In this fascinating and timely book, Maren Behrensen facilitates a conversation between philosophy and the ‘practitioners’ of identity. What makes a person the same person over time? This question has been studied throughout the history of philosophy. Yet philosophers have never fully engaged with the ‘practitioners’ of identity, namely technology developers, lawyers, politicians, sociologists and applied ethicists. The book offers an answer to the metaphysical question of personal identity and tries to show how this question is of immediate relevance to the various practices of identity management – particularly in the fields of administration, counter-terrorism activities, and gender reassignment. Behrensen argues that identity documents and other markers of identity (such as biometric samples) are not merely representations of, but actually help constitute, personal identity. The metaphysical fact of personal identity lies in these supposedly ‘external’ features. The book goes on to focus on issues relating to ‘trust’ and ‘security’, terms central to the ethics of new technologies and in work on new identity management technologies.
1. The Metaphysics of Identity / 2. Narrativity and Normativity / 3. Identity and Modern Statecraft / 4. Identity, Security and Trust / 5. Conclusion / Bibliography / Index
Traditional philosophical treatments of the self usually make sense of the self in one of two mutually exclusive ways: either the self is regarded as a metaphysical entity or it is understood by way of its practical implications. Behrensen successfully bridges this divide, arguing that what a self is, metaphysically, cannot be understood apart from the pragmatics of personal identity. She convincingly argues that selfhood—and therefore personal identity—is embedded in a wider social world of narrative and conventions. This argument sets the stage for an important original contribution: Behrensen explains how the state manages and, in some cases perverts, who we are and what we are allowed to become.
Maren Behrensen is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Christian Social Ethics at the University of Münster, Germany.