Essay Two: Personal Identity

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Purpose

The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate your comprehension of one of the central

topics covered this semester – either the problem of skepticism or the problem of personal

identity.


Skills


This assignment will help you practice the following skills:

• Reading comprehension.

• Working with abstract concepts.

• Assessing philosophical idea.

• Presenting philosophical ideas in writing.


Knowledge


This assignment will help you become familiar with the following content.

• Epistemology

• Skepticism

• Metaphysics

• Logic

• Personal Identity


Essay Two: Personal Identity


*First


Define and contrast “qualitative identity” and “numerical identity.” Give an example of

two numerically distinct items that are qualitatively identical, and then explain how two

photographs could be of qualitatively different but numerically identical subjects. (30

points.)


*Then


Explain that what philosophers mean when they bring up “the problem of personal

identity” is the question “What keeps a person numerically identical to him/herself over

a lifetime despite their undergoing possibly drastic qualitative changes?” Then explain

how philosophers who endorse the brain criterion answer this question and how

philosophers who endorse the memory criterion answer this question. (30 points.)


*Then


Rewatch the trailer for the movie Freaky Friday on Blackboard. Before they eat the

cursed fortune cookie, the character Anna is played by Lindsay Lohan and the character

Tess is played by Jamie Lee Curtis, but after they eat the fortune cookie their identity

becomes philosophically debatable. Explain which characters (who you should call

“Anna” and “Tess”) inhabit which bodies (which you should call “LL” for Lindsay Lohan’s

body and “JLC” for Jamie Lee Curtis’s body) after the fortune cookie scene, according to

the brain and memory criterion of personal identity. Assume that the cursed fortune

cookie swaps their memories between their brains but does not swap their brains

between their skulls. (30 points.)


*Then


Personal identity is both symmetric and transitive – explain what this means. Give

examples of transitive and symmetric relations other than personal identity, and also

give an example of a relation that is neither transitive nor symmetric. Given that

personal identity is both transitive and symmetric, how is it possible for two persons

living ten years apart to be numerically identical to each other according to the brain or

memory criterion of personal identity, even if they believe, desire and remember entirely

different things and their brains have no neurons or cells in common? (30 points.)


*Then


Explain what a “dividing” case looks like for Parfit. While humans cannot divide like

amoeba, he thinks we can describe a case using triplets that results in a scenario very

much like dividing amoeba in the relevant respects. Describe this scenario and explain

what Parfit thinks happens to someone if they “divide” in this way. Which of the two

resulting half-brained people does Parfit think the original whole-brained person is

identical to, if either, and why? (30 points.)


*Finally


We know that our memories are stored in patterns of neural connections in our brains,

and so, in the future, scientists could hypothetically discover the code used by our brains

to store memories and use this knowledge to “implant” memories in our minds by

rewiring our neurons. In this hypothetical scenario, scientists could scan your brain and

use this information to implant all of your memories into a clone. Upon awakening from

surgery, the clone would have all of your memories and no memories of its own – the

clone would think he/she is you.


Imagine that the brain scan procedure would kill your brain if it happened to you.

Nevertheless, it would allow all of your memories to be implanted into a newer, fresher

brain and younger, healthier body whenever you wished. Explain whether or not the

clones with your memories would be you. If this procedure were offered to you, would

you agree to it? Why or why not? (30 points.)



Criteria for Success

Your paper must be in double-spaced 12-point font, Times New Roman, Vani, Georgia, Libre

Baskerville, or Calibri. Give it an appropriate title and bold and/or underline the title. Make sure

your name and date are on it, but don’t put the name of the professor.

• Every step of the task is completed, and in the proper order.

• Every step is written in your own words. You may quote Descartes, Hume, Locke, Parfit,

or any of the course material, but if you do be sure to use proper attribution, and don’t go

overboard with it. You should not be citing or quoting outside sources.

• The paper does not contain any “filler,” i.e. sentences unrelated to the prompt or their

paragraph’s main idea.

• The paper is turned in on time.

• The paper has the proper typesetting spelling, grammar, paragraph structure and

editing.

Correctly following these criteria is worth 20 points.


IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT ALL POINTS ARE PRESENT, AND IDENTIFIED!!! NO MIN OF WORDS, BUT ALL POINTS MUST BE ANSWERED

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