Personal identity and persistence over time : the hybrid view with regard to hylomorphism

Keles, Serap (2020) Personal identity and persistence over time : the hybrid view with regard to hylomorphism. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis is concerned with the concept of personal identity. It aims to identify a simple formulation of what it is for a person x at time t1 to be the same as person y at time t2. In pursuit of this aim, it addresses several metaphysical questions: What are we? Do we have a persistent identity? If so, how does our identity persist? In contemporary debate, there are two established ways of answering these questions. Advocates of biological continuity answer that we are essentially human organisms and that our persistence over time is reducible to biological continuity. Advocates of the rival, psychological view answer that we are essentially persons, whose persistence is reducible to our psychological continuity. Against both of these mainstream views, certain recent works have pointed to the possibility of a new account of personal identity that brings the rival accounts together in a hybrid notion of personal identity. This thesis elaborates and argues for such a hybrid theory of personal identity.

The thesis is divided into four chapters. Chapter 1 begins with an inquiry into the historical roots of the problem of personal identity. It addresses the metaphysical questions of personal identity drawn from early modern philosophers and from contemporary discussions. Chapter 2 builds on Aristotle’s pre-modern, hylomorphic theory to suggest that the hybrid notion of identity is best grounded in Aristotle’s metaphysics and embedded in his substance ontology. Chapter 3 proposes that the most reasonable conception of what we are and how we persist is based on non-reductionist aspects of identity. This chapter draws on and extends Chapter 2’s Aristotelian account of identity by focusing on how the principle of individuation functions within contemporary debate. It argues that constructing and using Aristotle’s non-reductionist model warrants a contemporary hylomorphic view of identity, which renders the hybrid conception plausible. Chapter 4 brings both Eric Olson’s animalism and Lynne Rudder Baker’s constitution view into consideration, arguing that their theoretical innovations can be accommodated by the hybrid view.

The hybrid view proposes that we are essentially embodied, thinking beings. It is thus both non-reductionist and non-dualistic. This thesis supports the case for this view by moving from its Aristotelian foundations to contemporary debate, and by arguing for the view’s rational superiority over its philosophical rivals.

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