Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Philosophical Issues in Personal Identity: Transformation Through Impossible Experience

Instructor: Dr. Patricia Turrisi
Course Reference Number: 60364 (Summer 2019) and 24600 (Spring 2020)

Personal identity deals with philosophical questions that arise about ourselves by virtue of our being people (or, as lawyers and philosophers like to say, persons). This contrasts with questions about ourselves that arise by virtue of our being living things, conscious beings, material objects, or the like. Many of these questions occur to nearly all of us now and again: What am I?

When did I begin? What will happen to me when I die? Others are more abstruse. Personal identity has been discussed since the origins of Western philosophy, and most major figures have had something to say about it. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: )

The issues we will explore in this course include:

Who am I? What defines each of us as a person? What features define me? Are these features changeable or permanent? Are the features that make any given individual the person they are universal in some way for all persons?

Personhood - What is necessary for a being to be a person? What suffices for a being to be a person? When does any individual become a person or cease to be a person? Can personhood be diminished or eliminated?

The issue of the Uniqueness and Singularity examines whether and how one or another individual may have multiple identities.

The Continuity or Persistence of persons is the issue of whether any given person remains continuously the same person over time or circumstances.


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Student Learning Outcomes:

1. Develop an account of personal identity consonant with personal experience
2. Analyze contradictory definitions of personal identity
3. Analyze singularity in personal identity
4. Analyze continuity in personal identity
5. Explore non-reductionist theories of personal identity

Last Updated: June 19, 2019