Philosophical Studies

, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 21–35 | Cite as

Parfit on fission

  • Jens Johansson

Derek Parfit famously defends a number of surprising views about “fission.” One is that, in such a scenario, it is indeterminate whether I have survived or not. Another is that the fission case shows that it does not matter, in itself, whether I survive or not. Most critics of the first view contend that fission makes me cease to exist. Most opponents of the second view contend that fission does not preserve everything that matters in ordinary survival. In this paper I shall provide a critique that does not rely on either of these contentions. There are other, interrelated reasons to reject Parfit’s defense of the two theses. In particular, the availability of the following view creates trouble for Parfit: I determinately survive fission, but it is indeterminate which fission product I am.


Personal identity Parfit Fission What matters 



For helpful comments I am very grateful to Krister Bykvist, Kent Gustavsson, Matthew Liao, Rebecca Roache, and an anonymous referee.


  1. Brueckner, A. (1993). Parfit on what matters in survival. Philosophical Studies, 70, 1–22. doi: 10.1007/BF00989659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ehring, D. (1999). Fission, fusion and the Parfit revolution. Philosophical Studies, 94, 329–332. doi: 10.1023/A:1004372723591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Johansson, J. (2007). Non-reductionism and special concern. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 85, 641–657. doi: 10.1080/00048400701654804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Lewis, D. (1976). Survival and identity. In A. Rorty (Ed.), The identities of persons. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Merricks, T. (1997). Fission and personal identity over time. Philosophical Studies, 88, 163–186. doi: 10.1023/A:1004210420052.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Noonan, H. (2003). Personal identity (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Olson, E. T. (1997). Relativism and persistence. Philosophical Studies, 88, 141–162. doi: 10.1023/A:1004210103213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Olson, E. T. (2006). Imperfect identity. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 106, 249–266. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9264.2006.00147.x..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Parfit, D. (1971). Personal identity. The Philosophical Review, 80, 3–27. doi: 10.2307/2184309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Parfit, D. (1976). Lewis, Perry, and what matters. In A. Rorty (Ed.), The identities of persons. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  11. Parfit, D. (1984). Reasons and persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Parfit, D. (1993). The indeterminacy of identity: A reply to Brueckner. Philosophical Studies, 70, 23–33. doi: 10.1007/BF00989660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Parfit, D. (1995). The unimportance of identity. In H. Harris (Ed.), Identity: Essays based on Herbert Spencer lectures given in the University of Oxford. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  14. Parfit, D. (1999). Experiences, subjects, and conceptual schemes. Philosophical Topics, 26, 217–270.Google Scholar
  15. Parfit, D. (2007). Persons, bodies, and human beings. In D. Zimmerman, T. Sider, & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Contemporary debates in metaphysics. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  16. Sosa, E. (1990). Surviving matters. Nous (Detroit, Mich.), 24, 297–322. doi: 10.2307/2215530.Google Scholar
  17. Thomson, J. J. (1997). People and their bodies. In J. Dancy (Ed.), Reading Parfit. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  18. Unger, P. (1990). Identity, consciousness, and value. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Williams, J. R. G. (2008). Multiple actualities and ontically vague identity. The Philosophical Quarterly, 58, 134–154.Google Scholar
  20. Wolf, S. (1986). Self-interest and interest in selves. Ethics, 96, 704–720. doi: 10.1086/292796.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations