Human Persistence

  • Michael Quante
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 126)


Both the various ways of applying the concept of person and various epistemological-methodological approaches can be found in the context of the issue which has been discussed in an intense philosophical debate ever since Locke added a chapter about the identity of persons in the second edition of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding: the question concerning the identity of persons over time. Locke’s proposal provoked critical reactions associated with the names Leibniz, Butler and Reid. In the second half of the twentieth century, decisively initiated by the works of Wiggins and Williams, a widespread discussion of this issue developed within analytical philosophy. Initially, the dispute was carried out between supporters of a psychological criterion developed following Locke’s memory criterion and supporters of a body criterion which was quickly further developed into a brain criterion. But soon philosophers such as Chisholm and Swinburne were participating in the debate, taking the whole discussion to be misguided because it was based on the premise that there could be an informative empirical criterion for personal identity through time. Thus a discussion thread was resuscitated that formulated anew the protests of Leibniz, Butler and Reid against Locke’s proposal. In the course of this the various thought experiments to be found in the literature are used to show that every informative empirical criterion for personal identity through time is bound to lead to unacceptable consequences. Hence, two fundamentally different notions meet head-on; and even within both camps the theories exhibit in part serious differences. However, the different proposals can be broken down into simple and complex theories. The characteristic feature of the simple theories is the following set of assumptions:


Personal Identity Natural Kind Complex Theory Biological Approach Simple View 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Quante
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MünsterMünsterGermany

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