Technological fictions and personal identity: on Ricoeur, Schechtman and analytic thought experiments
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It is notable when philosophers in one tradition take seriously the work in another and engage with it. This is certainly the case when Paul Ricoeur engages with the thought of Derek Parfit on personal identity. He sees it as worth engaging with, but as emblematic of errors in the analytic approach to the topic, especially when it comes to methodology. But he is, in a fairly clear way, taking the analytic debate on its own terms. Marya Schechtman’s work is also noteworthy in this regard. Although she writes in the analytic tradition, in many ways she has represented thinking like Ricoeur’s in the tradition – pressing concerns that echo his, and demanding that the debate needs to take notice. I will focus on complaints that both of them present, which I think are closely related, about the thought experiments that feature large in analytic discussions of personal identity, especially in the seminal work of Parfit. The complaints relate both to those devices and to the theory they have produced. I want to offer something of a defence of both.