Personal Identity by Parfit and Swinburne Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1668 Words
Date:  2022-10-23

It is almost unnoticeable that an individual's personal identity remains fairly the same over time. That's evident in everyday actions such as assumptions that plans made will be implemented. It is also evident in the fact that people punished for their crimes are also the same people that committed it. The emergent metaphysical questions on these questions reveal deep philosophical and existential interest in personal identity. Two philosophers; Derek Parfit, and Richard Swinburne offer quintessentially complex and simple views on personal identity respectively. Parfit's views on personal identity can be summarized as reductionist. Parfit offers almost mathematical explorations on the subject from the belief that there's no sufficient touchstone for personal identity. Therefore, apart from the components, people are non-existent.

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Additionally, he formulated that survival is not dependent upon personal identity. Instead, what matters is a relation (R). That is psychological continuity and connectedness. Continuity regarding intersecting chains of intense connectedness. With connectedness arising from character and memory.

On the other hand, Richard Swinburne explores personal identity with two primary questions: What are the criteria of personal identity? What is the evidence supporting the existence of personal identity? (Swinburne 231)

Additionally, how do different evidence pieces measure against one another? Swinburne (232) further postulates that these primary questions often get mixed up in the subject leading to inconclusive answers that mainly dwell on the first question. Swinburne's view on personal identity represents the simple school of thought on the subject, while Parfit gives a complex take on the subject.

Swinburne (231) begins answering his first problem on personal identity by exploring existent solutions. The first solution explored is derived from David Hume's Treatise whereby personal identity is identified as a factor of memory and character similarity. That is, a person P1 at time t1 is also P2 at t2. As such, p2 behaves in similar manners to P1. As such, every person's memories, at any particular time, include all those belonging to any person from earlier in the series of personhood.

Additionally, a person has a similar character to those of any previous members in the series. Swinburne further explores the second solution based on the claim that bodily continuity is the essence of personal identity (232).

Essentially, P1 is the same person as P2 as long as he has the same body as P2. Therefore, body B2 is the same as B2 if the same spatial and temporal path connects them. However, bodily continuity can also be interpreted as the continuity of the specific part of the brain that defines a person's character and is responsible for memory. It is, therefore, true that P1 is person P2 if he has the same brain as P2. That's when this brain has been transplanted in the body of P1. However, these solutions are not true if taken in isolation. In essence, the simple view is the realist approach to personal identity that is figured out by the nature of a person which is contained in one's immaterial soul. As such, from this perspective, a person survives as long as their soul is existent.

On the other hand, Parfit believed that individuals comprise of nothing more than their bodies and brains. Personal identity can be reduced to either without misconstruction. Parfit's approach therefore completely contradicts the realist approach taken by Swinburne. For instance, person P1 at t1 can only exist as person P2 at t2 only if P2 is psychologically continuous with P1 (Rosen 512). From this perspective, survival is not therefore dependent on souls, essences, and even personal identity itself. Instead, Parfit explores survival from various criteria. From the physical criterion, what is necessary for survival is the continued existence of one's entire body. From this view, the nature of a person is therefore continued self-consciousness and awareness of identity as well as its continued existence over time. As such, this type of identity is synonymous with a ship built with continuous pieces of wood. However, the entire ship contains nothing that posses identity. Nor does it care about such a problem. Therefore, if one collected all the pieces of wood making the ship and reassembled them into a rickety ship, it would not be the original ship. Moreover, matter (wood) comprises atoms, molecules, and particles which posses not identity whatsoever. They also don't derive any intrinsic identity from continuous identity over any particular period (Rosen 515).

What joins Parfit's worries about the self and his concerns regarding profound quality and meta-ethics is his conviction that Western rationality and culture have been excessively obliged to the possibility that it is the self which 'matters.' This conviction joins masterminds generally as far separated as Plato, Rawlsians, St. Augustine, libertarians, et cetera, exhibiting its gigantic effect on people's ways of life (Rosen 518). A large number of people feel they are ethically dependable on themselves and, best case scenario, just to those other people who they accept commitments towards for satisfaction reasons. To Parfit, this worry with the self-was not right for two reasons. First, it was not right as an ethical point of view. To his psyche, reason demonstrated that people ought to receive an unquestionably charitable position from which they try to "influence things to go best" for both humanities as it exists now and for who and what is to come. Parfit was one of the organizers of populace ethics. However, the idea that the self is the what matter was not right since humans have great philosophical motivations to stop trusting that there is such a 'self' in any solid sense.

Richard Swinburne acknowledges "the Simple View" as a decent name for his very own position - a view he moreover credits to Butler, Reid, and Chisholm. Here is the start of Swinburne's announcement of the Simple View ("P1" and "P2" should be taken to stand for terms that allude to some self-assertively chosen individual or people - "Obama" and "Nixon" (Gasser and Mathias 34). Swinburne states that philosophers have asserted that personal identity relies upon body congruity, and especially on brain coherence. Swinburne rejects this case and uses a psychological study to do as such. Swinburne asks his reader to envision again that a subject has a task in which an infected piece of her brain is evacuated and replaced by a comparative part from another human brain. The sum that is expelled is one-tenth of the brain. Swinburne asserts that such activities happen, in reality, and that spectators are advocated in assuming that the individual, after the task is the equivalent as the individual before the task. The case that Swinburne makes by utilizing this psychological study is that it is conceivable to assume that evacuating a tenth of a brain and replacing that tenth with material from another brain does not change the identity of the individual who has had a portion of their brain expelled. Besides, he guarantees that the new brain is as yet the brain of the subject who is worked on.

Subsequently, Swinburne concludes that personal identity is grounded in the experience of a progressing mental substance. Personal identity is something that cannot be reductively examined as far as any discernible characteristics. This unanalyzability is the situation because mental substances have what Swinburne calls 'thisness,' and the carrier of this 'thisness' is the soul. In essence, 'Thisness,' as Swinburne characterizes it, is something that makes a subject the specific individual they are (Swinburne 239). Swinburne finishes up his examination of personal identity by expressing that in ordinary life the soul can function as an identity conveyor and cognizant substance on the off chance that it is cooperating with a physical brain. In any case, he holds that it is conceivable that when the brain passes on the soul could get by either being associated with another body or even make do without a body by any means. It is evident that Swinburne's logic of mind is created with an eye to supporting his religious philosophy of Christian revival and eternality. By complexity, Parfit would contend that people require a more extreme break with the possibility of self-hood, and indicates Buddhist thoughts as a decent parallel for what he is endeavoring to accomplish. On Parfit's knowledge, the Buddha teaches people to progressively relinquish their connection to the possibility of the self and the ethical standards identified with it. Parfit trusted they have great philosophical motivations to consider this contention important.

Parfit was not a total critic of the self. He contended that there are individuals on the planet and that they do have some sort of identity. In any case, it is not so strong a thing as people have a long idea. Rather, it is nearer to what he calls a "republic" of elements; bodies, mind, and recollections are converging and communicating with the world in different ways (Rosen 519). This has moral results as per Parfit. Since there is no self in any solid sense, humans are incorrect to give their private needs such a great amount of weight to the detriment of others. Some may take this to be an impermissible sentiment.


Indeed, Swinburne and Parfit offer psychological studies to support this conclusion. They portray some situations as far as the physical and mental congruities that could hold between people existing on various occasions, and afterward, they welcome the audience to see that there are at least two practices to goodness conceivable outcomes predictable with the occasions as depicted - potential outcomes including contrasts in which people exist at which times. There are some conceivable universes in which these physical and mental realities hold, and a solitary individual exists toward the start and the end of the occasions portrayed; and there are others, precisely the equivalent as for physical and mental coherencies, in which a similar individual does not endure the entire scene.

Works Cited

Gasser, George, and Mathias Stefan. Personal Identity: Complex or Simple? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2012.

Swinburn, Richard. Personal Identity. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, vol. 74, 1974, pp. 231-247.

Rosen, Gordon. The Norton Introduction to Philosophy. New York: W W Norton Company.

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Personal Identity by Parfit and Swinburne Essay Example. (2022, Oct 23). Retrieved from

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