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Parfit’s View of Personal Identity

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  1. Introduction
  2. Parfit and the first standard view of personal identity
  3. The disregard for the common view
  4. The belief in a substantive self
  5. The split-brain transplant
  6. Conclusion
  7. Works cited

I intend to explicate Derek Parfit's view regarding personal identity as non-branching psychological continuity as well as some of its ethical and emotional implications. In addition, I will present Parfit's split-brain transplant thought experiment as evidence for his view that psychological continuity provides a criterion for identity. Further, I will discuss Bernard Williams' rebuttal against Parfit's view that psychological continuity is a criterion of identity. Finally, I will address the unresolved issue of the importance of personal identity surrounding the debate over the acceptance or rejection of Parfit's view of personal identity.

[...] This disregard for the common view that personal identity involves something beyond psychological continuity in a one-one relation would cause a radical change in our belief system. It undermines the deep-seeded belief ?that however much we change, there's a profound sense in which the changed us is going to be just as much (?Brain Transplants? 301). Instead, the Derek Parfit that exists tomorrow will be much more closely related to the present Derek Parfit than the Parfit that exists twenty years from now. [...]


[...] A conventional view of personal identity would assert that there must be an answer to the question, ?Which one is now However, none of the three possible responses to the question seem to give a reasonable answer. Possibility that I am now both of the resulting people, is contradictory. It violates the one-one relation of identity. In addition, the resulting persons will be different people and live different lives, so they cannot possibly both be me. Possibility that I am going to be one of the two resulting bodies, is also unsatisfactory, as it requires a totally arbitrary selection of one of two exactly similar people. [...]

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