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Dr. Dennis M. Weiss

Professor of Philosophy

York College of Pennsylvania

was captured in those various photos so many years ago? What, if anything, persists from one moment in one’s life to a much later moment in the same life? Is it even the same life? These questions have fascinated me for a long time and are central to a lot of work in philosophy, which is a discipline that is all about self-knowledge. These are some of the BIG questions of all time: What is a self? What is a person? What is self-knowledge and how does it work? Can you know who you really are—your true self? Do you even have a true self? What makes you the same person from one day to the next? What makes you you? While each of us feels intimately familiar with our selves, it’s difficult to explain just what that sense of self is or what makes us the same self from one year to the next or even one day to the next. Are you your body? Are you your memories or your personality? Are you one self or many selves? I imagine that as you embark on your college career, these questions will loom large, especially as your sense of self undergoes some formative experiences and maybe even dramatic changes. With this first-year seminar, I invite you to come along with me as we explore the nature of the self and the challenges of understanding personal identity.

There are several web pages and a Moodle site devoted to this FYS and you can find all the important information for our FYS on these pages. On the course policies page you will find information on course requirements and grading policies. On the course syllabus page you will find your daily reading and writing assignments. The FYS Moodle Site contains important information on the YCP FYS Program, links to key First-Year Experience elements, and some of the activities associated with our course.  

Who am I? What am I? As I look over this photo collage (and granted, I only picked the reasonably decent school pictures—no photos from 8th to 11th grade—those were just embarrassing! And of course there are no recent photos included—I’m just getting too damn old.) I’m struck both by how much I have changed and how little I have changed. I can remember some of those moments in which those photos were captured, but other moments are a complete mystery to me. I look at that person in some of those photos and wonder: What was I thinking? What was I doing? Was that (is that?) really me? Maybe we have all had those moments when we look back at an old photograph (and admittedly most of you are only 18 or 19 and so this is all relative) and wonder: who was that? Was that really me? Or your family or friends play “remember when?” and you DON’T—remember when, that is. The self can be an elusive object. What makes the ME of today the same ME that

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