The Puzzle of Personal Identity: What Makes Me the Same Person over Time

Overview

Suppose I invite you to enter a teletransporter for an exciting adventure in space travel. In this teletransporter a copy will be made of every cell in your body. Whilst your brain and body are destroyed on Earth, a new being, a facsimile, will appear almost instantly on Planet Zog. No need for a tedious journey in a space craft. The recreated person on Planet Zog will look indistinguishable from you, it will have all your memories?  

But will it be you?

‘Personal Identity’ is one of the most puzzling areas in philosophy. Many philosophers have grappled with it, from John Locke in the 17th Century to Derek Parfit in the 20th. 

To test our intuitions about personal identity, philosophers have come up with weird and wonderful thought experiments. Locke asked us to imagine that a prince and a cobbler swapped souls, so that the memories of the prince were in the body of the cobbler and vice-versa. Parfit asked us to imagine what would happen if a brain was split in two, with the two hemispheres being implanted in two separate bodies. 

There’s much at stake; the issue matters. Your position on Personal Identity may affect how you regard the past – should a person be punished for an act that was committed a decade earlier? It may affect how you view the future – should you bother to put money into a pension scheme or splurge everything so as to have fun today? How you view Personal Identity might even affect your attitude to death.

Programme details

9.45am
Registration for in-person attendees

10.00am
Parfit and Personal Identity
David Edmonds

11.15am
Tea/coffee

11.45am
Problems and challenges for Parfit: ‘Personal identity without identity’
Julian Baggini

1.00pm
Lunch break

2.00pm
Personal Identity – why does it matter?
David Edmonds

2.40pm
The implications of rejecting Parfit’s view
Julian Baggini

3.15pm
Tea/coffee

3.45pm
In conversation: Julian Baggini interviews David Edmonds about his new book on Parfit and Personal Identity, and they further explore issues that have arisen through the day

Followed by a short plenary

5.00pm
Course disperses

Fees

Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £85.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £75.00
Baguette £6.10
Hot lunch (three courses) £16.50

Funding

If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses

Tutors

Dr David Edmonds

Speaker

David Edmonds is a Consultant Researcher and Distinguished Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. He also runs the incredibly popular 'Philosophy Bites' podcast series with Nigel Warburton. 

Dr Julian Baggini

Speaker

Dr Julian Baggini is the author, co-author or editor of over 20 books including How The World Thinks, The Ego Trick (both Granta), The Edge of Reason (Yale University Press) and, most recently, The Great Guide: What David Hume Can Teach Us about Being Human and Living Well (Princeton University Press). He was the founding editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines, as well as for the think tanks The Institute of Public Policy Research, Demos and Counterpoint. He was Academic Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy from 2019-2022, is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent and has been a member of the Food Ethics Council since 2016. 

Application

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.

Accommodation

Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.