Family Guy
'Nerd!' This is what Randy (left) used to shout at Peter (right) back at school in Family Guy. Peter, in the present, wants to take revenge on Randy. But is he right to do so? (20th Television)

In Family Guy S5E11 Peter Griffin, an adult and father, hunts down Randy Fulcher to beat him up. Peter’s motivation is that he wants revenge, justice, or something like that because Randy was a nasty bully at school.

But when Peter meets Randy he discovers that Randy has multiple sclerosis. Randy is also meeker and nicer than he was back in school.

Still, Peter, poised with a raised fist, wants retribution.

Chris, Peter’s son, physically forces his dad not to beat Randy up.

Peter accepts afterwards that Chris is right because it is wrong to seek revenge. The ethics of revenge is interesting. But what’s more interesting is whether Randy was the same person as Peter’s old school bully or not. Welcome to the topic of personal identity.

If Randy had continued to be the same person—if he had the same personal identity—from school until the present day, Peter’s actions would serve a purpose: he would be holding someone to account. If Randy, however, had, in fact, changed, Peter would be punishing a different person. Revenge, then, would seem totally wrong: who would Peter be punishing?

Thus the metaphysics of someone’s identity underpins the ethical question at play here.

Some questions to think about: What are the conditions are for being the same person? Are they physical? Are they psychological?