Locke's Person Identity Essay

2068 words - 9 pages

Identify is needed to determine existence. How to you determine the existence of an object according to John Locke it must be compared in a state via a determine place and time, to itself at a separate place and time (Locke 367L). An object cannot exist at the same time in two separate places. For example, a 20 ounce bottle of coke at a gas station in Kentucky and another 20 ounce bottle of coke in an airport in Denver do not share the same identity. This is because while they may share every single trait, the fact that they exist in separate places at the same time makes them separate objects that do not share the same identity.
From this brief understanding of identity Locke creates ...view middle of the document...

This concept of one life being the basis for identity in living things extends to animals as well.
To understand the identity of humans, Locke makes an important distinction between man and person. Locke defines man as, “nothing else but of an animal such a certain form” (369R). Man for Locke is, “not the idea of thinking or rational being … but of a body” (369R). Thus man is similar to that of an animal or a plant its existence rests upon the functional organization of life that exists within it. A person’s identity however does not depend on the same organization. A person is, “a thinking intelligent being that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing in different times and places, which it does only by that consciousness which is inseparable from thinking, and, … essential to it.” (370L). Thus the ability to reason through consciousness creates a distinction between man and person. Where man has identity just like an animal does through one shared life and a person has identify through its consciousness.
The concept of identity of a person being based in consciousness requires further explanation. Consciousness does not necessarily need to be made out of the same substance. Locke writes it, “does not concern personal identity at all, the question being what makes the same person, and not whether it is the same identical substance which always thinks in the same person” (370R). As long as the substances whether different or the same, “can repeat the idea of any past action with the same consciousness it had of it at first” (370L), personal identity remains unchanged. The identity of person stays the same when they can pass actions (370L). This concept can be simplified to state: a person stage S1 and S2 are parts of the same person if and only if S1 and S2 share on consciousness/parts of one consciousness. S1 and S2 are parts of one consciousness if and only if S1 can remember the thoughts, actions, and experiences of S2. For Locke it can then be understood that no matter how the current consciousness is formed, what substances it is made out of, do not matter as long as it can reproduce past actions.
Locke’s theory allows for there to be one person with many bodies; one body with many persons. The first concept of one person with many bodies, contrasts with the Materialist account of identity. Materialism holds x is a person if and only if x is a human body. For the Materialist a person stage S1 and S2 are parts of the same person if and only if S1 and S2 are parts of the same human body. Identity is not derived from having the same consciousness, but from having the same body. The materialist’s account is similar to Locke’s account of man, not his account of person. This difference can be noticed in Locke’s scenario of the prince and the cobbler. In the scenario the consciousness of both the prince and cobbler switch, so that the consciousness that the prince previously had...

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