Consciousness as a guide to personal persistence

Barry Dainton, Tim Bayne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Mentalistic (or Lockean) accounts of personal identity are normally formulated in terms of causal relations between psychological states such as beliefs, memories, and intentions. In this paper we develop an alternative (but still Lockean) account of personal identity, based on phenomenal relations between experiences. We begin by examining a notorious puzzle case due to Bernard Williams, and extract two lessons from it: first, that Williams's puzzle can be defused by distinguishing between the psychological and phenomenal approaches, second, that so far as personal identity is concerned, it is phenomenal rather than psychological continuity that matters. We then consider different ways in which the phenomenal approach may be developed, and respond to a number of objections. That with which the consciousness of this present thinking thing can join itself, makes the same person, and is one self with it, and with nothing else; and so attributes to itself and owns all the actions of that thing, as its own, as far as that consciousness reaches, and no farther; as every one who reflects will perceive. Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding [II.xxvii.17].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-571
Number of pages23
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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