chapter  1
An Initial Survey
Pages 23

What am I? And what is my relationship to the thing I call ‘my body’? Thus each of us can pose for himself the philosophical problems of the nature of the self and the relationship between a person and his body. The nature of personal identity over time, and the link, if any, between personal identity and bodily identity are aspects of these problems and it is this, of course, that accounts for the immense philosophical interest in the concept of personal identity. But, perhaps unlike some other philosophical problems, the nature of personal identity is not merely of interest to professional philosophers, but also a matter of great practical concern to all of us, philosophers and non-philosophers alike. Man has always hoped to survive his bodily death, and it is a central tenet of many religions that such survival is a reality. But, of course, whether such survival is possible, and what forms, if any, it might take, are matters which depend crucially on the nature of personal identity over time. For to survive, in the sense that concerns us, means to continue to exist as persons identifiable as those here and now. Again, our concept of personal identity is intimately linked with our concept of responsibility for past actions and with our practices of praise and blame; whilst our own pasts and futures are the primary focus of many of our central emotions and attitudes. Were we to give up the idea of a person as a unitary continuing entity, it is hard to imagine the drastic impact this would have on our picture of the world and our emotional and moral responses to it.