Soul Theory Personal Identity Essay

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In chapter 3 of Book II, Locke discounts the importance of atomic identity, insisting that atoms are the same at any one point in time, and remain the same over time.

It is assigning a meaning of identity to living things which is more difficult.

It is worth noting that Locke does not actually provide any hints as to how we are to judge the verity of a person’s account of their memories in this scenario, instead placing his faith in the judgement of God[2].

William Molyneux makes an objection to Locke’s erasure of accountability for the drunkard, saying instead that the intoxicated person with no memory of their crime should be punished regardless.

Perhaps the most interesting and controversial of the topics covered in the are the chapters devoted to Locke’s account of personal identity.

In this section of the Essay, Locke puts forward a thesis that suggests psychological continuity is what constitutes personal identity[1].In order to examine the flaws in Locke’s theory, I will first establish a foundation of how Locke views personal identity, with some examples which he offers to support his claims.I will then postulate the rebuttals of three prominent philosophers, William Molyneux, Thomas Reid and Joseph Butler, in an attempt to show some fallacies in Locke’s theory of personal identity.[1] Mackie, and the identity of a living thing.A man, according to Locke, refers to the body of a human being, our physical presence in reality.A person on the other hand, is first and foremost a human being, but more importantly, a living, thinking, intelligent being, capable of reason, reflection, and introspection, and “the same thinking thing at different times and places” [3].In other words, our identity can only exist as far back as we can remember.As previously mentioned, Locke’s criterion for sameness lies in the continuity of the same functional organisation between two points in time, then consciousness becomes the continual link between the past and present self.To illustrate, Locke articulates that if the consciousness of a prince’s past life was somehow transferred to the body of a cobbler whose body had been “deserted by his own soul”[3], then he would be the same ‘person’ despite not appearing to be the same ‘man’.Locke then goes on to illustrate the contrary experience of the cobbler’s consciousness inhabiting the prince’s old body.Furthermore, we spend much of our lives living in the present moment without a thought given to the past events of our lives.At first glance this may throw a considerable spanner in the works of Locke’s thesis, but is easily remedied by Locke’s quick counterargument. 115The Prince and the Cobbler Having established that personal identity lies in consciousness, and that in order to be the same person over time one must remember their past experiences, Locke tells us the story of the Prince and the Cobbler, a claim based on a theoretical transference of consciousness between bodies[1].


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