Identity, self, and dementia

John McMillan

in Dementia

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print December 2005 | ISBN: 9780198566151
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754418 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Identity, self, and dementia

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This chapter begins by distinguishing philosophical notions of personal identity from folk views of identity. Philosophers are primarily interested in identity as a ‘numerical’ or how it is that we know that a person is the same person over time. Folk notions of identity focus more upon ‘qualitative’ identity or the features that a person has. Both notions are relevant to self and dementia but folk theories are especially so. I will suggest that what people often worry about is character change and that this can be fruitfully interpreted by Charles Taylor's suggestion that there is an important connection between agency and an individual's frameworks of the good.

In 1994 the Royal Institute of Philosophy published a collection of papers from a lecture series that was promoted by the Philosophy Special Interest Group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Philosophy, Psychology and Psychiatry contains a paper on personal identity and psychiatric illness written by Tony Hope (Hope 1994). It is a paper that deserves greater attention than it has had thus far, because of the important questions that it raises about personal identity and personality change as a result of dementia.

Hope considers the case history of Mr D. This chapter will revisit the case of Mr D and make a number of related points about qualitative identity or what we might also call a person's sense of self.

Chapter.  3763 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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