American Association of Philosophy Teachers
2006 Conference / Workshops

Teaching Courses On The Nature Of Persons

Using AI Software, Television & Films, Immersive Virtual Science Labs, Robots
(On-Video, Virtual, And Real), And More"

   by David Leech Anderson ( & Robert Stufflebeam (




  • Integrating real science into philosophical disputes.
  • Use of TV / film / software to make the "abstract" concepts raised in the text more real or concrete.
  • Give students interactive experiences that make them engage the material, and even to do scientific experiences.


PART 1: The Problems

The problems of personal identity . . .

  • What makes a person a person?
    • Persons blameworthy and praiseworthy.
    • Persons have rights & responsibilities.
    • Traditional analysis: person = rational + autonomous + moral agent.
  • What makes a person the person "it" is?
    • Soul?
    • Body (brain)?
    • Memories?
    • Psychological traits?
  • What makes a person the same person over time?
    • Sameness of soul?
    • Sameness of body (brain)?
    • Continuity of memories?
    • Psychological continuity?

. . . are problems with minds (you can't be a person or the same person over time without one). So, ...

  • What is the nature of the mind? (Soul? Brain? Computer?)
    • What is a computer? Is the brain a computer? Which type? Digital? Analog?
  • How can you tell whether something has a mind?
  • Can a machine have a mind? Be intelligent? Be a person?

TV: Star Trek Next Generation: The measure of a man (1989)

FILM: Bicentennial man (1999)

PART 2: Theories of Mind

A. Dualism

FILM: What Dreams May Come

B. The Identity Thesis

But Identical to what features of the physical system?

(See Neuroscience below)

C. Eliminative Materialism (Churchlands)


D. Functionalism

Functionalism: An Introduction

The Nature of Computers (Classical and Non-Classical)

Two Types of Computers




PART 3: Can a Machine Think? Be a person?

Can a Machine Think?

Turing Test

Searle's Chinese Room Argument

Building Robots:

Robotic Immortality:

Nature of Persons and Ethics (abortion, euthanasia, etc.)

Robots & criteria of personhood = a non-threatening context in which to think about criteria of personhood . . then go to abortion


Ethics of Human Engineering & Enhancement:   


Part 4: Consciousness



PART 5: Personal Identity

Sameness of Soul

Sameness of body / brain

  • Phineas Gage
  • Lobotomies

Continuity of Memory

Psychological Continuity



  • Regarding Henry: (1991) No memories in common & wildly different personality (whcih matters more?)
  • Heaven Can Wait: (1978) Different versions of "joe": some with memories, some without; bodies different; talents stay the same / are different
  • Memento (2000)
  • The long kiss good night (1996)


  • Nothern Exposure: Trial to determine if the right man is in custody -- he has changed so much he is not the "same person"?
  • Babylon 5: Passing through Gethsemane (1995): "mind wipe" used for "death of personality"
  • STNG: "Second Chances" (Parfit's transporter arguments)


Case of Short Term Memory Loss

Dissociative Identity Disorder: Barb  Gretchen  John


Total Recall: Online Hearing -- Douglas Quaid


PART 6: Extras (not about persons)

The Realism / Idealism Debate: Virtual Antrhopology Lab (Short Informant): OR

Virtual Anthrolab Full Empirical debate relevant to the classic debate about realism

Epistemology Scepticism: Is the world a grand illusion?   Change blindness   Blindsight