John Locke’s Theory Of Personal Identity

728 words - 3 pages

The question of personal identity is very intuitive, yet very difficult to define. Essentially, what makes you, you? John Locke was one philosopher who attempted to answer this question. He proposed a psychological theory to define personal identity. His theory does have some merit, but it is not a correct definition of personal identity, since there are some counter-examples that cannot be accounted for. My argument will prove that Locke’s theory of personal identity is false.
Locke’s theory states that A is the same as B if and only if B remembers at T2 something done or experienced by A at T1. He often uses the word “consciousness” to help explain his theory, saying that one can remember back to a past conscious state, and can connect it to his current conscious state (Locke 367). I am currently conscious of my introspective experience of last Christmas, therefore I am the same person I was last Christmas, which is correct. Memories are also very personal, so they are exclusive to the person who possesses them. Although two people may share a similar memory, they do not have the exact same reflections and intelligent thoughts. They also do not consider themselves the same person, which Locke also says is a component of personal identity.
Although Locke’s theory of personal identity may be useful in the aforementioned circumstances, it does not cover every case. Suppose I had a dreamless sleep last night. I am currently not conscious of any moment during the sleep, nor do I have any memories from the sleep. The memories of my current conscious self are completely absent during the time period that I was asleep (Reid 370). My argument demonstrates that Locke’s theory of personal identity is not possible.
1. If Locke’s theory is true, then I am not the same person that I was while I was sleeping last night.
2. I am the same person I was while I was sleeping last night.
3. Locke’s theory is false.
This argument is valid because it follows the Modus Tollens form. If the two premises are true, the conclusion has to be...

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