Reading Questions: Perry


Your reading assignment includes the entire book, pp. 1-49.

1. Where is the dialogue set? Who are the main characters, and what has just happened to one of them that brings them together? (1)

2. What does Gretchen challenge Sam to try to convince her is possible? (2) What does she mean by "possible"? What are the "unavoidable facts" she speaks of? (3)

3. There a few different visions of the afterlife that Gretchen dismisses as not really "survival" at all. Why does she dismiss them as "a sham"? At the center of what she has to say is the idea that survival requires anticipation . What is meant by this? What is the "only relation" that allows for anticipation? (3-4)

4. What point is Gretchen trying to make with the analogy of the Kleenex box? (5)

5. Gretchen distinguishes between what she calls "identity" and what she calls "exact similarity". Philosophers sometimes also refer to these as numerical identity and qualitative identity, respectively. What is the difference? Which is required for survival? (5-6)

6. Which philosopher that we've already studied does Sam invoke when espousing his theory that personal identity is based on the sameness of an immaterial soul? (6-7)

7. Gretchen raises an objection to Sam's theory by suggesting that if it were true, then he would have no way of knowing whether or not the person he is talking to is the same person he ate lunch with last week and not someone else. Why is this? (7-8)

8. Sam responds by suggesting a certain principle relating bodies and souls. What is this principle? (8) Gretchen attacks this principle by suggesting that it can neither be known a priori nor by experience. Why can't it be a priori? (9) Why can't it be a generalization reached by experience—and how does the box of chocolates analogy help illustrate this? (10-12)

9. Sam gives a response to this that deals with "psychological characteristics"? What is this response and how does he propose it will solve the problem Gretchen has raised? (12-13) How does Gretchen use the Blue River analogy to show that it doesn’t really solve the problem? (13-15)

10. Sam counters that the problem doesn't arise when considering the relationship between his own soul and his own body. Why? (15) What objections does Gretchen raise to this idea? (16-17)

11. Does Gretchen think it is likely that souls exist? What does she think of herself as being? (17)

12. How does Sam try to use the possibility of knowing who we are before we open our eyes in the morning to raise an objection against Gretchen's view that personal identity is based on sameness of the body? (19-22)

13. Sam then goes on to propose that personal identity judgments might not be based the judgment of the sameness of any substance at all, but rather based on the judgment that this "person-stage" is the same person as another "person-stage" because of some connection between the two stages. How do the analogies to the Blue River and to the baseball game help illustrate this? (22-26)

14. What does Sam originally identify as being the appropriate relationship between one person-stage and another if they are to be seen as two stages of the same person? (26)

15. At this point, Gretchen makes a distinction between actually remembering and seeming to remember, and illustrates it with the hypnotist example. How does Sam's initial attempt to explain the difference between the two reveal his original memory-based theory of personal identity to be circular? (27-30)

16. At this point, Dave breaks in and attempts to give an alternative explanation of what the difference is between actually remembering and only seeming to remember. What is it? (30-31)

17. What problem for whether or not we can survive after death does Gretchen identify with this new memory-theory? How does Sam respond? (30-31)

18. Gretchen points out another problem for the revised theory having to do with the possibility of God creating two new "Gretchens". What is the problem? How does Dave respond on behalf of Sam? Why does Gretchen say that this response amounts to a change in their theory? (32-33)

19. What other "absurdities" does Gretchen find in this new theory? (34-36)

20. At the beginning of the third night, Dave proposes that they continue to discuss personal identity, but what does he suggest that they no longer worry about? (37)

21. What is the case of Julia North, and how does Dave use it to try to show that a person cannot be simply identified with his or her body? (37-39)

22. Who does Gretchen think was the real survivor of the Julia North case? (39)

23. What does Dave try to show by appealing to the Supreme Court decision? (40-41) What does it mean to say that something is a matter of convention? (41) How does Gretchen try to refute Dave's point with the aspirin story? (41-42)

24. At this point, Sam and Dave revert back to one of the theories of personal identity suggested the night before, insisting that while it may not guarantee or even allow for life after death, it has not been disputed as a theory of personal identity, and indeed, has many advantages over her theories in capturing what we find to be most important about people. What are these supposed advantages? (42-44)

25. Using the idea of brain rejuvenation to make her point, how does Gretchen argue that their theory really doesn't have the advantages they claim it has? (45-48)

26. Dave makes some brief remarks towards the end about why it might be better not to focus so much on identity, but rather focus just on survival . He doesn't really get a chance to elaborate, but from what he does say, why do you think he suggests this? Where was he going with it? (48-49)


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