Phil 550: (Philosophical Problems in Knowledge and Reality)

The Metaphysics of Persons

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Dr. Christian Perring Fall 1996 TR 2-3.15 pm CB 211

Course description:

This course is an investigation into how we should conceive of ourselves as persons.  This is primarily a
metaphysical issue, but it also has connections with and implications for psychology, morality, the
law, and medicine.  At the core of the discussion is the question: what is it that makes a person the
same individual as time goes by?  A full understanding of this issue requires an historical investigation
of how people have conceived of personhood in the past, and how they have treated cases where
continued personhood was uncertain.  Students will have to chose from the following list what they
will concentrate on: the distinction between humans and other animals, the development of fetuses,
brain bisection experiments, amnesia and fugues, multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia,
Altzheimer's disease and other neurological illnesses, Buddhist conceptions of "no-self" and nirvana,
Siamese and identical twins, and possibly "Star Trek" style teletransporter accidents or the Borg.  We
will use these cases to understand the philosophical implications (or lack of them) of theories of
personal identity.  We will end the semester by looking at the implications of these theories for our
understanding of the nature of self-knowledge.  The modern philosophers we will study are Locke,
Hume, and Kant.  We will also read contemporary work by philosophers working on these issues in the
last two decades.  Students should expect to find themselves intellectually stretched and challenged.

Work for the course:

Students will do research into facts concerning human development over a lifetime, from conception to
death, and cases of neurological disorder and mental illness: they will present this (possibly
collaborating in groups of 2) to the class in a student presentation with information handouts  (15%). 
Subsequent written work should use this information in discussion of philosophical issues of
personhood.  There will be a mid-term class exam (30%), and a final 10-15 page (35%) paper.  Students
must write a draft of their final paper.  For the first half of the semester, students will have to write
three 3 page summaries of some of the readings (5% each).  Class participation will count for 5%. 
Attendance is obligatory (1% of grade lost for each class missed after the first 2). 

Required books:
John Perry (editor), Personal Identity University of California
James Baillie, Problems in Personal Identity Paragon, 1993
Kathleen Wilkes, Real People: Personal Identity without Thought Experiments  Clarendon, 1988

Other books and articles: (all are on reserve in the Library)
Kant Critique of Pure Reason  First Division, Chapter II, Section 2: Transcendental Deduction of the
Pure Concepts of Understanding
Quentin Cassam (editor) Self-Knowledge Oxford University Press, 1994
Serge-Christopher Kolm, "The Buddhist theory of 'no-self'" in The Multiple Self edited by Jon Elster,
Cambridge University Press, 1985
Mark Johnston, "Human Beings," Journal of Philosophy  84 1987, pp. 59-83
Mark Johnston, "Reasons and Reductionism," Philosophical Review, 101 1992, pp. 589-618
Mark Johnston ,"Relativism and the Self" in M. Krausz Relativism
Christine Korsgaard "Personal Identity and the Unity of Agency"
Daniel Kolak, "The Metaphysics and Metapsychology of Personal Identity," American Philosophical
Quarterly, 30(1) 1993
Andrew Brennan, "Fragmented Selves and the Problem of Ownership," Proc. Aris. Soc.  143-158, 1989-90
P. F. Snowdon, "Personal Identity and Brain Transplants"
Geoffrey Madell, "Personal Identity and the Idea of a Human Being"
Stephen Clark, Kathleen Wilkes, "How Many Selves Make Me?" I & II
 all in Human Beings edited by David Cockburn, Cambridge University Press, 1991


Thursday August 29:  Introduction
Tuesday September 3: Distinguishing persons from animals: Aristotle, Descartes, Kant,
Frankfurt, Dennett: a quick summary
Thursday 5: Locke "Of Identity and Diversity"and Reid "Of Mr. Locke's Account of
Our Personal Identity" (in Perry)
Tuesday 10: Student presentation: facts relevant to personhood about animals and
fetuses: Wilkes Chapter 2
Thursday 12: Sydney Shoemaker "Personal Identity and Memory" (in Perry) (Locke
summary due)
Tuesday 17: Hume "Our Idea of Identity" (in Perry)
Thursday 19: Hume "Of Personal Identity" and "Second Thoughts" (in Perry)
Tuesday 24: Kant Critique of Pure Reason  First Division, Chapter II, Section 2:
Transcendental Deduction of the Pure Concepts of Understanding
Thursday 26: Student presentation: brain bisection: Thomas Nagel: "Brain Bisection
and the Unity of Concsiousness" (in Perry), Wilkes Chapter 5, Baillie
Chapter 7 (Hume summary due)
Tuesday October 1: Baillie Chapters 1-4
Thursday 3: Parfit: "Personal Identity" (in Perry) (Kant summary due)
Tuesday 8: Daniel Kolak, "The Metaphysics and Metapsychology of Personal
Identity" Baillie, Chapter 5, Wilkes Chapter 1.
Thursday 10: 75 minute mid-term exam
Tuesday 15: Christine Korsgaard "Personal Identity and the Unity of Agency",
Thursday 17: Student Presentation: Buddhism and the No-Self Theory: Serge-
Christopher Kolm, "The Buddhist theory of 'no-self'"
Tuesday 22: Mark Johnston, "Human Beings," "Reasons and Reductionism"
Thursday 24: Mark Johnston, "Relativism and the Self"
Tuesday 29: P. F. Snowdon, "Personal Identity and Brain Transplants"
Thursday 31: Geoffrey Madell, "Personal Identity and the Idea of a Human Being"
Tuesday November 5:  Election Day: Holiday
Thursday 7: Student presentation: Schizophrenia and thought insertion, Andrew
Brennan, "Fragmented Selves and the Problem of Ownership"
Tuesday 12: No class
Thursday 14: Student presentation: Multiple Personalities: Wilkes Chapter 4,
Baillie Chapter 8
Tuesday 19: Stephen Clark, Kathleen Wilkes, "How Many Selves Make Me?"
Thursday 21: Student presentation
 Drafts of final papers due
Tuesday 26: No class
November 28-30: Thanksgiving Holiday
Tuesday December 3: Self-knowledge: Gilbert Ryle, "Self-Knowledge" and G. E. M.
Anscombe, "The First Person"
Thursday 5: Student presentation
Tuesday 10: Self-knowledge: Self-knowledge: Roderick M. Chishom, "On the
Observability of the Self," and D. M. Armstrong, "Introspection"
Thursday 12: Sydney Shoemaker, "Introspection and the Self".
Friday December 13: End of Class Work

Wednesday August 28:  Classes begin
Monday September 2:  Labor Day: Holiday
September 18:   Last day to withdraw with no record on transcript
October 10:   Midterm
October 21:   Last day to withdraw
November 5:    Election Day: Holiday
November 21:   Drafts of final papers due
November 28-30:  Thanksgiving Holiday
Friday December 13:  End of Class Work
Monday December 16:  Final papers due at noon
December 23:   Grades Due

Other resources (also on reserve)

Daniel Flage, David Hume's Theory of Mind, Routledge, 1990
Harold Noonan, Personal Identity, Routledge, 1989
A. O. Rorty (editor) The Identities of Persons  University of California, 1976
Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
Adam Morton, "Why there is no Concept of a Person" in The Person and the Human Mind, edited by
Christopher Gill, Clarendon Press, 1990.
Karen Grandstand Gervais, Redefining Death, Yale University Press, 1986
Douglas N. Walton, On Defining Death: An Analytic Study of the Concept of Death in Philosophy and
Medical Ethics, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1979
Charles Taylor Chapters 1, 2, and 3.1 of Sources of the Self, Harvard University Press, 198?
Quassim Cassam, "Kant and reductionism," Review of Metaphysics 43 1989, pp. 72-106