Philosophy 140 – Personal Identity: Topics
Parfit and “To Be”
The video “To Be” (which was shown in class and is available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdxucpPq6Lc ) presents various and increasingly more complex sci-fi scenarios of purported teleportation and duplication. How would Parfit’s theory of personal identity handle these scenarios? Do any of the scenarios preserve identity? If so, which ones and why? At which point (and why) would identity be lost? How could these scenarios help prove Parfit’s claim that identity does not matter? Do you agree or disagree with Parfit’s claim that identity does not matter? Explain why. (In answering these latter questions, you might want to focus on the last scenario, in which the girl coming out of box 2 claims to be a “guiltless” copy).
Dennett and Humphrey on Multiple Selves
Dennett and Humphrey claim that the existence of multiplicity of selves in the same human being (like in the alleged cases of MPD, now known as DID–dissociative identity disorder) is not philosophically absurd.
How do they argue for this? What role does the idea of the Self as a center of narrative gravity plays in their argument? What do you think are the most serious and powerful objections to their claim? Do you think that they might be able to respond to these objections? If so, show how. If not, what is the philosophical lesson, if any, which we might still be able to gain from their discussion of MPD?
(Please note that it is NOT asked whether you believe that there is sufficient evidence for the actual existence of MPD.The question is the conceivability of the disorder, which is D&H’s concern in the first part of the paper).
Self: Real or Fictive entity?
According to both Dennett and Velleman is self is a ‘fiction’. What do they mean by this? How do their differentiate their views from one that claims the self to be a real entity? Do you find any merit in the suggestion of the fictive character of the self? What kinds of objections could be moved to their accounts? In particular, do you think that they might fail to grant sufficient ‘reality’ to the self? Could they succeed to reply to these objections? What is your final assessment of their proposal?
Conditions of Personhood
Rosenberg and Dennett presents somewhat different criteria of personhood. Rosenberg focuses on the ethical or deontic status, whereas Dennett stresses the demands of interpretability and reciprocity. Which of the following options do you find more convincing?
- Do you think that these two accounts are incompatible with each other? If so, why? Should one be preferred to the other? If so, why?
- Or do you rather think that they accounts might partially overlap and ultimately be integrated with each other? If so, under which aspects do they overlap? And how could they be integrated?
- Or do you think that both accounts fail and should be replaced by some alternative account? If so, explain why they fail and motivate your alternative account in light of their failure.
Philosophy 140 – Personal Identity: Instructions
Argue for your view, don’t simply state it!
In addressing any of these topics, make sure that you:
- Clearly state in the first paragraph of the paper the thesis that you are going to defend in your paper. This statement must be in boldface.
- Present in the most charitable way the alternative accounts and why you do not find them satisfying
- Offer arguments in support of your positive claims. DO NOT simply state them. Do not simply say what you believe, but why you think it is better than the alternative accounts and how it can respond to the possible objections to it. You have to make a case for it. Imagine trying to convince a very smart and informed opponent.
Philosophy 140 – Personal Identity: Styling and Formatting
Cover Page is required and it must include the following:
- Title of the Paper
- Your Name
- Class and Semester
- Word count
- Main Thesis defended in the paper (taken from the opening paragraph)
- 1 point will be deducted if you don’t (which might be sufficient to push your paper into a lower grade…)
- 2 points will be deducted if you don’t (which might be sufficient to push your paper into a lower grade…)
- 1 inch margin, double space, 12p or similar sized font
- I don’t care about a specific style for references (MLA, Chicago, APA, etc..), I just want you to be consistent and cite the sources with all the required information
- if you have notes, they have to be footnotes (not endnotes)
- Put the thesis of your paper in the first paragraph in boldface
Some Additional Stylistic Considerations
- There are no restrictions in a philosophy paper about the use of the first person pronoun ‘I’. By all means, use the first person every time that in the paper you are the one making a claim. Always make sure that the reader knows who is putting forward which claim in the paper
- Don’t use the verb ‘to feel’ to mean ‘believe’, ‘claim’, ‘maintain’, ‘argue’ etc.
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