Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments, by Kathleen Wilkes

01/01/1988View on timeline


Like brain and memory movies, their choice not to deliver a verdict on the situations they depict and the thought experiments they dramatize implies that the situations have no theoretical, only existential or phenomenological, resolution and that those experiments either are not useful tools or stage badly formulated questions. For the late Oxford philosopher Kathleen Wilkes (1988), the theoretical impossibility of thought experiments rendered them irrelevant. But the ways literature and cinema have rehearsed them suggest otherwise, since they underline the profound differences between being a brain and not being able to be without one.


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This book explores the scope and limits of the concept of a person. Questioning the methodology of thought-experimentation, Wilkes argues that such experimentation engenders inconclusive and unconvincing results, and that truth is anyway stranger than fiction. She then examines an assortment of real-life conditions, including fantasy, insanity and dementia, dissociated states, and split brains; questions the idea that people have some special kind of unity and continuity of consciousness; and looks at the views of the person as found in Homer, Aristotle, the post-Cartesians, and contemporary cognitive science. - Amazon

Real People: Personal Identity Without Thought Experiments on Amazon

Prof Denis Noble: Kathy Wilkes, Teleology, and the Explanation of Behaviour

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Published in 13/03/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

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