Personal Identity and the Afterlife
Identity defines the fundamental nature of everything, whether that thing is an objective physical entity or a subjective idea that has to be mentally constructed. To understand the nature of these abstract ideas, we must first understand the concept of identity. When speaking of identity, one of the first types most people think of is the identity of the self. This self could be the attributes that a person attaches to himself. Gender identity is a simple attribute one may place upon the self.
These certain attributes are so important that a person may find it impossible to imagine himself without. In the study of philosophy, there are two key notions that divide the definition of the self. First, philosophers may define the personal identity as a physical form. That is, the person is described by the material characteristics, such as age, height, nationality, gender, etc. The second notion is rather abstract and is described by the mental properties of a person that cannot be physically grasped. These properties can be defined in a general term as the soul.Order now
People use this word regularly and fail to understand the problem such an abstract idea may cause. This analysis will examine the two different notions of the personal identity problem. An eternal question posed to philosophy is that of life after death. Is there life after death or do we simply cease to exist following our demise? If personal identity is defined by either of these, will that make someone existing now the same person that will be existing in the future? Would it be possible for a person to survive bodily death?
John Perry, author of A Dialogue of Personal Identity and Immortality, illustrates the case of a dying philosophy teacher, Gretchen Weirob. Two friends, Sam Miller and Dave Cohen visit Gretchen on three consecutive nights. She initiates a conversation on the prospect of life after death.
Although she is very skeptical about an afterlife, she claims hope provides comfort and hope does not always require probability. But we must believe that what we hope for is at least possible (Perry, 2). Miller contends that if the physical body were the sole determinant of the personal identity, death would be the absolute end. However, he believes that the identity is more than that. But surely you are more than that, fundamentally more than that. What is fundamentally you is not your body, but your soul or self or mind (Perry, 6).
The soul or mind is described as the immaterial aspect of the self.
At this point, the dialogue eludes that the soul rather than the physical body define the identity. If the body defined the identity of a person, then it is clear that death would cease your existence. When a person decomposes, his remains are no longer in one form. They are scattered into the surrounding nature. Thus, death causes the loss of the physical identity.
If I were to describe myself as a 510, 155 lbs., black haired, brown eyed man, would I still be existing after my death. Of course not! I would not be recognizable because those things that made me unique are now gone. Since they are no longer together on the same body, wouldnt that mean I cease to exist? Furthermore, if the physical body defined personal identity, then someone existing now cannot be the same person that will exist later. What would happen if I lost my legs or gained 100 pounds? I definitely wouldnt be the same person I described earlier. Even I dont use the height or weight issue, arent the molecular components of my body changing hour after hour, minute by minute, second by second? How can I ever be the same person? I conclude that if the material body defined a person, than someone existing now can never be the same in the future.
Perry uses the example of the Blue River to convey the same idea. So you expect, each time you see the Blue, to see the water, which makes it up, in similar states- not always exactly the same, for sometimes its a little dirtier, but by and large .