Essay On John Locke On Personal Identity

Essay On John Locke On Personal Identity-79
This notion of identity stems from the basic principle that no two things of the same kind can exist in the same place at the same time, as well as the extension of this principle that, therefore, no two things can have the same beginning and neither can any thing have two beginnings.Things retain their identity, then, as long as they do not become essentially altered because once something is essentially altered, it has a new beginning as a new thing.Or else, we might compare our ideas of two people and get the ideas of father and son.

This notion of identity stems from the basic principle that no two things of the same kind can exist in the same place at the same time, as well as the extension of this principle that, therefore, no two things can have the same beginning and neither can any thing have two beginnings.Things retain their identity, then, as long as they do not become essentially altered because once something is essentially altered, it has a new beginning as a new thing.Or else, we might compare our ideas of two people and get the ideas of father and son.

Since Locke admits that consciousness cannot exist on its own, but must be part of some mind or other, it seems likely that consciousness is a property that belongs to minds.

It is not clear, though, that a property can simply be transferred from one substance to another.

In other words, identity is retained through continuous history.

Of course, to remain essentially unaltered has a different meaning for different ideas.

Still, there is no reason to assume, on this view, that consciousness cannot be transferred from one body or mind to another (think of a science fiction example where all of one's thoughts are transferred to a computer chip, so that consciousness moves from the mind to the computer).

That consciousness exists independent of material substance (i.e. Locke gives an example to illustrate just how intuitive this notion is: When a finger is cut off from a man's hand, it is clearly no longer a part of his consciousness; he is no more conscious of any effects on this finger than he is conscious of effects on any other man's finger.A person is defined as a thinking thing, and thought, as we have seen, is inseparable from consciousness (remember Transparency of the Mental).It is, therefore, in consciousness alone that identity must exist.By observing the similarities and differences, the mind derives further ideas, ideas of relation.For instance, we might compare our simple ideas of two patches of color and notice that one is of a different size than the other, thereby getting the idea of bigger and the idea of smaller.Locke's treatment of personal identity might seem counterintuitive to a lot of people, especially his claim that consciousness, and therefore personal identity, are independent of all substances.Notice, however, that the claim is not that consciousness can exist independent of a body or a mind, only that there is no reason to assume that consciousness is tied to any particular body or mind.This is true not only for parts of the body but for the whole body as well, Locke insists.If the consciousness of one man were somehow transferred into another body so that the second body now contained all the memories of thoughts and actions that the first man once contained (but does no more), the person would now inhabit the second body and not the first.With this definition of man, Locke is able to claim that the identity of man, because it is just a particular instance of animal, is tied to body and shape.That other aspect of the human being, the human as a thinking, rational thing, Locke calls "person." The identity of person rests entirely in consciousness.

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