Ego Theory and Bundle Theory

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  • Topic: Mind, Corpus callosum, Theory
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Intro to Philosophy

Ego Theory and Bundle Theory
Derek Parfit's views on personal identity and the Ego and Bundle Theory are all summarized in his article “Divided Minds and the Nature of Persons”. In his article, Parfit explains the distinction between Ego theory and Bundle theory and provides several arguments against Ego Theory. Although it proves to be very difficult to believe the Bundle Theory, Parfit’s critique is convincing and well thought out.

In order to defend the Bundle Theory of personal identity Parfit begins to describe it and differentiates it from Ego Theory. Parfit states that there are two theories about what persons are or what a person’s personal identity really is. According to Ego Theory, each person has an “ego,” or subject of experiences. The ego is something intangible, outside of the body and brain, similar to the existence of a soul. Events happen to a person and those events are brought together by the being that experiences it. According to Ego Theory, this explains the unity of a person’s whole life; the fact that all of the experiences in this life are had by the same person. This theory is the easiest one to believe for most people because it’s what we believe a person to be. Derek Parfit, however, rejects this theory in favor of the Bundle Theory.

The Bundle Theory states that we can’t explain the unity of consciousness by referring to a person. There is no person separate from the brain and the body, but rather every person is a series of different states, events, thoughts, and sensations. Therefore, a person’s life is unified through the actual experiences and later memories “like a bundle tied up with string”. This view is rejected by most people because, in a sense, it denies the existence of persons.

To test these two theories, Parfit performs a thought experiment. The experiment involves an imaginary form of “teletransportation” where you enter a cubicle and a machine scans your cells and is able to place an...
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