A Psychological Criterion of Personal Identity: The Five Problems Revisited

  • Marc Slors
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 86)


My claim in this chapter is that the description of psychological continuity in terms of intertwining psychological connectedness and Ncontinuity, developed in the previous chapter, yields an analysis of the concept of personal identity. There are roughly two ways of defending this claim. First, one may argue that the theory of psychological continuity developed in the previous chapter is better at accounting for the four features (Chapter 2, Section 2) than Parfitian continuity. Secondly, unlike Parfitian continuity the new description of psychological continuity might be argued to be able to deal with the five problems for a psychological criterion of personal identity described in Chapter 2. I shall opt for the second possibility (see Schechtman 1996 for a very interesting discussion that resembles the first option). I will discuss each of the problems outlined in Chapter 2 in turn and argue that the content-oriented conception of psychological continuity implies solutions to these problems in which no reference needs to be made to the substrata of mental contents.


Personal Identity Mental Content Perceptual Content Bundle Theory Bodily Continuity 
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  1. 1.
    This is in fact an example of condensed memory. See Chapter 3, Section 5.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Where `being’ is not synonymous `body.’ As argued in the previous chapter, I am leaving open the possibility that persons are able to change bodies. I am aware that this makes it harder to identify the referent of `being.’ See on this matter Section 6 of this chapter.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    There is no conflict between this and the thesis that person-stages are continuous in virtue of the fact that earlier stages provide the background against which a present stage becomes intelligible and against which the epistemic entitlements of a present stage can be assessed. For we might define this kind of connectedness in counterfactual terms: if one remembers these earlier stages, then one’s present stage would be fully intelligible and one would be able to assess it’s epistemic entitlements.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For a somewhat more detailed discussion of this issue, see Slors (2000).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Strawson (1959); Williams (1957, 1973); see also Schechtman (1990a, 1996) and Cuypers (1994, pp.35–50).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See e.g. Perry (1975a) and Dennett (1981).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    The claim that one body can generate numerically distinct, qualitatively identical contents is made also by those who defend the so-called cohabitation or multiple occupancy thesis (Lewis (1976), Perry (1976), Noonan (1989), Mills (1993)). This thesis is meant to avoid the counterintuitive consequences of fission (see Chapter 2). Rather than construing fission cases as cases in which one stream of conscious contents divides into two, the cohabitation thesis construes them as cases in which there already are two numerically distinct but qualitatively identical streams before fission (which merely become qualitatively distinct after fission).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc Slors
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal Dutch Academy for the Arts and SciencesUniversity of NijmegenThe Netherlands

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