Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

French Studies

Reader 1

Yuval Avnur

Reader 2

France Lemoine

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© 2015 Alexandra N. Ronco


A particularly intriguing aspect of personal identity is the staying power of the first arguments. Many of the earliest arguments have remained influential to contemporary theories, even if they sometimes go unacknowledged. One of the most prominent of those long-lived theories comes from Descartes. In this paper I establish the intellectual background, framework, and implications of Cartesian dualism. With this theory in mind I examine Derek Parfit’s We Are Not Human Beings. Despite his denial dualism’s relevance, Parfit’s argument for personal identity contains Cartesian Dualism within it. His examples, definitions, and “intuitions” are compatible, if not more supportive of the Cartesian philosophy. To have the strongest argument that we are not human beings Parfit needs dualism - even if he will not directly acknowledge it.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.