Personal Identity

PHIL 490, Fall 2010

Tues/Thurs 12:00-1:15.

Prof. Jacqueline Mariña

Department of Philosophy

Office:  BRNG 7134, 4-4833


Office Hours:  After class, and by appointment.

Description of Course:

This class will be a guided exploration of the problem of personal identity.  In the first part of the course, we will be devoting our attention to how the problem was conceived in the history of philosophy, paying close attention to figures such as Descartes, Locke, Hume, Reid, Leibniz and Kant.  Different parts of the course will have varying levels of difficulty:  the Kant is devilishly difficult, and we will spend a good bit of time on it.   The second part of the course will be devoted to the problem as it has been developed in recent thought.  Since the class will be run as an undergraduate seminar, there will be a premium on class participation.  Each student will be responsible for three in-class discussion starters that will be discussed and critiqued by other members of the class.  These will serve as the basis of the final paper due at the end of the semester. 

Required Texts:

1.Personal Identity, edited by John Perry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008) ISBN:  978-0-520-25642-2.

Our main text should be available at the following bookstores:  Follet’s, University Book Store, and Von’s.  Supplementary readings will be available, either directly on the web, or on Blackboard. 


Course Requirements:

Attendance, class participation, and possible quizzes (10%).  You are expected to attend every class and to participate in discussions.  Students will be penalized for excessive absences. 

Three in-class presentations (3 to 5 pages in length) that you will use to explore an issue and help the class begin discussion. Each presentation is worth 10% of your grade  One or more of these explorations should serve as the basis of your final paper.

One 8-10 page paper (20%) due at the end of the semester.  You will be required to write one (approx. 8-10 page) essay examining in further detail issues or problems discussed in the course.  You are expected to use both primary and secondary sources in your papers. Guidelines for writing an academic essay will be posted on Blackboard.  All kinds of plagiarism will be severely punished:  you will fail the course and be reported to the dean of students. 

Exams.  There will be an in-class mid-term (20%) and a final examination (20%). Exams will consist of essay questions; you will receive a study guide helping you to prepare for exams. 

Tentative Course Outline and Readings:

Assignments and deadlines may be modified during the course of the semester. Reading of primary sources is absolutely essential. In the event of a campus emergency, schedule and requirements are subject to change.

Week One: 

August 24th:      Introduction to the problem of Personal Identity. 

A decent introduction to the problems of Personal Identity in the contemporary literature can be found at:

August 26th:      Modern Philosophy and the First Person Point of View: Descartes.

Please read: Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditations One and Two.  On Blackboard and at: 

Week Two: 

August 31st:      Locke and the Memory Theory.

John Locke, “Of Identity and Diversity,” in Personal Identity (henceforward PI), pp. 34-52.

John Perry, “The Problem of Personal Identity,” in PI, pp. 3-30.

H. P. Grice, “Personal Identity,” in PI, pp. 73-95.

September 2nd:  Criticisms of the Memory Theory.

Joseph Butler, “Of Personal Identity,” in PI, pp. 99-105.

Thomas Reid, “Of Identity,” in PI, pp. 107-112;

Thomas Reid, “Of Mr. Locke’s Account of our Personal Identity,” in PI, pp. 113-118.

Week Three: Leibniz & his Critique of Locke

September 7thNew Essays, Preface, on Blackboard. Material on Blackboard is from  (Lately I’ve had trouble with this site, you might need to go to Blackboard).

September 9thNew Essays Chapter xxvii, “What identity or diversity is” on Blackboard and at:

Week Four:  Hume & The Abandonment of Personal Identity

September 14th: Hume 

The following selections from Hume in PI: “Our Idea of Identity,” “Of Personal Identity,” “Second Thoughts,” pp. 159-176. 

September 16th: Hume continued; introduction to the Kant.

Week Five: Kant’s Transcendental Argument for Identity.

September 21st:  Kant’s reply to Hume:  Transcendental Deduction, A Edition.  From Critique of Pure Reason, translated and edited by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1998; pp. 219-244.  PDF available on Blackboard.

September 22nd:  Transcendental Deduction Continued.

Week Six:  Kant’s Transcendental Argument for Identity continued.

September 28th: Transcendental Deduction: B-Edition.  From Critique of Pure Reason, translated and edited by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1998; pp. 245-266.  PDF available on Blackboard.

September 30th:  B Deduction continued.  Please also read “Identity and Individuation in Kant’s Transcendental Deduction,” available on Blackboard.

Week Seven:  Kant and the Paralogisms of Pure Reason

October 5th:  Kant’s Paralogisms. A-Edition.  Please read Critique of Pure Reason, pp. 409-444. PDF Available on Blackboard. 

October 7th: Kant’s Paralogisms.  B-Edition.  Please read Critque of Pure Reason, pp. 445-458.  PDF available on Blackboard.

Week Eight: 

October 12th: October Break, No Class.

October 14th: Catch up and review. 


Week Nine: Contemporary Memory Theory and its Critics


October 20th:   Anthony Quinton, “The Soul,” in PI, pp. 53-72

John Perry “Personal Identity, Memory, and the Problem of Circularity,” in PI, pp. 135-155.

Sydney Shoemaker, “Personal Identity and Memory,” in PI, pp. 119-134.

Week Ten:  Continuity, Connectedness, and Survival

October 26th:   Derek Parfit, “Personal Identity,” in PI, pp. 199-223 (from Philosophical Review 80 (1971).

David Lewis, “Survival and Identity,” from The Identities of Persons, edited by Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976, pp. 17-66; PDF on Blackboard.

October 28th:   Bernard Williams, “The Self and the Future,” in PI, pp. 179-198.

John Perry, “The Importance of Being Identical,” from The Identities of Persons, pp. 67-90.  PDF on Blackboard.

Week Eleven:  The Physical View & Problem Cases

November 2nd: Peter Unger:  “The Physical View,” from  Identity, Consciousness, and Value, New York: Oxford University Press, 1990; PDF on Blackboard.

Eric Olson, “Thinking Animals and the Reference of  “I,”’ Philosophical Topics 30: 189–208, 2002. PDF on Blackboard.

November 4th:  Brain Bisection

R. W. Sperry, “Hemisphere Deconnection and Unity in Conscious Awareness,” PDF on Blackboard, (from American Psychologist, 23, No. 2, 1968).

Thomas Nagel, “Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness,” in PI, pp. 227-245.

Week Twelve:  Automatism

November 9th:   “Automatism and Secondary Centers of Consciousness,” pp. 301-365, PDF on Blackboard (from Irreducible Mind, Edward F. Kelly, Emily Williams Kelly, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007).

November 11th:  Secondary Centers of Consciousness continued.  Supplementary readings from Myers, Human Personality (PDF on Blackboard).

Week Thirteen:  The Paradox of Self-Deception

November 16th:  “Bad Faith” from Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, pp. 86-116, (New York, Washington Square Press, 1956); PDF on Blackboard.

November 18th:  Mark Johnston, “Self-Deception and the Nature of Mind” from Perspectives in Self-Deception, edited by Brian Mclaughlin and Amélie Rorty, University of California Press, 1988.  PDF on Blackboard.

Raphael Demos, “Lying to Oneself,” Journal of Philosophy 57, (1960): 588-595.  PDF on Blackboard.

Week Fourteen:  Taking Stock.

November 23rd:  Catch up & Review.

November 25th:  Thanksgiving Break:  No Classes.

Week Fifteen:  Personal Identity, Agency and Morality.

November 30th:  Harry Frankfurt:  “Identification and Externality,” from The Importance of What We Care About, Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 58-68. PDF on Blackboard.

Ronald de Sousa, “Rational Homunculi,” in The Identities of Persons, pp. 217-238.

December 2nd:    Derek Parfit, “Personal Identity, Rationality, and Morality,” from Reasons and Persons (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1984).  PDF on Blackboard.

Christine Korsgaard, “Personal Identity and the Unity of Agency: A Kantian Response to Parfit,” from Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 18, No. 2.  PDF on Blackboard.

Week Sixteen:  Personal Identity and Morality Continued.

December 7th:  Bernard Williams, “Persons, Character, and Morality,” from The Identities of Persons, pp. 197-216.  PDF on Blackboard.

December 9th: Harry Frankfurt, “The Importance of What we Care About,” from The Importance of What We Care About, pp. 80-94.

Charles Taylor, “Responsibility for Self,” from The Identities of Persons, pp. 281-299.  PDF on Blackboard.

December 13-18:  FINALS.

Books on reserve:

1.Harry G. Frankfurt, The Importance of What We Care About, Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1988.

2.Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons, Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1984.

3.The Identities of Persons, edited by Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1976.

4.Peter Unger, Identity, Consciousness, and Value, New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.