Marya SchechtmanStaying Alive: Personal Identity, Practical Concerns, and the Unity of a Life

Oxford University Press, 2014

by Carrie Figdor on March 15, 2015

Marya Schechtman

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What is it to be the same person over time? The 17th-century British philosopher John Locke approached this question from a forensic standpoint: persons are identified over time with an appropriately related series of psychological states, in particular a chain of memories, and our interest in identifying persons in this way stems from our interest in holding people responsible for their actions. Locke’s psychological account of persons remains highly influential today, although his forensic approach is more contentious. In Staying Alive: Personal Identity, Practical Concerns, and the Unity of a Life (Oxford University Press 2014), Marya Schechtman builds on the Lockean idea of persons as forensic units, expanding it to include a much wider range of practical concerns and recognizing the role of sociological and biological factors in these relationships. Schechtman, a professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, articulates her view in relation to a range of prominent competing positions, in particular Eric Olson’s influential animalist account in which human persons just are human bodies.

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Seana ShiffrinSpeech Matters: On Lying, Morality, and the Law

March 1, 2015

It is generally accepted that lying is morally prohibited. But theorists divide over the nature of lying’s wrongness, and thus there is disagreement over when the prohibition might be outweighed by competing moral norms.  There is also widespread agreement over the idea that promises made under conditions of coercion or duress lack the moral force […]

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Evan ThompsonWaking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy

February 15, 2015

The quest for an explanation of consciousness is currently dominated by scientific efforts to find the neural correlates of conscious states, on the assumption that these states are dependent on the brain. A very different way of exploring consciousness is undertaken within various Indian religious traditions, in which subtle states of consciousness and transitions between […]

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Carol GouldInteractive Democracy: The Social Roots of Global Justice

February 1, 2015

Contemporary advances in technology have in many ways made the world smaller.  It is now possible for vast numbers of geographically disparate people to interact, communicate, coordinate, and plan.  These advances potentially bring considerable benefits to democracy, such as greater participation, more inclusion, easier dissemination of information, and so on.  Yet they also raise unique […]

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Erik C. BanksThe Realistic Empiricism of Mach, James, and Russell: Neutral Monism Reconceived

January 15, 2015

The Austrian physicist Ernst Mach, the American psychologist William James, and the British philosopher Bertrand Russell shared an interest in explaining the mind in naturalistic terms – unified with the rest of nature, not metaphysically distinct as Descartes argued. In The Realistic Empiricism of Mach, James, and Russell: Neutral Monism Reconceived (Cambridge University Press, 2014), […]

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Terence CuneoSpeech and Morality: On the Metaethical Implications of Speaking

January 1, 2015

It is widely accepted that in uttering sentences we sometimes perform distinctive kinds of acts. We declare, assert, challenge, question, corroborate by means of speech; sometimes we also use speech to perform acts such as promising, commanding, judging, pronouncing, and christening. Yet it seems that in order to perform an act of, say, promising, one […]

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Joelle ProustThe Philosophy of Metacognition: Mental Agency and Self-Awareness

December 15, 2014

Metacognition is cognition about cognition – what we do when we assess our cognitive states, such as wondering whether we’ve remembered a phone number correctly. In The Philosophy of Metacognition: Mental Agency and Self-Awareness (Oxford University Press, 2014) Joelle Proust considers the nature of metacognition from a naturalistic perspective, drawing on recent psychological research as […]

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Claudio Lopez-GuerraDemocracy and Disenfranchisement: The Morality of Electoral Exclusions

December 1, 2014

Modern democracy is build around a collection of moral and political commitments.  Among the most familiar and central of these concern voting.  It is commonly held that legitimate government requires a system of universal suffrage. Yet, democrats tend to hold that certain exclusions are permissible.  For example, it is commonly thought that children and the […]

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Eric SteinhartYour Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life after Death

November 15, 2014

What is life after death? Many people may seek an answer to the question by looking to a traditional religion, such as Christianity or Buddhism, and offering its view of an afterlife. In Your Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life After Death (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), Eric Steinhart presents core tenets of digitalism, a theology that […]

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Michael E. BratmanShared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together

November 1, 2014

One striking feature of humans is that fact that we sometimes act together. We garden, paint, sing, and dance together. Moreover, we intuitively recognize the difference between our simply walking down the street alongside each other and our walking down the street together. The former involves coordinated action and intention; but the latter involves something […]

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