Imagining being someone else and personal identity

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Can you really imagine being someone else—mind you, not just suppose that you are someone else, but imagine being an altogether different person? In what sense and to what degree can we actually achieve this task? What are the theoretical consequences of episodes of imagining being someone else for the contemporary debate on personal identity?

Some philosophers interested in personal identity have claimed that not only can we imagine being someone else, but also that we can imagine being someone else from the inside or, as it is sometimes glossed, from a first-person perspective (Ninan 2009, 2016). In their writings, this capacity seems to involve experiences; for example, that you are imagining being Nicolás Maduro from the inside as he was in February 2019, is understood as implying that you are experiencing the world from his internal or subjective perspective as it was at that specific time. A caveat here is that, according to some philosophers, such imaginings need not be taken to be equivalent to imaginings that would violate the necessity of identity (or non-identity). In particular, on some accounts, imagining being someone else is an imaginative project that is different from imagining that the person who imagines is identical to someone else. It is not entirely clear to me which account of mental content can successfully vindicate this idea (see Williams 1966/73 and Ninan 2016 for discussion).
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Junkyard
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2019


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