This is a summary of influential thought experiments we found relevant to the field of Identity.
- Physical Identity of a Diamond
- If a diamond's identity is defined by its atom-structure, will it be a different diamond if an edge breaks off?
- Physical Continuity as Identity Condition
- While physical structure of a tree is continually changing, we would not claim that the one tree is actually multiple, different trees so physical identity is not sufficient for trees.
- Uncle Charlie is not a small girl
- If a small blonde girl comes up to me and claims to be my uncle charlie, whom I remember to be tall and of black hair, I would not even consider the possibility that she is telling the truth, because my intuition tells me that it is impossible.
- Wake up in another body
- Imagine you wake up one day and go to the bathroom to see that your look has changed. You were put into another body over night.
- Locke's Cobbler-Prince example
- If a prince and a cobbler were body-swapped so that the prince-body now has all the cobbler's memories and the cobbler-body has all the prince's memories, the cobbler would then act as the prince.
- Reid's Brave Officer
- A boy gets whipped as child, gets older and becomes a soldier. The soldier is very brave and still remembers being whipped as a boy. Later he gets promoted to general because he was so brave. The old officer remembers being brave but forgot about being whipped as a boy. According to Locke's definition, the boy and the general are two different persons.
- Bernard Williams' prince/cobbler
- Suppose 2 persons, A and B, are told that their brain (memories, etc...) will be transferred to each other. after that process, one of the the bodies will be tortured, while the other one will receive $100.000,- They both shall decide who will get which treatment.
- Bernard Williams' prince/cobbler, one-sided information
- A person is told that he will be tortured the next day. A plausible reaction of the person would be to feel fear. Then the person is told, that prior to the torture, it's memory will be modified, so it won't remember being told beforehand. The person will still be afraid of the torture.
- Bernard Williams' prince/cobbler, one-sided execution
- Let's have a look at another aspect of the experiments: what if we stopped the experiment in the middle, so that only A is transferred to B and B's memory is wiped for ever. Who would we then say is B? obviously it can't be A, since A is still A. Isn't it possible that B is still B?