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Abstract: (Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1996: 17-36) I If I am to survive until some later date, what must happen, and what must not happen, over the intervening period? I am talking here about survival in the strict sense. Take an earlier and a later person, if they are one and the same, what is it about them that makes this so? In addressing this question the preferred tool has long been the exploitation of imaginary or science fiction cases. We are asked to reflect on scenarios in which an ordinary person is subjected to some unusual treatment which effectively removes one or more of the elements that usually accompanies personal persistence. If we think the subject survives the treatment, the conclusion is drawn that the elements removed are not necessary to personal identity as we conceive it. The hope is that the repeated use of this method, with a variety of scenarios, will finally produce a convergence of intuitive responses as to what is necessary and sufficient for survival. Unfortunately, this method has failed to produce the goods. The literature is brimming with cunningly constructed scenarios yet consensus as to what personal persistence involves seems as elusive as ever. So it is hardly surprising that the method has come in for some criticism recently. There is a feeling that much time has been wasted on devising fantastic stories about which many people have no firm or reliable intuitions. Hence the demand for a different approach. As for the direction the new approach should take, a general trend can be detected: a focusing on human beings, biological entities of a particular kind, with species-specific identity conditions - a move away from science fiction, towards science. I shall be arguing here that this response is premature. Although it would be a mistake to expect too much from the standard method, it delivers at least one significant result: that of the several strands that make up a human life, we believe that one particular strand is of overriding importance in regard to our continued existence..
Abstract: Let the moral question of personal identity be the following: what is the nature of the entities we should focus our prudential concerns and ascriptions of responsibility around? (If indeed we should structure these things around any entities at all.) Let the semantic question of personal identity be the question of what is the nature of the entities that ‘person’ is true of. A naive (in the sense of simple and intuitive) view would have it that the two questions are so intimately connected that the entities we should focus our concerns and ascriptions around are, pretty trivially, the persons. In part, my aim here is to evaluate this naive view. However, I will not actually attempt to give a definite verdict on it. Rather, I will identify the assumptions under which the naive view is true, and discuss how to go about evaluating those assumptions
Abstract: In this essay I explore the different ways in which love involves an historical dimension, and I argue that the proper way to capture the relevant historicity of love includes an appreciation of the irreplaceability of the beloved. I do this in part through offering an elaboration and defense of some ideas that were originally put forward by Robert Kraut in his paper “Love De Re.” I also consider the treatment that paper received when it was discussed in a paper by Amelie Rorty entitled “The Historicity of Psychological Attitudes: Love is Not Love Which Alters Not When It Alteration Finds.” While Rorty’s paper offers valuable insights, I argue that she misses Kraut’s point, and thus misses out on his own helpful contribution to the topic. I go on to criticize her claim that concern over the proper object of love should be best understood as a concern over constancy, and I then consider a related treatment of these issues by Hugh LaFollette. This leads to a clearer understanding of the distinct senses in which love can be seen as historical, and a better appreciation of the Kripkean analogy Kraut has offered. I end with further defense of the irreplaceability and historicity of the beloved, one that situates these issues in relation to debates concerning personal identity.
Abstract: Philosophers have long suggested that our attitude of special concern for the future is problematic for a reductionist view of personal identity, such as the one developed by Derek Parfit in Reasons and Persons. Specifically, it is often claimed that reductionism cannot provide justification for this attitude. In this paper, I argue that much of the debate in this arena involves a misconception of the connection between metaphysical theories of personal identity and our special concern. A proper understanding of this connection reveals that the above-mentioned objection to reductionism cannot get off the ground. Though the connection I propose is weaker than the connection typically presupposed, I nonetheless run up against a conclusion reached by Susan Wolf in “Self-Interest and Interest in Selves.” According to Wolf, metaphysical theses about the nature of personal identity have no significance for our attitude of special concern. By arguing against Wolf’s treatment of self-interest, I suggest that her arguments for this conclusion are misguided. This discussion leads to further clarification of the nature of the link between theories of personal identity and our special concern and, ultimately, to a better understanding of the rationality of this attitude
Abstract: Most views of personal identity allow that sometimes, facts of personal identity can be borderline or indeterminate. Bernard Williams argued that regarding questions of one’s own survival as borderline “had no comprehensible representation” in one’s emotions and expectations. Whether this is the case, I will argue, depends crucially on what account of indeterminacy is presupposed