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John Locke andPersonal Identity.docx

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Stephen Heathorn

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John Locke and his theories of Personal Identity Identity of Substance and Things  God: God does not change, no puzzle because he is eternal, unalterable and everywhere  Angels: finite spirits/ have their identity in the unbroken history from their creation- no change  Matter: individual corpuscles (atoms) - do not change- identical over time and space  Theres a difference between a mere mass of atoms from a system o fatoms  Plants: living things differ from mass of matter -the same parts of oak are organized into the same living system- partaking of one common life -one plant with such organization is one system  Animals: likewise for animals -like plants animals are systems of matter- the atoms that make it up contribute to the same life (organism) -Locke draws an analogy with machines -but unlike Descartes, Locke does not deny that animals have pleasure  Man- the human animal - like plants/animals: what makes a human organism the same over time is the sameness of the living system - thus Locke distinguishes “man” from person -person is a thinking intelligent being capable of reason and reflection and can consider its self as its self – conscious as itself as itself does not agree with Freud’s multiple consciousness- psychoanalysing yourself  Personal Identity is based on i. Self-consciousness (awareness that it is you who thinks and perceives) ii. Memory (of pasts thoughts and perceptions) -personal identity extends only as far back as you can remember The prince and the cobbler: suppose the consciousness of the prince and the cobbler switched bodies -> would being in the prince’s body make the cobble the prince? Person is not soul substance: If a consciousness could move from one soul to another -then the person has moved from one soul to another If the same soul had one consciousness by night and one by day -there would be no different persons in the same soul -we can lose consciousness – like when we dream -we can’t blame the person I am in my dreams because it is a different consciousness - Multiple Personality Disorders: two set of consciousness – two sets of memories in one body Against Reincarnation and Past Lives -reincarnation: persons persists in a succession of bodies without remembering their past lives Locke: since no memory of past lives- each reincarnation is a new person Strengths: 1) provides subjective criteria for personal identity -objective criteria for PI are not conclusive -but one seems to know first-hand authoritatively that one is the same person over time 2) transcends debate over monism/dualism -the obscure idea of substance is not an obstacle to his account of PI -debate over whether we have immaterial souls is irrelevant to his account of PI ==================================================================================== Recall: Locke’s account  Memory does seem very important for preserving a person over time  We do seem to h
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