Personal Identity and Survival

Topics: Topology, Mind, Personal life Pages: 2 (712 words) Published: April 19, 2007
Personal Identity And Survival

In Parfit's writings on personal identity he attempts to explain the idea that one's personal identity is not the same thing as one's survival. First, I will examine how Parfit comes to this conclusion and provide some examples from his text. Next, I will attempt to explain what Parfit decides is the most important aspect of one's personal identity which is connectedness. Lastly, I will look at connectedness apposed to continuity and why Parfit believes that connectedness is more important and must be looked at as a matter of degree. To begin his argument Parfit starts with an example of a man dividing like an amoeba and in this division the brain will be separated in two, and a half of the brain will be given to each of the new bodies created. Now Parfit entertains the idea that each "new" person will have memories and characteristics of the original person. Next, Parfit poses a few questions pertaining to survival. First, did the original man survive? Is he now one of the two people? Or did he survive as both? It seems likely that he would survive given the fact that he could live with only half his brain. It seems awkward that he would become one person rather than the other because there is no basis for which is better or worse. So Parfit will now deal with surviving as both people. But he prefers to use the notation of two bodies with a divided mind rather than two people. If survival is taken as having the same identity the two new people would be identical as the original person and this seems illogical. It seems implausible that the two divided minds can work together as one person such as they had in the original man. He even goes as far to say, "They [the new men] could live at opposite ends of the earth. If they later met, they might even fail to recognize each other"(Parfit, 401). So, the only explanation is that survival and identity must be separated. "If survive implies identity…you cannot be two...
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