Monday, July 12, 2010

Personal identity (24)


In The Blue and Brown Books Wittgenstein writes: “Now let us ask ourselves what sort of identity of personality it is we are referring to when we say ‘when anything is seen, it is always I who see’ ” (Blackwell, 1969, p. 63). Here I’ll not follow Wittgenstein’s argumentation but I’ll put the quotation within the frame of the current debate on personal identity.
I am walking with wife in a little town and she says: “Look, storks!” Then I ask her (inspired by Wittgenstein): “Do you see the storks or do your eyes see the storks?” Does it make any difference then whether she points to her eyes or to her chest? In case she points to her eyes does that mean that her eyes see the storks but that she does not see them? And in case she points to her chest, does it mean that my wife herself sees the storks but that her eyes don’t see them? And if we think that our personality is made up of our psychological characteristics like our memory and other mental characteristics, as the adherents of the psychological continuity of personal identity do, is it so then that my wife as a person can see the storks with her eyes closed, in case it is so that she as a person sees the storks? Or are our eyes like a pair of binocles that we need when the storks are so far away that we cannot observe them with the naked eye? How weird to suggest that I am not an integrated whole.
(By the way, why do we point to the chest, when asked who did see the storks, if one of us did? Why do we don’t point to our brain? For, if the adherents of the psychological continuity of personal identity are right, isn’t it so then that the person goes where the brain goes, as we swap our brain with another brain in another body, and wouldn’t it be then obvious to point to our brain?)

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