Quote of the Day on Personal Identity over Time

Quote of the Day on Personal Identity over Time May 10, 2020

This came from Antrotheist in response to skl, over on this thread. Skl started with:

Your argument that “identity” changes constantly over time not only doesn’t make sense to me, it strikes me as ridiculous.
It’s as ridiculous as saying the person listed on your birth certificate is not you.
It’s as ridiculous as saying ‘Well, we can’t send this convicted criminal to jail, because he’s not the same person as when he committed the crime last month. His cells have changed since then.’
Maybe this is somewhat like the dominoes videos you posted yesterday. You “the parent” are at one end and you “the blastocyst” at the other. But “you” are every one of the dominoes.

This was Anthrotheist’s response:

 “Your argument that “identity” changes constantly over time not only doesn’t make sense to me, it strikes me as ridiculous.”

Does it? You point out a reasonable use of identity, that being the birth certificate. What purpose does that serve, though, besides one of distinction? That is, your birth certificate confirms that you are not someone else, and that someone else is not you. It doesn’t imply in any way that your capacities, your knowledge, your legal empowerments or responsibilities, are in any way unchanged since the creation of that document. It distinguishes those characteristics from any other person who share all the same basic traits that you do (physically, developmentally, etc.), except your legally distinguished identity.

You make the reductio ad absurdum argument that we can’t send someone convicted of a crime to jail because they aren’t she same person that they were a month ago. So should a 40-year-old person be sent to prison because they stole something when they were seven? This ends up being a difference not of identity, but of category. A seven-year-old is as categorically different from a 40-year-old as a blastocyst is categorically different from a newborn.

To continue your line of reasoning, though, would you advocate that a newborn infant is legally culpable for involuntary manslaughter if its birth results in its mother’s death? If a fetus’s pregnancy results in long-term physiological damage to the woman that carries it, is that fetus-turned-newborn legally liable for that assault? If the fetus is the same person and carries the exact same legal protection, it must also carry the same legal liability.

Good stuff.


Stay in touch! Like A Tippling Philosopher on Facebook:

A Tippling Philosopher

You can also buy me a cuppa. Please… It justifies me continuing to do this!

 

"While the misogyny you lament is woven throughout both Christianity and Islam, clearly its roots ..."

Quote of the Day on the ..."
"Since many of the people associated with BLM were progressives who talked a lot about ..."

Cancel Culture Is Butchering the Centre
"Yep, nukes are scary. Today what bothers me is that the 2 countries created by ..."

Quote of the Day on the ..."
"The problem with cancel culture and many of the things in these free speech battles ..."

Cancel Culture Is Butchering the Centre

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!