This is a page of links to web resources that are relevant to understanding the self, personal identity, and the emerging technologies that will challenge our views of what we are.

Philosophy of Personal Identity

First and foremost, Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons. Here’s the Wikipedia article about the book.

Personal Identity, Martin and Barresi (eds.)

The Rise and Fall of Soul and Self, Martin and Barresi

Reading Parfit, Jonathan Dancy (ed.)

The Yale lecture series on Death by Shelly Kagan, especially:

Lecture 10 – Personal Identity, Part I: Identity Across Space and Time and the Soul Theory

Lecture 11 – Personal Identity, Part II: The Body Theory and the Personality Theory

Lecture 12 – Personal Identity, Part III: Objections to the Personality Theory

Lecture 13 – Personal identity, Part IV; What matters?

Lecture 14 – What Matters (cont.); The Nature of Death, Part I

Lecture 15 – The Nature of Death (cont.); Believing You Will Die

Bernard Williams’ paper “The Self and the Future” is an excellent introduction to the contemporary philosophy of personal identity.

Thomas Metzinger’s book Being No One takes a functionalist approach to understanding consciousness and the self.  It describes the characteristics an information-processing system would need if it were to have human perceptive and cognitive abilities.  You can get a flavour of Metzinger’s work from this video of a lecture at Berkeley.

And for another fictional take on teleportation and human duplication, I highly recommend John Weldon’s brilliant short animation, “To Be”.  A comment on this site says, “It scared the crap out me when I was a kid and it still does today.”


Almost anything by V.S. Ramachandran sheds light on the interplay of neurology and psychology that gives rise to the phantom self:

Phantoms in the Brain (1998)

A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness (2004)

Consciousness and body image: lessons from phantom limbs, Capgras syndrome and pain asymbolia (Royal Society article)

On Your Mind, TED talk on the lessons of Capgras, phantom limbs and synesthesia

The Neurons that Shaped Civilization, TED talk about mirror neurons

Self Awareness, the Last Frontier, a Ramachandran essay on Edge

“MIRROR NEURONS and imitation learning as the driving force behind ‘the great leap forward’ in human evolution” , Edge


THE NEUROLOGY OF SELF-AWARENESS“, Edge 10th Anniversary Essay

Phantoms in the Brain (Episode 1, part 1), BBC video on phantom limbs, the Penfield map

Phantoms in the Brain (Episode 1, part 2), brain plasticity, the mirror box, blindsight

Phantoms in the Brain (Episode 1, part 3), blindsight (cont.), consciousness, neglect

Phantoms in the Brain (Episode 1, part 4), neglect (cont.),  anosognosia

Phantoms in the Brain (Episode 1, part 5), anosognosia (cont.), denial, lies

Phantoms in the Brain (Episode 2, part 1), vision, how and what pathways, face and animal recognition

Phantoms in the Brain (Episode 2, part 2), recognition (cont.), Capgras delusion

Phantoms in the Brain (Episode 2, part 3), Capgras (cont.)

Phantoms in the Brain (Episode 2, part 4), Capgras (cont.), God and the temporal lobes

Phantoms in the Brain (Episode 2, part 5), God and the temporal lobes (cont.)

Oliver Sacks is another great source.  If you have never read Sacks, start with The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

I found Chris Frith’s Making up the Mind a good read on the relations between perception and reality, from a neurological perspective.

The Human Connectome Project website.

An excellent 2010 overview of the state of the art of measuring brain connectivity, by Hagmann et al is “MR connectomics: Principles and challenges”.  J Neurosci Methods (2010), doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2010.01.014

I am my Connectome”, recommended TED talk by Sebastian Seung.

Psychology, Ethology, and Evolution

Self-Awareness in Animals and Humans, ed. Parker, Mitchell, Boccia

The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, Frans de Waal

Advance planning in chimps (article)

Mirror self-recognition in elephants (article)

Human Replication Technology

A brilliant 2011 TED talk by Anthony Atala: Printing a Human Kidney, following his 2010 TED talk on organ bioengineering.

For an in-depth account of the 2009 state of the art in bioprinting, I recommend Scaffold-free tissue engineering using bioprinting

2010 article and video on manufacturing a temporal-mandibular joint at Columbia.

Article on Organova and Invetech bioprinting technlogy.

2007 interview with Mironov on the Bioengineered Kidney Project.

Bioprinting and Pygmalion’s Dream? by Vladimir Mironov.


I highly recommend Daniel Dennett’s Consciousness Explained.

For more thoughts on Google consciousness visit Google Consciousness – and its authors’ TEDx talk: Google Consciousness Explained.

Thoughts on Self and Others, Life and Death

Emptiness Café.  Susan Kahn writes a thoughtful blog from a Buddhist perspective, fruitfully cross-pollinated with Western philosophy and science.

Correspondence between Ian Brown and Jean Vanier published in the Globe and Mail: ‘Am I fearful of death? No, I cannot say I am’


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