Minds and Machines

, 21:549 | Cite as

The Informational Nature of Personal Identity

  • Luciano Floridi


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.


Egopoiesis Philosophy of information Personal identity Self 



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.


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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

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