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Reduction to Open Individualism

by Iacopo Vettori - September 2016

An Afghan policeman stands behind a pile of burning illegal narcotics in Kabul April 26, 2009 (Ahmad Masood/Reuters/Contrasto).
An Afghan policeman stands behind a pile of burning illegal narcotics in Kabul April 26, 2009
(Ahmad Masood/Reuters/Contrasto).
The image suggests how human consciousness comes alive
from aggregations of energy and particles randomly springing forth into the universe.


This paper presents the Open Individualist View of personal identity, introduced by Daniel Kolak in his book I Am You, published in 2004. I read his book in 2010, after I had already come to the same view on my own, in 2006, and adopted his term in my successive writings about it. This same view was called Universalism by Arnold Zuboff in his 1990 article “One Self: The Logic of Experience”, though I was unaware of this until after the present work was completed. And in recent years, I have met others who also discovered it independently. I hope all of this means that our culture is ready to accept it. Basically, Open Individualism / Universalism is a reductionist version of Monopsychism. Here I expose the problems of personal identity according to the existing reductionist views, and try to trace a path to convince the reader that only Open Individualism can satisfactorily answer all these problems. I begin by criticizing the concept of identity when referring to objects, showing that it has no solid foundation, so that it cannot be used as a basis for defining personal identity. On the contrary, we in fact deduce the concept of identity for all objects starting from our own inner concept of personal identity. I then criticize directly our concept of personal identity, using thought experiments that have already been described in the literature. To prove that Open Individualism is a viable alternative, I propose to adopt a new concept of time, using an eternalist framework where external time is illusory and not flowing, and introducing instead “subjective times” that flow subjectively for each living being. To show that this theory is more advanced than the alternatives, I discuss the General Existential Problem and the Individual Existential Problem. The first groups together all the problems related to the existence of the universe and specifically the existence of all the universes that allow the appearance of life. This is a problem that is independent of any personal identity theory. The second groups the problems related to our personal existence in one of these universes. I want to show that only Open Individualism can answer the questions posed by the Individual Existential Problem, mainly because it represents the only possible way to reconcile the objectivity of science and rational reasoning with the subjective datum of our personal existence, which otherwise has to be attributed to blind fate or a mystical concept of predestination, with no hope of any rational explanation. This difference makes Open Individualism the most satisfactory theory of personal identity. Then I list some problems that can be easily answered by the theory, including a new view of the contraposition between determinism and the possibility of free will, and between reductionism and dualism. Then I conclude with some considerations of ethics and practical behavior.

The content is also available as a pdf file in A5 format: ReductionToOpenIndividualismA5.pdf .


I want to thank everyone who discussed these ideas with me, even those who disagreed with me, because they led me to study some problems deeper and to refine my arguments. Many of them are members of the Facebook group “I Am You: Discussions on Open Individualism”. But I want to explicitly thank Joe Kern, who revised this paper with me, suggesting corrections in both the form and the content. Joe is one of the rare people who independently discovered the idea of Open Individualism, and wrote a book about it, following his own path: Personal Existence and its Absence. I find his writing very detailed and clear, and I recommend it to every interested reader. You may be surprised to find how similar his arguments are to the ones expressed in this paper. This is a sign that we are on the right path. His work can be found at

Continue on the next page "Introduction: A roadmap to Open Individualism".


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