THE DIACHRONIC SELF
Identity, Continuity, Transformation
(c)1995 Max More
PART 1: REDUCTIONISM, CAUSE, AND IDENTITY
Bodily Death and Personal Death: Death of the biological organism and death of the
Two Meanings of 'Dead': Temporary and irreversible loss of life.
Permanence vs. Irreversibility: Permanent and Theoretical Death
Irreversible Cessation and Types of Continuity: Information vs function-based criteria.
Deanimate: A state apart from life and death. Distinctions between deanimate, inactivate
Declaring Death and Deanimation: Declaration as partly factual assessment, partly
Practical Importance of the Deanimate Category: Effects on attitudes, status, and
- Diachronic Identity: A relational view. Self and self-phase.
- Four Theories: Results of Narrow, Wide and Widest Reductionist theories as applied to a
spectrum of cases. Cases.
- Cases and Theories: How the various theories treat the cases.
- Causal Conditions: Internal, external, reliable and unreliable, direct and indirect
causes of continuity. The Causal Condition.
- Which Causal Condition?
- Is a Causal Condition Needed? Critique of Kolak and Martin.
- Argument from Perception: The perception of enduring objects.
- Neurosurgeons and the Slippery Slope: Weakening causal links, levels of abstraction, and
a slippery slope argument.
- Series-Persons: Parfit's argument against Nagel's same-brain criterion.
- Argument by Undermining Contrary Intuitions: Why the Widest Reductionist View produces
PART 2: TRANSFORMATION, CONCERN, AND VALUE
I. THE METAPHYSICS OF CONNECTEDNESS Measuring connectedness: The components of
psychological continuity: memories, intentions, dispositions, beliefs, abilities, desires,
II. NORMATIVE INFERENCES
Reductionism and the Depth of a Life: Is personal identity less deep on a reductionist
view? Is death less significant on a reductionist view?
Transformationism: Connectedness vs. Continuity.
Disproportionality of Connectedness and Concern: Degree of concern for your future phase
need not be proportional to connectedness degree: * Connectedness higher than apparent:
Measures of centrality. Relative weighting of the components in terms of the types of
centrality. * Intrinsically vs. instrumentally significant features.
Transformationism. * Valuing life as a whole/long stretches. * Ideal self: Changes that
bring you closer to your ideal self do not reduce the degree of future concern. Difference
with Taylor's view of evaluations as foundation of identity. * Holding self-transformation
as a central project.
Continuity and Structuring a Life (a) Life Plans: Coherence of action & rational
(b) Principles: Incorporating principles to strengthen sticking to project.
Self-definition by principles. Values & symbolism of actions. Principles as (i)
Foundations: constitute/create identity; (ii) Regulators/filters: set boundaries to
possible actions and identity.
- Augmentative vs. Deteriorative Transformation.
- Raymond Martin on Transformation and Replacement.
II. Integration of Change
- Functional integration.
* Functional not structural integration; distributed existence.
* Does integration require direct control?
* Does integration require exclusive access?
* Does not require choosing the mods.
* Interdependence: Requires mutual support, feedback, homeostasis.
- Enhancement vs. Supplementation
* Enhancements as assimilated abilities, supplements as external.
* Must enhancement require more effort?
* Persistence of effects.
* Chosen and imposed improvements: Ease of assimilation.
- Merit in Sports, games, and tests.
* Biological: steroids, bloodpacking, nutrition, high-altitude training.
* Neurochemical: Smart drugs, mood modifiers (SSRI).
* Genetic modification.
III. Intrinsic and Instrumental Bodily Identity
* Physicalism and psychological reductionism. Bodies as means of expression.
* Instrumental importance of material and form of the body.
* Primacy of function over form.
* Level of function.
* Response to objections to rejection of intrinsic importance of bodily identity.
Conclusion The technological and social trend towards increasing
The Diachronic Self: Identity, Continuity, Transformation By Max More The
Diachronic Self fills out and clarifies the account of personal identity presented by
Derek Parfit in Reasons and Persons. I go on to draw metaphysical and normative
consequences of this psychological reductionist theory. Some of the normative inferences
disagree with those of Parfit. I examine several candidates for a necessary causal
condition for personal identity or continuity and argue that we should accept one of the
most liberal conditions, allowing personal identity to persist even if its cause is
abnormal and unreliable. After establishing a causal condition for identity I apply
psychological reductionism to critically analyze current conditions of and criteria for
the death of persons. I argue that cardiac and consciousness based conceptions are
incorrect. In their place I offer an information-based conception. I then go on to examine
the relative importance of various psychological connections, including memories,
intentions, dispositions, beliefs, desires, values, and projects. It turns out that the
significance of passive elements of the self, especially memories, has often been
overrated in discussions of identity.
Drawing on my metaphysical results, I draw a number of normative conclusions. I differ
from Parfit in holding that reductionism does not make life less "deep" nor
death less significant. I also argue that Parfit puts too much emphasis on connectedness
rather than continuity when assessing the rational apportionment of future-concern. I look
at the roles of an ideal self-conception, life plans, and principles in generating and
sustaining concern for one's farther future self-stages. The final chapter analyses how we
assimilate changes in our selves, especially physical changes resulting from technology. I
distinguish augmentative from deteriorative changes, and draw normative inferences about
whether rationally we should replace ourselves with a better self, if that were possible.
I develop an account of assimilation in terms of functional integration, then go on to
distinguish enhancement from supplementation, noting the importance of this for normative
concerns. Finally, I determine the role of bodily form and function in a psychological
reductionist account of personal identity.
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