Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Subject and person : an essay on self-reference and personal identity
Author: Spitz, Roland
ISNI:       0000 0001 3475 4466
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1992
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access from Institution:
The main aim of this thesis is to investigate the relations between the topics of self-reference and personal identity and to demonstrate that, and how, certain misconceived views concerning self-reference have influenced the interpretation of various 'thought-experiments' cited in recent discussions of personal identity. The problem posed by personal identity, I argue, is not so much an ontological problem concerning the special nature of a particular kind of substances (i.e. persons), but consists rather in the fact that I (and all other persons) are tempted to take our identity to be governed by a criterion of identity different from the criterion governing the identity of all other kinds of concrete particulars (namely spatio-temporal continuity). I argue that this temptation stems from the possibility of adopting a first-person point of view towards personal identity. This possibility is shown to be intimately connected with a person's ability to refer to himself-as-subject (i.e. without the application of any criteria of his identity). This particular kind of self-reference displays certain epistemic idiosyncracies which make us susceptible to certain systematic illusions with regard to the nature of persons and of personal identity over time. Following Kant, I call these misconceptions 'paralogistic illusions', and I try to show that,and how, various thought-experiments envisaging a person's putative 'body-change' draw their persuasive strength from these illusions. Kant's distinction between a purely 'logical' and an ontological, or substantial, understanding of the 'identity of the subject' is shown to be central to a dissolution of the illusion as well as to the solution of various philosophical conundrums concerning (particular kinds of) memory and imagination. The view of persons and their identity that emerges from the discussion differs sharply from both a 'Simple View' and a 'Reductionist View' of personal identity. Persons, it will appear, are a functionally definable sub-class of animals, and - given the fulfilment of certain background-conditions ~ a person's numerical identity over time consists in the spatio-temporal continuity of his living body.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Identity (Philosophical concept) ; Self (Philosophy)