Personal Identity

Personal Identity - The problem of personal identity The...

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The problem of personal identity The question I think I’m the same person now who went by the name SN and  taught at the University last year.  Is that true?   What would make that true or false?   That is, what is required in order for a person to be the same  person across time? Motivation Tells us about continued existence (immortality) Prior to issues about the soul. Because it might turn out that having the same soul doesn't necessarily mean that you are the same person. Nature of self – what am I? whatever is required for identity across time must be what is essential to my nature. Ethics or responsibility  Not the same person I was when I agreed to marry you, so I'm not  under any moral obligation to keep my promise to stay married.  John Locke again English philosopher 1632-1704  Father of “British Empiricism” Essay concerning Human Understanding  (1690) First systematic discussion of personal identity in  Western philosophy Why is Locke so important on the issue? Prior to Locke, the issue of personal identity was widely  regarded as very simple – a person’s identity depends on having  the same  soul.  Locke actually  rejects  that view, for really interesting reasons.  This lays bare the serious difficulties of the problem of personal  identity.
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Easing into the issue In talking about identity, the limit case is an object is identical with itself at the same instance. But that's not the hard part. The hard question arises when we have passage of time. Object A at time t (say, 10AM today) is the same as object B at time t’ (say, 11AM today) just in case… Range of questions about identity over time Locke thinks that questions about identity over time depend on  the domain. The answers will be different for different kinds of  objects (physical particles, biological organisms, persons). Physical particles Let’s say you wanted to determine whether the particle that is at the top right corner of the computer right now is the same particle that is there in 5 minutes. How could you determine that? What equipment would you use? Locke & Descartes agree about physical particles: Physical particle A is identical to physical particle B just in case there is a continuous space-time line between A and B. Souls Here things are trickier because we don’t have a good understanding of souls. “Finite spirits having had each its determinate time and place of beginning to exist, the relation to that time and place will always determine to each of them its identity, as long as it exists” (sect. 2) Locke & Descartes seem to agree about souls too: continuous line from origin Identity of inanimate objects So, we know what Locke thinks about particles. Now, what about a more
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Personal Identity - The problem of personal identity The...

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