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The Persistence of Self


By Tristan Reiniers | Mentor: Mason Cash


This paper primarily addresses Barry Dainton and Tim Bayne’s article, “Consciousness as a Guide to Personal Persistence.” In that article, Dainton and Bayne reject psychological continuity in favor of phenomenal continuity as a criterion for personal persistence. They define phenomenal continuity as the kind of connection between a person’s experiences that obtains when those experiences are components of a unified stream of consciousness. I summarize Dainton and Bayne’s position and defend them in bringing attention to phenomenal continuity as an important factor in personal persistence. However, I argue that they go too far in holding that complete loss of psychological continuity is survivable. I make a distinction between an individual’s self and person, arguing that phenomenal continuity is a sufficient condition for the persistence of a person but not that person’s self — only psychological continuity can enable a self to persist through time. Since it is our selves that we should really be concerned about, we should not be willing to settle solely for continuity among our experiences. Still, while phenomenal continuity isn’t a sufficient condition for the persistence of a self-conscious entity, it is a necessary one, so in the end I construe the concept of phenomenal continuity as an important addition to Lockean accounts of personal persistence.

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