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The survival of sentient beings Inglis, John Malyon

Abstract

This thesis is concerned with the metaphysical question of in what our survival consists. To survive in the sense to be explored herein is for there to be future experiences about which one should be egoistically (as opposed to altruistically) concerned. I focus on one's survival as a sentient being, a being capable of having experiences but possibly lacking some of the attributes of a person. There are two categories into which metaphysical theories of survival fall: reductionist theories (theories according to which survival can be analyzed in terms of physical continuity and/or qualitative relations) and nonreductionist theories. I argue that theories of the former type conflict with our deeply-held and welljustified beliefs about our survival. Reductionist theories cannot explain why one should be specially concerned about certain future experiences. If survival cannot be analyzed in reductionist terms, then we cannot fully refute skepticism about our survival over time. However, as nonreductionist alternatives to skepticism, I briefly consider the traditional substance view (according to which one's survival consists in the persistence of one's ego) and a view according to which one's survival consists in the continuation of one's stream of consciousness. I conclude by briefly enumerating the difficulties that this latter view would have to meet.

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