Psychological reductionism about persons : a critical development
There is a need to distinguish two questions in the philosophy of persons. One of these is the factual question of identity. This is the question of the conditions of personal identity over time. The other is the first person question of survival. This can be expressed as, “Under which circumstances should I consider a person at another time to be my survivor, who I have reason to care about just as much if he were me?” This second question does not presuppose that the survivor is numerically identical with her predecessor and is the question considered in this thesis. Answering this question requires us to resolve the tension in our concept of a person between, on the one hand, the view of persons as purely physical beings, no more than the sum of their particular parts, bound to the here and now, and on the other hand, as somehow transcendent, beings who exist beyond the here and now. The conception built upon is that offered by Derek Parfit in Reasons and Persons. Two errors in Parfit’s account are explained and amendments suggested. The first is Parfit’s explanation of the unity of a mental life over time in terms of connectedness and continuity between individual, independent thoughts, and secondly his account of connectedness and continuity itself. I suggest that psychological connectedness and continuity must be between persons-at-a-time, not individual thoughts, and that a unified mental life over time is not just a product of enough connections, as Parfit argues, but is determined by the kind of connectedness there is.