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Is Personal Identity In The Mind Of The Beholder?

918 words - 4 pages

Personal identity is a very controversial aspect of life. Who are we? What defines us? According to John Locke, psychological continuity is what defines our personal identity. Locke discusses the case of the prince and the cobbler to help shape his theory. However, I absolutely disagree with Locke’s theory. Locke’s theory of personal identity creates many problems, such as the duplication problem. By reformulating Locke’s theory of personal identity, we still come across these problems that prove Locke’s theory false.
Summary:
Locke’s argument for the memory criterion of personal identity, is that psychological continuity (the consciousness of past experiences) is the aspect that preservers our personal identity. Locke states, “For, since consciousness always accompanies thinking, and it is that which makes everyone to be what he calls self, and thereby distinguishes himself from all other thinking things, and this alone consists personal identity”(pg.374, 14th ed.). Locke views a distinction between a man (the body) and a person (the mind); therefore, if you are conscious of your past memories, your consciousness can be transferred from one body to another and personal identity follows. Locke creates the case in which the soul of the prince (with all prince consciousness) is transferred to the body of the cobbler (cobbler’s soul has departed). The prince still considers himself a prince, even though he is in the cobbler’s body. Lock’s theory states that the person in the cobbler’s body is the prince; therefore, the cobbler is guilty of all princes’ crimes. The cobbler is psychologically continuous with the prince, which is essential to the punishment of a wrongdoer. Locke formally states his theory: P1 and P2 are the same person; iff P2 genuinely remembers P1’s deeds. The cobbler (with prince consciousness) (P2), genuinely remembers the prince (with prince consciousness) (P1’s) deeds. Therefore, the cobbler is the same person as the prince.
Evaluation:
Locke’s theory of personal identity faces many problems, one being Siders duplication problem. The duplication problem, is one in which we assume you (A) have a terrible illness and the only solution is to split your body into two and see which will survive. You enter the operation and the doctors divide your body into two. Each halve-body is artificially completed, but somehow both halves are cured and both survive. Now you have two persons (B and C), with your original hemisphere. According to Locke’s theory on psychological continuity, a past person (P1) is numerically identical to the future person (P2) iff the future person remembers the past persons memories, experiences, etc. Therefore, we can assume A is psychologically continuous and numerically identical with B and A is also...

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