Trust me, I’m a Doctor… but the same one?

BBC's 'New' Doctor
Image: BBC Publicity Photo

Saturday 3rd of April marked the beginning of a new era in television broadcasting. And no, I’m not talking about the first 3D broadcast of a football (soccer) match being aired in some UK pubs. I am, of course, talking about the first episode of the new series of Dr Who on the BBC, featuring a brand new ‘Doctor’ (played by Matt Smith, to generally warm and enthusiastic reviews). A colleague of mine recently posted on the Philosophy and Popular Culture series; whatever one’s view of the series as a whole, Dr Who – like many sci-fi programmes – is ripe for the treatment (the volume from Open Court is, predictably, on its way in late 2010). For those not in the know, a new Doctor is a different proposition to, say, a new James Bond (where only the actor changes, though this too happens). Each time the actor playing the Doctor – an alien humanoid from the planet Gallifrey – changes, the character himself undergoes a ‘regeneration’, written into the plotline to explain the appearance change. The precise mechanism of ‘regeneration’ is never elaborated in the series, but at the end of the process, the Doctor’s appearance and personality is fundamentally altered. The New Doctor is the character’s eleventh such incarnation.

The introduction of a new Doctor raises metaphysical complications. In particular, how do we make sense of the Doctor’s alterations from the standpoint of personal identity considerations: can we think of a new Doctor being the same person as his pre-regenerative self? Continue reading “Trust me, I’m a Doctor… but the same one?”

Remembering the good, forgetting the bad

800px-EdisonDelights1905The relation between memory and personal identity is a well trodden track in the metaphysics of mind and self. But an article on the BBC News website suggests a connection not standardly considered.

A standard proposal of their relation, for instance, is that A is the same person as B only if A can remember experiences had by B. A consequence of such a view is that a person who is sufficiently old and incapable of remembering experiences had by her younger self is not the same person as that ‘younger self.’ There are variants on this approach which rule out that consequence. But all variants share the following feature: the link between memory and personal identity is in what is remembered.

But recent psychological research gives reason to consider a different kind of relation. Psychologists have found that as we get older, we tend to remember positive things better than we do negative things, with a corresponding change in how we behave (we’re happier) and in how we exercise our mental capacities. If this is true, then perhaps, in addition to changes to what one remembers, there are also changes in how one remembers that could constitute changes to who one is.

For the BBC article go here. For a more elaborate description of the research go here.

Related articles:
£1.99 - small Anthony Collins on the Emergence of Consciousness and Personal Identity
By William Uzgalis , Oregon State University
(Vol. 4, March 2009)
Philosophy Compass