• The problem of personal identity=df. The problem of explaining what makes the identity of a single person at a time or through time, especially when there is a change in the person in time. • Just what is it that makes you the person you are now, and what is it that makes you the same person now as you were in the past?
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL CHANGE
• Humans undergo physical and mental changes, and yet these changes are attributable to the same person. For instance, your body is not the same size as it was when you were a child, but we say that you are the same person in spite of this physical change. And you are more developed mentally than you were when you were a child, but we also say that you are the same person in spite of this mental change. • How can this be accounted for, that you remain the same in spite of changes to your mind and body? Can it be accounted for?
LOCKE‟S DEFINITION OF PERSON
• Locke: person = df. “a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places.” (Whose language does “thinking thing” sound like?) • For Locke, a person knows that he or she is the same thinking thing in different times and places only through the consciousness which is inseparable from thinking and from mental operations in general. Thus, if I am thinking, then I know that I am thinking - am conscious that I am thinking. And “when we see, hear, smell, taste, feel, meditate, or will anything, we know that we do so.” (Who does this sound like?)
CONSCIOUSNESS AND PERSONAL IDENTITY I
• Locke says that it is consciousness on which the notion of self or personal identity is dependent. And he says that personal identity consists in consciousness and memory. This means that we are not to be identified essentially with our bodies, and so there is a division here between mind and body which reflects the dualism of Descartes, and which goes back to Plato. • For Locke, a person distinguishes himself from things which are not himself in the present through consciousness. In addition, a person‟s identity extends as far back in the past as a person can be conscious of any past action, thought, or event as being his or hers. As I am conscious of a past thought or action being my past thought or action, so I am conscious of myself as extending beyond the present into the past. This consciousness of the past is memory, and, for Locke, memory is essential to personal identity through time.
CONSCIOUSNESS AND PERSONAL IDENTITY II
• Thus for Locke, personal identity - our sense of ourselves as being the same over time - is guaranteed by consciousness. However, we are talking about beings not just with a history in fact - with lives which truthfully extend beyond the present into the past. Rather, we are talking about beings who are aware of having lived through the past. Accordingly, we are talking about both consciousness of the present and consciousness of the past, or memory, and so consciousness is referred to each of these parts of time. • Memory is essential to the notion of a temporally extended self. This is the case since all consciousness occurs in the present. If we had no memory, but only awareness of the present, then we could not know that we had a past even if it were true that we had lived through part of the past.
THE SELF IS NOT THE SAME IDENTICAL MENTAL SUBSTANCE
• Locke points out that we are not continuously conscious of being “the same thinking thing” or mental substance. This is because consciousness is interrupted by sleep and forgetfulness. • Locke says that, for a self to be the same identical substance, all of its past and present thoughts and experiences would have to appear to its consciousness at each moment. If that were the case, then “the same thinking thing would be always consciously present, and, as would be thought, evidently the same to itself.” • The problem for this is the interruption of consciousness by sleep and forgetfulness, and this then casts doubt on whether the self can be said to be the same mental substance through time.
• Locke: “It being the same consciousness that makes a man be himself to himself, personal identity depends on that [consciousness] only.” • Locke: “As far as any intelligent being can repeat the idea of any past action with the same consciousness it had of it at first, and with the same consciousness it has of any present action, so far it is the same personal self.” • Locke: “It is by the consciousness [which any intelligent being] has of its present thoughts and actions that it is self to itself now, and will be the same self as far as the same consciousness can extend to action past or to come.”
SELVES AND MENTAL SUBSTANCES
• For Locke, mental substance does not decide the issue of personal identity. Rather, personal identity is defined by consciousness. • It is conceivable that a person‟s consciousness could go from her mind (a mental substance) to the mind of another. And if it did, it would be same person who went from mind to mind. • This is because the mind, treated as a mental substance of which things like thoughts and perceptions are predicated, does not determine the sameness of a person, consciousness does. • I see my present and past actions as mine through my consciousness. Accordingly, I would no more lose my identity by going from one mind to another - mind treated as an immaterial substance - than I would by going from one room to another.
My consciousness goes from Mind 1 to Mind 2
Mind 1 and Mind 2 are mental substances of which conscious acts can be predicated. (Because it is impossible to picture a mind, even as a substance and not as a process, minds are pictured as brains.) The point is that, for Locke, the thinking that characterizes the thing that thinks – the mental substance – could theoretically, as a conscious process, leave that mind and go into another. Since personal identity is dependent on consciousness for Locke, if my consciousness goes from Mind 1 to Mind 2, then I go from Mind 1 to Mind 2.
SELVES AND PHYSICAL SUBSTANCES
• A person‟s body is a kind of physical substance. Bodies have properties like being heavy and warm, but although we predicate properties like heaviness and warmth of bodies, we don‟t predicate bodies as a property of anything else. Thus I can properly say that my body is warm, but it seems improper, or at least odd, to say that my warmth is bodied. • For Locke, bodies do not guarantee personal identity, present consciousness with memory does. • I am not my body, I am my present consciousness with my memories of my past. If the little finger of my left hand falls from my body and my consciousness goes with my little finger, then I leave my body and go with my little finger.
Jane‟s consciousness leaves her body to go into John‟s body
A person‟s identity for Locke consists in the identity of his or her consciousness. Accordingly, if Jane‟s consciousness leaves the body to which it was formerly attached, or to which it was formerly related, and travels into John‟s body, then, since Jane is to be identified with her consciousness, she goes where her consciousness goes, and so she is now in John‟s body. Jane would only know that she had had a change of body through being conscious of that change. She would recollect that she had had a different body in the past. If John‟s consciousness continues to be attached to his body, then two different people now inhabit the same body.
SELVES AND SUBSTANCES
• For Locke, I am not the person I am because of my mind (a mental substance of which things like thoughts and feelings are predicated), and I am not the person that I am because of my body (a physical substance of which things like thirst and weariness are predicated). Rather my “personal identity consists, not in the identity of substance [of either kind], but in the identity of consciousness [present awareness plus memory].” • Locke: “Self is that conscious thinking thing - whatever substance made up of (whether spiritual or material, simple or compounded, it matters not) - which is sensible or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends.”
MEN AND PERSONS I
• Locke draws a distinction between men and persons. A man is a human body, a certain biological entity, while a person is “a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places.” • Locke: “Whatever has the consciousness of present and past actions is the same person to whom they both belong.” Thus, a person is to be identified with present consciousness and memory, and it is theoretically possible for more than one person to inhabit the same man. This is what Locke would have to say about multiple personality disorder.
MEN AND PERSONS II
• Locke says that if you lose all of your memories then you lose your personal identity. We know that, for Locke, we have to make a distinction between Jane (her consciousness with memory) and her body (the man). Suppose that today Jane is struck by lightening and loses all of her memories, and cannot regain them. Jane would have no consciousness of her past existence (memory) and no consciousness of herself now as a particular person since she would not know who she is. • Thus, although Jane‟s body continues on, and her brain continues to function normally apart from the loss of her memories of her personal past, Jane herself does not.
MEN AND PERSONS III
• Since Jane‟s body remains healthy, a new person with a new set of experiences beginning where Jane‟s left off can begin in Jane‟s old body. If we call this new person „Janet,‟ we would say that Janet‟s life begins in Jane‟s old body. And we would also say that, even though the body to which Jane was attached continues on, Jane herself has died. • This is what Locke means by saying that “if it be possible for the same man to have distinct incommunicable consciousness at different times [e.g. Jane‟s consciousness and Janet‟s consciousness], it is past doubt that the same man [the body to which the different persons Jane and Janet are each attached] would at different times make different persons.”
MEN AND PERSONS IV
• Notice that Locke‟s definition of person has relevance to things like Alzheimer‟s disease. In any disease, such as this one, where all of a person‟s memories are lost, and they do not know who they are, then the person who was once attached to the man (the body) is already deceased. This would be true for Locke of someone like former President Reagan. The man continues on as long as the body lives, but the person - Reagan himself - is already dead.
MEN AND PERSONS V
• Locke notes that his distinction between man and person has relevance to the ethics of punishment - we hold persons responsible, not men. This is what he means by saying that “punishment is annexed to personality.” And this is why we can have a verdict in a criminal case like „not guilty by reason of insanity.‟ The illness of insanity prevented the person from knowing what the out of control body did, and so we do not hold the person responsible. • When Locke says that „person‟ is “a forensic term,” he means that persons are morally responsible agents. It is a person who we hold accountable for his or her actions, not a body (man). The concept of a person “belongs only to intelligent agents capable of a law, and happiness, and misery.”
MEN AND PERSONS VI
• People are held responsible for their actions because it is characteristic of a person that he can recognize his present actions as his own, and can recall that his past actions were something that he did. • Locke says that a deed which was done which cannot be recollected is no different for the person who cannot remember it from its never having been done at all. That is, what is the difference, for me, between something which I did and cannot remember, and something which I did not do at all? • Further, if I am punished for something which I did and cannot remember doing, Locke wants to know what the difference is “between that punishment and being created miserable?”
LOCKE AND DEATH I
• Since, for Locke, I am to be identified with my consciousness and memories, in order for me to survive the death of my body, my consciousness with its memories must continue on. • If my body were to continue on without my consciousness, then, even though my body continues, I do not survive the extinction of my consciousness with its memories. (See Alzheimer‟s example above.) • However, if my body were to die, but my consciousness with its memories continued on, even if continuing to inhabit that dead body, I would not die but my self would continue to exist.
LOCKE AND DEATH II
• If my mind as a mental substance continues to exist without my consciousness, then I cease to exist. On the other hand, if my mind were to cease to exist, but my consciousness with its memories continued to exist, then my self would continue to exist. • If both my mind and my body were to continue to exist as mental and physical substances without my consciousness, I do not survive, but must be understood to have died. However, if both my mind and body cease to exist as mental and physical substances, but my consciousness with its memories continue on, then my self does not die, but continues to exist. • If the human soul is not consciousness, then even if the entity called „the soul‟ survives, I do not survive. This would be to treat my soul as a kind of entity which lacks my consciousness. However, in lacking my consciousness it lacks me.
TWO SENSES OF „MEMORY‟
• A strong and a weak sense of memory can be distinguished. In the strong sense of memory, I have a mental event e in which I think that a certain different event x happened. This mental event e is a memory or recollection of x in the strong sense when it is true that x happened. Memory also occurs in the strong sense when I have a mental event f in which I think that I did a certain thing y (performed a certain action y) and it is true that I did y. • In the weak sense of memory, I have a mental event e' of an event x' and e' has the same character as e - it seems exactly the same - but it is false that x' occurred. And memory occurs in the weak sense when I have a mental event f ' that I did a certain thing y', and f ' appears to be the same as f, but it is false that I did the thing y'.
PROBLEMS WITH MEMORY I
• In the weak sense of memory, I only seem to remember but do not really remember, where „remember‟ now means that my recollection is correct, that my mental event truthfully points to something that really happened or to something which I really did The problem is that, from the internal standpoint of my own awareness, I cannot tell whether a mental event is strong or weak, since they are mentally indistinguishable. • Personal identity concerns a person‟s existence through time, and memory is our link to the past. But if memory has a strong and a weak sense, then how is a person to know that an event really happened or that he really did something when all he has to go on is an internal mental event which could point to something which did or did not
PROBLEMS WITH MEMORY II
• Suppose I say “I remember being here last time.” How do I know, based on my own internal mental event which „remember‟ apparently concerns, whether „remember‟ is being used in the strong or weak sense? That is, is the mental event which I think is a memory sufficient to establish that I was here last time, and that this was genuinely part of my past? • Not if mental events can occur which are weak cases of memory (memory in the weak sense). It would seem that the truth of my having been here requires something more than a mental event. It requires something physical in addition to something mental, namely, that my body was actually in this room last time. Memory alone then will not tell me about the truth of my past.
PROBLEMS WITH MEMORY III
• Locke bases personal identity through time on memory, and, if there are problems with memory, then there are problems with Locke‟s account of personal identity. • If a person‟s identity is dependent on his or her memory, then does a person‟s identity extend beyond the present into the past only in virtue of what he or she can actually remember? Can I only say that I, a person, a self, only have as parts of my past those things which I can remember? This has seemed too stringent to some critics of Locke‟s view because people can and do forget things.
PROBLEMS WITH MEMORY IV
• Locke‟s use of memory to establish personal identity has been criticized as circular by some philosophers, such as Joseph Butler. The idea is that, rather than being that which establishes a person‟s identity, a memory is a kind of thing which depends logically upon the person whose memory it is. If memory is used to establish personal identity, but memory in turn depends on the person whose identity it is supposed to account for, then we have returned to (come full circle) or assumed in our explanation the very notion of self which the use of memory was supposed to explain. • For instance, when I have a memory of having been here last week, it is I (my self) who remember having been here last week If my mental event of recollecting were not already tied to my personal identity or my sense of my self through time, then it would not be the kind of mental event which could be said to constitute that identity. • Thus if memories are linked to the person whose memories they are, then they do not establish the identity of that person, but presuppose it.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND MEMORY TO PERSONAL IDENTITY AND SURVIVAL OF DEATH
• Although philosophers have noted problems with Locke‟s theory, still it seems very plausible to suggest that a sense of ourselves in the present depends intimately on our consciousness, and that thinking of ourselves as extending beyond the present into the past depends on memory. If I had no memory, surely I could have no conception of my self. • If I were to awaken tomorrow in a different body, how would I know that except in virtue of my present consciousness of having a different body which depends in turn on my memory of having had a different body? And if I do happen to survive the death of my body, which may or may not be the case, that would seem to require at minimum a continuation of my consciousness and memory.
IDENTITY FROM INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL POINTS OF VIEW
• A person p‟s identity can be considered relative to two different points of view. One point of view from which p‟s identity comes is from the standpoint of p herself. This perspective of personal identity would be from the internal point of view of p‟s awareness, and so depends on her consciousness. The other point of view from which p‟s identity comes is from the standpoint of some person other than p. Although this too would depend on the consciousness of the other person, it would be an external point of view, since it would be perception of p‟s body, not a direct awareness of her thoughts or memories.
IDENTITY AND IDENTIFICATION I
• These different points of view of personal identity have to do with personal identification. Only I can have my present thoughts, including the thought that I am now who I am. And only I can have the memories which give me my sense of myself as a being which continues as the same being through time. On the other hand, other people can only perceive me from an external point of view, and cannot experience my thoughts or memories. They identify me as the same person through time in terms of the similarity of my body and behavior over time - I look, sound, and act pretty much the same from day to day and from week to week.
IDENTITY AND IDENTIFICATION II
• An Alzheimer‟s patient like Ronald Reagan could then be said to lack a personal identity from the internal standpoint, since his memories are gone and he has no consciousness of himself. On the other hand, other people can continue to identify Reagan as Reagan through his body. Once again though, Locke would make the person-man distinction, and maintain that the person who was Ronald Reagan is gone. And this Locke would say is true both for Reagan himself and for everyone else. What other people can continue to identify as Reagan is the man, or body, to which the name „Ronald Reagan‟ - if that name is meant to single out the person - is incorrectly applied. This is done from the external point of view of others‟ perceptions, not from the internal point of view of the body which lacks Reagan‟s memories, and so lacks his self.
• My self is not my mind, construing my mind as a mental substance of which things such as thinking and feeling are predicated. • My self is not my body, construing my body as a physical substance of which things such as height, weight, and position in space are predicated. • My self is not my mind and my body together. • My self, my personal identity, consists in my present consciousness and my memories of my past. • Locke‟s account of personal identity is internal. And in that sense he continues the subjective tradition begun in modern philosophy by Descartes. Anyone who maintains that the person, and not just the man, Ronald Reagan continues to exist - albeit with greatly diminished intellectual capacity - argues against the internal perspective of identity defended by Locke.
• Recall that Locke defines „person‟ as “a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places.” • Could Locke‟s definition of person fail to apply to things with human bodies? • Could Locke‟s definition of person apply or come to apply to things which lack human bodies - other animals, or objects such as computers?
• Given Locke‟s definition of person, what happens to the self when consciousness ceases for a time and is replaced by a dreamless sleep? What is the effect of a coma on the self? Drugs or alcohol? • What happens if we accept Locke‟s definition of person and maintain, ethically, that persons and only persons have rights? Will this have the effect of removing some beings from moral consideration to whom we might want to give moral protection? How might this moral protection then be provided?