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PhilosophyPart of Humanities

Personal Identity - Non-branching psychological continuity

One way to maintain a role for psychology, consistent with the answers you have given, is to say that if we have a single psychological successor, then that person is you, but, when you have several psychological successors, none of them are you!

In the original 'body swapping' case Barry has a single psychological successor, the Gary-body person, so Barry is the Gary-body person. In the modified version, Barry has several psychological successors, and so is not any of the Gary-body person, the Larry-body person, or the Carrie-body person. Derek Parfit defends a version of this view. But isn’t it odd to think that whether Barry survives in Gary’s body could depend on what happens to some other, totally unconnected bodies?

 

To learn more about this topic, you might like to read Chapter 1 of Harold Noonan’s book Personal Identity or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on personal identity: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/

At Southampton, the question of personal identity can be studied as part of the second-year Metaphysics module. In recent years, a number of our students have also written their third-year dissertations on personal identity. Other modules that consider aspects of our nature and self-conception include Origins of Existentialism, Philosophy of Mind, Self-Knowledge, and Freedom and Responsibility.

Southampton philosophy lecturers interested in personal identity and related topics include Dr. Elselijn Kingma, Dr. Conor McHugh, and Dr. Lee Walters.

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