Reviews - What do customers think about Personal Identity (Great Debates in Philosophy)?
On What We Are Nov 2, 2008
The problem of personal identity is about the nature of persons and their persistence conditions, what makes a person at one time identical to a person at another time. This book is a debate between Shoemaker and Swinburne about personal identity. Each first presents and defends his own theory at length, and then replies to the presentation of the other. Shoemaker argues for a psychological continuity theory on which a person at one time is identical to a person at a later time because of continuity of psychology, including memories and character traits. He combines this with a materialist theory of the nature of persons on which the relevant psychological properties are realized physically. Swinburne argues for a dualist theory on which the person is identical to an immaterial soul, and persists through time in virtue of the persistence of his soul. The theories are defended clearly, carefully and thoroughly. The book is engaging and illustrated with examples involving the duplications of persons and brain bisections. However, there are two problems in my opinion. First, there should have been more treatment of the bodily continuity theory, even though neither of the debaters defends this theory. Secondly, the replies are very brief, and there should have been more subsequent replies, more conversation between the debaters. Nevertheless, this is an excellent debate and treatment of the psychological continuity and dualist theories. This book may prove difficult for those without previous exposure to analytic philosophy or the problem of personal identity, and I recommend "A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality" by Perry as an introduction to the problem.