Personal identity and quasi-memories

Psychological theories of personal identity claim that what makes a person on Sunday identical to a person on Saturday, is that the Sunday person is psychologically continuous with the Saturday person. Psychological continuity is built out of psychological connections, such as those which exist between a memory of an experience and the original experience itself.

A traditional objection to this sort of view is that  it is circular: we can’t explain personal identity in terms of memories since we also have to explain memories in terms of personal identity. What distinguishes the merely apparent memory of the madman who has an experience as of remembering leading the French troops at Waterloo, from Napoleon’s real memory of leading the troops is that the only Napoleon (and not the madman) is identical to the person who had the original experience.

A traditional response to the objection is to alter the view and to explain personal identity in terms of quasi-memories, not memories. A subject has a quasi-memory if (i) they have an apparent memory of that experience, (ii) someone underwent that experience, and (iii) the apparent memory is caused (in the right kind of way) by the original experience.

Some philosophers (such as Marya Schechtman) argue that we can’t appeal to quasi-memories in this way. This is because, to do so successfully requires that a certain condition is met: roughly, it must be that (when it comes to psychologically connecting two persons) anything that real memories can do, quasi-memories can also do. But, it is argued, this condition is not met.

In one paper in progress, I argue that the arguments presented to show that quasi-memories cannot meet this condition are flawed. In a second, I argue that there is no way of setting out the condition according to which both (a) it is true that the condition must be met, and (b) quasi-memories are not able to meet the condition.