Personal Identity and Thought Experiments

Tamar Szabó Gendler

in Intuition, Imagination, and Philosophical Methodology

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199589760
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595486 | DOI:
Personal Identity and Thought Experiments

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This chapter argues that judgments about far‐fetched thought experiments are not helpful in illuminating the concept of personal identity. This is because certain patterns of features that coincide only fortuitously may nonetheless play a central role in the organization of our concepts, and to the extent that imaginary scenarios involve disruptions of these patterns, our first‐order judgments about them may be distorted or even inverted. The core of the essay consists of a detailed assessment and critique of Derek Parfit's widely discussed contention that fission cases reveal that “personal identity is not what matters.” It suggests that Parfit's argument rests on a subtle misapplication of Mill's Method of Agreement.

Keywords: imaginary case; philosophical thought experiment; personal identity; concept; Derek Parfit; fission; Method of Agreement; philosophical methodology

Chapter.  10781 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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