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Personal Identity

Personal Identity

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  • 1. Chapter 7Chapter 7 Personal IdentityPersonal Identity
  • 2. Questions ofQuestions of Physical (Bodily) IdentityPhysical (Bodily) Identity If a person loses an arm, is she still the same person? Two arms and two legs? Is there some specific point at which she would lose her identity? The cells making up our bodies die and are replaced constantly; would this mean that our identities are constantly shifting? Does a person’s brain continuity guarantee the continuity of his individual identity?
  • 3. Souls and PersonalSouls and Personal IdentityIdentity The dominant view of personal identity from the time of Plato until the 17th century asserted that: Personal identity is centered in the immaterial soul, a single indivisible substance If ongoing personal identity is determined by the continuing indivisible presence of the soul, we need not worry about bodily continuity or memory continuity: the soul can easily transcend both. But how does the continuity of a person’s soul guarantee his or her continuing existence? If the soul lives on without the person’s body, memories, beliefs, or desires, it is difficult to imagine a continued existence for that individual.
  • 4. Memory and IdentityMemory and Identity Locke: The criterion for personal identity must be continuity of memory. Challenges to the memory account of personal identity: Memories fade as the person ages. Theoretically, the two hemispheres of a person’s brain, and thus the memories retained by that brain, could be transplanted into two different bodies; there would then be two versions of the same person—but two different persons cannot be identical with a single individual.
  • 5. Science Fiction andScience Fiction and Personal Identity ProblemsPersonal Identity Problems If a molecule-by-molecule scan of one individual could create multiple duplicate of a person, and if each of those duplicates then had differing experiences and thus developed different sets of memories, could we ultimately and rightly say that all of the duplicates share a single personal identity?
  • 6. Beyond Personal IdentityBeyond Personal Identity Some contemporary philosophers have concluded that perhaps personal identity is not really as important as we traditionally thought. Such philosophers concern themselves with continuity of experience.
  • 7. David Hume and IdentityDavid Hume and Identity Our sense of personal identity develops from the easy transition among our ideas. That transition is a matter of degree, not a clear marker of identity: “We have no just standard by which we can decide any dispute concerning the time when [our bundle of ideas] acquire or lose a title to the name of identity.” We can decide to define a standard for what counts as identity—but we are then stipulating a definition of identity, not identifying an actual identity.
  • 8. Identity and the OneIdentity and the One For Spinoza, the Taoists, and some versions of Buddhism: The world is One. All distinct individuals are an illusion. All personal identity is submerged into the One. The question of personal identity is a question of why people mistakenly suppose that they have separate individual identities.
  • 9. The Narrative Account ofThe Narrative Account of Personal IdentityPersonal Identity Our personal identity is NOT set by a specific body (which changes), or a set of memories (which also change). The only way to secure a genuine personal identity is to pull the strands of your life together in a personal narrative (story) that unifies the changes and the continuities.
  • 10. The Narrative Account ofThe Narrative Account of Personal IdentityPersonal Identity The events of our lives don’t gain significance until we invest them with that significance: until we fit them into a pattern of purposive behavior. We aren’t just given a personal identity; rather, we actively make it by fitting the disparate parts into a cohesive narrative.
  • 11. Narrative TruthNarrative Truth Generally, our life narratives are systematically inaccurate and distorted—so can they serve effectively as grounds for marking our personal identity? The basic existence of the narratives themselves could be more important than narrative accuracy: Personal narratives, with their faulty and self- serving “memories,” can give some coherent form and unity to our senses of our personal identities.
  • 12. Alasdair MacIntyreAlasdair MacIntyre Promotes a narrative account of personal identity as grounds for the meaning of life Asserts that the narrative account of life is also essential for accountability “To be the subject of a narrative that runs from one’s birth to one’s death is . . . to be accountable for the actions and experiences which compose a narratable life.” Argues that the narrative model is essential as an element of taking moral responsibility for one’s life and acts
  • 13. The Constructivist Model ofThe Constructivist Model of Personal IdentityPersonal Identity Contends that personal identity is not a given, but is instead constructed out of elements that may not otherwise have any real unity: “…It is through narrative that we create and recreate selfhood, that self is a product of our telling and not some essence to be delved for in the recesses of subjectivity” (Bruner).