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Personal Identity: 
A Multidisciplinary Inquiry 
October 23, 2014 
ASU, Origins Project, OPTIM 
Slides: http://slideshare.net/LaBlogga 
Melanie Swan 
m@melanieswan.com
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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/
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
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
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/
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.
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/
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
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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Personal Identity: A Multidisciplinary Inquiry

  • 1. Personal Identity: A Multidisciplinary Inquiry October 23, 2014 ASU, Origins Project, OPTIM Slides: http://slideshare.net/LaBlogga Melanie Swan m@melanieswan.com
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Personal Identity: A Multi-disciplinary Inquiry October 23, 2014 OPTIM Slides: http://slideshare.net/LaBlogga Melanie Swan m@melanieswan.com Thank You! Questions?