Date of Award

December 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Edward Hinchman

Committee Members

Edward Hinchman, Robert Schwartz, Luca Ferrero


Agency, Burge, Memory, Personhood, Reductionist, Time


This essay is a response to the attack on reductionist and perdurantist views of persons which Tyler Burge presents in a paper entitled "Memory and Perons". Burge's arguments appeal to a specific form of egocentric indexing called de se form, which he suggests is involved in the individuation conditions of the mental states entailed in the exercise of the core psychological competencies of personhood (i.e. intentional agency, perception with use, inference). Burge argues that the preservation of states with de se form requires the possession of a veridical de se memory competency, which in turn requires transtemporal agent identity. Burge suggests that perdurantist views which convey the persistence of individual persons through time in terms of causal continuity between momentary selves cannot be made compatible with this view of the relation between memory and the core competencies, and that reductionist accounts which attempt to explain personal identity in terms of psychological continuity cannot avoid falling into explanatory circularity in any attempt to account for the core psychological competencies. My response comprises three major parts. First, I argue that Burge's apparently endurantist interpretation of the transtemporal agent identity condition entailed in memory is indefensible, and that a perdurantist interpretation is available which is amenable to reductionist views. Second, I present an exploratory discussion which attempts to ascertain the extent to which egocentric indexing and its relation to memory are relevant to one of the core psychological competencies, intentional agency. I find that while some form of egocentric indexing is apparently necessary to adequately accounting for the exercise of intentional agency, it is not apparent - contrary to Burge's claims - that such indexing need be considered to be partly individuated in terms of an endurantist conception of transtemporal agent identity. Finally, I present arguments from Sydney Shoemaker's response to Burge which I suggest provide a way out of the difficulties occasioned for the reductionists by Burge's arguments. Following Shoemaker, I conclude that Burge's attack on reductionism fails because alternate forms of egocentric indexing are available to the reductionists which they may utilize to account for the core psychological competencies in a non-circular manner. I further suggest that the considerations adduced in favor of perdurantism provide support to the reductionist side of the anti-reductionst versus reductionist debate regarding persons.

Included in

Philosophy Commons