Advertisement

Minds and Machines

, 21:549 | Cite as

The Informational Nature of Personal Identity

  • Luciano Floridi
Article

Abstract

In this paper, I present an informational approach to the nature of personal identity. In “Plato and the problem of the chariot”, I use Plato’s famous metaphor of the chariot to introduce a specific problem regarding the nature of the self as an informational multiagent system: what keeps the self together as a whole and coherent unity? In “Egology and its two branches” and “Egology as synchronic individualisation”, I outline two branches of the theory of the self: one concerning the individualisation of the self as an entity, the other concerning the identification of such entity. I argue that both presuppose an informational approach, defend the view that the individualisation of the self is logically prior to its identification, and suggest that such individualisation can be provided in informational terms. Hence, in “A reconciling hypothesis: the three membranes model”, I offer an informational individualisation of the self, based on a tripartite model, which can help to solve the problem of the chariot. Once this model of the self is outlined, in “ICTs as technologies of the self” I use it to show how ICTs may be interpreted as technologies of the self. In “The logic of realisation”, I introduce the concept of “realization” (Aristotle’s anagnorisis) and support the rather Spinozian view according to which, from the perspective of informational structural realism, selves are the final stage in the development of informational structures. The final “Conclusion: from the egology to the ecology of the self” briefly concludes the article with a reference to the purposeful shaping of the self, in a shift from egology to ecology.

Keywords

Egopoiesis Philosophy of information Personal identity Self 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The research for this article was funded by an AHRC grant on “The Construction of Personal Identities Online”. Previous versions of it were discussed at the following meetings: “Who am I Online?”, 10–11 May 2010, University of Aarhus, Kaløvig Centre, Denmark; “Personal Identities Online and Information Ethics”, 21–22 May 2010, Department of Philosophy, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey; “Identity in the Information Society, Third Workshop”, 26–28 May, 2010, Hotel Victoria, Rome, Italy; E-CAP 2010 Conference, 4–6 October 2010, Technical University Munich, Germany; Research seminar, 7 December, 2010 Philosophy Department, University of Reading (Reading); Research seminar, 11 March 2010, Balliol College, Oxford, UK; “Personal Identities after the Fourth Revolution”, 17 June, 2011, University of Hertfordshire, UK. I am grateful to the organisers and the participants for their feedback and the opportunity to improve the ideas presented in this article. I am sure I should have taken better advantage of it. A final thanks goes to Gregory Wheeler for his feedback on the last version of this paper and to Penny Driscoll for her skilful copyediting.

References

  1. Bond, A. H., & Gasser, L. (Eds.). (1988). Readings in distributed artificial intelligence. San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar
  2. Churchland, P. M. (1999). Densmore and Dennett on virtul machines and consciousness. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 59(3), 763–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Densmore, S., & Dennett, D. (1999). The virtues of virtual machines. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 59(3), 747–761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Floridi, L. (1995). Internet: Which future for organized knowledge, Frankenstein or Pygmalion? International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 43, 261–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Floridi, L. (2005a). Consciousness, agents and the knowledge game. Minds and Machines, 15(3–4), 415–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Floridi, L. (2005b). The ontological interpretation of informational privacy. Ethics and Information Technology, 7(4), 185–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Floridi, L. (2006). Four challenges for a theory of informational privacy. Ethics and Information Technology, 8(3), 109–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Floridi, L. (2007). A look into the future impact of ICT on our lives. Information Society, 23(1), 59–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Floridi, L. (2008a). Artificial intelligence’s new frontier: Artificial companions and the fourth revolution. Metaphilosophy, 39(4/5), 651–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Floridi, L. (2008b). A defence of informational structural realism. Synthese, 161(2), 219–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Floridi, L. (2008c). The method of levels of abstraction. Minds and Machines, 18(3), 303–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Floridi, L. (2010). Information—a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Floridi, L. (2011a). The fourth technological revolution. TEDxMaastricht. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-kJsyU8tgI&feature=autofb.
  14. Floridi, L. (2011b). The philosophy of information. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hayes, P., Harnad, S., Perlis, D., & Block, N. (1992). Virtual symposium on virtual mind. Minds and Machines, 2(3), 217–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hume, D. (2007). A treatise of human nature: A critical edition (Vol. 1–2). Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  17. Locke, J. (1979). An essay concerning human understanding, the Clarendon edition of the works of John Locke. Oxford/New York: Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Martin, R., & Barresi, J. (2006). The rise and fall of soul and self: An intellectual history of personal identity. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Minsky, M. L. (1986). The society of mind. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  20. Perry, J. (2008). Personal identity (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  21. Pollock, J. (2007). What am I? virtual machines and the mind/body problem. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 76(2), 237–309.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Proust, M. (1992). In search of lost time. 1, Swann’s way. London: Vintage, 1996.Google Scholar
  23. Putnam, H. (1960). Minds and machines. In S. Hook (Ed.), Dimensions of mind. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Schechtman, M. (1996). The constitution of selves. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Sloman, A., & Chrisley, R. L. (2003). Virtual machines and consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10(4–5), 133–172.Google Scholar
  26. Sorabji, R. (2006). Self: Ancient and modern insights about individuality, life, and death. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Sycara, K. P. (1998). Multiagent systems. AI Magazine, 19(2), 79–92.Google Scholar
  28. Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  29. Warren, S., & Brandeis, L. D. (1890). The right to privacy. Harvard Law Review, 193(4), 193–220.Google Scholar
  30. Wooldridge, M. J. (2009). An introduction to multiagent systems (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, Chichester.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of HertfordshireHatfield, HertfordshireUK
  2. 2.Faculty of Philosophy and IEGUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations