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Anscombe, Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret, , . Were you a Zygote?
1985, In Griffiths, A.P. (ed.) Philosophy and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: The usual way for new cells to come into being is by division of old cells. So the zygote, which is a—new—single cell formed from two, the sperm and ovum, is an exception. Textbooks of human genetics usually say that this new cell is beginning of a new human individual. What this indicates is that they suddenly forget about identical twins.

Comment: This paper can be particularly useful in teaching in two contexts: (1) ethical issues at the beginning of life; and (2) metaphysics of personal identity.

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Baum, Rob, , . Moral Good, the Self, and the M/other. Upholding Difference
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 511-523
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: This chapter employs the relevant ethical phenomenologies of Buber, Lévinas, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche as well as the philosophical psychoanalysis of Lacan to examine the moral good of difference and to determine the rationale of treating either self or other as more deserving of good. Difference and otherness are not synonymous. Following the Socratic style of dialogue, the chapter emerges from a conversation with a Zulu man who perceives the author as a privileged, white, female South African other due to the failure of the self to understand the actual difference of the other. There also seems, the author acknowledges, to be a pre-existing and fundamental moral value in regard to relating with and comprehending the other as both self-like and necessarily not-self, a moral value emerging from the Christian overdetermination of many South Africans including the Zulu man – the author is, again, “other” (not privileged, not white, not South African, and not Christian). To this end, Levitical and Deuteronomic texts are invoked as a shared philosophical basis for understanding the difference between self and other. From these analyses, the chapter shows that we other violently, when we do not understand our difference. But when we take time to stop and reflect and listen, we can reach agreement that we are completely different in a positive sense – a strategic rethinking of “otherness.” This important and essential form of difference is theorized in the chapter as “m/othering,” illustrating the original forming of identity on which we tend to base perceptions of the other. Difference is shown to be not only desirable but possibly imperative for cultural growth.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Kind, Amy, , . Persons and Personal Identity
2015, Polity.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Publisher’s note: As persons, we are importantly different from all other creatures in the universe. But in what, exactly, does this difference consist? What kinds of entities are we, and what makes each of us the same person today that we were yesterday? Could we survive having all of our memories erased and replaced with false ones? What about if our bodies were destroyed and our brains were transplanted into android bodies, or if instead our minds were simply uploaded to computers?

In this engaging and accessible introduction to these important philosophical questions, Amy Kind brings together three different areas of research: the nature of personhood, theories of personal identity over time, and the constitution of self-identity. Surveying the key contemporary theories in the philosophical literature, Kind analyzes and assesses their strengths and weaknesses. As she shows, our intuitions on these issues often pull us in different directions, making it difficult to develop an adequate general theory. Throughout her discussion, Kind seamlessly interweaves a vast array of up-to-date examples drawn from both real life and popular fiction, all of which greatly help to elucidate this central topic in metaphysics.

A perfect text for readers coming to these issues for the first time, Persons and Personal Identity engages with some of the deepest and most important questions about human nature and our place in the world, making it a vital resource for students and researchers alike.

Comment: This book provides excellent discussion of the major theories of personal identity. It could be used as the textbook for a course on personal identity at the undergraduate level, or for a unit on personal identity in an introduction to philosophy course.

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Mills, Charles, , . ’But What Are You Really?’ The Metaphysics of Race
2000, In: Light A., Mechthild N. (eds). Race, Class, and Community Identity: Radical Philosophy Today. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books. p. 23-51.
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Summary (Diversifying Syllabi): There are a variety of possible views about the metaphysical status of racial assignments, which roughly parallel the variety of meta-ethical views in the literature. Most people are realists about race. Those who see that the realist position is wrongheaded often conclude that race is unreal, subjective, or relative. Both of these views are mistaken.

There are seven candidate conditions for racial identification: appearance, ancestry, public awareness of ancestry, self-awareness of ancestry, culture, experience, and self-identification. Consideration of ten cases of “racial transgressives”—in which a person has some of these conditions but not others — push on our intuitions and ultimately show that we ought to conclude that race is a social construction. This view is to be distinguished from relativism, insofar as you can be wrong about what race you are: Thinking does not make it so.

Comment: This article draws parallels between various positions on the nature of race and various positions on the metaphysical status of ethical values (realism, constructivism, nihilism, etc.). The article explains the latter meta-ethical positions quickly and cursorily, so your students might need a primer (Diversifying Syllabi).

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Rudder Baker, Lynne, , . Death and the Afterlife
2005, in William J. Wainwright (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: Monotheistic conceptions of an afterlife raise a philosophical question: In virtue of what is a postmortem person the same person who lived and died? Four standard answers are surveyed and criticized: sameness of soul, sameness of body or brain, sameness of soul-body composite, sameness of memories. The discussion of these answers to the question of personal identity is followed by a development of my own view, the Constitution View. According to the Constitution View, you are a person in virtue of having a first-person perspective, and a postmortem person is you if and only if that person has the same first-person perspective. The Christian doctrine of resurrection has three features: (i) a postmortem person is embodied; (ii) a postmortem person is identical to some premortem person; and (iii) the postmortem person owes existence to a miracle. I show how the Constitution View accommodates these three features.

Comment: Useful for an introductory philosophy of religion course, or a more specialised course on the afterlife. Because of the personal identity aspects here, Rudder Baker’s account could also be applied to reincarnation: does the constitution view work here? Is it harder to maintain personal identity in reincarnation cases than in other cases of surviving our death?

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