John Locke On Personal Identity
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I think that Lockes arguments for his ideas are sound, and I agree with what he is saying.
Locke was a micro based ideologist. He believed that humans were autonomous individuals who, although lived in a social setting, could not be articulated as a herd or social animal. Locke believed person to stand for, 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 only does by that consciousness which is inseparable from thinking. This ability to reflect, think, and reason intelligibly is one of the many gifts from God and is that gift which separates us from the realm of the beast. The ability to reason and reflect, although universal, acts as an explanation for individuality. All reason and reflection is based on personal experience and reference. Personal experience must be completely individual as no one can experience anything quite the same as another.
John Lockes on “Identity and Diversity” in chapter no 27, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) has been said to be one of the first modern conceptualization of consciousness as the repeated self-identification of oneself, through which moral responsibility could be attributed to the subject – and therefore punishment and guilt justified, as would critics such as Nietzsche point out. (John Locke, Kenneth P. Wrinkler, 1996)
Personal identity depends on consciousness, neither on substance or on the soul said Locke, which I agree with. We are the same person to the extent that we are conscious of our past and future thoughts and actions in the same way as we are conscious of our present thoughts and actions. If consciousness is this “thought” which doubles all thoughts, then personal identity is only founded on the repeated act of consciousness: “This may show us wherein personal identity consists: not in the identity of substance, but in the identity of consciousness”. For example, one may claim to be a reincarnation of a person, therefore having the same soul substance. However, one would be the same person only if one had the same consciousness of that persons thoughts and actions the person did. Therefore, self-identity is not based on the soul. One soul may have various personalities. (Raymond Martin, John Barresi, 2002)
Neither is self-identity founded on the body substance, argues Locke, as the body may change while the person remains the same. Even the identity of animals is not founded on their body: “animal identity is preserved in identity of life, and not of substance”, as the body of the animal grows and change during its life. On the other hand, identity of humans is based on their consciousness. Take for example a richmans mind which enters the body of a poorman. By just looking you would think the poorman is the poorman. But to the richman , the poorman would be himself, as he would be conscious of the richmans thoughts and acts, and not of the poorman.. A richman consciousness in a poormans body, means that the poorman is the richman. This make me think that personal identity is based on consciousness, and that only oneself can be aware of his consciousness, outside human judges may never know if they really are judging and punishing the same person, or simply the same body. In other words, Locke argues that you may be judged only for the acts of your body, as this is what is apparent to all but God; however, you are in truth only responsible for the acts for which you are conscious. This forms the basis of the insanity defense: one cant be held accountable for acts from which one was unconscious – and therefore leads to interesting philosophical questions:
Locke was responsible for clearing the ground as well as setting the stage and the terms of the modern debate on personal identity. His views remain highly influential and sometimes controversial. Much of present-day philosophizing about personal identity is a reaction either for or against the theory he proposed in his work Essays Concerning Human Understanding, published in 1690 (John Locke, Kenneth P. Wrinkler, 1996). The historical significance of this work is brought to the forefront if we consider that less than 50 years after its publication, David Hume remarked that the problem of personal identity that the work raised had evolved into “so great a question in philosophy.” Lockes specific treatment of the problem is found in the chapter entitled “Of Identity and Diversity,” which appeared in the second edition of his work in 1694. Locke wanted to give an account of personal identity, which would represent his fundamental opposition to the dominte philosophy at that time, which held the indivisibility of the self or thinking substance as a self evident truth.
Locke also wanted a theory that was consistent with our knowledge of our identity over a specific temporal period and which was not susceptible to skeptical objection. Moreover, he wanted to explain why personal identity is something that cannot be a matter of indifference to us. The experiences we have had or will have both good and bad, matter to us in a way that is different from the experiences of others. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Locke intended to point out a vital fact which many who have considered the problem before him had neglected; namely, that the concept of identity has to be joined to some substantive notion, e.g., a plant or a person, in order to have any import at all. What enables us to say that a particular thing is the same depends on the kind of entity we are talking about.
However, there was also an undeniable religious motive behind Lockes project. According to Noonan, Locke wanted “to provide an account of personal identity which would make sense of the Christian doctrines of human immortality, the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment.” Unlike many present-day theories of personal identity, which would probably take some religious ideas he considered