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Personal Identity and Ethics

Our default assumption, usually subject to criticism subsequently if at all, is that we are robust, unified selves. I am, was, and will be me; maybe death cuts me short, maybe I get absorbed in my activities and in other people, but these conditions typically challenge my basic commitment to being a self, rather than overturning it.

Conceptions of what we are seem to draw significantly on culture, biology, and life-experience. This means that they are open to significant revision, as anyone's memories of their changing self-image can attest. And questions concerning what we ought to do, what we owe to each other, and so on appear to presume such conceptions. This means that re-conceiving the self has implications for morality, and vice versa.

To the extent that we come to think of persons as constituted by their relationships, for instance, moral discourses stressing the separateness of individuals will ring false. If we start to feel that unified selves are basically fictitious, then our concepts of guilt and punishment will shift, plausibly in a consequentialist direction. If we become convinced that persons are metaphysically separate from the ordinary world, then investing in that ordinary world may start to seem counterproductive.

This article contains many useful points that will help to structure our discussion, both conceptually and historically:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-ethics/

Attendees are invited to take a look at it, but are by no means required or expected to. Some reference will probably be made to it, but this discussion will (inevitably!) be very much about us.

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  • Brian

    We cannot have true understanding of a part if we have false understanding of the whole. And vice versa.

    July 30, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Ooh, I would really like to go, but going to a Singer meetup instead for more ethics.

    July 28, 2014

    • Imran M.

      Singer is giving a talk?

      July 28, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      No, it's a meetup about one of his books.

      July 28, 2014

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