Ideas from 'The Concept of a Person' by A.J. Ayer [1963], by Theme Structure

[found in 'The Concept of a Person etc' by Ayer,A.J. [Macmillan 1973,333-14878-9]].

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15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 4. Other Minds / b. Scepticism of other minds
Maybe induction could never prove the existence of something unobservable
                        Full Idea: Some people hold that no inductive argument can give us any reason to believe in the existence of something which could not even in principle be observed.
                        From: A.J. Ayer (The Concept of a Person [1963], žI)
                        A reaction: I see nothing illogical in inferring the existence of a poltergeist from the recurrent flight of objects around my lounge. Only an excessive empiricism (which used to afflict Ayer) could lead to this claim.
16. Persons / B. Nature of the Self / 1. Self and Consciousness
Consciousness must involve a subject, and only bodies identify subjects
                        Full Idea: It may not make sense to talk of states of consciousness except as the experiences of some conscious subject; and it may well be that this conscious subject can not be identified except by reference to his body.
                        From: A.J. Ayer (The Concept of a Person [1963], žIV)
                        A reaction: It strikes me that Ayer deserves more credit as a pioneer of this view. It tracks back to what may turn out to be the key difficulty for Descartes - how do you individuate a mental substance? I may identify me, but how do I identify you?
16. Persons / B. Nature of the Self / 7. Self and Body / a. Self needs body
People own conscious states because they are causally related to the identifying body
                        Full Idea: I think personal identity depends on the identity of the body, and that a person's ownership of states of consciousness consists in their standing in a special causal relation to the body by which he is identified.
                        From: A.J. Ayer (The Concept of a Person [1963], žIV)
                        A reaction: I think with this is right, with the slight reservation that Ayer talks as if there were two things which have a causal relationship, implying that the link is contingent. Better to think of the whole thing as a single causal network.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 3. Limits of Introspection
We identify experiences by their owners, so we can't define owners by their experiences
                        Full Idea: Normally we identify experiences in terms of the persons whose experiences they are; but this will lead to a vicious circle if persons themselves are to be analysed in terms of their experiences.
                        From: A.J. Ayer (The Concept of a Person [1963], žI)
                        A reaction: This (from a leading empiricist) is a nice basic challenge to all empiricist accounts of personal identity. One might respond my saying that the circle is not vicious. There are two interlinked concepts (experience and persons), like day and night.
16. Persons / D. Continuity of the Self / 2. Mental Continuity / a. Memory is Self
Memory is the best proposal as what unites bundles of experiences
                        Full Idea: The most promising suggestion is that the bundles are tied together by means of memory.
                        From: A.J. Ayer (The Concept of a Person [1963], žIV)
                        A reaction: This is interesting for showing how Locke was essentially trying to meet (in advance) Hume's 'bundle' scepticism. Hume proposed associations as the unifying factor, instead of memories. Ayer proposes concepts as a candidate.
Not all exerience can be remembered, as this would produce an infinite regress
                        Full Idea: Not every experience can be remembered; otherwise each piece of remembering, which is itself an experience, would have to be remembered, and each remembering of a remembering and so ad infinitum.
                        From: A.J. Ayer (The Concept of a Person [1963], žIV)
                        A reaction: See Idea 5667. Ayer takes for granted two sorts of consciousness - current awareness, and memory. Ayer brings out a nice difficulty for Locke's proposal, but also draws attention to what may be a very basic misunderstanding about the mind.
16. Persons / D. Continuity of the Self / 6. Body sustains Self
Personal identity can't just be relations of experiences, because the body is needed to identify them
                        Full Idea: A Humean theory, in which a person's identity is made to depend upon relations between experiences not tenable unless the experiences themselves can be identified, and that is only possible through their association with the body.
                        From: A.J. Ayer (The Concept of a Person [1963], žIV)
                        A reaction: This seems to me a very fruitful response to difficulties with the 'bundle' view of a person - a better response than the a priori claims of Butler and Reid, or the transcendental argument of Kant. Only a philosopher could ignore the body.