PHIL 89.001 – FYS: Special Topics (Personal Identity)
Instructor: Jim Pryor. This course meets TR 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. in CW 103.
You are different now from how you were ten years ago; but still you are one and the same person, who underwent those changes. (You weren’t replaced by an imposter.) What makes you the particular person you are, and the same person as the youth you used to be? What kind of thing is a person, that it can maintain its identity even through such changes? Are we identical to our life stories? Is the idea of a persisting self just an illusion? What would it take for a person to stop existing? Do you have an immortal soul that could survive the death of your human body? Or are you identical to your body? Might it be possible to survive the death of your body by having your brain, or the information in your brain, transplanted into a new body? or into a computer network? Might amnesia or dementia amount to one person’s ceasing and being replaced by another? Would teleportation like they use in Star Trek be a fast means for you to travel — or would that be another way for you to cease to exist and be replaced by a perfect copy? Why do we take special interest in our own continued existence as persons, moreso than the continued existence of people similar to us, or who will push forward our projects? Should we?