- Early Modern: Locke on Personal Identity, Part 1
- Early Modern: Locke on Personal Identity, Part 2
- Early Modern: Locke on Personal Identity, Part 3
- Early Modern: Descartes' Cogito Argument
- Early Modern: Émilie du Châtelet, Part 1
- Early Modern: Émilie du Châtelet, Part 2
- Early Modern: Margaret Cavendish, Part 1
- Early Modern: Margaret Cavendish, Part 2
Part 2 of 3. What makes you the same person as the little kid growing up a number of years ago? Is the identity of a person tied to the persistence of a body or a soul or something else entirely? Can we even give any explanation at all of the persistence of a person? Michael Della Rocca (Yale University) explores some of the puzzles and problems of personal identity that arise from the revolutionary work of the philosopher John Locke.
Speaker: Dr. Michael Della Rocca, Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of Philosophy, Yale University.
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- Does that mean that in case of Amnesia (loss of memory) ; the person lose his identity ?
That seams to me absurd!!(10 votes)
- Good question! Consciousness encompasses more than just memory, although identity does start becoming a very difficult subject for those with severe amnesia. Amnesia also does not typically erase all memories entirely. If we follow this logic, you could say that since you do not remember going to an event that it was not actually you who went to that event, but this is not what Locke suggests; It is primarily based on the continuity of consciousness itself.(7 votes)
- What makes soul and consciousness different in Locke's conception? Consciousness is about thought, memory... and only oneself can be aware of his consciousness. How about soul?(9 votes)
- One can have a soul without consciousness. As said, a soul is a nonphysical thinking being. Do animals have souls? Why of course. They think all the time. My dog thinks about chasing his tail a lot. But do they have consciousness? AKA Self-awareness? This is debatable. Can an animal ponder earlier memories? Or is it when something happens in an animal's life, his thoughts move on, never thinking back into the past (nor the future, really, for to make predictions, you need data from the past). Again debatable. But personally I believe they do not have consciousness - They merely recognize certain things, not exactly thinking about it though. My dog will remember who I am after weeks of not seeing me. But does he really think about it or is it just instinct to know I am it's owner? It comes down to consciousness vs instinct more or less(5 votes)
- So would Locke's argument of personal identity be plausible in aspect to reincarnation? For example, although controversial, some people, especially children claim to or believe to have memories of being (or that seem to belong to) another person after they have passed on.(4 votes)
- Yes, I think, Locke would agree that two individuals with the same memory are indeed the same person.(4 votes)
- So under Locke's definition of identity, does that mean that people who become senile no longer have the same identity. Also a young child would not have the memories of their later life, so does that mean that the young child does not have the identity of their older self, but the older self has the identity of the younger child.(4 votes)
- Yes, precisely. The point of senility is in part touched on earlier in the playlist RE: the concept of 'vegetative states', and also in Part 3 of this discussion as you will see, manifest in the 'Brave Officer' problem. It deals with transitivity, and the remembering of some important memories, but forgetting others.(2 votes)
- So what would you say about a person that has either short-term memory loss or long term memory loss? Are they not the same person because they can't remember their previous thoughts? For example if they can't remember what they did five minutes ago; are they always considered a "new person." Where does their consciousness go?(2 votes)
- Part 3 answers this question or at least addresses some of the "problems". I won't spoil it here, but the answers start at1:34of the third video.(3 votes)
- There has to be more to identity than memory, right? Locke is clearly onto something good and useful here but is it not the whole thing.
Lets take a computer as an analogy. Of course, Locke didn't have this opportunity but the separation of hardware and software within a computer seems relevant enough to make it a better analogy than the plant. The only software the plant has is its DNA and we don't regard two plants with the same DNA as the same plant (e.g. if we take a cutting and grow it).
If I swap the hard drive from one computer to another compatible computer then, in some practical senses this is the first computer. I actually used to do this with broken PCs and, jokingly, called it "doing a brain swap". In other senses it is not the same computer. In my case, the idea was not to take the brokenness of the original PC hardware into the new PC. Normally this worked well and the user regarded the PC that was returned to them as their original PC fixed, not a new one, so long as it was in the same or a similar case.
So lets say that I have my memories replaced by Hitler's. My brain would still have its original structure that (to at least some extent) dictates my thought patterns and would lack any physical causees of Hitler's insanity but it would have Hitler's memory. Would that be me or Hitler? I say neither even though the only name that person would remember themselves having would be Hitler's. That person would remember life as Hitler but think about it more as I would than as Hitler himself did. That person, identifying as Hitler, would probably spend a lot of time asking themself "Why did I do all those terrible things? It was awful and it didn't even work, which now seems like the only good thing about it. How could I have been such a monster?" which I am pretty sure that the real Hitler never did.
So, while memory clearly is a big part of identity, what else are we looking for? Patterns of thought and behaviour? Some of that is hormonal, or otherwise external to the brain and putting identity back into the whole body would seem to undo a lot of Locke's work, or, at least, diminish it considerably.(1 vote)
- I think it is reasonable to think that our memories are somehow stored in our nervous system, and therefore depend on the organization of matter in our nervous system, so why does Locke distinguishes plants from humans? We are as dependent of the continuity in the organization of the matter that composes us as are plants. Our consciousness and the maintenance of our memories are just a by-product of such continuity, such as the ability to photosynthesise is a by-product of the continuity of matter organization in plants.(1 vote)
- Most of the things we do, we can't remember. By Locke's account, in what way are we our past selves to any notable extent? For instance, I can only remember a few of the details of every little thing I did last week--certainly not even half of the things I was consciously aware of when I was doing them. If I think even further back--say, 10 years--I can (with a few minor exceptions) only remember fairly major life events. By this measure, it would seem Lock's criteria actually argues against the idea of a continuous personal identity. We do remember some things, but to define a personal identity only by the ability to remember ANY past actions comes off as falling short of a meaningful definition.(1 vote)
- I think the application of worm theory would work here. A person is the same if his time worm is the same as his time worm. Which is easy to imagine and think about(1 vote)