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North American Philosophical Publications

Personality and Persistence: The Many Faces of Personal Survival Author(s): Marya Schechtman Source: American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 2 (Apr., 2004), pp. 87-105 Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the North American Philosophical Publications Stable URL: Accessed: 18-08-2016 16:05 UTC

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North American Philosophical Publications Personality and Persistence: The Many Faces of Personal Survival Author(s): Marya Schechtman

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American Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 41, Number 2, April 2004



Mary a Schechtman

xVlthough not universally accepted, the idea that psychological continuation is a

crucial element of diachronic personal iden? tity is well-entrenched. Any satisfying ac?

count of personal continuity must somehow

be responsible to this powerful intuition, and

neo-Lockean views have enjoyed great suc?

cess. Those who inherit Locke's basic in?

sight, however, also inherit the well-known

difficulties with his theory. One of the most

serious of these is the fact that the relation

in terms of which this account defines iden? tity does not conform to the logical require?

ments of an identity relation. Psychological

continuation, for instance, admits of degrees

or can be a one-many relation, while nei?

ther is true of identity.

There have been a variety of attempts to

respond to this problem. One of the most

intriguing?and successful?has found its

way into the modern literature largely

through the work of Derek Parfit. Parfit

suggests that we deflect attention from the

question of identity per se and address it

instead to the question of real interest, the question of survival. In everyday life, Parfit

allows, survival usually requires identity,

but he argues that it need not always do

so. The ordinarily close association be? tween survival and identity causes the

conflation of these two concepts, mistak?

enly conferring upon identity the impor?

tance that actually attaches to survival.

Once this has been recognized, Parfit con?

cludes, attention can be turned directly to the question of what constitutes survival.

This allows the employment of relations which do not have the logical form of an

identity relation.

This move has been widely influential.

Even some theorists who believe that iden?

tity is ultimately necessary to survival have

allowed that what really matters to us is

the survival and not the identity. Many psy?

chological continuity theorists have there?

fore changed their emphasis from the

question of personal identity to the ques?

tion of survival, and in particular to "what

matters" in survival. Although this repre?

sents a fairly radical change in orientation,

the discussion has not changed as radically

as one might have anticipated, nor as radi?

cally as it should have. While it is allowed

that the relation which defines survival

might have a logical form different from

the identity relation, it is still assumed that

survival, like identity, is a relation between

a present and (at least one) future person which allows the present person to con?

tinue as the future one(s).


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The concept of survival, however, di?

verges even further from that of identity

than this project suggests. "Identity," at

least if it is understood as the logical iden?

tity relation, is fairly well-defined. "Sur?

vival," on the other hand, if it is to represent

something beyond the persistence condi?

tions for the numerically same object, is a much more diffuse concept which deserves

some consideration in its own right. Instead

of being conceived in terms of a relation between a present and (one or more) fu?

ture person(s) it should be defined instead

in terms of the continuity of a person's life.

On this understanding, a person survives

as long as her life goes on, and fails to sur?

vive when it ends. The focus should thus

not be directly on defining the survival re? lation, but rather on understanding what it means for a person's life to continue, which

is quite a different question.

In what follows this claim will be sup?

ported and clarified through a concrete

example of a case in which the standard

picture of survival cannot fully capture the

phenomena and an understanding in terms of the continuity of a life can; the case of

amnesia. It is ultimately more difficult than

has been appreciated for psychological

continuity theorists to give a clear-cut an?

swer about personal survival in this case. This is because there are two distinct ele?

ments of psychological continuity that

come apart here. On the one hand psycho?

logical continuity is conceived as the con?

tinuation of a single experiencing subject

or stream of consciousness; and on the

other as the continuation of a set of char?

acter traits, dispositions and psychologi?

cal features?a continuity of personality.1

Both of these types of continuity contrib?

ute to personal survival, but in different ways. Moreover, while these two sorts of

continuity are indeed intimately intercon?

nected, the connections are of a more com?

plex nature than psychological continuity

theories are able to express. Understand?

ing survival in terms of the continuity of a

life provides the resources to capture both

the different contributions to survival made

by these two types of continuity, and the

dynamics of their interactions with one another.

To begin there is a brief account of how

the amnesia case has been described by psy?

chological continuity theorists, showing

how the standard treatment runs together

continuity of consciousness and of person?

ality. The next section discusses the inter?

connections between these two types of

continuity, interconnections that psycho?

logical continuity theories cannot capture.

Finally, there is a discussion of how rethink?

ing survival in terms of the continuity of a

life can overcome these shortcomings.


One common way of introducing the psy?

chological continuity theory is to describe

John Locke's view of personal identity

(read, roughly, as a memory theory), re?

hearse well-known objections, and offer remedies. The modified Lockean account

represents the basic psychological continu?

ity theory, which is then differently custom?

ized by its various proponents. One of the

moves standard in this revamping of

Locke's theory is the addition of psycho?

logical connections besides memory to the

definition of personal identity. Whether Locke is taken to claim straightforwardly

that memory constitutes personal identity

or to offer a somewhat more complicated

theory, it is undeniable that he gives memory

a central role. Psychological continuity

theorists question the justification for this

privilege, and propose a similar role for

other types of psychological connections.

Parfit, for instance, says that "besides direct memories, there are several other

kinds of direct psychological connection.

One such connection is that which holds

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between an intention and the later act in which it is carried out. Other such direct connections are those which hold when a

belief, or a desire, or any other psychologi?

cal feature, continues to be had."2 He as?

serts that Locke's theory should be revised

to include these other connections as well.

Sydney Shoemaker, also introduces his

psychological continuity theory in this

way. He gives a similar, but somewhat

more detailed, argument for the inclusion

of non-memory psychological connections

in his criterion of personal identity, which rests on the question of what happens when

a person suffers total, irreversible amne?

sia. Obviously this is not survivable on a

straight memory theory, but Shoemaker asks us to reconsider.

Memory theorists seem right in judg?

ing amnesia to be death, he says, if am? nesia is understood as a complete "'brain

zap'?the total destruction of all of the

effects of the person's past experience, learning, reasoning, deliberation, and so on."3 Shoemaker suggests, however, that amnesia need not be thought of as such a

radical psychological transformation. "A

person's personality, character, tastes, in?

terests and so on are," he says, "the prod?

uct (at least in part) of his past experi?

ence, and it is not obvious that the loss of

all memories would necessarily involve

the loss of all such traits as these."4 A per?

son might5 be able to remember nothing

of her past, Shoemaker suggests, and yet

remain psychologically similar along all

other dimensions. In such a case, he says,

judgments of survival are less clear. If

some traits of personality could survive,

"such a loss of memory would not neces?

sarily amount to a total brain zap; and then

it becomes more plausible to suppose that

such a loss of memory is something a per?

son could survive?in which case the

memory theory


is false."6 This theory

must thus be amended, he concludes, to

involve these other sorts of psychologi?

cal connections as well.

Shoemaker's argument is convincing

enough on the surface, but it deserves more scrutiny than it has been given. In particu?

lar, he moves rather too quickly from the

question of whether a person who loses

memory but retains other psychological

characteristics would survive to the as?

sumption that she would. It is not obvious

that a person could survive such a change;

it is also not obvious that she could not.

Intuitions are genuinely conflicted in this

case. Understanding that conflict will re?

veal two distinct ideas of psychological

continuation which are typically conflated in psychological continuity theories.


To begin, it is useful to point out that al?

though the addition of non-memory psycho?

logical connections is generally presented

as a friendly amendment to Locke's crite?

rion of personal identity?a simple expan? sion of his basic insight?a look at Locke's

text makes it fairly clear that this is not the

case. Locke is emphatic that no action or

experience to which a person cannot extend

his consciousness can be his. More impor?

tant for our purposes than Locke's own view,

however, is the general pull of a memory

based account of identity. There is a strand

of thought about personal identity in which

the insistence on memory connections in particular as the basis of survival makes

perfect sense. Personal continuation, on this

view, depends crucially on having access

to one's history and recognizing the con?

nections between one's present and one's

past. Learning that she will be stripped of

all memories of her current life and passions

beyond the possibility of retrieval could

quite plausibly lead a person to write a will, quickly finish up her pet projects, or write letters to her loved ones?just as if she were

indeed going to die.

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The intuition at work here is nicely ex?

pressed in the notion of the "perceiver-self '

outlined by Raymond Martin in his book

Self-Concern. We experience the world,

Martin says, as if one part of the self was

split off from the flux of events as an ob?

server, watching and recording the stream

of our experience. Martin argues that the perceiver-self is an illusion, and of course

in some sense it must be?there is no

homuncular entity within people who is the observer of their experience. Nevertheless,

as Martin indicates, the sense that there is

such a self is a robust and pervasive ele?

ment of experience, and a central feature of

human psychological organization. He also suggests that in thinking about personal

survival it is the continuation of this self in which people are interested; they think they

have survived if the perceiver-self contin? ues, and died if it does not.

Obviously there are many issues to be

settled about the nature and function of the

perceiver-self before any forceful claims

can be made about its role in personal iden?

tity. Martin says a great deal on this sub?

ject, and there will doubtless be much more

discussion to come.7 For present purposes,

however, it is not necessary to put too much

metaphysical weight on this concept, it can

simply be used to represent a widespread

and familiar picture of psychological con?

tinuation and personal survival. A some?

what more whimsical version of this

picture is found in Michael Frayn's novel

Headlong, where the protagonist under?

takes a common sort of internal dialogue

in order to convince himself to do what he

knows to be wrong:

Odd, though, all these dealings of mine with

myself. First I've agreed to a principle with

myself, now I'm making out a case to myself

and debating my own feelings and intentions

with myself. Who is this self this phantom

internal partner, with whom I'm entering into

all of these arrangements? (I ask myself.)

Well, who am I talking to now? Who is the

ghostly audience for the long tale I tell

through every minute of the day? This silent

judge sitting, face shrouded, in perpetual

closed session?8

The "perceiver self then should just be

thought of as a stable observer who views

and records the passing flux of experience,

and recognizes it as part of a single life.

On one understanding of personal survival,

it is the persistence of this self which un?

derlies survival. This is the understanding

which emerges powerfully from Locke's

discussion of identity. Since the perceiver

self is not an entity (neither a material nor

immaterial substance as Locke says), its

identity over time can consist in nothing

more than its recognition of continuity; the

fact that it has access to, and claims as its

own, the range of experiences ultimately

attributed to a single person. This seems

to require memory. Total and irreversible

amnesia must signify the replacement of

one perceiver-self with another, and so, on

this view, personal death.

This is not, however, the whole story

about what is involved in personal continu?

ation. Ordinary talk about "personal iden?

tity" more often evokes thoughts of

continuity of personality or character than

of stream of consciousness. Think, for in?

stance, of the common ritual associated

with birthdays and other milestones in

which friends and associates from differ?

ent phases of the celebrant's life recount

anecdotes of her past. Often an important

feature of such celebrations is the emer?

gence of patterns?traits, quirks, and man?

ners?which define the person in her

stability through change.

What is especially important to note is

that the existence of these "defining traits"

and their contribution to identity do not

require that the person so-defined have

conscious access to the fact of their exist?

ence or continuation. The stories that il

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lustrate the stability of personality may have been completely forgotten by their

subject, and the persisting traits that be?

come clear through the course of many

such stories may be ones of which she is totally oblivious. People can and do sur? prise themselves by discovering just how

longstanding certain proclivities, aptitudes,

likes, dislikes, talents, and traits can be.

Looking over old journals or school papers,

finding old documents or family movies, may be occasions for recovering informa?

tion long lost, or perhaps never possessed.

The kind of continuity that is at issue here cannot, therefore, be the same as that em?

phasized by Locke. It is not a continuity

of a conscious subject?the experience of

a continuing point of view?rather, it is the stability of traits represented in a person's

thoughts and actions.

The idea that personal persistence con?

sists in continuity of personality (where

this includes, e.g., character traits, com?

mitments, mannerisms, and patterns of at?

tachment) is not limited to popular thought,

it has also been prominent in philosophi?

cal discussions of personal identity. Psy?

chological continuity theorists depend

heavily on the use of examples to demon?

strate the importance of psychological fea?

tures to personal survival. While some of

these do ask us to imagine an interruption

of consciousness, a great many also involve

a radical change in personality or commit?

ments with no implication of a loss of

memory. It is assumed that in these cases,

too, a threat to identity will be perceived.

Parfit, for instance, tells a story about a

nineteenth-century Russian couple. It re?

volves around a young Socialist who

knows that he will inherit vast estates and

fears that this change of fortune will alter

his values. To protect his current ideals he

tries to insure that the land he inherits will

be given to the peasants even if he is cor? rupted by his new wealth. He signs a legal

document which transfers the land?a

document that can be revoked only with

his wife's consent?and tells her not to

revoke it even if he later requests it. He

says "I regard my ideals as essential to me.

If I lose these ideals, I want you to think

that I cease to exist. I want you to regard

your husband then, not as me, the man who

asks you for this

promise. . .

."9 Parfit ac?

knowledges that in this case the change in

character may not be radical enough to lit?

erally cause death. However, he does think

that for important practical purposes?

such as assessing what it means for his wife

to be loyal?the young Russian's pro?

nouncement should be taken seriously. At

the very least, then, this case suggests that

changes in character or commitment are

survival-threatening quite independent of what happens to memory.

This same impulse is expressed in more general terms by David Lewis in his dis? cussion of what is required for personal survival. Lewis's work is, moreover, par?

ticularly good at displaying the ambiguity

in this conception. Take, for instance, his

hypothetical case involving Methuselah? like people who live thousands of years, changing gradually over time. He asks us

to imagine that the life of such a person is

"punctuated by frequent amnesias, brain?

washings, psychoanalyses, conversions,

and what not, each of which is almost (but not quite) enough to turn him into a differ?

ent person."10 Here amnesia is lumped to? gether with the kinds of changes brought

about by psychoanalysis (which presum? ably enhances memory but changes per? sonality) and conversion (which need not

interfere with memory), and all are taken to be identity-threatening in roughly the

same way.

There are, then, two distinct conceptions

of personal continuation at work both in

popular thought and in philosophical work

on personal identity. In order to provide

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continuity of consciousness, memory con?

nections seem crucial; continuity of per?

sonality seems to rely upon other forms of

psychological connection. Because these

two types of continuity are not treated as

importantly distinct by psychological con? tinuity theorists, neither is the demand for

memory and for other psychological con?

nections. The result is a criterion like

Parfit's (or the one implied by Lewis), in

which all psychological connections count more or less the same amount, and in the

same way, toward the constitution of per?

sonal survival. Shoemaker's amnesia case

reveals, however, that a simple amalgam?

ation of this sort will not work. If memory

is lost but personality retained, a view which

places survival in the continuity of con?

sciousness and a view which places it in the

continuity of personality simply give oppos?

ing answers, and there is no way to string

together a criterion which will satisfy both.

These two cases represent different kinds

of survival. Losing memory and retaining

personality allows survival in one sense but totally undermines it in another. The same

is true in cases where personality is radi?

cally disrupted but memory is retained. The psychological continuity theory as it stands

has no way of expressing this fact, and so

stands in need of at least some revision.

Before considering how that revision

should look, however, it is important to see that the situation is even more complicated than this since these two types of continu?

ity, though distinct, are not unconnected,

as the next sections will show.


An investigation into the connections

between continuity of consciousness and

continuity of personality is a monumental

task. Not only are there an enormous num?

ber of possible connections to explore, but

a wide variety of methodologies for explor?

ing them. Psychology and the neuro

sciences contain a wealth of information

both about the specific question of whether

it is really possible to lose memory and

retain personality, and about the relations

of interdependence between memory and

personality more generally. This discussion

will pursue an investigation into points of

conceptual convergence between them,

which will provide a valuable start in re?

thinking the scope and features of a psy?

chologically based answer to the question

of personal survival.

Although the earlier claim that focus on

providing continuity of consciousness leads

naturally to a memory-based account of

survival stands, it is also important to rec? ognize that pure memory theories have felt

unsatisfactory even within the context of

this focus. A variety of objections have been

raised that in one way or another suggest

that memory by itself is not a strong enough

relation to constitute personal survival. One

way of getting at what seems lacking in

memory alone is to return to a case de?

scribed earlier, Parfit's story of the young

Russian who is afraid of losing his Social?

ist ideals. Originally this case was put for?

ward as an example of the way in which

psychological continuity theorists make use

of our intuition that personal survival re?

quires continuity of personality. A more

detailed consideration of the case can, how? ever, also reveal insights into the nature of

the continuity of consciousness that is re?

quired for personal survival. In particular,

it can show that there is a thinner and a

thicker sense of continuity of conscious?

ness; that the thicker sense is important to

personal survival, and that that sense de?

pends crucially on stability of personality.

Recall, then, the case of the young Rus?

sian, who claims that a change of ideologi?

cal commitment is tantamount to death.

Even if his claim seems hyperbolic, the

basic sentiment makes sense. It is easy to see how someone might believe that the

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loss of a passion which is the organizing

principle of his life would make him a dif?

ferent person, and certainly one strand of

thought about personal survival allows that

these kinds of dramatic psychological

change can indeed be survival-undermin?

ing in a very real way.11 It is, however, not

just the fact of the change in itself which

makes this transition seem identity-threat?

ening; it is more fundamentally the sense

that this man would have to suffer a radi?

cal revision in sensibility or perspective to

believe otherwise on this issue. A better understanding of this fact will lead us to

one significant connection between conti?

nuity of consciousness and continuity of


It is important to recognize first off that

even though it is common to allow that

change with respect to central psychologi?

cal features can undermine survival, it is

also a truism that in some cases it does not.

When the young Russian imagines his pos?

sible change he is envisioning a story of

corruption and the irresistible allure of

money. The document he draws up is the

legal version of the ropes that bind Ulysses to the mast; and his instructions to his wife

the counterpart of Ulysses' instructions to

his crew. Our young Russian knows the

story of how the possession of a large store

of capital impels a person to greedy be?

havior, and he is doing his best to safeguard against this form of coercion. We can, how? ever, imagine his transformation quite dif?

ferently. Perhaps he learns that his com?

rades are themselves corrupt or that the

peasants are going to use the wealth he

would give them to somehow perpetuate their own subjugation. Maybe he invents

or discovers a new economic system which

he believes would better serve the goals

he hoped to achieve through Socialism; or

he comes to believe that other matters more

urgently require his resources. Or perhaps

he simply comes to view his enthusiasm

for the Socialist cause as well-meaning and

responsive to real injustices, but ultimately

naive. In any of these cases the conclusion

might well be that the change in even such

an ardent commitment poses no real threat

to survival.

Put more generally, with respect to psy?

chological change there is a difference be?

tween personal development and the loss of self, and this difference is not always

simply a matter of the degree of alteration.

What seems far more important is the na?

ture and impetus for change. This is usu?

ally expressed by saying that change which is internally motivated is survival-preserv?

ing, while change which is imposed from

the outside is survival-threatening. The

question of just what it means for a change

to be internally motivated is obviously

highly vexed and has produced a great deal

of interesting philosophy. Naturally that

question cannot be answered here. It is still

possible, however, that one important as?

pect of internality in these cases is the pres?

ervation of a certain kind of phenomeno

logical and motivational access to one's

past psychological life?the continued rep? resentation of (to use this term loosely) a

"past self." The suggestion is that this con? nection to the past is crucial to distinguish?

ing between cases in which change is to

be viewed as personal development and

cases in which it is to be viewed as a loss

of self.12

Reconsider the young Russian. The dif? ference between the case he imagines (in

which he is co-opted by greed and social pressure), and the alternatives suggested

above can be cast in just this light. In his

imagined scenario, the young Russian's

current passions and commitments have no

say in the decisions made by his older,

more conservative successor. These ideals

have been discarded and exert no pull ei?

ther emotionally or behaviorally. In these

alternatives, however, things are different.

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The old passions are not entirely lost, they

are just placed in a new context where they take on a different cast and lead to differ?

ent results. In these cases the older Rus?

sian can not only remember that he felt a

certain way as a youth; he still has sympa?

thy for his old values, and feels their force,

even if they are now outweighed by other


This connection to one's past personal?

ity features provides a link that simple

awareness of one's past does not. The im?

portance of this connection can be seen by

noting that when it is absent it is easy to

view other temporal portions of a shared

human life as alien competitors. This kind

of alienation is described, among other places, in Sartre's examples of the con? sciousness of anguish. He tells, for in?

stance, the story of a person walking on a

narrow mountain path who initially feels

fear that he might stumble. As soon as he notices that fear and decides to take pre?

cautions to avoid falling, says Sartre, he

faces a new problem?anguish. What he

recognizes is that although he is now re?

solved to be careful, there is nothing he can do to ensure that he will continue to

do so?to guarantee that in ten minutes

time he will not become overly confident,

or seized with a perverse impulse to rush

to the edge, even with full memory of his

present resolution to be careful.13 Whatever

one thinks of the metaphysical doctrine of

radical choice on which Sartre builds this

example, the psychological fact remains

that if one does suspect that one's "future

self will lack even a modicum of sympa?

thy for one's current desires and goals this is enough to make that future self seem like

an other?someone against whom one is

defenseless and who could potentially act against one's interests.

There are thus different levels at which a person can experience continuity of con

sciousness. At one extreme she can have

cognitive access to her past but no phenom

enological access or sympathy for past

personality features. Such a person knows

what her psychological life used to be like,

but she cannot recapture that life from the

inside. Although she may in some sense

view what she remembers as her own psy?

chological past, there is clearly a wedge

between the person that she was and the

person that she is. What has been described

as empathie access to the past offers a far

richer connection, and leads to a different

level of continuity of consciousness. At this

level a person is also able to experience

salient elements of the past, to see through

the same eyes as she did before, and so to

relive her experiences from the inside

rather than simply knowing that she had them. This, in turn, will have behavioral

implications which lead to further conti?


Clearly, both levels of continuity are rel?

evant to survival in some sense. While the

first may seem somehow more basic, the second is also philosophically significant,

in some ways more so than the first. When

personal survival is placed in continuity of

consciousness?the continuation of a

single experiencing subject?it seems

more plausible to hold that what is at is?

sue is the continuation of a particular point of-view, or way of experiencing the world,

or behavioral orientation toward it. Of

course there must be room for growth,

change, and development, but in consider?

ing what is required for one's persistence

into the future, something like the future

phenomenological and behavioral repre?

sentation of one's present passions, values

and desires provided by the second level

of continuity of consciousness seems cru?

cial. Even though there is some sense of

continuity of consciousness associated

with merely cognitive recollection of one's

past, then, it seems at most partial.

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The richer sense of continuity of con?

sciousness built on empathie access de? pends, however, on a certain degree of

stability of personality; it is this which

makes the real difference between the

purely cognitive connection to the past

found in cold memory and the richer asso?

ciations found in empathie access. Only if

some of the passions, values, commitments

and traits of the past persist into the present

can memory be infused with the phenom

enological character that brings the past

alive. It is important to understand, more? over, that this form of continuity of con?

sciousness can be more than a simple con

junction of memories and persistent

personality features. At its richest it is an

integration of stability of personality into

memory. When this happens the kind of memory at issue is different from cold,

cognitive memory. It is the sort of memory

at issue when a teenager challenges a par? ent that she no longer "remembers" what

it is like to be young and in love. Typically such a protest involves no claim about cog?

nitive deficits. The parent may well retain

faithful recall of her biography, including

the details of her early romances and the

foibles of her youth. What she lacks is the

ability to recapture from the inside the af?

fect and dispositions which went with

those biographical facts, and in this sense

her memory is a knowing that a person

she identifies as herself had certain expe?

riences rather than a full-blown recollec?

tion from the inside of what those experi?

ences are like.

One very important type of continuity of

consciousness thus has some degree of

continuity of personality as its condition.

The next section will show that the depen?

dence goes the other way as well.


The idea that continuity of personality depends, at least sometimes, on memory

is not completely novel. In fact, it is sug?

gested by Shoemaker himself when he dis?

cusses the amnesia case. He says, for

example, "to be sure, to a certain extent

character and personality traits do seem

inseparable from memories of certain

kinds. It is hard to see how someone's paci?

fism could survive his loss of all of his

beliefs about the effects of warfare."14 Yet

this obvious?and obviously important?

insight is never really followed up. Instead

Shoemaker asks the reader to "suppose, for

the sake of argument, that at least some

traits of personality could survive complete memory loss."15 While it is certainly legiti?

mate to simplify in this way as a tempo?

rary measure, it is also worth asking what

kinds of traits are likely to survive total

amnesia, and whether these are sufficient

for personal survival. Answering these

questions will reveal that as with continu?

ity of consciousness there is also a thicker

and a thinner sense of continuity of per?

sonality; that the thicker sense is impor?

tant to identity, and that it depends

crucially on memory connections.

To begin, it is important to note that the various connections so far lumped together

under the term "personality feature" or "non-memory psychological connection"

are in fact a highly heterogeneous group.

Beliefs, desires, values, goals, and traits

of character can be as different from one

another?and play as different a role in

constituting personal survival?as any of

these and memory. It is thus just as impor?

tant to consider differences among this

group as between this group and memory

connections. Among the many ways in which psychological connections can be

classified, one is by the degree to which

they depend upon their placement in a

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particular biography and on the existence

of autobiographical memories. Clearly

some psychological features are far more memory-dependent than others. The goal

of completing planned revisions to a manu? script and finally sending it off, the desire to surprise a friend with the sports car she

always wanted on her fiftieth birthday or

ferocious love for one's children, all in?

volve particular knowledge of one's life in a way that the more general, correspond? ing features of a creative impulse, loyalty and a generous nature, or a particular at?

tachment style do not. Personality features

which are highly intertwined with a par?

ticular biography can be called "specific

features" and those which are more inde?

pendent "generic features." Obviously

there is a continuum from the most generic

to the most specific features. It will sim?

plify matters, however, to speak of features

well toward the specific end of the spec? trum as "specific" and those well toward the generic end as "generic."

With respect to personality as well as

consciousness, then, we can describe dif?

ferent levels of continuity. There is a thin

kind which involves the persistence of gen?

eral traits of character and those psycho?

logical features which do not depend on

memory, and progressively richer forms of

continuity involving traits which are in? creasingly intertwined with the details of

a particular biography. Presumably the

psychological connections that survive a

total loss of memory will be only the most generic, and so the only continuity of per?

sonality which it is coherent to imagine in

the amnesia case is the very thinnest sort.

The question that remains is whether this is enough for personal survival.

The answer here parallels the answer to

the corresponding question in the case of

continuity of consciousness. The existence

of even the thinnest sorts of continuity pro?

vides some type of personal survival, but

what it offers is incomplete. One way to

see this is just to note that the paradigmatic

cases of identity-threatening psychologi?

cal change in the literature revolve around

the loss of specific ideals, goals, values,

beliefs, or desires. Reconsider, for ex?

ample, Parfit's young Russian. He declares

that the loss of his intention to give his land

to the peasants would amount to a failure

of personal survival. Certainly this inten? tion depends critically on a whole host of

memories specific to his life, so initially it

seems as if the kinds of psychological con?

nections that involve autobiographical

memories are crucial to personal survival. Admittedly, however, the inference from

cases like that of the Young Russian are

not so straightforward. His pronouncement

almost certainly involves an assumption

that his loss of his intention to support the

peasants would be due not to amnesia, but

to a change in more fundamental traits,

possibly even generic ones. The loss of his

intention is assumed to signify that he has

become, more broadly, a different kind of

person; a person who does not care about

the downtrodden, who is driven by greed

and lacks respect for his fellow human be?

ings. What needs consideration, then, is

whether one should expect the Young

Russian's judgments about identity to

change if one assures him that his failure

to give his land to the peasants would be caused by a lapse of memory and not by

an alteration of his personality.

This question is actually quite compli?

cated. As mentioned before, the level of

entanglement of a given psychological fea?

ture with the rest of a person's life is obvi?

ously a matter of degree, and the Young

Russian's reaction to the loss of his inten?

tion will almost certainly depend at least

somewhat upon just how generic his sur?

viving traits are. If he retains his commit?

ment to bettering the plight of the com?

mon man, his distrust of those who control

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the means of production, and his interest

in politics and economics, he may well

view his prospects of personal survival as more or less undamaged by the loss of his

specific intention to give his land to the

peasants. In fact, even if that intention is

wiped clean by some kind of amnesia he

is likely to reformulate it anew from the

traits he has left. And even if he does not

reformulate this very intention, the deci?

sions he makes will be close enough to

those lost that he is unlikely to judge them

a serious threat to his survival. But what

about at the extremes of generality?

Shoemaker's case relies on the possibility

that a person might survive the loss of all

autobiographical memories. It is thus nec?

essary to imagine the Young Russian left with only the very most general traits?a passionate outlook, perhaps, a social ori?

entation, a tendency toward active involve?

ment, a generous nature. Is the retention of only these traits enough for personal


Again the answer is "yes" and "no." At

some level it does seem that even these very

generic continuities afford a kind of per?

sonal continuation. Parents are fond of pro?

nouncements of the form "even as a

newborn she was always smiling (anxious,

demanding, relaxed, curious, moody

. .


and this kind of information is important.

The recognition of stability of temperament at the most fundamental level does seem to

provide some kind of identity through time.

However, it also seems clear that a tremen?

dously important element of what we typi?

cally take to be required for continuity of

personality?let alone personal survival?

is missing if only these very general traits

remain. To see this one need only recog?

nize that the traits that could survive a total

loss of memory would probably be compat? ible with the Young Russian beginning life

again as a Missionary, Police Officer, or

crusader for Liberal Democracy. Certainly

if post-amnesia he developed a commitment to Liberal Democracy and gave his inherit?

ance to "Nineteenth-Century Russians for

the Democratic Way," his pre-amnesia per? spective would count this a loss of self ev?

ery bit as profound as if he remembered his

commitment but simply became greedy and

kept his land. While stability of even the

most generic traits thus contributes to some

level of personal survival, the traits which

are interwoven with autobiographical

memory seem crucial to a robust or com?

plete survival.

It might be objected that it is only a con?

tingent matter that our most unique person?

ality traits involve memory-connections. The brain is a complicated organ, and it is

well-documented that damage to it can cause some bizarrely selective deficits.

Shoemaker's case could then be made by

imagining a type of amnesia where memo?

ries are wiped clean but even very specific

psychological connections persist, now

entirely devoid of context. The amnesiac might have no memories of his past, but feel nonetheless an overpowering urge to

give money to a particular group of peas?

ants. This would, of course, be unusual, but

then so is amnesia. Perhaps, then, a quite intense sort of similarity of personality could, in strange circumstances, survive

the loss of autobiographical memories al?


While this objection does not, in the end,

undermine the connection that has been

urged between continuity of consciousness

and continuity of personality, showing this

takes some argument. Of course Shoe?

maker is right in his assertion that the fea?

tures of our personality are dependent on

our pasts and do not always require

memory for their continuation. This can be

true even of features which are quite spe?

cific. A person may not, for instance, re?

member the details of his early courtship

or the events which influenced him in his

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decision to get married; or a person may forget the particular readings, seminars,

and discussions that led her to the project

with which she is now engaged. Nonethe?

less, the emotions, desires, and intentions

themselves may well continue unabated

after the details of their origins have been

forgotten. Indeed, this is probably more the

rule than the exception.

It is crucial to recognize, however, that

this very common phenomenon differs

drastically from the amnesia case that has

been under consideration. In the ordinary case, although the particular details of an

affection or intention's origins may be lost

there remains a broader context and sense

of biography in which it makes perfect

sense. The man who cannot remember the

time when he first fell in love with his wife

at least knows who she is, that they have a

history together, and many of the things

that he admires about her. The woman who

cannot recall just how she got started on

her current project at least knows what her

job is, and what kinds of things interest her,

and the basic activities she was involved

in around the time the ideas for her project

came together. In these cases the person? ality features are at least harmonious and comprehensible within the context of an

extended and highly specific biography. In

the amnesia case, on the other hand, sur?

viving personality traits are entirely with? out context. If they are specific, then they

must come totally out of the blue, with no

explanation or justification.

This difference has far-reaching conse?

quences. Without context, specific person?

ality features can be reproduced only

partially. This is because the circumstances

which give rise to these features also sup?

port them and provide some of their con?

tent. A person's love for his spouse is,

presumably, more than just a feeling; it is

a complex set of attitudes, emotions, and

dispositions that could not be what it is

without some recognition of a history and

shared projects and plans. And while

Parfit's young Russian might be relieved to know that his money would go where

he intended it to go, the post-amnesia

person's inexplicable desire to give money to the peasants is certainly not the same

intention as the pre-amnesia Russian's con?

sidered commitment to their betterment.

Unless we insist on the implausible view

that emotions, desires, and intentions have

no content beyond the proposition by

which they can be expressed, the phenom

enological and behavioral difference en? gendered by lack of context will make it

impossible for specific personality features

to survive amnesia in any strong sense.

This analysis reveals an important di?

mension of personal survival that is often

overlooked. Defenders of psychological

accounts of personal identity tend to con?

centrate almost exclusively on the internal

aspects of psychological life?what these

states are like for the person. People are

not, however, people in their minds alone,

but also in the world. It is not just their

inner lives which are important to them,

but also their relationships with other

people, their jobs, and their hobbies.16 Spe?

cific psychological features persisting

without a context are deficient not only in their phenomenological character, but also

in their behavioral implications. Isolated

as they are from the biographies that give

them substance, they can lead only to very limited and inflexible behaviors. They thus

contribute very little to a person's capac?

ity to continue living the life she had been living, and this severely limits the contri?

bution they can make to personal survival.

Our young Russian, for instance, does not

only want to give his money to the peas? ants, he wants to continue his life project of addressing economic inequities. Even if

an impulse to follow through on his inten?

tion concerning his inheritance were some

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how to survive amnesia, it would be able to

go no further than that in perpetuating his

life project. In trying to imagine the impact

of specific traits that persist without the

context of memory, it seems clear that the

more a trait allows a person to pick up the

thread of her old life the more it contrib?

utes to her survival. Once this is understood,

however, it becomes clear once again how

important continuity of consciousness re?

ally is. However much continuity of life

plans or projects can be generated through

traits that persist stripped of their context,

it is hard to imagine radical amnesia caus?

ing anything short of a catastrophic break

in life continuity. If it did not, then so many

specific traits would have to continue that a

person should have no trouble reconstruct?

ing her history from them, and a clear bio?

graphical sense?if not memory itself?

would develop.

The dependence of continuity of person?

ality on continuity of consciousness thus has

at least two aspects. First, there is an im? portant sense in which the highly specific

personality traits which are so crucial to

personal survival depend upon autobio?

graphical memory. Second, "personality" is

not just the way a person thinks or feels,

but the way he acts and lives as well. The

continuation of life plans and projects can,

however, only take place in the context of a

well-defined autobiographical sense. The

thickest sort of continuity of personality

thus relies on some degree of continuity of

consciousness just as the thickest sort of

continuity of consciousness relies on con?

tinuity of personality.

typically interact and support one anot

There are important types of mem

which are not possible without some

tinuity of personality, and the most

cific continuities of personality re

some continuity of memory. Amnesi

radical personality change are thus

cases of partial survival, not only be

they contain fewer connections tha

usually present, but also because the

nections that are present are thinner. T

two types of partial survival will, m

over, be quite different from one anot

This is undoubtedly a broader phen

enon. Other types of changes will

yield partial survival of a different sort

other kinds of continuities will also b

volved in relations of mutual support

continuity of memory and personality.

bility of environment has already

mentioned as one such factor, and there

certainly others (e.g., the continui

other cognitive and affective capacit

The lesson learned from Shoemaker's

nesia case can thus be put more gene

by saying that it reveals that personal

vival is (1) multi-dimensional (ther

many types of continuities involved, in

ference with any of which can yield a

ferent kind of partial survival) an

dynamic (the various types of conti

interact and mutually support one anot

Psychological continuity theories, as

stand, are unable to capture either of t

facts. Clearly it would be desirable to

an account of survival that could.

Such an account can be found by bec

ing somewhat more open-minded about

  • V form it is expected to take. Although theorists have accepted the fact that an

The discussion of amnesia and radical

count of personal survival might not

personality change has shown that conti?

the form of an identity criterion, it is

nuity of memory and continuity generally of person? assumed, that to give such an

ality both contribute to personal survival,

count we must define a relation w

but they do so in different ways. It has also

holds between a present person and o

shown that these two types of continuity

more person in the future. This assum

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is at least in part a result of the way in which the idea that survival and identity

should not be equated is introduced by

Parfit. His argument involves a case of fis?

sion in which a single person is psycho?

logically connected in exactly the same

way and to the same degree, to two future

people. In such a case, Parfit says, there is

no legitimate basis for identifying only one

of the successors as the original person, yet since they are clearly not identical to

one another, transitivity implies that these

successors cannot both be identical to the

original person either. It seems, then, that

neither successor can be said to be identi?

cal to the original person, but each bears a

relation to that person which, considered in other contexts, seemed sufficient for survival. It is therefore awkward, Parfit argues, to claim that the original person

fails to survive splitting. The best descrip?

tion of this case, he thus concludes, is that

the original person has survived even

though there is no one in the future to

whom he is identical.

In Parfit's argument the relation which

is supposed to define survival is already in

place before survival and identity are

decoupled, and so there is no immediate

reason to ask what form an account of sur?

vival should take. One can, however, take

a more general moral from Parfit's account,

one which does not depend on accepting

the particular definition of survival he

employs or the specific argument he of? fers for distinguishing between identity and survival. More broadly, his discussion is a reminder that what is of concern in reflection on issues of survival and mor? tality is not whether there is a person in

the future to whom one bears the identity

relation?at least not under that descrip?

tion. What is of concern is whether one will

continue into the future. It is, of course,

natural to suppose that what it means for

someone to continue is for there to be a

future person to whom he is identical. This

explains the longstanding emphasis on

identity. Parfit's argument, however, chal?

lenges this assumption by suggesting that

it is not obviously incoherent to suppose

that a person might continue into the fu?

ture as someone else. The question of

whether this is really possible remains con?

troversial. There is, however, an important

insight that can be gleaned from this move

without having to resolve the controversy.

At the very least there is fairly widespread

agreement about the general claim that

what people care about, or what matters to

them, is not identity per se, but rather what?

ever is required for them to continue into

the future. The question of metaphysical

identity, then, is one question; the ques?

tion of what kind of continuation consti?

tutes the survival people typically crave is

another; and the question of how these two

are related yet a third.

Once these questions are distinguished

there is reason to consider directly the

question of what matters in survival. In

doing so this question need not be con?

strued as necessarily about a relation be?

tween a present and future person. A

different approach has already been seen

at the end of section four. There it was sug?

gested that what people want in wanting

survival is to be able to continue living

their lives. It is not only internal psycho?

logical states, but the life they allow a per?

son to live which matters to him. This is a

very natural construal of what is involved

in survival. If one is able to continue liv?

ing one's life one has survived; if one's life

ends one has not?this seems indisputable.

Thinking about survival in this way allows

an understanding of the question of per? sonal survival as the question of what is

required for a person's life to continue

rather than as the question of what rela? tion she must bear to a future person to

survive as that person.

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At first, this rephrasing may not seem to

buy much. A person's life must, after all,

be lived by a person, and so it seems that

the continuation of a life must depend upon

the continuation of the person living it.

This would lead back to the search for a

relation between temporally separated in?

dividuals. This is not the only way to look

at things, however. There is no obvious

reason that the continuity of the person must be taken as most fundamental. It is

just as easy to take the question of what

gives continuity to a person's life as more

primary, and draw conclusions about the

continuation of the person from this in?

quiry. This reversal of priorities suggests

a way of developing an account of survival

that can capture its multidimensional and

dynamic nature. Lives, after all, are clearly

both multi-dimensional and dynamic, and

so an account of their continuation should include all of the complexities of survival

revealed by the amnesia case. In order to

show in detail how this would work it

would be necessary to have an account of

the continuity of a life?something which

obviously cannot be provided here. It is,

however, possible to get an idea of the gen?

eral contours of such a view which can

show its promise as an account of personal


The life of a person, to count as such, will need to include certain capacities and

features. There is no inconsiderable litera?

ture, and also no clear consensus, on what

these are. Still, there is bound to be a fi?

nite?even fairly limited?list of features

which contribute, each in its own way, to

creating what we recognize as the life of a

person. Some reasonably uncontroversial

candidates might be the capacity for self

refection and for valuation, the ability to

form and carry out plans and projects, and

the capacity to form relationships of cer?

tain sorts with other people. Some other cognitive capacities and some sort of em

bodiment are also likely to be included and,

more controversially, some degree of au?

tonomy may also be part of the mix. The

basic idea behind this proposal is that the

continuation of a person's life will be de?

fined in terms of these features and capaci?

ties (which can be called life-elements).

The diminishment or interruption of one

of these life-elements will impact a

person's ability to continue living her

life?and hence her personal survival?in some more-or-less predictable way. An account of personal survival would de?

scribe these effects.

Because a number of different elements

and capacities contribute to the life of a

person, each in a different way, this kind

of account can capture the multi-dimen? sional nature of survival. For instance, a

brain lesion that undermines a person's

capacity to form complicated plans or un?

dertake projects will interfere with her life

in one way, while an injury which leaves

this capacity intact but interferes with af?

fect in a way which undermines the capac?

ity to form evaluations or to develop lasting

relationships with other people will inter?

fere with it in another. By developing an

account of the roles different features play

in leading the life of a person, it will be

possible to express the difference between

these two assaults to survival.

Indeed all of the different kinds of

changes which impact the conduct of a

person's life can be expressed through their

effects on one or more of these central fea?

tures. Changes like memory loss or radi?

cal personality change will affect survival

insofar as they modify or diminish one or

more of the life-elements. Changes like

losing a job or getting a divorce may or

may not have an impact, depending on how

a person reacts to them. Typically such

changes will be absorbed into an ongoing

life, but this will not always be the case.

Such a change might, for instance, cause a

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severe depression which interferes with a

person's ability to make new plans, dis?

courages him from undertaking new

projects, and destroys his relationships

with others in a way from which he does

not soon recover. If this happens survival

will be affected. Since these events will un?

doubtedly impact different combinations

of life-elements in different ways, however,

their varied impact on survival can be eas?

ily represented by my view.

This view can also express the dynamic

interactions between the various elements

of survival. These interactions can be found

on two different levels. First, there are in?

terconnections among the life-elements

themselves. A person's life does not con?

sist simply of a collection of capacities or

components laying side-by-side; the dif?

ferent aspects of our lives support one an?

other. Our relationships contribute to the

stability of our personalities and projects,

and our projects and relationships can be as they are only because of our ability to evaluate and reflect upon ourselves. This

kind of interaction also shows up at the

level of the psychological features and ca?

pacities which underlie these broader ca?

pacities. This is the level of interaction

uncovered in our earlier discussion. For

instance, memory is crucial not only to the

capacity for a certain kind of self-reflec?

tion, but also to interpersonal relationships

and agency. Continuity of personality also

contributes, in its way, to each of these fea?

tures of a person's life. Many of these life

elements are possible only through a

combination of more specific cognitive psychological capacities.

It is worth noting that the interactions

among the various elements of a person's

life can impact survival in one of two ba?

sic ways. The way in which a deficit in one

capacity can lead to a deficit in others, thus

magnifying what is lost has been discussed

already in some detail. If circumstances are

right, however, these interactions also al?

low features which are not immediately

impacted to compensate for deficits so that

their impact is not as great as one might

fear. Some examples will help illustrate

this point. Let's return to our earlier cases

of amnesia and character change. Amne?

sia, conceived as the loss of all autobio?

graphical memory, obviously deals a

serious blow to the capacity to continue

living one's life. With no memory of one's

history both projects and personal relation?

ships will be horribly disrupted. If, how?

ever, a great many other features of the amnesiac's life stay in place, if, e.g., the

environment is constant, and generic per?

sonality features and cognitive capacities

remain more or less intact, the impact on

the amnesiac's life may be mitigated. Be?

cause personal relationships are not uni?

directional, for instance, those with whom

the amnesia victim had close relationships

will probably strive to maintain those re?

lationships, picking up the slack caused by

the lost memories as much as they can. The

amnesia victim will likely continue to live

(at least to begin with) in the same place

that she did before her memory loss; her

parents, friends, spouse, and children will

probably rally around her. Not only will these continuities help to continue many

aspects of her life despite her loss of

memory, they might also allow her to re?

gain some of the psychological features

that were lost to one degree or another. A

devoted family might pore over photo al?

bums, show home videos, and tell stories

to fill in the person's biography for her,

helping her to develop a sort of ersatz

memory; a loyal boss may retain a posi?

tion for her and try to reintegrate her into

her work, helping her to regain enthusiasm

for her earlier projects.

If many generic psychological features

remain in place the amnesiac may respond

well to these attempts and if she does she

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will be able to pick up much (but undoubt?

edly not all) of the thread of her life. On

the other hand, the effort to re-establish her

previous life may fail. Either because there

are too many collateral changes, or because

of the specific way in which her memory

was integrated into her life, or for some

other reasons. If this happens, the initial

changes caused by the loss of memory will

be magnified over time. If her close per?

sonal relationships and past projects can?

not be made vivid or compelling to her again she will likely change her family

situation, choose new projects, find new

work and so on, and this will lead to an

even more profound disruption of her life than the memory loss alone. In such a case

there will almost certainly still be some con?

tinuities with her old life, but survival will

be far less complete and the thread of life

will unravel even further as time goes on.

A very similar situation is found in the case of Parfit's young Russian. From his viewpoint as a young socialist, his loss of socialist ideals would cause his demise by

undercutting the projects and commitments

which seem so central to the conduct of his life. His most central aim is working for equality and fairness, and he views a

shift away from this project as a fundamen?

tal rupture in his life. Should he come to

lose his ideals and rethink this project af?

ter he gets his inheritance, one of two

things might happen. The other continu?

ities which remain in place may allow him

to pick up the thread of his life; or the in?

ability of other continuities to compensate

will result in threats to these continuities

as well. Initially the Russian will remain married to the same woman, a woman he

obviously trusts, and who shares his so?

cialist sensibilities. He will live in the same

village and be forced to face his former comrades. These continuities may temper his change so that he does not become as corrupt as he fears; or, by responding to

their pressures, he may be able to under? stand his change of plans and projects in a

way that does not make it seem so much

like a loss of his previous life. If this does

not happen, however, his loss of values

may well lead to the break-up of his mar?

riage and severing of all old relationships.

Again, the change of a major element of

his life will multiply itself over time, mak?

ing the discontinuity even more complete.

These interactions thus sometimes lead

to the magnification of deficits, and some?

times to their limitation. Indeed, some? times a deficit in one area can be so well

compensated by developments in others

that life becomes enriched rather than di?

minished because of it. There are many

well-known examples in which a reversal

of fortune or debilitating accident leads a

person to a new life path that includes more

satisfying interpersonal relationships or

meaningful projects. Producing an account

of the dynamics of life-elements will thus

be a tricky task, not least because these

interactions are enormously complex and specific to the circumstances of an indi?

vidual life. All this means, however, is that

this account should not be expected to di?

rectly say what impact a particular change

will have on someone's survival. It is more

promising to look for a more general ac?

count of the ways in which the features that

make up a person's life interact and mutu?

ally support and depend upon one another.

To present an account of personal sur?

vival of the sort proposed here it would be

necessary to develop three major compo? nents: First, a list of the features which

make up the life of a person. Second, a

description of the contribution each fea?

ture makes to living the life of a person.

And third, a general account of the dy?

namic interactions between these features.

There are many existing resources for each

of these, including extensive work in value

theory and empirical psychology.

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According to the view proposed here a

person would survive if her life continued;

fail to survive completely when her life ended definitively (when, i.e., all of the

features which go into making up the life

of a person were completely eliminated);

and survive partially if her capacity to live

her life is compromised or diminished.

Admittedly this view would not be able to

answer some of the questions that psycho?

logical continuity theories have tried to. It

would not, for instance, be able to give a straightforward reply to the question of

whether a person would survive total am?

nesia, or splitting in two, or having his psy?

chological make-up transplanted to a new body. Instead it would have to allow that

the answers to these questions will depend

upon the effect these changes have on the

person's life, and this, in turn, will depend

upon the individual details ofthat life. This

is not a difficulty for the view, however, since these questions are raised only in the

interest of getting clearer on what is re?

quired for the survival which matters to us,

and this view speaks to that question di? rectly. This account of personal survival

will not take the form such an account was


The distinction between identity and sur?

vival is an important development in the

discussion of personal continuation. If taken

seriously it points to two separate paths of

inquiry: one into the metaphysical identity

question and the other into the question of

what kind of continuation we care about.

Following out the second path reveals im?

portant phenomena that psychological con?

tinuity theories cannot capture. The kind of

survival people care about can be partial in ways more complicated than the degrees of

survival offered by psychological continu?

ity theorists are able to express. By taking

more seriously the disconnect between sur?

vival and identity an alternative approach

is uncovered. Survival can be conceived in

terms of the continuation of a person's life,

and partial survival described in terms of

the ways in which a person's life does or

does not continue after some change. There

is much work to be done to develop this

account, and it will be fairly messy when it

is done. This is, however, to be expected when what is at issue is nothing less than

what matters.17

initially expected to have, but can address

our concerns all the better for it.

University of Illinois at Chicago


1. "Personality" is used very broadly here. Personality features include beliefs, values, desires,

goals, traits, intentions, and temperament. Section four will address the obvious fact that this is

actually a very heterogeneous group of features.

  • 2. Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), p. 206.

  • 3. Sydney Shoemaker, Personal Identity (Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1984), p. 87.

  • 4. Ibid., pp. 87-88.

  • 5. Or might not. Shoemaker allows that there may be an inherent link between continuity of

some memories and continuity of personality, and so that amnesia with character continuity of

the sort he is imagining may not be possible. This will be an important theme later, but for now it

will be useful to proceed on the hypothesis that this is a possibility. Doing so will ultimately

make it clearer why, in the end, it is not.

  • 6. Shoemaker, Personal Identity, p. 88.

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  • 7. Martin believes that this assessment of the conditions of survival is ultimately a mistake since

the perceiver-self never actually persists (and people do sometimes survive). An alternative way

of reading these facts would be to say that in order to capture what is accurate in this intuitive sense of survival it is essential to think of the continuation of the perceiver-self as a phenomeno

logical rather than metaphysical fact. That is, if a person can experience the perceiver-self as

continuous and persistent she will have the kind of psychological continuation that, in at least

some moods, is taken to constitute personal survival. Resolving these issues is, of course, a mat? ter for a different series of papers.

  • 8. Michael Frayn, Headlong (New York: Picador, 1999), pp. 126-127.

  • 9. Parfit, op. cit., p. 327.

    • 10. David Lewis, "Survival and Identity," in Philosophical Papers, Volume I (New York: Oxford

University Press, 1983), p. 66.

  • 11. See, for instance, Harry Frankfurt, "Some Mysteries of Love," from the 2000 Lindley Lec?

ture, University of Kansas; Christine Korsgaard, Sources ofNormativity (Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1996). For a critical discussion of this strand see David Velleman, "Identifica? tion and Identity," in Contours of Agency, ed. Sarah Buss and Lee Overton (Cambridge, Mass.:

MIT Press, 2002), pp. 91-123.

  • 12. For a wonderful discussion of the importance of empathie access see Richard Wollheim, The

Thread of Life Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), chapter 4.

  • 13. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (New York: Washington Square Press, 1966).

  • 14. Shoemaker, op. cit., p. 88.


  • 16. This analysis also implies that survival depends to a certain extent on a stability of environ?

ment, since this, too, is important to continuing a life. While I do not have time to discuss this

point here, I embrace this implication. It can be made plausible by recognizing that times of civil war, famine, revolution and other dramatic social upheavals are frequently cited as times of wide?

spread identity crisis. On a fully developed picture, stability of environment would be seen as a

third factor in personal survival, one in dynamic interaction with the two outlined in this paper, as these two are with each other. I will discuss this further in section V.

  • 17. This paper has benefited from the input of a great many colleagues. In particular, discussions

with David Zimmerman and Sam Black, and feedback from colloquia at the philosophy depart?

ments at Simon Fraser University and Arizona State University were immensely beneficial.

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