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Philosophy 101 Paper Final Version

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Philosophy 101 Paper Final Version Tianyu Tao Apr.03.2011
The concept of identity is a complex one. Identity is defined to be the relation that
everything has to itself and nothing else. I think this definition makes sense if we interpret it this
way: identity is a reference which people use to distinguish different things. Things are different
because they have different properties. Therefore, identity is significantly related to properties of
objects. There are two ways of saying identity in terms of properties. The first one claims that
object x is identical to object y (i.e. have the same identity) if and only if they share all properties
(all of their properties are exactly the same). Another view holds that x is identical to y if and
only if they just share certain “essential” properties. Before continuing, I want to clarify that the
identity I am now talking about is numerical identity. It is not the case that I am talking about
two or more similar things like twins. There is only one thing. I want to discuss the question of
identity over time, that is, as time changes, what can we say about a certain object’s identity (that
whether it is x or y over time).
It is now the time of deciding which view we should use to talk about identity. I think the
first view does not make sense in discussing the question of identity over time. It is obvious that
things always undergo changes through time. The difference is just that some changes are small
while others are big. If I suppose the first claim is valid, it will be impossible to say one object
can has an identity over time. Since even the smallest change will establish a difference in
identity. This is not the result I desire, and it is contrary to my intuition. Therefore, I prefer the
second view, claiming the necessary and sufficient condition for an object to hold an identity
over time is to maintain certain essential properties as time changes.
However, questions still remain. What should be considered as “essential properties” of
an object, especially when talking about personal identities (i.e. the object involved is a person)?

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Again, there are two different views on this question about personal identity. The first one,
generally known as Dualism, claims there are two substances (properties) which constitute a
person. One is the body of the person, and the other is the mind, but the really essential part for a
person is the mind. Contrary to Dualism, the second view, known as Physicalism holds that the
only essential substance of a person is the person’s body. Here I am willing to take a position
again. To me Physicalism is clearer and easier to explain, while Dualism is rather obscure (what
exactly is mind?). So I prefer the doctrine of Physicalism.
Now let’s use these concepts to examine an interesting case—the story told by Daniel
Dennett in his philosophical essay “Where am I.” What happens in this story is that Dennett’s
brain, called Yorick, was separated from the rest of his body, which is called Hamlet, but
connected via remote electronic devices. Everything works well until an accident happens,
resulting the connection between Hamlet and Yorick broken. Hamlet is then in a sense
“disappeared” in the context, while Yorick solely remains. One year later, Dennett’s brain is
connected to a new body, called Fortinbras, but at the same time, a computer that synchronizes
with Yorick (exactly simulate the behavior of Yorick) called Hubert is constructed and is
connected to Fortinbras as well. There is a switch which can determine whether Yorick or Hubert
takes control of Fortinbras. Finally, the synchronization between the brain and the computer
breaks, and the two starts to deviate to have different ideas about which one should take control
of Fortinbras. The question I want to consider is: during the whole story, as the plot develops,
which object has the identity “Dennett?”
I will examine where Dennett is in each stage of iteration. Before I actually start, the
thesis I am going to defend is that “Dennett” is referred to the combination of Hamlet and
Yorick.At the very beginning, we have Dennett, the narrator of the story. What is the name

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Philosophy 101 Paper Final Version Tianyu Tao Apr.03.2011 The concept of identity is a complex one. Identity is defined to be the relation that everything has to itself and nothing else. I think this definition makes sense if we interpret it this way: identity is a reference which people use to distinguish different things. Things are different because they have different properties. Therefore, identity is significantly related to properties of objects. There are two ways of saying identity in terms of properties. The first one claims that object x is identical to object y (i.e. have the same identity) if and only if they share all properties (all of their properties are exactly the same). Another view holds that x is identical to y if and only if they just share certain "essential" properties. Before continuing, I want to clarify that the identity I am now talking about is numerical identity. It is not the case that I am talking about two or more similar things like twins. There is only one thing. I want to discuss the question of identity over time, that is, as time changes, what can we say about a certain object's identity (that whether it is x or y over time). It is now the time of deciding which view we should use to talk about identity. I think the first view does not make sense in discussing the question of identity over time. It is obvious that things always undergo changes through time. The difference is just that some changes are small while others are big. ...
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