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Philosophy 1A

Drawing on the reading and your own sound reasoning and good judgment, make an argument for a view of personal identity over time that brings your decision in Julia's case (Part One), your advice to Gretchen (Part Two) and your interpretation of the situation described in some detail in Part Three into line with one another, think of several strong objections to your argument, and respond to them.

There are three parts to this Paper Topic.

In thinking of objections to your argument, think of the best possible objections that someone on the other side might be able to come up with, i. e., give yourself a hard time. If you can respond to the other side at its strongest point rather than at its weakest, that can only help to strengthen your own view and make it that much more persuasive.

The paper should be about six (6) pages in length, preferably typewritten. It is due on Tuesday, November 6th, in class.

PARTS TWO and THREE will be handed out after you hand in PART ONE. A first draft of your response to PART ONE is due in class no later than Tuesday, October 30th, and may be revised and/or overhauled in any fashion you believe is necessary when completing your final draft. The paper is due, in class, on Tuesday, November 6, 2001.

1. Who Killed Jack?

The following bizarre case took place in San Francisco some time ago: in 1992 to be exact. And although there was considerable coverage of the incident at the time in the newspapers and on TV, many of you were quite young and so perhaps do not recall the case or perhaps never heard of it. In any event, Julia North was run over by a San Francisco trolley, although she is now alive and well and living in Seattle . Or is she? More of this anon.

At the time Julia noticed a child wander onto the tracks just as a trolley was bearing down. She dashed in front of it and managed to push (ever so gently) the small child out of the path of the on-coming trolley just before the trolley crashed into her and crushed her. The child's mother Mary Frances Beaudine had a massive stroke while she watched these events unfold and she collapsed the very moment that the trolley hit and crushed Julia. An ambulance took both women to the hospital where a Dr. Matthews, a brilliant neurosurgeon, was in residence. Some of you may recall that Dr. John Matthews had perfected a surgical technique for performing what he called "body transplant," and he removed Julia's brain (which was healthy) from Julia's head and placed it in Mary Frances' body, being ever so careful to splice the nerves at the brain stem, using the techniques that he had perfected.

As you can guess, the operation was one of the longer operations ever performed in the twentieth century, lasting a little over seventeen days. Dr. Matthews would catch some "zzzzz" every ten hours or so when his equally brilliant assistant would take over and continue the meticulous nerve splicing process. The operation was - as some of you may recall or as some of you may have heard from your parents or older siblings - a success. Julia survived. And although she was in recovery for a little more than a year, she held a press conference at the hospital one year to the day after she was admitted. Dr. Matthews and his assistant stood proudly at her side.

Then as if Julia's survival was not enough, a most bizarre incident occurred. Now nearly everyone at the press conference took the survivor of this horrible accident to be Julia, except (unfortunately) Mary Frances' husband, Jack, who had also come to the press conference and who kept interrupting the proceedings by waving to Julia and saying "Hi, Mary. It's great to have you back," and occasionally picking up their daughter Sarah, the child whom Julia's heroic efforts had saved, and hauling her onto his shoulders and saying, "Mary! Hey there, Mary! Say 'hello' to our daughter Sarah." When the press conference was over he tried to kiss Julia a gesture Julia herself found somewhat distasteful, although she did admit to friends later, that she understood how he might be confused since she looks just like Mary Frances since she (after all) has her body. During the next few weeks Mary Frances' husband continued to pursue, some would say, "hound" Julia.

After Julie was released from the hospital, Jack continued to "follow" her around San Fancisco. She took a small apartment near the Golden gate Bridge and often thought she could see Jack from her second floor window standing in the shadow of the small arbor of trees across the street, sometimes for what she later descibred in court "for hours on end." I mention the court case because this much you may have heard and it would be remiss of me to leave it out. Julia, as some of you know, reached a breaking point. She became "tired," she said at the trial, "of having this guy whom I did not know follow me around the city and call me to tell me how our daughter was doing, a daughter I never had and did not know. "He was," she said, "in a word driving me crazy and so I shot him." As you may recall Julia was arrested and tried for the murder of Jack Beaudine.

One of the first decisions, however, facing the court was to determine who Jack's killer was. The gun that was recovered at the scene of the crime had Mary Frances Beaudine's fingerprints on it and a videotape recovered at an automatic cash withdrawal machine two blocks from the crime scene unmistakably showed Mary Frances Beaudine making a large cash withdrawal fifteen minutes before the murder and an old friend of the Beaudine's, Peter Coyote, the actor, saw, or so he testifed at the trial, Mary run from the "scene of the crime" just one minute after Jack was shot and killed, the murder weapon still in her hand. Who murdered Jack Beaudine? Was it Julia who admitted at the trial that she had become increasingly frustrated by Jack's having "hounded" her for days and weeks on end. Or was it Mary Frances Beaudine, whose fingerprints were, as one of the detectives in the case said at trial, "all over this crime?"

This case went all the way to the California Supreme Court and their decision was almost as celebrated as Dr, Matthews' operation that triggered this bizarre series of events. The Supreme Court's decision in this case is reported by Dave Cohen in John Perry's "A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality" where the participants in that dialogue also discuss "The Strange Case of Julia North" on the third night of their conversation. But quite apart from the Supreme Court's decision, what do you think? Even if you knew or remembered how the Court decided, Courts do not always get it right? What do you think? Who murdered Jack Beaudine? Mary or Julia? How would you decide? And why? Clearly you and the Court face a preliminary question: who survived the operation? Indeed once this question is answered you probably have your answer to the question: who killed Jack?

Who survives the operation? The question would appear to involve some hard thinking about a topic you may remember you discussed in a class you are taking with a Professor Teuber at Brandeis. There is the reading, already mentioned, John Perry's "A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality," pp. 396-416, in INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY, a basic text in the course that you have come to love and cherish and keep by your bed-side and open now and then just to do a little "study" of some of the great problems of philosophy. This case, indeed, seems to touch upon one of those great problems, the problem, as philosophers have called it, of personal identity. From what little you remember of the class discussions so far, it would to answer the Court's question if you had a clearer idea of what constitutes the nature of persons and the nature of personal identity over time. This might, in turn, be broken down into three, perhaps four questions:

    (1) What is the nature of a person?
    (2) What is it that makes a person at two different times one and the same person?
    (3) What is necessarily involved in the continued existence of each person over time? and
    (4) What is in fact involved in the continued existence of each person over time?

The answer to (2), for instance, might take the form: "So-and-so today is one and the same person at some past time if and only if . . . The answer would state, as it were, the necessary and sufficient conditions for personal identity over time. The answer to (2) would then provide the answer to (3). Question (4) is added because you may believe that (3) only provides a partial answer to (4).

So there you have it: the first Part of the BIG question; the second part of which shall arrive and be handed out in class on Tuesday after you hand in a preliminary and provisional answer to this first inquiry: Who killed Jack Beaudine? You will be free to re-think your provisional answer once it's given, but part of the exercise is to hand in a provisional answer to Part I of the Paper Topic before moving on to Part Two. You will then receive Parts Two and Three.



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Page last edited: October 26, 2001