A prominent view on personal identity over time, Jeff McMahan’s ‘Embodied Mind Account’ (2002) holds that we cease to exist only once our brains can no longer sustain the basic capacity to uphold consciousness. One of the many implications of this view on identity persistence, is that we continue to exist throughout even the most severe cases of dementia, until our consciousness irreversibly shuts down.
In this paper I argue that McMahan’s account of personal identity over time faces challenges in explanatory power of dementias and related neurodegenerative conditions. Particularly, this becomes visible in the context of techniques for neural tissue regeneration currently under development, and the possibility of ‘re-emerging patients’. I argue that medical professionals’ neglecting qualitative aspects of identity risks resulting in grave misunderstandings, and ethically objectionable decisions in future medical practice. Finally, I propose revisions which could potentially salvage the great benefits that embodied mind theory still can bring to the field of dementia care in terms of understanding life, death, and identity across the lifespan.
Speaker: David M. Lyreskog (University of Oxford: Wellcome Centre for Ethics & Humanities; Neuroscience, Ethics and Society)
Venue: Petrov Room, Suite 1 Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbe's Street, Oxford OX1 1PT
Booking: not required – internal only