Philosophy Paper 3
December 9, 2017
topic I will be discussing is Derek Parfit’s view of the importance of identity,
or rather the lack thereof. The focal
point of his view of personal identity rests with the question of what matters
for survival. Parfit argues that survival
does not depend on personal identity and that one can survive without the
retention of their identity. Established
accounts of personal identity include bodily and brain-based psychological criteria
and have been used to address what constitutes a person’s survival. The former, bodily criterion, states that “a
person continues to exist if and only if that person’s body continues to
exist.” (Cahn, 346). The latter states
that a person’s existence only continues if a future person has enough of that
person’s brain for psychological continuity.
In this sense, a person’s existence rests on whether or not one’s body continues
to function or if psychological continuity is retained—not on the retention of one’s
personal identity. To Parfit, personal
identity is indeterminate and is not what matters to the survival of a
person. The theory of personal identity,
to Parfit, simply obscures our understanding of what it means to survive as a
illustrate this contention, as similarly described in class, let us say that
the brain of person A is halved and transplanted into the heads of person B and
C— B and C now share person A’s memories and other psychological
constructs. Here Parfit contests the possibilities
that a) person A does not survive, and b) person A survives as either B or C. The first possibility, person A does not
survive, is combatted by the fact that the halved-brains of person A continue
to operate in persons B and C. The second
possibility, person A survives as either person B or C, cannot hold because
each has an equal claim to being person A.
He concludes that though persons B and C (post-transplant) are not
identical to person A, person A survives as both person B and C because of the
physical presence of their brain and the degree of psychological continuity
present. With that, Parfit contends that personal identity is not what matters
to survival, but rather psychological continuity.
challenge for this view is that of division, when considering the double case.
Parfit states that “both halves of my brain would be successfully transplanted,
into different bodies that are just like mine. Two people would wake up, each
of whom has half my brain, and is, both physically and psychologically, just
like me” (Akers, 348). The fact that they are two different bodies, contradicts
what the double case is saying. Two separate bodies cannot truly be (one) him.
If each of them was sincerely him, they would have to be one and the same being.
A way to help understand this, is by asking, what if only one of the people was
truly him. While this point, would not be contradicting, it also could not be
accurate, because there is no merit for the basis that he is one person rather
than the other, they each have half of his brain. With that, Parfit asserts
that in the double case, his relation to the person remains the same, and that
relation still embodies what matters. Nonetheless the person cannot be said to
be him, overall, arguing that identity cannot be what matters.
evaluation of Parfit’s view of identity, on the basis of this views challenge, division,
I believe that it can be avoided, and Parfit does a good job backing that up.
This case of division, or fission, shows that it is not possible for there to
be truly correct answers to all questions about identity, while at the same
time, important questions focus in on that of personal identity. “When
this relation holds between me now, and two future people, I cannot be called
one and the same as each of these people. But that is not a difference in the
nature or content of this relation…In the double case, where both halves will
be successfully transplanted, nothing would be lost” (Akers, 348). By making
this statement, he is affirming that his identity is indeed unimportant, for
him to still exist. “Nothing would be lost” in the sense that both halves of
his brain would be successfully transplanted into two different people, which
would achieve the overall goal of keeping them alive. Identity has nothing to
do with the fact of this case. Lastly, he suggests that we as humans, convert
our views about identity, as we become older and more knowledgeable. What matters should not be that someone in
the future may claim to be me ( Carly Reynolds),