Problems in Personal Identity
Baillie (James)
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Cover Blurb

  1. This concise introduction to the topic of personal identity is concerned with what it is to be a person, and with what is involved in being the same person over time.
  2. The first few chapters are devoted to placing these questions in historical context, presenting the ideas of Descartes, Locke, Butler, Hume, and Reid, followed by a summary of recent debates between reductionism and non-reductionism, identity and survival, featuring Parfit1, Bernard Williams, Robert Nozick, David Lewis, Andrew Brennan, and Peter Unger.
  3. Baillie then scrutinizes the methodological assumptions that have guided these debates. He casts a critical eye over the use of thought experiments2, wherein conclusions regarding identity are derived from our responses to various bizarre situations, and argues that many influential arguments are flawed due to a misuse of this methodology.
  4. The remainder of the book discusses issues that remain, once a more modest methodological framework is imposed. The author focuses on real-life conditions, both typical and pathological, and, in individual chapters on amnesia, split-brains3, and Multiple Personality Disorder4, he shows that the real issues of personal identity are rooted within scientific research rather than imaginative speculation.
  5. Special Features:
    → Provides a comprehensive overview of historical and contemporary debates
    → Provides an accessible discussion of important but difficult recent work
    → Concerns issues in philosophy that are central and fundamental, with implications for a vast number of contemporary issues
    → Organization of the subject matter stresses both the history of the subject and its connections with other disciplines
  6. James Baillie is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Portland and the author of numerous papers and articles on personal identity, philosophy of science, and philosophy of psychology.

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. This book discusses the nature of personhood, and proposed criteria of personal identity.
  2. After surveying historical material by Locke, Butler, Reid, and Hume, I assess contemporary work by Parfit5, Williams, Nozick, Lewis, Shoemaker, Swinburne, and Unger.
  3. Following Kathleen Wilkes, I then criticise the unrestricted use of thought-experiments6, arguing that this methodology has produced a distorted view of the issues, and that questions regarding personal identity are more profitably studied by focussing on actual cases.
  4. Thus, I examine problems arising from amnesia, commissurotomy7, and Multiple Personality Disorder8.


Paragon Issues in Philosophy, Paragon House, New York, 1993

"Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity: Preface"

Source: Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Preface

Preface (Full Text)
  1. This book is concerned with what it is to be a person, and with what is involved in being the same person over time. I begin by making a survey of the major theories of personal identity. I mark some important divisions and distinctions between them. Primarily, I distinguish Reductionism and Non-Reductionism and, within the former, between the Physical and the Psychological Criterion1, and argue that none of these has proved to be satisfactory. I stress the importance of the work of Derek Parfit2, and in particular his shifting of the agenda away from the relation of identity to that of ‘Relation R’, and his claim that it is the holding of this latter relation — namely psychological continuity3 by any means — that contains ‘all that matters' to us regarding the future, and not necessarily whether I survive. I show how this theory avoids the pitfalls that defeated the other theories, and propose various developments of it.
  2. A critical eye is then cast over the methodology of thought-experimentation4, so long the cornerstone of philosophical studies into personal identity, whereby conclusions are derived from considerations regarding what we would say if certain hypothetical states of affairs were to occur. The concept of ‘theoretical possibility’ is employed in order to determine the limits of applicability of such thought-experiments5. Many influential arguments are found to be flawed due to misuse of this methodology.
  3. The remainder of the book is concerned with identifying and discussing issues that remain once a more modest methodological framework is imposed. These concern the nature and the limits of psychological unity and continuity. They focus on real-life conditions, both typical and pathological, and are rooted within scientific research rather than in imaginative speculation.
  4. My conclusions are for the most part negative, arguing that not only the answers but also the questions that have traditionally been posed regarding personal identity cease to be relevant, once the flaws in the framework that supported them have been exposed.

"Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity: Introduction"

Source: Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Chapter 1

  1. Prelude
  2. Varieties of Identity
  3. Reductionism and Non-Reductionism
  4. Reductionist Criteria of Identity
  5. The Menu

"Baillie (James) - Identity and Survival"

Source: Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Chapter 2

  1. Williams’ Dilemma
  2. The Closest Continuer1 Theory
  3. The Psychological Spectrum
  4. The Physical Spectrum
  5. My Division
  6. The 'Only X and Y2' Rule
    Appendix: Lewis – The Indeterminacy of Population

"Baillie (James) - Aspects of Non-Reductionism"

Source: Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Chapter 3

  1. Butler’s Charge of Circularity
  2. Quasi-Memory1
  3. Swinburne’s Simple View2
  4. Non-Reductionism and Dualism
  5. The Subjective View
  6. Empirical Grounds for Non-Reductionism?

"Baillie (James) - What Am I?"

Source: Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Chapter 4
Write-up Note1

I’ve written a paper on this work – follow the link above – which was in part reviewed at a couple of supervisions (write-ups accessible from the file-note).

  1. Introduction
  2. Locke’s Man/Person Distinction
  3. Natural Kinds2 and Natural Laws
  4. Once an “f”
  5. Conditions of Survival
  6. Teletransportation Revisited
  7. Is Identity Sortal-Relative3?
    Appendix: Discontinuous Persons?

"Baillie (James) - Methodology Matters"

Source: Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Chapter 5

  1. Uses of Thought Experiment1
  2. Abuses of Thought Experiment2
  3. Human Freedom and Natural Laws
  4. Thought Experiments3 Reassessed
  5. What Matters4 in Survival?

"Baillie (James) - Memory"

Source: Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Chapter 6

  1. Locke’s Criterion
  2. ‘Memory’ Dismantled
  3. Memory Storage
  4. Parfit’s1 Psychological Criterion2 Tested
  5. The Sleeping3 Pill
  6. Varieties of Memory
  7. Two Case Histories
    Appendix: Psychogenic Fugue

"Baillie (James) - Commissurotomy and the Unity of Mind"

Source: Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Chapter 7

  1. Introduction
  2. Commissurotomy1 Described
  3. The Experimental Background
  4. Minds, Brains, and Persons
  5. Puccetti’s ‘Two Person’ Theory
  6. Cognition in the Right Hemisphere
  7. Sperry’s ‘Two Mind’ Theory
  8. The Subjective View
  9. Sperry Challenged
  10. Split Brains and Single Minds
    Appendix: My Physics Exam

"Baillie (James) - Degrees of Psychological Integrity"

Source: Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Chapter 8

  1. MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder)1: Historical Background
  2. Minds, Persons, and Personalities
  3. Mary and Mary
  4. All about Eve
  5. Dissociation and Hypnosis
  6. The Self
  7. A Matter of Degree

"Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity: In Conclusion"

Source: Baillie (James) - Problems in Personal Identity, 1993, Conclusion

  1. Baillie rejects the traditional “thought experiment”1 approach; our intuitions are unreliable, the conclusions are inconclusive and any benefits of this approach have already been assimilated. The problem cases are often impossible, and a false dichotomy is often set up between conflicting intuitions.
  2. Abandoning this methodology, the Physical Criterion wins out. We are material beings whose persistence is Bodily. However, if forced to accept the thought experiments2, Baillie thinks he goes where his brain goes (should brain transplants3 be possible). He largely accepts Parfit’s4 analysis should double half-brain transplants5 be possible: presumably he accepts that while I don’t survive (or am not identical to either of the survivors), I have what matters6 in survival.
  3. Any contribution made by philosophers with respect to the Psychological Criterion7 must be in the light of the sciences of Neuroscience and Psychology. The philosopher is very much the handmaiden of the sciences in the respect.

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