Two Sides of the Same Coin? Neutral Monism as an Attempt to Reconcile Subjectivity and Objectivity in Personal Identity

Nils Frederic Wagner*, Iva Apostolova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Standard views of personal identity over time often hover uneasily between the subjective, first-person dimension (e. g. psychological continuity), and the objective, third-person dimension (e. g. biological continuity) of a person's life. Since both dimensions capture something integral to personal identity, we show that neither can successfully be discarded in favor of the other. The apparent need to reconcile subjectivity and objectivity, however, presents standard views with problems both in seeking an ontological footing of, as well as epistemic evidence for, personal identity. We contend that a fresh look at neutral monism offers a novel way to tackle these problems; counting on the most fundamental building blocks of reality to be ontologically neutral with regards to subjectivity and objectivity of personal identity. If the basic units of reality are, in fact, ontologically neutral - but can give rise to mental as well as physical events - these basic units of reality might account for both subjectivity and objectivity in personal identity. If this were true, it would turn out that subjectivity and objectivity are not conflictive dimensions of personal identity but rather two sides of the same coin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-149
Issue number1
Early online date8 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020



  • biological continuity
  • neutral monism
  • objectivity
  • personal identity
  • psychological continuity
  • Russellian monism
  • subjectivity

Cite this