Art of Personal identity.

Derek Parfit’s exploration of personal identity, particularly through his thought experiments like the teleportation paradox, offers a compelling framework to delve deeper into the philosophical nuances of identity in relation to art creation and perception. The distinction between the Ego Theory and Bundle Theory provides a fertile ground for expanding this argument, especially when applied to the creation and interpretation of art objects.

Ego Theory vs. Bundle Theory in Personal Identity

  1. Ego Theory: This perspective posits that a human being persists as a mental entity – a soul or spirit – that remains constant over time. In the context of creating art, this theory would suggest that the person who starts an art project is fundamentally the same as the person who completes it. The artwork, therefore, is a reflection or manifestation of this unchanging soul or spirit. It implies a continuous and cohesive identity that underpins and authorizes the artwork.
  2. Bundle Theory: Contrasting the Ego Theory, the Bundle Theory posits that a person is a collection of mental states and events without an underlying, unchanging self. Here, identity is fluid and is constantly redefined by experiences and perceptions. In the realm of art, this theory suggests that the artist who begins a project is not exactly the same as the one who completes it, as their identity is an ever-changing bundle of experiences and mental states. The artwork, in this case, becomes a snapshot of a particular phase in the artist’s life, reflecting the transient and ever-evolving nature of their identity.

Application to Art Objects

  1. Art Object as Ego: If we adopt the Ego Theory in the context of art, we would view an art object as an extension or expression of the artist’s soul or spirit. The art piece would be seen as a statement of the artist’s enduring identity, carrying with it the essence of the artist’s unchanging self. It stands as a testament to the artist’s singular vision and individuality, a fixed point in the flux of experiences and perceptions.
  2. Art Object as Bundle: In the Bundle Theory perspective, an art object is contingent upon a series of mental events and states. It does not represent an unchanging soul but rather a particular moment or phase in the artist’s life. The art piece is seen as a culmination of various influences, experiences, and perceptions that the artist has encountered. It is fluid and dynamic, much like the identity of the artist, and speaks to the social and cultural contexts that shape the artist’s temporary identity at a particular time.

Philosophical Implications

  • Ego Theory and Artistic Authenticity: If one subscribes to the Ego Theory, questions about the authenticity of art and the artist’s singular vision become paramount. The artwork is valued as a direct conduit to the artist’s inner self, making issues of originality and authorship critical.
  • Bundle Theory and Artistic Evolution: Under the Bundle Theory, the focus shifts to the evolutionary nature of art and identity. Art is appreciated as part of a continuum, with each piece marking a point in the artist’s ever-changing perspective and identity. It celebrates the dynamic nature of art, where the meaning and significance of a piece can shift over time.

In conclusion, Parfit’s theories offer a profound lens through which we can examine the nature of art and the artist’s identity. Whether viewed through the prism of the Ego Theory or the Bundle Theory, art stands as a profound reflection of the complexities and nuances of personal identity, challenging our perceptions of selfhood and creativity.

This thought experiment, inspired by Derek Parfit’s teleportation paradox, presents a fascinating philosophical conundrum involving the concepts of personal identity, artistic creation, and ownership. Let’s explore this scenario for logical flow and clarity, considering the implications of both the ego theory and the bundle theory.

Scenario Setup

  • Premise: An artist enters an isolated pod and starts an art project (sculpting a block of marble), with their brain states and cellular structure being recorded.
  • Twist: Unbeknownst to them, a replica artist is created in another pod at the opposite end of the Earth, starting an identical art project simultaneously. The artworks produced are indistinguishable in every visible aspect.

Analysis: Ego Theory vs. Bundle Theory

  1. Ego Theory Implications:
    • Assumption: There are two bodies but only one original ego or soul.
    • Artistic Ownership: The artwork, in this theory, is attributed to the one and only original ego or soul.
    • Paradox: While there are two physical artworks, the ego theorist would argue that they are expressions of a single soul. Thus, both artworks, though physically distinct, are spiritually and conceptually one, raising questions about the uniqueness and ownership of the artwork.
  2. Bundle Theory Implications:
    • Assumption: There are two identical sets of physical and mental processes.
    • Artistic Ownership: Each artwork is attributed to the distinct set of physical and mental processes that created it.
    • Paradox: In this view, both artworks are original since they are the products of two separate, though identical, sets of experiences and thoughts. This leads to a paradox where each artwork is both an original and a replica, challenging the notion of individuality in art.

Philosophical Paradoxes and Questions

  1. Originality and Authenticity:
    • Ego Theory: If there’s one soul, does it diminish the uniqueness of each artwork?
    • Bundle Theory: If both are original, what does it mean for the concept of individual artistic creation?
  2. Ownership and Attribution:
    • Ego Theory: The concept of ownership becomes nebulous if there’s one soul behind two physical artworks.
    • Bundle Theory: While each artwork can be attributed to a distinct set of experiences, the identical nature of these experiences challenges traditional notions of ownership and authorship.
  3. Concept of Self and Artistic Expression:
    • Ego Theory: Raises questions about the role of the self in artistic creation – is the art a reflection of a singular soul, regardless of physical duplication?
    • Bundle Theory: Puts forward a view of art as a momentary expression of a constantly changing bundle of experiences and thoughts, where replication does not diminish uniqueness.


This thought experiment intriguingly highlights the philosophical complexities surrounding concepts of self, originality, and ownership in art. Whether viewed through the lens of the ego theory or the bundle theory, it challenges our traditional understanding of what it means to create and own a piece of art, especially in an age where replication and duplication are increasingly feasible. Each theory offers a unique perspective on the relationship between the artist’s identity and their creative output, opening up a rich field for philosophical exploration and debate.