Philosophical Background | jcarlsmith | August 30, 2012


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Philosophical Background

by jcarlsmith Show/Hide
This playlist provides a brief introduction to the contemporary philosophical debate surrounding the nature of personal identity. Again, the goal is not to resolve the debate (though the “Mad-Scientist” test is meant to prompt the reader's personal intuitions), but rather to provide the reader with the background necessary to understand the ways in which the philosophical assumptions we bring to our understanding of DID will directly impact our legal conclusions. EDIT PLAYLIST INFORMATION DELETE PLAYLIST

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  1. 1 Show/Hide More Understanding the Persistence Question
    There is a person sitting at your computer right now, reading these words. Earlier today, there was (probably) a person that got out of your bed, brushed his or her teeth, and ate breakfast. What makes these two people both “you”? Or, more generally, what has to be the case for a person in the past to be identical to a person in the future? This is a summary of some of the central issues involved in attempting to answer this question. Start at Section 2: “Understanding the Persistence Question,” and read through Section 5: “Fission.”
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  3. 3 Show/Hide More What, exactly, is a "self"?
    This is an article about DID and self-hood, written Nicholas Humphrey, a theoretical psychologist, and Daniel C. Dennett, a contemporary (and relatively famous) philosopher of mind. Start at the bottom of page 6 (“Many people who find it convenient…”) and read through the middle of page 12 (“we shall be able to come closer to an answer…”).
    <p>Humphrey and Dennett describe two conceptions of self-hood &#8212; a &#8220;layman's&#8221; view, according to which there is a real thing called a &#8220;self&#8221; or a &#8220;soul&#8221; that thinks thoughts, controls actions, holds memories, etc; and a &#8220;revisionist&#8221; view, according to which selves are explanatory fictions, used to talk about complex systems at a certain level of description, but non-existent in some ultimate sense. Does their attempt at an analogy with American Democracy succeed in bridging the two views?</p> <p>More importantly, to what extent is the &#8220;layman's&#8221; conception of the self &#8211; which ascribes to people a &#8220;soul-like agency&#8221; -embedded within our criminal justice system? What would a justice system that reflected the &#8220;revisionist&#8221; conception of the self look like? Could we justly hold &#8220;centers of narrative gravity&#8221; or &#8220;ways of talking about complex systems&#8221; responsible for murders or rapes? Can we mete out punishments based on an &#8220;explanatory fiction&#8221;? These are large questions in legal philosophy that cannot be answered here. Yet the challenge of prosecuting defendants with <span class="caps">DID</span> quickly begins to raise them in earnest.</p>

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May 21, 2013

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