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Personal identity: the simple and complex views revisited

Noonan, Harold


Professor of Mind and Cognition


Eric Olson has argued, startlingly, that no coherent account can be given of the distinction made in the personal identity literature between ‘complex views’ and ‘simple views’. ‘We tell our students,’ he writes, ‘that accounts of personal identity over time fall into [these] two broad categories’. But ‘it is impossible to characterize this distinction in any satisfactory way. The debate has been systematically misdescribed’. I argue, first, that, for all Olson has said, a recent account by Noonan provides the coherent characterization he claims impossible. If so we have not been wrong all along in the way he says in what we have been telling our students. I then give an account of the distinction between the reductionist and non-reductionist positions which makes it different from the complex/simple distinction. The aim is to make clear sense of the notion of a not simple but non-reductionist position – which seems an eminently reasonable possibility and something it may also be useful to tell our students about.


Noonan, H. (2019). Personal identity: the simple and complex views revisited. Disputatio, 11(52), 9-22.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 26, 2018
Online Publication Date Feb 5, 2019
Publication Date Feb 5, 2019
Deposit Date Dec 2, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 3, 2018
Journal Disputatio
Publisher Universidade de Lisboa, Faculdade de Letras, Centro de Filosofia
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 52
Pages 9-22
Public URL
Publisher URL


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