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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 January 2009
People are organisms of a characteristic shape, with individual personalities, abilities and memories. Each of these features varies through time, but does not normally change very abruptly before death. Because these changes are only gradual, we are able to pick out one and the same individual through time, and refer to him, her or it by use of a proper name, just as we are able to refer to one and the same planet, animal or building. In particular, organisms change shape only gradually, and we have every reason to believe in the possibility of our continuing to watch the spatiotemporally continuous life-history of one and the same organism.
1 I have suggested this terminology, and the reasons for it in the light of the current somewhat varied philosophical usage, in ‘Criteria and Evidence’, Mind LXXXIII, No. 330 (04 1974).Google Scholar
2 Swinburne, R. G., ‘Personal Identity’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society LXXIV (1974), 240, 244.Google Scholar
3 See Bambrough, Renford, ‘Universals and Family Resemblances’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society LXI (1960–1961).Google Scholar
4 Since I wrote the first draft of this paper, Borowski, E. J.'s article ‘Identity and Personal Identity’ has appeared in Mind (10 1976)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, in which he argues that ‘diachronic’ identity is a family resemblance concept. I agree with almost everything he says in that admirable piece of work.
6 I have argued these points in more detail in ‘Family Resemblance, Vagueness, and Change of Meaning’, Theoria XXIV (1968).Google Scholar
7 See my ‘Criteria and Evidence’, op. cit., footnote 1.
8 I have attempted to do this in detail in the doctoral thesis referred to in footnote 14.
9 Shorter, J. M., ‘Personal Identity, Personal Relationships, and Criteria’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society LXXI (1970–1971).Google Scholar
10 This moral truth is apparently overlooked by Roger Wertheimer in his intelligent and sympathetic ‘Understanding the Abortion Argument’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 1, No. 1 (1971)Google Scholar. Wertheimer is one of the few writers to present a cogent non-religious argument for the extreme conservative position. But the ‘ontological status’ of the foetus is not the only or perhaps even the most important question at issue here, as is conclusively shown by McLachlan, Hugh V. in ‘Must We Accept Either the Conservative or the Liberal View on Abortion?’, Analysis 37, No. 4 (06 1977).CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
12 Thus Parfit, Derek in his otherwise excellent ‘Personal Identity’, Philosophical Review LXXX (1971).Google Scholar
14 This paper is based on part of a doctoral thesis accepted at Cambridge University in 1964. I am much indebted to Renford Bambrough and more specifically to my supervisor John Wisdom for a great deal of help with that work. A first draft of the paper was read at the University of Toronto in September 1976: I am extremely grateful to members of the Faculty there for their helpful criticisms.
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