The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate your comprehension of one of the central
topics covered this semester – either the problem of skepticism or the problem of personal
This assignment will help you practice the following skills:
• Reading comprehension.
• Working with abstract concepts.
• Assessing philosophical idea.
• Presenting philosophical ideas in writing.
This assignment will help you become familiar with the following content.
• Personal Identity
Essay Two: Personal Identity
Define and contrast “qualitative identity” and “numerical identity.” Give an example of
two numerically distinct items that are qualitatively identical, and then explain how two
photographs could be of qualitatively different but numerically identical subjects. (30
Explain that what philosophers mean when they bring up “the problem of personal
identity” is the question “What keeps a person numerically identical to him/herself over
a lifetime despite their undergoing possibly drastic qualitative changes?” Then explain
how philosophers who endorse the brain criterion answer this question and how
philosophers who endorse the memory criterion answer this question. (30 points.)
Rewatch the trailer for the movie Freaky Friday on Blackboard. Before they eat the
cursed fortune cookie, the character Anna is played by Lindsay Lohan and the character
Tess is played by Jamie Lee Curtis, but after they eat the fortune cookie their identity
becomes philosophically debatable. Explain which characters (who you should call
“Anna” and “Tess”) inhabit which bodies (which you should call “LL” for Lindsay Lohan’s
body and “JLC” for Jamie Lee Curtis’s body) after the fortune cookie scene, according to
the brain and memory criterion of personal identity. Assume that the cursed fortune
cookie swaps their memories between their brains but does not swap their brains
between their skulls. (30 points.)
Personal identity is both symmetric and transitive – explain what this means. Give
examples of transitive and symmetric relations other than personal identity, and also
give an example of a relation that is neither transitive nor symmetric. Given that
personal identity is both transitive and symmetric, how is it possible for two persons
living ten years apart to be numerically identical to each other according to the brain or
memory criterion of personal identity, even if they believe, desire and remember entirely
different things and their brains have no neurons or cells in common? (30 points.)
Explain what a “dividing” case looks like for Parfit. While humans cannot divide like
amoeba, he thinks we can describe a case using triplets that results in a scenario very
much like dividing amoeba in the relevant respects. Describe this scenario and explain
what Parfit thinks happens to someone if they “divide” in this way. Which of the two
resulting half-brained people does Parfit think the original whole-brained person is
identical to, if either, and why? (30 points.)
We know that our memories are stored in patterns of neural connections in our brains,
and so, in the future, scientists could hypothetically discover the code used by our brains
to store memories and use this knowledge to “implant” memories in our minds by
rewiring our neurons. In this hypothetical scenario, scientists could scan your brain and
use this information to implant all of your memories into a clone. Upon awakening from
surgery, the clone would have all of your memories and no memories of its own – the
clone would think he/she is you.
Imagine that the brain scan procedure would kill your brain if it happened to you.
Nevertheless, it would allow all of your memories to be implanted into a newer, fresher
brain and younger, healthier body whenever you wished. Explain whether or not the
clones with your memories would be you. If this procedure were offered to you, would
you agree to it? Why or why not? (30 points.)
Criteria for Success
Your paper must be in double-spaced 12-point font, Times New Roman, Vani, Georgia, Libre
Baskerville, or Calibri. Give it an appropriate title and bold and/or underline the title. Make sure
your name and date are on it, but don’t put the name of the professor.
• Every step of the task is completed, and in the proper order.
• Every step is written in your own words. You may quote Descartes, Hume, Locke, Parfit,
or any of the course material, but if you do be sure to use proper attribution, and don’t go
overboard with it. You should not be citing or quoting outside sources.
• The paper does not contain any “filler,” i.e. sentences unrelated to the prompt or their
paragraph’s main idea.
• The paper is turned in on time.
• The paper has the proper typesetting spelling, grammar, paragraph structure and
Correctly following these criteria is worth 20 points.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT ALL POINTS ARE PRESENT, AND IDENTIFIED!!! NO MIN OF WORDS, BUT ALL POINTS MUST BE ANSWERED