Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Juliann Tang

Juliann Tang


Artists have often used art to examine themselves, their own experience and their identities. The concept of personal identity has been an enduring philosophical debate. The idea that a person remains the same throughout the phases of their life raises numerous questions. What exactly is this ‘personal identity’? Derek Parfit is a philosopher who specialized in problems of personal identity. In his viewpoint, individuals are nothing more than our brains and bodies; however, identity cannot be reduced to either of these. Rather, Parfit feels that Relation R is the aspect that should be important. Relation R is the psychological connectedness (memory, character) and continuity (overlapping chains of strong connectedness) of a person that should dictate the continuity of a person’s identity. With the advent of cheap digital cameras, people have been able to record snapshots of their lives with ease. These snapshots of our lives could be a factor of psychological connectedness that Parfit calls for in Relation R. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the self-portrait has definitely taken on this role of words in the current social networking culture. We have entered a new era of digital art and self-discovery through such means.

SECTOR A: Philosophy & Science of Seeing

ADVISERS: Laura Churchman | Gary Purpura