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Personal Identity: 
A Multidisciplinary Inquiry 
October 23, 2014 
ASU, Origins Project, OPTIM 
Slides: http://slideshare....
Personal Identity: Multidisciplinary Question 
October 23, 2014 
Personal Identity 
1 
Philosophy of Mind Psychology 
Evol...
Hypothesis 
 If the evolutionary biological drivers that caused personal 
identity to develop as a fitness adaptation wer...
Philosophical Views of Personal Identity 
 Traditional ‘philosophy of mind’ view 
 Assumes already-existing subject 
 P...
Philosophical Views of Personal Identity 
 Self is a flux of unconnected perceptions 
(Hume, 1739) 
 Self as a constantl...
Literary View 
Philosophical Issue: 
Group, Individual, Particular 
Proust, Albertine, the 
‘little band’ of girls at Balb...
Biology Basics: Why do Individuals Exist? 
Classical Biological View: Kin Selection 
 Kin selection is the evolutionary s...
Biological View: Distinguishing Individuals 
October 23, 2014 
Personal Identity 
7 
 Wasps wired to distinguish 
each ot...
Biological View: Dolphin ‘Identities’ 
 Dolphins have a unique name 
in the form of a whistle 
 Dolphins responded when ...
Theoretical Biological View: 
Groups and Individuals 
October 23, 2014 
Personal Identity 
9 
 Theoretical biology perspe...
Psychological View: Personal Identity is… 
 A person's conception and expression of 
self-identity including with regard ...
Psychological View: Social Identity Theory 
 Multiple ‘levels of self’ 
 A person has not one, personal self, 
but rathe...
Social Theory 
 Identity Politics 
 Political attitudes regarding the 
concerns of social groups based on 
identificatio...
Evolutionary Biology View 
 Adaptation/fitness benefit conferred 
 Co-evolution of culture and personal 
identity 
 Dri...
Multidisciplinary Conclusion: Personal 
Identity is Ephemeral and Constructive 
 Hypothesis is supported by these four fi...
Personal Identity: 
A Multi-disciplinary Inquiry 
October 23, 2014 
OPTIM 
Slides: http://slideshare.net/LaBlogga 
Melanie...
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Personal Identity: A Multidisciplinary Inquiry

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Overview of personal identity from a philosophical perspective as conceived traditionally and disputed by Derek Parfit (Reasons and Persons; ‘personal identity is not required for the survival of the person’). An account of personal identity per philosophers Hume, Derrida, Deleuze, and Simondon. The evolutionary biological case for personal identity in humans. There is a large literature on the ability of members of many animal species (wasps for example) to distinguish specific individual others. I consider why and how personal identity might have evolved to bring adaptive fitness to humans, if the adaptation is still serving, and what forces might cause this to be different in the future.

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Personal Identity: A Multidisciplinary Inquiry

  1. 1. Personal Identity: A Multidisciplinary Inquiry October 23, 2014 ASU, Origins Project, OPTIM Slides: http://slideshare.net/LaBlogga Melanie Swan m@melanieswan.com
  2. 2. Personal Identity: Multidisciplinary Question October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 1 Philosophy of Mind Psychology Evolutionary Biology Evolutionary Psychology Philosophy of Biology Theoretical Biology Social Theory Sociology Sociobiology Biology
  3. 3. Hypothesis  If the evolutionary biological drivers that caused personal identity to develop as a fitness adaptation were to change, the need for personal identity too would change and perhaps disappear  Main evolutionary biological / cultural drivers:  Resource acquisition, status garnering, mate selection, group acceptance , gender roles (Hrdy)  Absent these drivers, how would the adaptation benefit conferred by personal identity change?  Examples of shifts in social goals and outcomes  Worldwide birth rate declines  Below replacement population declines (Japan, Italy) October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 2
  4. 4. Philosophical Views of Personal Identity  Traditional ‘philosophy of mind’ view  Assumes already-existing subject  Personal identity needed for continuity and persistence  Personal identity is not required for the survival of the person, relational experience between past/future selves and experience is (Parfit)  fMRI studies: We procrastinate because we think of our future selves as strangers  Third persons no different than politicians or celebrities October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 3 http://nautil.us/issue/9/time/why-we-procrastinate citing van Gelder JL, Hershfield HE, Nordgren LF. (2013). Vividness of the future self predicts delinquency. Psychol Sci. 24(6):974-80, and Pronin, Emily. (2008). How we see ourselves and how we see others. Science. 320(5880):1177-80.
  5. 5. Philosophical Views of Personal Identity  Self is a flux of unconnected perceptions (Hume, 1739)  Self as a constantly re-written, re-interpretable October 23, 2014 Personal Identity text, written in difference to the local relational context (Derrida)  Subjectivation is the important locus, facilitated by the movement-image and the time-image (Deleuze)  Individuation as a dynamic world process of which the subject is an effect not a cause; living beings exist on a capacity spectrum for individuation (Simondon) 4
  6. 6. Literary View Philosophical Issue: Group, Individual, Particular Proust, Albertine, the ‘little band’ of girls at Balbec “…when I saw the little band again on the beach, and indeed long afterwards when I knew all the girls who composed it, I could never be absolutely certain that any of them — even she who among them all was most like her, the girl with the bicycle — was indeed the one that I had seen that evening , a girl who differed hardly at all, but was still just perceptibly different from her whom I had noticed in the procession” October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 5 Proust, In Search of Lost Time, Within a Budding Grove, Seascape, with Frieze of Girls
  7. 7. Biology Basics: Why do Individuals Exist? Classical Biological View: Kin Selection  Kin selection is the evolutionary strategy that favors the reproductive success of an organism's relatives, even at a cost to the organism's own survival and reproduction (Darwin, 1859)  Individuals are a mechanism for kin selection; individuals are able to identify their relatives (kin recognition) (Hamilton, 1964)  Evidence: red squirrel mothers adopted related orphaned squirrel pups but not unrelated orphans (2010) October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 6 Gorrell JC et al. (2010). Adopting kin enhances inclusive fitness in asocial red squirrels. Nature Communications 1 (22): 1.
  8. 8. Biological View: Distinguishing Individuals October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 7  Wasps wired to distinguish each other’s faces  Wasps identified colony facial images faster and more accurately than other types of images (2011)  Wasps developed better vision to identify others’ rank and possibly allegiance (fighting queens within colonies); scent only identifies the nest mate level MJ Sheehan, EA Tibbetts. (2011). Specialized face learning is associated with individual recognition in paper wasps. Science 334 (6060), 1272-1275. http://www.livescience.com/17259-paper-wasps-facial-recognition.html
  9. 9. Biological View: Dolphin ‘Identities’  Dolphins have a unique name in the form of a whistle  Dolphins responded when they heard the sound of their own signature whistle, repeating that whistle back in a way that seems to say, "Yes, I'm here - did you call me?"  Bottlenose dolphins can follow "recipes" in preparing mollusks, help other species in distress, and possibly do math October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 8 Friedman, W. (2013). PNAS. Jul 23, 2013. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/07/130722-dolphins-whistle-names- identity-animals-science/
  10. 10. Theoretical Biological View: Groups and Individuals October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 9  Theoretical biology perspective of sociality  “He who understands the baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke” (Darwin 1838)  Evolved biological individuals (not personal identity)  Revisionary view of individuality, adequate definition  Kin selection is insufficient to capture what is common to all forms of groups evolving into individuals  A theory of evolving individuality requires a sophisticated variety of concepts that  advocates some form of self-organization that supplements natural selection, and  accounts for the most complex forms of individuality From Groups to Individuals: Evolution and Emerging Individuality. Eds. Frédéric Bouchard and Philippe Huneman. 2013. http://www.livescience.com/17259-paper-wasps-facial-recognition.html
  11. 11. Psychological View: Personal Identity is…  A person's conception and expression of self-identity including with regard to others' individuality or group affiliations (Wikipedia; Psychology/Sociology)  The concept you develop about yourself that evolves over the course of your life (Education-Portal: Sociology)  Self-knowledge that derives from the individual’s unique attributes (U Twente)  The distinct personality of an individual; characteristics by which a person is recognized or known (IEP) October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 10
  12. 12. Psychological View: Social Identity Theory  Multiple ‘levels of self’  A person has not one, personal self, but rather several selves that correspond to widening circles of group membership  Different social contexts may trigger an individual to think, feel and act on basis of his personal, family or national ‘level of self’ (Turner et al, 1987)  Multiple social identities  Self-concept derived from perceived membership in social groups (Hogg & Vaughan, 2002) October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 11 http://www.utwente.nl/cw/theorieenoverzicht/theory%20clusters/interpersonal%20communication%20and%20relations/s ocial_identity_theory/
  13. 13. Social Theory  Identity Politics  Political attitudes regarding the concerns of social groups based on identifications such as gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation  Anti-identity movement, text without author  “Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same, leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order” – Foucault, 1982 October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 12 Foucault, Michel. (1982). The Archaeology of Knowledge. Vintage Books: New York, NY. Page 17.
  14. 14. Evolutionary Biology View  Adaptation/fitness benefit conferred  Co-evolution of culture and personal identity  Drivers of identity and social behavior:  Resource acquisition, status garnering, mate selection, group acceptance, gender roles  “Apart from economic payoffs, social status, seems to be the most important incentive and motivating force of social behavior” - John Harsanyi, Nobel Laureate economist October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 13 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-psychology-of-social/
  15. 15. Multidisciplinary Conclusion: Personal Identity is Ephemeral and Constructive  Hypothesis is supported by these four fields  If the evolutionary biological drivers that caused personal identity to develop as a fitness adaptation were to change, the need for personal identity too would change/disappear  Biology  Individuality is not personal identity  Psychology/Sociology  Malleability of self  Philosophy  Relationality and subjectivation  Evolutionary Biology  Fitness adaptation October 23, 2014 Personal Identity 14
  16. 16. Personal Identity: A Multi-disciplinary Inquiry October 23, 2014 OPTIM Slides: http://slideshare.net/LaBlogga Melanie Swan m@melanieswan.com Thank You! Questions?

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