February 4 , 2014
What is personal identity?
• Descartes: “I think therefore I am”
• For those who reject dualism – issue of what “self” is
Problem of personal identity
• What makes you the same person through time and space
o Dualist – your body is not your identity; entirely of mental substance (soul/mind)
Problems: experiences are bodily
• No self – only sequence of experience and body in which these sequences occurs
What makes a person a person?
• Ship of Theseus
o Ship made of wood is entirely rebuilt gradually overtime. Continues to function
o Is it the same ship?
Most say yes
What is all the old pieces are used to create another ship – which one is
• Something more in the case of personal identity
• John Locke
o Personal identity is a matter of psychological continuity and conscious memories
If a prince and a cobbler switch bodies, they would be the same person
but would it be the same man?
o Persons are independent of bodies
o Distinction between what it is like to be a human vs. a person (self)
Human is tied to body
Person involves consciousness
No flow of consciousness that Locke requires – moments of forgetfulness,
unconsciousness, blurred memories
o Same consciousness at different times that allows for personal identity
o Locke singled out memory as central to personal identity – if I remember doing
something, then I am the same person that did that thing
o Self is capable of conscious emotions concerning themselves
o Thomas Reid: well known for criticisms of Locke’s memory criterion of identity
Eg. General (in reading)
• A B C