Yes… Personal Identity is a hardy topic of metaphysics.

If you’re me and can trail off for days-at-a-time tracking a thread of philosophical thought… Through the bog in the woods up the mountain side tumbling down into valleys then trudging back across that rolling range from hence you came but now in the dead of night …You’d maybe agree that some details are over-thought over-analyzed over-explained along the way. But. All lines of questioning-and-answering are motivated. An argument for / against / in addition to or otherwise propositioning the sensibility of a worldview.

For myself this is among the most agitating and captivating of reading experiences. A tendency to contemplate the vices and consequences of worldviews have I. To inter-relate textual thought with observations of the world’s workings. Events and circumstances and resolves. Memories and feelings and sensations. ‘Tis the meaning in all that thinking in the first place; one can only hope.

That knowledge and comprehension might have an impact on how go we about living our lives.

And in particular ways true but. A worldview interprets the meaning in knowledge acquired. Can emanate from within ‘a way of life’ or vice versa. Influence the choices we make individually. The objectives we undertake as a group. The parameters within which we will accept beliefs and/or reject ideas as a society.

A politically legitimized or amenable worldview especially filters and exceptionalizes. This sometimes-perpetuates sometimes-instantiates sometimes-structures the expectations we have. An undercurrent of select beliefs permeate and are perpetuated by a style of reasoning with our experiences. In turn, propping up the philosophical pillars which fortify the societal architecture in a place in time. And reciprocally it goes it round like that. From worldview to culture and back again and again.

On several accounts, are we today, living the legacy of metaphysical thought many hundreds of years old. So as to forewarn. If in anyway akin to myself, some of these lines of questioning and answering are bound to p^ss you off. For all the above reasons and…

Maybe too it’s due to the type of listening that happens in more intimate settings. Energy posture gesture intonation tonality. A recollection or investigation of the context. Hearing a text conceptually so as to grasp it’s depths. I have, at times, even refused to read on. An intimate manif. A f^#k this I’m not inviting anymore of that nonsense into my head. Nuh-uh.

Met with surprise and confusion. Some are more acquainted with the distancing academia promotes. Doth protest too much; would a supervisor’s facial expression tell. Think of it more as an ongoing conversation; gesturing a would be nudge. A layered discourse stretching to and fro the generations; was his suggested take.

Metaphysics. The longest conversation in the history of the world.

But for the now; make an object of the ideas unto themselves. The detachment does usually buffer just enough, to get me through the close readings, with less likeliness of inciting those internal riots. The advice helped also to remind me not to throw the antique babies out with the swampy bathwater. More than a couple years later, now. I still see the expression intuit the nudge and consider the suggestion. I have since also created a method and reminder for myself that I can more concretely relate to.

For one I must talk back. Just like when watch’n the news. Prevents collecting condensing combustion. Whether out loud or by scribbling in the margins or by way of my notes. That way I’m permitted my involvements even in the act of reading a singular theorist’s text. And this degree of participation I highly recommend.

Afterall, it is within the one literary vantage point we are immersed. Not an overview of all view points at once, nor back and forth, the way we might be ’round a dinner table. And peopled discussions are more engaging, if not also more enlightening, than being told how to think. Further; in a living conversation we are free to agree in part without the lock stock and barrel. We can even attempt to build bridges between or create meeting places that’ll house differing worldviews.

The reminder because one must reach back, into the lineage of vocabularied propositions, in order to share in  contemplation of problems addressed more recently. The above as opposed to swallowing the thread spool whole. And even rather than choosing one over or at the expense of another ancestry; as if wagering upon a competition of heroes.

…. These ruminations throughout my week while revisiting some of those early discourses and employing said methodology. Not always but often enough gets me through the rougher stuff. Might maybe could possibly work for you too.

Orestes and Pylades (1962) by Giorgio e Isa de Chirico

And / Or. Someone could start ya with few summaries and some fundamental explanations right off the top. From there you can pick wherever you’d prefer to honker down (if at all). Serves as background material should future posts confuse but intrigue as well. First a quick clarification. Some links to general overviews of the topic/s at hand. Finally; some introductory (open university) videos.

What is metaphysics? Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy responsible for the study of existence. It is the foundation of a worldview. It answers the question “What is?” It encompasses everything that exists, as well as the nature of existence itself. It says whether the world is real, or merely an illusion. It is a fundamental view of the world around us.”

“What does being the person that you are, from one day to the next, necessarily consist in? This is the question of personal identity, and it is literally a question of life and death, as the correct answer to it determines which types of changes a person can undergo without ceasing to exist. Personal identity theory is the philosophical confrontation with the most ultimate questions of our own existence: who are we, and is there a life after death? In distinguishing those changes in a person that constitute survival from those changes in a person that constitute death, a criterion of personal identity through time is given. Such a criterion specifies, insofar as that is possible, the necessary and sufficient conditions for the survival of persons.” – Carsten Korfmacher’s entry at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

“Much of the debate about identity in recent decades has been about personal identity… it is fair to say that recent work has focused particularly on the following areas: the notion of a criterion of identity; the correct analysis of identity over time, and, in particular, the disagreement between advocates of perdurance and advocates of endurance as analyses of identity over time; the notion of identity across possible worlds and the question of its relevance to the correct analysis of de re modal discourse; the notion of contingent identity and the notion of vague identity.” – Harold Noonan’s entry at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

This four part lecture by Peter Millican, at Oxford, keeps description of ‘the problem’ short and sweet:

A more involved series of lectures, at Yale, by John Perry summarizes the premise of discourses. The four videos are approx 45min each:

[Lecture 10] Personal Identity, Part I: Identity Across Space and Time and the Soul Theory

[Lecture 11] Personal Identity, Part II: The Body Theory and the Personality Theory

[Lecture 12] Personal Identity, Part III: Objections to the Personality Theory

[Lecture 13] Personal Identity, Part IV: What Matters?

[Lecture 14] What Matters (cont.); The Nature of Death, Part I


One thought on “The Metaphysics Of Personal Identity

  1. Pingback: Surviving The Enlightenment. | scrapaduq

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