and the realm of the physical, they are on the face of it very different questions, and they are often discussed as if their answers were independent of one another.

COMMENT: Also in "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Identity, Cause and Mind".

"Taylor (Charles) - Responsibility For Self"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976

Author’s Abstract
  1. What is the notion of responsibility which is bound up with our conception of a person or self? Is there a sense in which the human agent is responsible for himself which is part of our very conception of the self?
  2. This is certainly a commonly held idea, among 'ordinary men' as well as among philosophers. Just to mention two contemporary specimens of the latter breed: H. Frankfurt has made the point ("Frankfurt (Harry) - Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person") that a person is more than just a subject of desires, of choices, even of deliberation; that we attribute to persons the ability to form 'second-order desires': to want to be moved by certain desires, or 'second-order volitions': to want certain first-order desires to be the ones which move them to action.
  3. If we think of what we are1 as defined by our goals, by what we desire to encompass or maintain, then a person on this view is one who can raise the question: Do I really want to be what I now am? (i.e., have the desires and goals I now have). In other words, beyond the de facto characterization of the subject by his goals, desires, and purposes, a person is a subject who can pose the de jure question: is this the kind of being I ought to be, or really want to be? There is as Frankfurt puts it a 'capacity for reflective self-evaluation. . .manifest in the formation of second-order desires'.
  4. Or again, we can invoke Heidegger's famous formula, taken up by Sartre: 'das Seiende, dem es in seinem Sein um dieses selbst geht' (Sein Und Zeit, 42). The idea here, at a first approximation, is that the human subject is such that the question arises inescapably, which kind of being he is going to realize. He is not just de facto a certain kind of being, with certain given desires, but it is somehow 'up to' him what kind of being he is going to be.
  5. In both these views we have the notion that human subjects are capable of evaluating what they are, and to the extent that they can shape themselves on this evaluation, are responsible for what they are in a way that other subjects of action and desire (the higher animals for instance) cannot be said to be. It is this kind of evaluation/responsibility which many believe to be essential to our notion of the self.

COMMENT: Also in "Watson (Gary), Ed. - Free Will: Oxford Readings in Philosophy"

"Wiggins (David) - Locke, Butler and the Stream of Consciousness: And Men as Natural Kind"

Source: Philosophy, Vol. 51, No. 196 (Apr., 1976), pp. 131-158

Philosophers Index Abstract
    The charge of circularity preferred by Butler and others against Locke's mental continuity conception of personal identity is baseless. The flaw is rather that, in the absence of supplementation by a substantive (conceptually replete) account of persons as embodied agents with the full range of faculties characteristic of men as a natural kind1, Locke's kind of criterion gives wrong answers to some identity questions. Locke's insight can however be restated in a physicalistic framework. But attempts to resolve putative cases of brain transplantation2, etc., by means of the amended life-like account put a strain upon "person" as a natural kind3 concept. If, however, we allow ourselves to be pushed towards an artefact-kind or social-construct account of "person" then we imperil both our morality and our knowledge of who we are. What is more, the natural kind4 account of person justifies us in giving short shrift to science fictional "possibilities" concerning persons.

COMMENT: Also in "Noonan (Harold), Ed. - Personal Identity (Readings)".

"Williams (Bernard) - Persons, Character and Morality"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976

Author’s Abstract
  1. In this paper I take up, I fear in an obscure, promissory and allusive manner, two aspects of this large subject. They both involve the idea that an individual person has a set of desires, concerns or, as I shall often call them, projects, which help to constitute a character.
  2. The first issue concerns the connection between that fact and the man's having a reason for living at all. I approach this through a discussion of some recent work by Derek Parfit1; though I touch on a variety of points in this, my overriding aim is to emphasize the basic importance for our thought of the ordinary idea of a self or person which undergoes changes of character, as opposed to an approach which, even if only metaphorically, would dissolve the person, under changes of character, into a series of 'selves'. In this section I am concerned just with the point that each person has a character, not with the point that different people have different characters.
  3. That latter point comes more to the fore on the second issue, which I take up in part III, and which concerns personal relations. Both issues suggest that the Kantian view contains an important misrepresentation.

COMMENT: Also in "Williams (Bernard) - Moral Luck"

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - Jan 2019. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page