The Strange Cases of Henry T. and Walter B.: Van Inwagen on Personal Identity, Accountability and Mitigating Circumstances

Part of the Münster Lectures in Philosophy book series (MUELP, volume 4)


This paper deals with two problems that arise in the context of Peter van Inwagen’s treatment of responsibility. First, according to van Inwagen, a human person is identical with a human organism. If so, even drastic events, like an irreversible memory loss accompanied by a severe personality change, would not affect the diachronic identity of persons. It seems at least as plausible, however, to treat the amnesiac like a legal successor who inherits certain obligations without being morally accountable for actions of her predecessor. Second, van Inwagen has argued that neither external (skills, number of opportunities etc.) nor internal (desires, values) factors that have statistical effects on human behavior can provide a moral excuse or mitigating circumstance. We present examples that strongly suggest that van Inwagen’s claim is wrong.


Amnesia Klüver-Bucy syndrome Mitigating circumstance Moral responsibility Personality Personal identity 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty for Catholic TheologyRuhr UniversityBochumGermany
  2. 2.Department of Christian PhilosophyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria

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