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Volume 50 • Number 4

October 2013


Reductionism in Personal Identity and the Phenomenological Sense of Being a Temporally Extended Self

by Robert Schroer

The literature on personal identity tends to focus upon what Marya Schechtman (1996) calls “the reidentification question”—that is, the question of what makes a person at time t2 the same person as a person at time t1. If, for expositional simplicity, we refer to the person at t2 as “Future Bob” and the person at t1 as “Current Bob,” the reidentification question is “What makes Future Bob and Current Bob the same person?” A popular answer to the reidentification question focuses on the psychology of Current Bob and Future Bob. Proponents of this general approach are often (but not always) “Reductionists” in that they maintain that persons are aggregates of numerically distinct elements—that is, “person stages”—that are bound together into “persons” via various psychological relations. According to Derek Parfit’s (1984) influential account, for instance, persons are aggregates of person stages that are psychologically continuous with one another, where “psychological continuity” is understood in terms of overlapping chains of strong psychological connectedness. To explain the notion of “strong psychological connectedness,” I first need to explain the more basic notion of psychological connectedness. “Psychological connectedness” consists of direct connections between memories and the experiences that the memories purport to be of, direct connections between intentions and subsequent actions, and the overlap and continuation of various beliefs, desires, etc. Parfit stipulates that if the number of such direct connections/ overlaps between person stages is at least half the number of such connections that obtain every day in the lives of most people, then those person stages qualify as being “strongly psychologically connected” to one another.3 In this paper, I will follow Parfit’s lead and interpret the notion of “psychological continuity/ connectedness” in these same terms.

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ISSN: 2152-1123