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On the ambiguity of ”the same person’”

Vilius Dranseika (Vilnius University)

Wykład gościnny pt. On the ambiguity of ”the same person’”

29 marca 2019, 11:30, sala 4, Instytut Filozofii UW (ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 3)


It is quite common in the literature of psychology, experimental philosophy, neuroethics, and philosophy of psychiatry, to treat such phrases as “I am/she is still the same person” and “I am not/she is not the same person anymore” as indicating ascriptions of, respectively, continuity or disruption of identity. Ascriptions of continuity or disruption of identity on the basis of evaluation of short probes containing such phrases “still the same person” or “not the same person anymore,” however, can be subject to ambiguities between different notions of identity. Sometimes it can be used in a numerical sense, and sometimes in some other sense of identity, such as qualitative identity, narrative identity, the persistence of true self, or the persistence of essential moral self. In this paper, I discuss one way how this potential for ambiguity of “the same person” can be addressed. Other languages than English can sometimes be better suited to disambiguate different senses of identity in a simple and economic manner. Take the distinction between numerical and qualitative readings of identity, for instance. In the English language “the same” can be used to express either of the two senses of identity and without larger context it can be difficult to interpret simple expressions containing “the same person.” In Lithuanian, however, there is a pair of phrases that can be used to contrast numerical identity with qualitative identity: tas pats and toks pats. This distinction is also lexicalized in a number of other languages, including Polish and Spanish. I present results of a set of studies, which collectively suggest that a number of empirical results in the current literature on personal identity – and, in particular, on the moral self – suffer from failure to disambiguate between numerical and qualitative readings of identity.