Beyond Personal Identity

Baillie, James (1989) Beyond Personal Identity. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis 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, and mark some important divisions and distinctions between them, primarily between Reductionism and Non-Reductionism and, within this former category, between the Physical and Psychological Criteria, and argue that none of these ha5 proved to be satisfactory. I stress the importance of the work of Derek Parfit, 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 continuity 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. A critical eye is then cast over the methodology of thought-experimentation, so long the cornerstone of philosophical studies of 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-experiments. Many of the most influential arguments and theories regarding issues of personal identity are found to be flawed due to misuse of this methodology, and their conclusions are judged to be unwarranted. The remainder of the thesis is concerned with identifying and discussing issues regarding personal identity that remain, once a more modest methodological framework is imposed. These concern the nature and the limits of psychological unity and continuity, and focus on real-life conditions, both typical and pathological, and are rooted within scientific research (particularly the neuro-sciences) rather than imaginative speculation. My conclusions are for the most part negative, arguing that not only the answers, but the very questions that have been traditionally posed regarding personal identity cease to be relevant, once the flaws in the framework that supported them have been exposed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Philosophy
Date of Award: 1989
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1989-77802
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 11:53
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2020 11:53

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