I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.
R. Buckminster Fuller
If you ask my parents, they’ll tell you that I came into this world a fragile, naked infant in an Iowa hospital on March 25, 1991. But what, precisely, links me to that infant? I mean, I have different cells, different thoughts, a different physique, etc. What necessary conditions are fulfilled by my current self, such that I and that tiny child can be confidently declared one and the same?
For centuries, philosophers have debated this and other metaphysical questions surrounding the topic of personal identity. These questions are tantalizing, but as one finds (perhaps surprisingly) upon investigation, the issues are quite complex, and little consensus exists as to what makes me me, what makes a person a person, what it takes for a person to persist in time, etc. etc. Acknowledging these philosophical problems seems like a worthy starting point for this essay, as my intent here is to submit to you a re-imagining of a common intuition about qualitative identity—namely, that it is static.
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