Could you survive the destruction of your own body[1]

Could you survive the destruction of your own body[1] -...

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Could you survive the destruction of your own body? What am I? When did I begin? What will happen to me when I die? What is it to be the same person today as I was in the past, or will be in the future? These are questions that have been the subject of much discussion in both Western and Eastern philosophy and have prompted a wide range of different responses. It is only once a satisfactory answer to the very first question, namely what defines who or what I am, is found that I will be able to answer the subject of this essay, what will happen to me when I come to the end of my existence as I currently know it. It is for this reason that the essay will primarily look at the different views of personal identity before coming to any sort of conclusion. John Locke, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, is often considered responsible for introducing personal identity as an issue to the modern philosophical scene. His main claim was that, though a person could be made of different substance from one time to another, memory served as an indicator of that person’s singular identity. He pointed out that the very act of thinking produces consciousness. This consciousness is what establishes personal identity by allowing us to perceive our ‘self’ as being separate and different from everything else. But what of the question of persistence? Am I the same person that I was five minutes ago? Obviously, if I were not, this could have enormous implications, particularly in the field of punishment for example – how could I be punished for an action that ‘I’ committed yesterday even though I am no longer the same person. Locke replies to this problem by claiming that all parts of one’s life are tied together by consciousness, and that “to be conscious of a past action is to conceive of it as performed by oneself” 1 . This requirement for identity has become known as the memory criterion and forms part of the psychological approach to personal identity. Since there is no-one else who has the same memories as I do, I can know that I am me; this would be true even if I were constantly in the company of another person. Only I can remember how I felt when I awoke this morning. Throughout the course of the day, I may have changed, though perhaps unnoticeably, but my memory of my personal feelings and experiences from today is singular to me. Locke’s theory is certainly an effective starting point in the search for an unchanging “I”, but it hardly seems satisfactory to explain the whole phenomenon. This psychological approach faces problems with memory. The following example, created by Reid
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This note was uploaded on 04/29/2008 for the course PPE PPE taught by Professor None during the Summer '08 term at Oxford University.

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Could you survive the destruction of your own body[1] -...

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