For my Summer Fellows project, I researched personal identity in a philosophical way. The goal was to disambiguate the concept of self-identity, understand what the main notions of identity are, and look at how they apply in different circumstances. My philosophical approach is to treat films as philosophical thought experiments, imaginative situations that reveal the meaning and limits of concepts. Films are great for exploring the topic of identity because they present characters struggling with their self-identity as situations change around them. A major focus of my research is the role of memory in the formation of one’s identity and how the fragility of memory undermine one’s sense of self. Sci-fi films such as Memento, Ghost in the Shell, Total Recall, Blade Runner, and The Matrix are especially valuable philosophically since they challenge our everyday concepts and force us to think about them in a new way. I’ve come to believe that self-identity is best understood as an explanatory narrative that gives meaning and coherence to life. Memory is crucial to building that narrative. But there is no single right narrative. While everyone has their own narrative and generally expects it to be respected, others can choose to tell their own stories about us. They can flip the script.
Hinton, Ryley, "Identity and Memory" (2019). Philosophy Summer Fellows. 15.