Philosophy of Mind Is Bodily Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

.. If we adopt an alternative approach in which we 'give up the language of identity'. (Belshaw and Price, p.88). In the light of this perception, the following scenario applies.

If we give up the language of identity, we can claim that a survives the operation and so survives as two different people, B and C, without claiming that a is identical to either B. Or C. Or both. By giving up claims about identity in favour of claims about survival, we can avoid problems about transitivity.

(Belshaw and Price, p.86)

Therefore, we could say that in the term 'personal identity' what Parfit does is to reduce the importance of the personal aspect and emphasize a criterion of identity that is mental or psychological and not dependent on the body. The important question therefore becomes not "will I exist:" but rather will my life continue. There a many criticisms of this line of thought and some commentators claim that in Parfit's view "Identity is not what matters" - which they seen in a negative light. (Personal Identity as Psychological Continuity)

Williams provides a very different approach to the issue of identity and prefers to retain the more 'personal' and subjective aspect of this question. His argument is intended to cast doubt on the "...widely held view that people are essentially minds, or that mental or psychological considerations are decisive in issues of personal identity" (Belshaw and Price, p.86). He is of the view that bodily continuity plays a vital role in the understanding of personal identity. Central to his argument is his assertion that,."..I shall try to show that bodily identity is always a necessary condition of personal identity..." (Williams, 1973, p. 1). As stated in section of his work entitled, the SELF and the FUTURE, William believes that, "...bodily continuity is at least a necessary condition of personal identity" (Williams, 1973, ' the SELF and the FUTURE').

Williams use a number of different arguments to support his assertion of bodily continuity. In his hypothetical experiments he uses the issue of fear of the future and considers that "'s fears can extend to future pain whatever psychological changes precede it" as an argument for the existence and continuity of bodily identity. (Williams, 1973, ' the SELF and the FUTURE').

Williams also makes use of the reduplication argument. This argument claims that, "we have no way of making identity judgments on the basis of memory claims alone" (Ray) Williams sates that this argument shows that it is not possible from an epistemological point-of-view to make judgments about identity without taking into account the physical body. In effect, he states that "...the omission of the body takes away all content from the idea of personal identity" (Williams, 1973, p. 10).

5. Conclusions

The issue of personal identity and the debate about bodily continuity as a feature of identity is extremely contentious. Central to this contention is the primary assumption of a separation between body and mind. Parfit on the one hand, 're- sets' or rephrases the issue of identity and asserts that the question of personal identity is superseded by the continuance of identity in a psychological sense.

Williams on the other hand, while acknowledging aspects of psychological continuity in identity, emphasizes that the body cannot be excluded from identity. Both these theories present cogent points and their views often interrelate and overlap to a great degees. However, in the final analysis there is no single definitive answer to the central question of this paper.

A possible answer lies in alternative and "simpler' points-of-view, which question the fundamental assumption of the division between body and mind. This view explores identity from a perspective that attempts to transcend thinking in terms of this opposition.


Belshaw C. And Price C. PERSONAL IDENTITY, (reference not provided)

Derek Parfit (1971) Personal Identity. The Philosophical Review, LXXX, 3.

Personal Identity as Psychological Continuity. ECFF58DDF6F3/0/l5_pi_psych_cont.pdf+Bernard+Williams+and+identity & hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=51&gl=za

Ray C. (1998) Identity and Universals: A Conceptualist Approach to Logical,

Metaphysical, and Epistemological Problems of Contemporary Identity Theory.

Williams Bernard (1973) Problems of the Self: Philosophical Papers 1956-1972.

"The basic form of the Reduplication Argument considers two men who claim to remember being a deceased historical figure. If Charles and his brother Robert both claimed to remember being Guy Fawkes, we can easily see that, because the two men are not identical to each other, the expression 'has the same memories as' cannot possibly mean 'has the identical memories' but must mean 'has similar memories as.' We cannot decide which man, if any, is really identical to Fawkes, since they both just have memories similar to what we imagine Fawkes's memories were. But if we must describe Charles and Robert as merely having similar memories, we must surely do so if Charles alone were to make this claim; in the absence of Fawkes's body, we can claim only that that Charles has memories similar to Fawkes's." (Ray).

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