- Paperback: 408 pages
- Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (February 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 063123442X
- ISBN-13: 978-0631234425
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,208,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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‘This volume gathers together important essays from two generations of debate concerning the problem of personal identity. Does identity matter as much as survival? Is survival based on psychological continuity or on the animal body? Does the self last through a lifetime, or for much shorter periods of time? Should ethical issues about personhood constrain our metaphysical conceptions of the person? The editors provide a historical framework that places all of these questions in clear perspective.’ Shaun Gallagher, Canisius College, Buffalo, New York <!--end-->
‘A balanced and stimulating anthology, capped by a valuable historical survey of the issues. It's a natural for either primary or secondary class readings.’ Stephen Braude, University of Maryland Baltimore County
‘This volume is a balanced collection of important contemporary essays on personal identity. The editors’ detailed historical overview provides a useful context for the essays. Overall, the book will be an excellent text for graduate and upper-level undergraduate courses, as well as a convenient resource for professional philosophers.’ Lynne Rudder Baker, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
From the Back Cover
Personal Identity brings together the most important readings on personal identity theory in a collection ideal for students, philosophers, and all other interested readers. The volume begins with a detailed introductory historical essay by the editors, which traces the evolution of personal identity theory in the West from classical Greece to the twentieth century. It also describes how, in the early 1970s, philosophers shifted their attention from the 'internal relations' view of personal identity to an 'external relations' view that explores, among other considerations, what matters in survival.
The essays that follow are delineated by this twentieth-century philosophical shift. The first section features seminal papers by such luminaries as Bernard Williams, Derek Parfit, Robert Nozick, and David Lewis. These are the very scholars that were involved in initiating the revolution in personal identity theory. The second section features papers by Christine Korsgaard, Peter Unger, Ernest Sosa, Raymond Martin, Marya Schechtman, Mark Johnston, and Derek Parfit that focus primarily on the new question of survival. Finally, a recent paper on animalism by Eric Olson and one on the self by Galen Strawson indicate new directions in which further discussion might continue.
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Top customer reviews
Does this book carry out its aim? I have to say not. Some of the writings are too well-known for everyone, others are brutally cut, and others just don't meet the standards to get in a textbook. I find it most easy to comment the texts piece by piece.
1.Introduction. This one annoyed me. I simply don't care about the theory of personal identity, especially not in 70 pages, which could have been filled with two contemporary texts.
2-4. Williams', Nozick's, Parfit's and Lewis's contributions: These are great texts, and are classics of the topic. The problem is that they are too well-known to everyone, and - most annoying - all of them are excerpts except Williams's one. I hate excerpts; I don't like when someone else decides which parts of the text are important. Hence, these texts are useless for reference: you have to get the original ones.
5. Korsgaard (excerpt): Korsgaard argues against Parfit and says that persons are unified agents; so she wants to replace the 'Humean' concept of persons with a 'Kantian' one. She takes a so-called practical not metaphysical point of view. Thogh there are some good ideas in this article, I think it's unjustified to suppose that there is a sharp borderline between the practical and the metaphysical questions of personal identity. One cannot handle metaphysical problems by simply neglecting them.
6. Unger: He argues that fission (when an imagined person splits in two like an amoeba) is worse than ordinary survival. I think his arguments are not sound, but - since, of course, it's an excerpt from his book again - the reader cannot judge.
7. Sosa: This is a cutting-edge chapter in this book! Sosa defends the so-called 'neoconservative view' that personal identity - strict, numerical identity - does matter (Parfit believes it doesn't.) Unfortunately this is an exceprt again, a good one, nonetheless.
8. Martin: A solid writing again. Martin argues against the neoconservative view described above. He introduces a new thought experiment which is immune to objections posed against the 'fission case'. I think he fails to prove his thesis, but the paper is still insightful and clever.
9. Schechtmann: An excerpt again, and in my view, it's not very good. Her approach resembles Korsgaard's one: looking at the practical, everyday concept of identity instead of the metaphysical problem. I think she goes in the wrong direction, and misuses identity for cases which are proglematic only for her.
10. Johnston: He argues against Parfit's reductionism: the thesis that a person is nothing over and above his his brain and body. Johnston writes clearly, but this article is quite complicated and sometimes is hard to follow. I think that he begs questions about important issues.
11. Parfit: In this newer (1995) paper Parfit defends the view elaborated in his Reasons and Persons. There is nothing really new here except an interesting classification of kinds of reductionism. Yet worth reading.
12. Olson: A very clear and cutting-edge peper. Briefly, it's a short summary of the arguments presented in his great 'The Human Animal'. If you want to know animalism better, you should read that book anyway, but this article is a good introduction. Olson is animalist, so his approach is radically different from anyone else's in this textbook. He thinks that psychology is irrelevant to personal identity at all.
13. G.Strawson: I admit that I can say nothing about this long article because I don't understand it. Strawson sketches a new picture of the self but that's all I learnt from this text. It's very ambiguous and is simply beyond my cognitive limits...
All in all: there are some good articles in this book, but they are not new. And there are new ones, but they are (with some exceptions) not good. Furthermore, this book doesn't show the width and scope of contemporary debates on personal identity, because it's desperately biased in favour of psychological theories. If you search for a good introduction to contemporary debates on personal identity, this book is not for you.