Personal Identity and Morality
Professor: Cory Wright
Mondays and Wednesdays · 2:00pm–3:15pm · PH1–100
This course is about personal identity, rationality, and morality. We shall discuss two kinds of interrelated questions. The first kind will be metaphysical questions about personhood. For example, what are you, and where are you located? Are there criteria to determine whether someone is one-and-the-same person over time? Is every human a person? More generally, if something is a person, what properties will it have; and if something has those properties, will it be a person? The second kind will be ethical questions about future people. For example, is it rational to act against our own best interests? Do we owe anything to future generations? Is it better if more people live longer lives? Should we prefer a much larger population of people that would be better off overall despite each member leading a life that is barely worth living? Our text will be the second half of a little, old, cheap paperback: Parfit’s (1984) Reasons and Persons. There is no guarantee that we will be much wiser at the end of the course; and we will be 16 weeks closer to death. But it won’t have been boring, will have been meaningful, and we will at least have read one of the greatest philosophical works of all time.