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The Metaphysics of Personal Identity

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Matthew Stuart with Mountains in the background

Matthew Stuart

Professor of Philosophy, Bowdoin College

You are the same person as that small child in your parents’ photo album. What makes this so? Some say that it is because you and that child share a soul. Others that it has to do with spatiotemporal continuity, or the continuity of certain biological processes. The English philosopher John Locke rejected all of those answers, and offered a very different account that has proved influential. According to him, personal identity is a matter of psychological relations — and in particular, memory relations — between your present self and your past self. We will consider the problems and prospects for all of these accounts of personal identity, drawing on the assistance of thought experiments about Star Trek transporters and various sorts of brain transplant operations.


Matthew Stuart earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Cornell University. He is Professor of Philosophy at Bowdoin College. His research has focused on early modern metaphysics and epistemology, and especially on the writings of John Locke. He is the author of Locke’s Metaphysics (Oxford, 2013), and editor of the forthcoming A Companion to Locke (Wily-Blackwell).

Assigned Reading

 "Of Identity and Diversity," Book 2, Chapter 27 of John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding


A reception will be held at 5:00 pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4435

Matthew Stuart Poster
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public