A hylomorphic account of personal identity
The current state of the personal ontology debate can be summarized as a disagreement between two roughly distinct camps. First, there are those philosophers who argue that personal identity consists of psychological continuity. According to the psychological continuity theorist, one’s identity over time is traced by following a series of memories, beliefs, desires, or intentions. Opposed to psychological continuity theories are those who argue that personal identity consists of biological continuity. So-called “animalists” suggest that our identity corresponds to that of a human organism, a member of the species Homo Sapiens. As long as the event of the organism’s life continues, there too do we persist, according to the animalist. It is my contention that both views suffer difficulties found when exploring their metaphysical commitments and responses to certain widely-discussed thought experiments. In this thesis, I aim to resurrect the ancient view of hylomorphism, by which I mean the view espoused by Aristotle and adapted by St. Thomas Aquinas that posits matter and form as the basic constituents of every material object. As a theory of personal ontology, I argue that hylomorphism has the resources to provide a formidable challenge to the two main views. I will offer hylomorphic responses to general problems faced by accounts of personal identity such as intransitivity, circularity, fission, and composition, and show how its answers are an improvement over those given by psychological continuity theory and animalism.
person, hylomorphism, soul, aquinas, identity
Master of Arts (M.A.)