Personal Identity and Ethics
A Brief Introduction
  • Publication Date: October 7, 2008
  • ISBN: 9781551118826 / 1551118823
  • 304 pages; 6" x 9"

Note on pricing.

Request Exam Copy

Examination copy policy

Availability: Worldwide

Personal Identity and Ethics

A Brief Introduction

  • Publication Date: October 7, 2008
  • ISBN: 9781551118826 / 1551118823
  • 304 pages; 6" x 9"

The relationship between personal identity and ethics remains on of the most intriguing yet vexing issues in philosophy. It is commonplace to hold that moral responsibility for past actions requires that the responsible agent is in some respect identical to the agent who performed the action. Is this true? On the other hand, can ethics constrain our account of personal identity? Do the practical requirements of moral theory commit us to the view that persons do remain identical over time? For example, does the moral status of abortion or stem cell research depend on whether personal identity is based on psychological or biological properties? Or is it the case that personal identity is not, in fact, relevant to ethics?

Personal Identity and Ethics provides the first comprehensive examination of these issues. Topics include personal identity and prudential rationality; personal identity’s significance for moral responsibility and ethical theory; and the practical consequences of accounts of personal identity for issues such as abortion, stem cell research, cloning, advance directives, population ethics, multiple personality disorder, and the definition of death.


“Although there are many excellent texts dealing with the metaphysics of personal identity, Shoemaker’s Personal Identity and Ethics is the first book I know to tackle in such an extended way the question of the relationship between personal identity and our practical concerns. It is a very welcome addition to the philosophical literature. While even experts on the subject of personal identity will undoubtedly learn something new from this rich discussion, I expect the book’s primary use will be in undergraduate (and perhaps graduate) classes, and its exceptionally clear presentation of some very thorny issues makes it an excellent choice for this purpose.” — Amy Kind, Claremont McKenna College, in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“I predict that this book will become the definitive guide to the relation between personal identity and our practical concerns, both self-regarding and other-regarding. The book provides an excellent discussion of all the major theories of personal identity as well as how they relate to ethical theory, moral responsibility, and numerous applied ethical issues. The writing is clear and crisp and interlaced with intriguing examples, making it accessible to introductory philosophy students. But, at the same time, the philosophical treatment of the issues is highly sophisticated, making it essential reading for graduate students and professional philosophers interested in these issues.” — Douglas W. Portmore, Arizona State University

“David Shoemaker’s Personal Identity and Ethics provides a very fine introduction to personal identity and its relationship to questions of value. It is accessible even when technical, lucid, fair-minded, and conversant with both classic and cutting-edge discussions. Undergraduates, graduate students, and experts will benefit from this book.” — David DeGrazia, George Washington University

“This is a crystal clear and remarkably complete introduction to the philosophy of personal identity and its relation to ethics. In lively and compelling prose Shoemaker provides a detailed description of the main positions in the field and offers compelling original insights. Personal Identity and Ethics will be an extremely valuable resource for beginners and experts alike.” — Marya Schechtman, University of Illinois at Chicago



Part A: Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics

Chapter One: Personal Identity and Immortality
Chapter Two: Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern
Chapter Three: Alternative Approaches

Part B: Personal Identity and Other-Regarding Ethics

Chapter Four: Moral Issues at the Beginning of Life, Part I: Killing
Chapter Five: Moral Issues at the Beginning of Life, Part II: Creation
Chapter Six: Moral Issues at the End of Life
Chapter Seven: Personal Identity and Moral Responsibility
Chapter Eight: Personal Identity and Ethical Theory

Conclusion: Notes on Method


David Shoemaker is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University. He has published many important articles in ethics and personal identity in journals such as Ethics, Mind, and Philosophy and Public Affairs. He is also the author of the industry standard Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article “Personal Identity and Ethics.”