Task 1—Explain what the question of personal identity over time means.
Your job here is to get across in your own words what it is we’re interested in when we ask about personal identity over time. What is it and why does it matter?
Task 2—Present and defend an argument for one of the abovementioned options.
Your job here is to make the best case you can for a psychological, body, or soul theory (or hybrid theory). You may use any relevant argument you find in any of the readings or the slides provided you express it in your own words and give it the most complete defence you can. You may also devise an argument of your own. Whatever you do, though, make sure that you give careful definitions of any technical terms you use.
What if you don’t think any of these options is correct? (Maybe you think some other sort of theory is correct. Or maybe you think that there is something defective about our concepts of personhood and personal identity over time.) Defend an argument for what you think the truth about personal identity over time is. But make sure to give it a full explanation and make sure to define your technical terms.
Task 3—Defend your chosen argument and/or option from what you take to be the two most challenging objections to it. (SUPER IMPORTANT! Remember that criticizing an argument for a theory is one thing, while criticizing the theory itself is another. You may consider criticisms of your view, of your argument for your view, or of both.)
What are two criticisms that someone very smart would make who thinks your favoured option is false or your favoured argument is unsound? Your job here is to reply to these criticisms by showing that, serious though they may be, they can be deflected. Once more, you may use anything relevant from the readings or slides, provided you express it in your own words and explain it fully.
Note that the very best papers won’t simply consider an objection and respond to it, they will consider as well counter-objections and responses to those and so on. Your aim should be to get into your paper the kind of back-and-forth philosophical debate we find in the readings.
You are free to consider objections that we discussed in class. But you are encouraged to devise objections of your own if you think that there are others that are stronger. If one of the objections you write on was covered in class, you must make sure to discuss it thoroughly and, if at all possible, take a novel stance on it. If one of the objections you write on is your own, you must make sure to discuss it thoroughly and to show how it differs from objections talked about in class.
Special note on all three tasks: Whether you are explaining personal identity over time, arguing for an approach, or criticizing/defending an argument/approach, try to use examples to illustrate your points.
You are free to read outside sources (books, journal articles, items on the web) pertaining to this topic. But we encourage you not to do so. We want to know what you think about these issues, not what someone else thinks about them. However, if you do use other sources, you must cite them thoroughly using a consistent citation system (e.g., MLA or APA).
If you wish to quote or paraphrase material from any of the course readings, you must also give a full citation of the relevant text using your preferred citation system. Sometimes students ask about quoting or paraphrasing the slide. Please avoid doing that—again, this is about what you
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