Indivisible Selves and Moral Practice

Indivisible Selves and Moral Practice

Indivisible Selves and Moral Practice

Indivisible Selves and Moral Practice


Since Derek Parfit published his REASONS & PERSONS in 1985, there has been renewed interest in philosophical psychology about the status of intellectual thought-experiments: what would we say if...' Directly countering Parfit's view that our moral life must be tailored to our speculation about the mind, Haksar argues in this book that presuppositions of our moral and practical life should have a bearing on what we believe about persons and personal identity. Haksar strongly defends the indivisible self view, using a detailed examination of the empirical evidence arising from plit-brain and multiple personality cases. He outlines the moral, social, legal and practical implications of the different views of the self (and of the no-self view) and deals extensively with suffering, individual persons, and groups. Up-to-date and informed, the book integrates two controversial areas of philosophy moral philosophy and philosophy of the mind.


This book examines some of the different theories of the self and some of their moral, social, legal and practical implications. I have stressed the importance of the first person perspective for the study of problems such as personal identity. Some of these problems cannot be properly apprehended without the first person or subjective viewpoint. From an objective or external standpoint there would be no more problem about personal identity than about the identity of other objects.

One of the limitations of the objective approach to the study of persons is that it leaves out the subjective point of view. Nagel believes that there is discord and clash between the objective and subjective approaches and that we are doomed to be stuck with two irreconcilable viewpoints. My own view, which I develop in Appendix A, is that there is no need to embrace such irrationalism. We should try to achieve harmony between the two approaches. The subjective approach provides us with imaginative insights into our own nature. Some of the most important of these insights, such as that we are indivisible selves whose survival does not admit of degrees, cannot be established by the objective approach. But it would be wrong to infer that such views are based on error. I argue that such views are defeasible conjectures, and that it is reasonable to believe in them unless there is evidence to the contrary.

The relation between the subjective and objective approaches has similarities to what happens in science, where scientists form conjectures and then try to test them with possible counter-examples. Somewhat as in science one tries to get a fit between scientific theories and observation statements, so also one should aim for a fit between the deliverances of the subjective approach, as well as of our moral and practical views, and objective facts.

The Buddhists, Hume and Parfit do not believe that there is a persistent self or indeed any self in a deep sense. On this no-self or reductionist view there is a self in the sense that there is a certain psychology and one can talk of earlier and later selves in the life of a human being, the early self referring to the early character the later self to the later character. But there is no self in any deep sense; our continued existence over time just consists in various physical and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.