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Two Theories Of Personal Identity Philosophy Essay

Derek Parfit discusses two separate theories of personal identity, the Ego theory and the Bundle theory. The common question between these two theories is “What is a person?” In this paper, I will introduce the Ego Theory and the Bundle Theory, then I will go over Parfit’s teletransportation example. I will explain what Parfit and the Ego Theorist disagree about when it comes to teletransportation. Then I will argue in order to defend the Ego Theory and explain why I feel it is more persuasive.

To begin with, I will discuss the foundation of the Ego Theory. This theory defines a person as a single unified subject of experiences. In other words, this theory believes there is something in this world that is “you” and that thing is basic. Mental events exist (such as memories, sensations, emotions, desires, experiences, etc.) but are not basic. The basis of what makes up a person is something other than those mental events. This theory states that a person's continual life is described through the purpose of a specific subject of experiences, a person is an ego (unit basic quality) that a bunch of experiences happen to.

On the other hand, the Bundle Theory is very different, it believes that we are not a particular subject of experiences, but a bundle. The foundation of this theory is that mental events exist but they are basic. A Bundle theorist believes there is no unit that is a person that exists in the world. A person is just a bundle or collection of mental events. These bundle of ideas are attached to a person. We organize our notions about what is in the world by categorizing different things ad giving them a label. People decided to call the idea of what makes up a person “a person”. We give notions their meaning using language. This is human beings basic way of organizing and defining things in the world depending on their relation, but it is our creation. Parfit agrees with the Bundle Theory and goes on to argue that we have defined what a person is incorrectly.

Parfit goes on to discuss a scenario that involves teletransportation. He discusses a device called the teletransporter, which can read the design of a person’s material while destroying it, then transfer the information to Mars at the speed of light. The receiver reads this information creating an exact copy of your material there. Parfit argues that you will die during this process, however you will have a “replica” of yourself who will pick up where you left off with your life. The replica will be someone who will be exactly similar to you, but it will not actually be you. It will have all your attributes such as your look, personality, memories, etc. This occurrence raises questions regarding whether the replica would be the same person as you, and hence what truly makes a person what they are.

Both the Ego and Bundle theories agree that “you” will die during this process of teletransportation and that the replica created will not be “you”. They disagree why the replica will not be the same person. The Ego theory believes the replica created on Mars is not you because it is just a copy of you. No one who will exist in the future would have my ego, no one in the future will be this particular subject of experiences. In other words, no one in the future will ever be me. A replica by definition is not the same as you, it’s a reproduction of you. Destroying the person teletransported does not somehow make the replica of that person the same. What makes a person is their ego. A person that believes in the Ego theory would be crazy for getting in a teletransporter because it would destroy them.

On the other hand, the reason the Bundle theory believes the replica created on Mars is not the same as “you” is because it argues there is no self, there is no such thing as a person being teletransported. There are only ideas and when your collection of ideas is teleported, your collection of ideas will disappear and a new set of ideas will appear. The replica created will have the experience of knowing what the person teletransported is like, what memories they have experienced, what emotions they process, etc. but it is not the same as actually experiencing those things. The person teletransported has memories because that person created them in a specific way. Making a replica of those memories will still not be the same as actually having those memories personally. So a person that believes in the Bundle theory would have no problem getting in the teletransporter as opposed to the Ego theory.

            Parfit then goes on to assert, “Ordinary survival is about as bad as being destroyed and having a Replica”. What Parfit is trying to say is that teletransportation is just as bad as ordinary survival. If we believe in the Ego Theory we are worried about nonsense, because the way we perceive what defines a person is incorrect. He believes we do not understand what we are and that our continued existence should not really matter to us. Once we understand that we are just a bundle of ideas, it should not matter whether that bundle of ideas lives or dies.

In my opinion the Ego theory’s line of reasoning is much more persuasive. I believe there is something special that makes each and every person different, which we call the “soul”. Our consciousness is the indicator there exists a soul. We are rational beings that have a conscience which tells us right from wrong. Also, there is something that is the foundation of a person that existed before we were born and that carries on after we die. We can decide whether we want to behave or act in a certain way, hence we have free will. All those things were in existence before we were born, they are installed in our genetic makeup.  I believe that in order for something to exist, something else must have caused it. Our genetic make up did not just appear out of nowhere, we were created by an external force. I believe that the soul is the basis for that existence. The soul is beyond the range of the senses of the ego, but is a part of the ego.

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