Personal identity over time

What does personal identity over time consist in? Does it consist in psychological continuity? Does it consist in bodily continuity? Or does it consist in something else, perhaps the persistence of a simple, immaterial soul—or, perhaps, some sort of combination of any of the above? (Look at the arguments we studied by John Locke, David Hume, Leibniz, Parfit)

In your paper, you have three tasks:

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Task 1—Explain what the question of personal identity over time means.

Your job here is to get across in your own words what it is we’re interested in when we ask about personal identity over time. What is it and why does it matter?

Task 2—Present and defend an argument for one of the abovementioned options.

Your job here is to make the best case you can for a psychological, body, or soul theory (or hybrid theory). You may use any relevant argument you find in any of the readings or the slides provided you express it in your own words and give it the most complete defence you can. You may also devise an argument of your own. Whatever you do, though, make sure that you give careful definitions of any technical terms you use.
What if you don’t think any of these options is correct? (Maybe you think some other sort of theory is correct. Or maybe you think that there is something defective about our concepts of personhood and personal identity over time.) Defend an argument for what you think the truth about personal identity over time is. But make sure to give it a full explanation and make sure to define your technical terms.

Task 3—Defend your chosen argument and/or option from what you take to be the two most challenging objections to it. (SUPER IMPORTANT! Remember that criticizing an argument for a theory is one thing, while criticizing the theory itself is another. You may consider criticisms of your view, of your argument for your view, or of both.)

What are two criticisms that someone very smart would make who thinks your favoured option is false or your favoured argument is unsound? Your job here is to reply to these criticisms by showing that, serious though they may be, they can be deflected. Once more, you may use anything relevant from the readings or slides, provided you express it in your own words and explain it fully.
Note that the very best papers won’t simply consider an objection and respond to it, they will consider as well counter-objections and responses to those and so on. Your aim should be to get into your paper the kind of back-and-forth philosophical debate we find in the readings.
You are free to consider objections that we discussed in class. But you are encouraged to devise objections of your own if you think that there are others that are stronger. If one of the objections you write on was covered in class, you must make sure to discuss it thoroughly and, if at all possible, take a novel stance on it. If one of the objections you write on is your own, you must make sure to discuss it thoroughly and to show how it differs from objections talked about in class.
Special note on all three tasks: Whether you are explaining personal identity over time, arguing for an approach, or criticizing/defending an argument/approach, try to use examples to illustrate your points.
You are free to read outside sources (books, journal articles, items on the web) pertaining to this topic. But we encourage you not to do so. We want to know what you think about these issues, not what someone else thinks about them.
Your paper should be one long sustained piece of prose. But as the descriptions of your three tasks should make clear, this long piece of prose should fall into a clear structure: an introductory section in which you explain what personal identity over time is and why it is important, a middle section in which you advance an argument for a view on the topic, and a final section in which you respond to objections to your argument and/or view. Make sure to conclude with a summary of your findings.

1.Use paragraph breaks: In general, each paragraph should focus on accomplishing a particular goal. One might be outlining an argument, and the succeeding paragraph then explaining how that argument deals with a case at hand, another outlining a counterargument and so on. E.g. Paragraph 1 tells you what Locke’s memory theory is, paragraph 2 states how it deals with a body-swapping case, and paragraph 3 presents an objection. Paragraphs with clear organization, centered around a particular topic, makes it much easier for the reader to follow your reasoning.
2.Define terms: When using a term, make sure that term is clear to the reader. For example, if you wish to argue using determinism, then you would need to define determinism.
3.Stay focused: ‘remember you’re dealing with an argument for a theory, not the theory itself.’ By this, he means that you should keep your paper focused to dealing with a particular argument and whether it succeeds or fails. Suppose you don’t believe in the existence of God, and are doing a paper on the Argument from Design. You should focus on assessing whether the Argument from Design succeeds or fails, rather than going into a general discussion on the existence of God. While that discussion may be interesting, Philosophy papers are generally focused on narrow areas. Especially in the case of our course, that tends to be the question of ‘does this argument/view hold up?’ When writing, keep focused on the issbcque at hand and try not to make grand generalizations.

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