How to formulate the problem of personal identity
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Eric Olson and Ned Markosian have, independently, complained that the ways in which the problem of personal identity has been formulated rule out certain views of personal identity just by how the problem is formulated. As a result, both have proposed alternative formulations, each attempting theory neutrality. They have not succeeded, however, since both of their formulations, as well as the formulations that they have rejected, are biased against presentist solutions to the problem, and some are biased against four-dimensionalist solutions, as well as stage theory solutions. In this paper, I show how previous formulations, including Olson’s and Markosian’s, are biased in the ways mentioned, and I propose a list of criteria that any formulation of the problem must meet in order to be theory neutral. Finally, I attempt a formulation that is neutral.
KeywordsPersonal identity Presentism Eternalism Four-dimensionalism Three-dimensionalism Stage theory
Thanks to the audience at the first annual Society for the Metaphysics of Science conference, and especially to Joseph Baltimore, for helpful discussion on an earlier draft of this paper, which I presented at the conference. And I would like to thank Christopher Scott Sevier and David Snyder for reading the paper and giving me helpful feedback on it.
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