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Will it be me? Identity, concern, and perspective
journal contributionposted on 2013-04-01, 00:00 authored by Patrick StokesPatrick Stokes
Self-reflexive or egocentric concern has been taken to present a serious problem for reductionist and eliminativist metaphysical accounts of personal identity. Philosophers have tended to respond in one of three ways: by continuing the search for a metaphysical account of identity that (prudentially if not morally) justifies egocentric concern; by accepting that egocentric concern can hold between persons who are not numerically identical; or by advocating the abandonment of egocentric concern altogether. All these approaches, however, distinguish between metaphysical ‘facts’ and affective responses to them. Exploring a well-known example from Bernard Williams, I argue that egocentric concern presents itself as irreducibly first-personal and as making its own set of numerical personal identity claims on the phenomenal level. Williams' example also points to the need to complicate the first/third person schema by factoring in a further distinction between present-tense and implicitly atemporal perspectives on the self. Once this move is made, we can see that the identity claims figured in first-person present-tense experience and those arrived at through metaphysical deliberation need to be distinguished. We should resist the temptation to privilege one perspective over the other in all instances, or to collapse them into a unitary account of selfhood.