Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Dr. David Palmer

Committee Members

Dr. E.J. Coffman, Dr. Heidi Storl


What does it mean to understand another person? Suppose physical information alone is insufficient for fully understanding another person. Suppose further that John Locke’s theory of continuity of consciousness (if a person can extend into the past and still be conscious of past experiences and be conscious of what is happening in their present life, then they are the same person) being necessary for maintaining personal identity is correct. In applying these theories to my argument regarding how “no individual can possess all the same conscious experiences as another” due to the private, subjectivity of the self resulting in “no person…ascrib[ing all] the same mental representations to their experiences” an interesting question arises (Kinsella, 2020, pp. 39, 47). Given that we owe an ethical obligation to other persons, how can medical decision-making be improved for medical professionals and loved ones making decisions on behalf of cognitively declined patients without capacity who have difficulty recalling their experiences if we are unable to fully understand these patients? Part 1 of this thesis will serve as the theoretical background for understanding metaphysical personal identity, ethical personal identity, transforming from having the potential for personhood to actualizing this capacity, explaining the subjectivity of the self, and revealing ways in which physicalism has restricted abilities for fully capturing subjective experience. Part 2 will address necessary components involved in deliberation (teleology and experience) which play a necessary role in actively acquiring intentions and informed decisions. This will reveal the importance of reflecting on how our experiences influence teleological motive so that we can better understand decisions we make, and utilize information to assist us in making decisions. The situated-embodied-agent view of persons advocates for treating humans as persons embedded in a historical experiential context by connecting persons to their relationships and contexts. SEA which has implications for person-centered care serves as a potentially effective tool for helping maintain personhood of cognitively declined patients and helping improve medical decision-making.

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