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Personal Identity

Research - Proposal

(Text as at 26/09/2007 20:41:17)

(For earlier versions of this Note, see the table at the end)


The topic1 I wish to research2 is “Personal Identity”, with the focus3,4,5,6 on the ontology7 of, and persistence criteria for, human persons8 and related sortals9. Since it is a contingent fact that all existents that are universally agreed to be persons are members of the species homo sapiens10, we must start with human beings in deciding what persons are.

I will scrutinise certain basic assumptions that I accept. Firstly, that the “identity” involved in personal identity is the ordinary logical notion11. Secondly, that some form of physicalism12 in the philosophy of mind is true and central to the topic. Thirdly, while it is analytic that survival involves identity, that what matters in survival13 is both physical14 & psychological15 continuity16.

In considering what a person is, I will need to consider somatic17, forensic18 and psychological19 issues, and, in particular, focus on self-consciousness20 and the first-person perspective21. I will need to consider semantic and conceptual22 issues as well as ontological issues.

I will focus on two views, namely Animalism23 and the Constitution View24. I must consider just what Baker and others mean by “constitution”, and evaluate the cogency of the supposedly knock-down “too many minds” argument25 that Olson and others have raised against it.

Key questions are whether or not the concept of a person is a natural kind concept26, and whether the various views take persons sufficiently seriously27. That is, are persons no more than phase sortals28 of certain animals29 or are they ontological novelties, as Baker suggests?

I will consider the usual problem cases, whether obtained from clinical observation30 or thought experiment31, including brain transplant, fission32, fusion33, duplication34, replication35 and metamorphosis36. In particular, I want to compare forward37 and backward psychological continuity and the role of normal causality38 in preserving identity. However, I need to consider whether all talk of first-person perspectives depends on a, presumably non-existent, Cartesian Ego39.

Since I’m particularly averse to “closest continuer”40 theories, I am tempted by four-dimensionalism41 and shared person-stages as a solution to some of the paradoxes where, otherwise, awkward choices have to be made. Since there are acknowledged difficulties for the perdurantist in not being able to count42 tokens of persons and other sortals, I need to address the attempted solutions43.44

I conclude this document (by way of an end-note) by considering the thought experiment of teletransportation45 to rehearse the key issues. I would need to repeat this exercise for all the favourites, including Unger’s Siliconisation46 and Williams’s backup/restore47.48



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Previous Version of this Note:

Date Length Title
12/08/2007 10:17:46 2956 Research - Proposal



Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
26/09/2007 20:41:17 None available None

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Animalism Animals Background Body Brain State Transfer
Cartesian Ego Causality Clinical Observations Closest Continuer Concepts
Constitution View Constitution View - Objections Continuity Counting Persons Duplication
First-Person Perspective Fission Forensic Property Fusion Homo Sapiens
Logic of Identity Metamorphosis Methuselah Natural Kinds Ontology
Perdurantism Person Phase Sortals Physical Continuity Physicalism
Psychological Continuity Psychological Continuity - Forward Psychology Replication Research - Distractions
Research - Focus Research - Internet Technology Self-Consciousness Ship of Theseus Siliconisation
Sortals Survival Taking Persons Seriously Teletransportation Thesis - Current Stance
Thesis - Method & Form Thesis - References Thought Experiments    

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Summary of Note Links to this Page

1 Corinthians: 15 Jen_070928 (Introductory) Status: Web-Tools (2017 - September) Theo Todman's Personal Page Theo Todman's Philosophy Research Papers

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  1. Black: Printable Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2017
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  3. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)




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