Carly ReynoldsPhilosophy Paper 3December 9, 2017 Thetopic I will be discussing is Derek Parfit’s view of the importance of identity,or rather the lack thereof. The focalpoint of his view of personal identity rests with the question of what mattersfor survival. Parfit argues that survivaldoes not depend on personal identity and that one can survive without theretention of their identity. Establishedaccounts of personal identity include bodily and brain-based psychological criteriaand have been used to address what constitutes a person’s survival. The former, bodily criterion, states that “aperson continues to exist if and only if that person’s body continues toexist.
” (Cahn, 346). The latter statesthat a person’s existence only continues if a future person has enough of thatperson’s brain for psychological continuity. In this sense, a person’s existence rests on whether or not one’s body continuesto function or if psychological continuity is retained—not on the retention of one’spersonal identity. To Parfit, personalidentity is indeterminate and is not what matters to the survival of aperson. The theory of personal identity,to Parfit, simply obscures our understanding of what it means to survive as aperson. Toillustrate this contention, as similarly described in class, let us say thatthe brain of person A is halved and transplanted into the heads of person B andC— B and C now share person A’s memories and other psychologicalconstructs. Here Parfit contests the possibilitiesthat a) person A does not survive, and b) person A survives as either B or C.
The first possibility, person A does notsurvive, is combatted by the fact that the halved-brains of person A continueto operate in persons B and C. The secondpossibility, person A survives as either person B or C, cannot hold becauseeach has an equal claim to being person A. He concludes that though persons B and C (post-transplant) are notidentical to person A, person A survives as both person B and C because of thephysical presence of their brain and the degree of psychological continuitypresent. With that, Parfit contends that personal identity is not what mattersto survival, but rather psychological continuity.
Achallenge 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, eachof whom has half my brain, and is, both physically and psychologically, justlike me” (Akers, 348). The fact that they are two different bodies, contradictswhat 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 wastruly him. While this point, would not be contradicting, it also could not beaccurate, because there is no merit for the basis that he is one person ratherthan the other, they each have half of his brain. With that, Parfit assertsthat in the double case, his relation to the person remains the same, and thatrelation still embodies what matters.
Nonetheless the person cannot be said tobe him, overall, arguing that identity cannot be what matters. Withinevaluation 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 tobe truly correct answers to all questions about identity, while at the sametime, important questions focus in on that of personal identity. “Whenthis relation holds between me now, and two future people, I cannot be calledone and the same as each of these people. But that is not a difference in thenature or content of this relation…In the double case, where both halves willbe successfully transplanted, nothing would be lost” (Akers, 348).
By makingthis statement, he is affirming that his identity is indeed unimportant, forhim to still exist. “Nothing would be lost” in the sense that both halves ofhis brain would be successfully transplanted into two different people, whichwould achieve the overall goal of keeping them alive. Identity has nothing todo with the fact of this case. Lastly, he suggests that we as humans, convertour views about identity, as we become older and more knowledgeable. What matters should not be that someone inthe future may claim to be me ( Carly Reynolds),