This page features a collection of the best resources on personal identity. Just to be clear, there is no single best resource on personal identity. The best one will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time you want to spend learning about it.
To get started, simply choose one of the links below:
If you want a comprehensive overview of the idea of personal identity:
- Read the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Personal Identity. However it is quite long at around 9000 words. Here’s a short excerpt that introduces the idea of personal identity:
“What does being the person that you are, from one day to the next, necessarily consist in? This is the question of personal identity, and it is literally a question of life and death, as the correct answer to it determines which types of changes a person can undergo without ceasing to exist. Personal identity theory is the philosophical confrontation with the most ultimate questions of our own existence: who are we, and is there a life after death? In distinguishing those changes in a person that constitute survival from those changes in a person that constitute death, a criterion of personal identity through time is given. Such a criterion specifies, insofar as that is possible, the necessary and sufficient conditions for the survival of persons.
One popular criterion, associated with Plato, Descartes and a number of world religions, is that persons are immaterial souls or pure egos. On this view, persons have bodies only contingently, not necessarily; so they can live after bodily death. Even though this so-called Simple View satisfies certain religious or spiritual predilections, it faces metaphysical and epistemological obstacles, as we shall see.
Another intuitively appealing view, championed by John Locke, holds that personal identity is a matter of psychological continuity. . . .”
If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and more engaging introduction:
- Read Charlie Huenemann’s article: If I teleport from Mars, does the original me get destroyed? [1400 words]
If you’d prefer a video introduction:
If you prefer audio and podcasts:
If you’d like to learn more about philosophy, check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.