The Argument from Rationality for Absolute Personal Identity

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I have seen this argument used before elsewhere, but I thought I would post it here when I was reminded of it while reading Andrea Christofidou’s paper “God, Physicalism, and the Totality of Facts” (Philosophy, vol. 82, October 2007, pp 515-542). I think its fairly well-known, but I want to expose people who haven’t heard of it before. It attempts to show that a view of personal identity as an absolute and irreducible non-physical quality that defines us (as opposed to something like memory grounding personal identity) is a precondition for us to be rational.

The Argument from Rationality:

1. In order for me to be rational in forming my beliefs, I must be able to consider all the premises of an argument and its conclusion.

2. In order to be able to consider all of the premises of an argument and its conclusion, I must exist from the moment I consider the first premise to the moment I assent to or reject the conclusion.

3. If I exist from the moment I consider the first premise to the moment I assent to or reject the conclusion, then I am absolutely the same particular individual across a stretch of time.

C. Therefore, in order for me to be rational in forming my beliefs, I must be absolutely the same particular individual across a stretch of time.

Insofar as the defender of memory views of personal identity and other views aren’t willing to give up their claim to rationality (lest we dismiss them and ignore them) it seems they must agree that we are absolutely the same particular individual across a stretch of time. I think the absolutist view of personal identity causes problems for physicalism as I have argued elsewhere. I wonder how a defender of a non-absolute view of personal identity would defend against this?

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5 Responses to “The Argument from Rationality for Absolute Personal Identity”

  1. Brandon Says:

    Thanks for the post. Is Christofidou a Christian (Orthodox)? I would be curious to know.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. MG Says:

    Brandon–

    I donno. Her wikipedia and webpage say she’s an ardent dualist and that she was born in Cyprus, so its definately consistent with her being Christian and Orthodox.

    What did you think of the argument? Does it seem sound to you? I’m somewhat suspicious of it (even though I endorse it) because I haven’t read if there are any counter-arguments, and the argument looks suspiciously simple.

  3. bríde Says:

    MG knows this already, but I’m kind of nervous about saying Orthodoxy is compatible with dualism.

    Cartesian dualism, as it would seem is most likely endorsed by Christofidou, is doubly suspicious to me.

  4. Keith Brian Johnson Says:

    This seems a trivial thing to say, but I’ll say it anyway: One might have the same personal identity only intermittently, while having no identity at all or no conflicting identity at other times.One may also have an evolving identity that is simply overwhelmingly self-similar from moment to moment over relatively short periods of time–say, while considering arguments–or that is self-similar in relevant ways in the periods of consideration of rational argument.But I confess I’m not familiar with this issue.Keith Brian Johnson

  5. MG Says:

    Keith–Thanks for posting. I would be glad to interact with you on this subject, but I’d appreciate it if we could move the discussion to our new wordpress blog:www.wellofquestions.wordpress.comThanks!

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