Personal Identity and the Brain

Date:    Monday 2oth August 2018, 7.30pm
Venue: the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG

Our August speaker was Dr Stephen Burwood of the University of Hull Philosophy department who has been a long term supporter of the Humanists UK philosophers group and has spoken to HERHG twice before, on 24th May 2014 on “Is Science Possible without God?” and before that on 19th October 2009 on “The Problem of Evil”. This time Steve will be talking about “Personal Identity and the Brain”.
Steve said of his talk:
“The diachronic problem of personal identity is the problem of determining the identity of something over time: in our case, for example, it is expressed by the question, “What makes us the same person today as yesterday, or last year, or as ten years ago?” A popular answer nowadays is often formulated along the lines; same person = same brain. One can see the philosophical appeal of this. It gives voice to a widespread feeling that the brain plays a unique role in mindedness (paying due deference to the brain sciences) and, perhaps more importantly, neatly captures in one go both psychological and physical continuity (the two traditional approaches to resolving the problem). Fundamentally, this brain-is-self view favours psychological continuity as the principal criterion of self identity but gives this a materialist twist, thereby ensuring a form of physical continuity as well. Pared down to a simple syllogism, the argument appears to be as follows: I am my mind; my mind is—in some important sense—my brain; therefore, I am my brain. However, things are never quite so simple and there are several reasons why this is not a very satisfactory or satisfying answer.”

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