Ninth International Summer School on Mind, Brain and Education

2014 July 31 - August 03

Body, Brain and
Personal Identity: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Directors: Antonio M. Battro, Kurt W. Fischer and Fernando Vidal
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani

Abstract: Fernando Vidal
ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies), SPAIN

Introduction: Body, brain, and personal identity
The Introductory talk to the Summer school will sketch some of the central issues that will be discussed. It will emphasize how, at least in Western traditions of thought, the notions of “personhood” and “personal identity” have long raised questions about the kind of body that is required for the ontological states they designate. Since the early centuries of Christianity, debates about this matter have taken place at the crossroads of philosophy, theology, the natural sciences, and the sciences of body and mind. What kind of body and which parts of body do we need to be a person, and in particular the persons we are? Widespread answers since the late-20th-century are, “A brain” and “Our brain.” But such neurocentric view represents only a moment in a very long history of discussions about what defines and constitutes personhood, and is best understood in a longue-durée historical perspective. The Introduction will also suggest why, in spite of the difficulties attached to its definition and its historical and transcultural variation, the notion of “person” plays a role that is not only a conceptually significant, but also methodologically useful in a range of disciplines, such as philosophy, history, anthropology, or biomedical ethics.