Disablement and Personal Identity
Edwards, Steven D.
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 2007 June; 10(2): 209-215
A number of commentators claim their disability to be a part of their identity. This claim can be labelled 'the identity claim'. It is the claim that disabling characteristics of persons can be identity-constituting. According to a central constraint on traditional discussions of personal identity over time, only essential properties can count as identity-constituting properties. By this constraint, contingent properties of persons (those they might not have instanced) cannot be identity-constituting. Viewed through the lens of traditional approaches to the problem of personal identity over time, disablement is most likely to be regarded as a contingent property of a person and not an essential one. Hence, on traditional approaches, the identity claim must be false. An alternative account of identity is sketched here. It is one which exploits the idea of narrative identity, and points to five basic features of personal existence. When accounts of identity are structured in relation to these five features, it is argued, disablement can be shown to be identity-constituting, and hence the identity claim can be accepted.
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