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The tale Parfit tells: Analytic Metaphysics of Personal Identity vs. Wittgensteinian Film and Literature

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Abstract

At the center of Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons is nestled a famous short story about a person who uses a teletransporter. Parfit argues that his “thought experiment” shows that “personal identity”—as (analytic) philosophy understands it—doesn’t matter. As long as I know that my “self” on Mars is unharmed by the teletransporter, it shouldn’t matter to me that I remain on Earth, soon to die. I use Christopher Priest’s novel The Prestige and the Nolan brothers’ film of it to challenge the method and alleged moral of this “branch-line” teletransportation thought experiment, treating it as a work of literature in miniature.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-153
Number of pages26
JournalPhilosophy and Literature
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015
Peer-reviewedYes

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