I Am You

The Metaphysical Foundations for Global Ethics

  • Daniel Kolak

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 325)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxii
  2. Pages 1-42
  3. Pages 43-106
  4. Pages 107-142
  5. Pages 143-167
  6. Pages 168-195
  7. Pages 196-298
  8. Pages 299-316
  9. Pages 317-348
  10. Pages 349-374
  11. Pages 375-514
  12. Pages 515-551
  13. Pages 552-605
  14. Back Matter
    Pages 606-678

About this book


Borders enclose and separate us. We assign to them tremendous significance. Along them we draw supposedly uncrossable boundaries within which we believe our individual identities begin and end, erecting the metaphysical dividing walls that enclose each one of us into numerically identical, numerically distinct, entities: persons. Do the borders between us—physical, psychological, neurological, causal, spatial, temporal, etc.—merit the metaphysical significance ordinarily accorded them? The central thesis of I Am You is that our borders do not signify boundaries between persons. We are all the same person. Variations on this heretical theme have been voiced periodically throughout the ages (the Upanishads, Averroës, Giordano Bruno, Josiah Royce, Schrödinger, Fred Hoyle, Freeman Dyson). In presenting his arguments, the author relies on detailed analyses of recent formal work on personal identity, especially that of Derek Parfit, Sydney Shoemaker, Robert Nozick, David Wiggins, Daniel C. Dennett and Thomas Nagel, while incorporating the views of Descartes, Leibniz, Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, Kant, Husserl and Brouwer. His development of the implied moral theory is inspired by, and draws on, Rawls, Sidgwick, Kant and again Parfit. The traditional, commonsense view that we are each a separate person numerically identical to ourselves over time, i.e., that personal identity is closed under known individuating and identifying borders—what the author calls Closed Individualism—is shown to be incoherent. The demonstration that personal identity is not closed but open points collectively in one of two new directions: either there are no continuously existing, self-identical persons over time in the sense ordinarily understood—the sort of view developed by philosophers as diverse as Buddha, Hume and most recently Derek Parfit, what the author calls Empty Individualism—or else you are everyone, i.e., personal identity is not closed under known individuating and identifying borders, what the author calls Open Individualism. In making his case, the author:


* offers a new explanation both of consciousness and of self-consciousness


* constructs a new theory of Self


* explains psychopathologies (e.g. multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia)


* shows Open Individualism to be the best competing explanation of who we are


* provides the metaphysical foundations for global ethics.


The book is intended for philosophers and the philosophically inclined—physicists, mathematicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, linguists, computer scientists, economists, and communication theorists. It is accessible to graduate students and advanced undergraduates.


consciousness ethics Immanuel Kant John Rawls Kant metaphysics morality philosophy

Authors and affiliations

  • Daniel Kolak
    • 1
  1. 1.William Paterson University of New JerseyWayneUSA

Bibliographic information