Tim V Kolton Alan Watts once said, “Trying to define yourself is like trying to biteyour own teeth. ” The task of personal identity is to define a quality of ahuman which makes him or her a unique self. The person whose identity is inquestion must realize themselves, and other people must identify this person. In other words, what makes John unique from Bob? One must consider bothinternal (mind) and external (body) perspectives.
There are several generalphilosophical theories of this identity problem. In the following paragraphsone will find the body theory, soul theory, and a more detailed explanation ofthe conscious theory. One theory of personal identity is known as the body theory. This isdefined as a person X has a personal identity if and only if they have the samebody Y. However there are two problems with this definition. The first isqualitative.
It is necessary to have the same body, but if that body is changed,is one the same person? Someone’s body is surely different at age 40 than atage 4. Also a problem arrives in alterations to a body. If John goes to war,becomes injured by a mine, and then has his legs amputated is he not still thesame person, John? Therefore, the preceding definition of body theory is notsufficient, since it does not account alterations to the same body. Yet anotherproblem is numerical. If someone were to get a finger chopped off, would thatfinger be considered another person? What if a scientist was to use someone’sDNA and replicate another person with the same body? Surely just because thereare two identical bodies, these bodies cannot be the same person.
They wouldlive two different lives. Therefore, the body theory alone cannot be considereda necessary and sufficient definition when defining personal identity. Another common theory of personal identity is the soul theory. Thistheory is: a person is has personal identity if and only if they have the samesoul.
The problem with this theory is arrived from the definition of a soul. Soul is a very difficult term. It is thought by many to be a spirit that passesfrom your body into another realm (i. e.
, heaven, hell, etc. ). However, since noone has ever seen, felt, touched, smelled, or tasted a soul, it is a mysteriousphenomenon. Since we have no clear and distinct idea of a soul , it would notbe wise to base the definition upon it. For instance, some religions believe inreincarnation after death.
This is when a soul enters another body. With thisin mind, someone’s soul such as Elvis could become reincarnated in someone elsenamed John. However, we would not say that this Elvis and John are the sameperson . Therefore, the definition of the soul theory fails in that thedefiniens does not become sufficient for defining personal identity. The most recognized true philosophical theory of personal identity isthe consciousness theory. The consciousness theory is believed by most to bethe best definition of personal identity according to most philosophers.
However,there are three different versions of the consciousness theory that will bediscussed in further detail: the conscious self, experiential content, andconnected stream of consciousness theories. First, we have the theory of aconscious self: a person has a personal identity if he or she has the sameconscious self. In other words, if two people have a different conscious, thenthey each have personal identity. At a first glance, this would be a gooddefinition of a personal identity.
It is analogous to Descartes’ cogito, “Ithink therefore I am. ” Being conscious would mean knowing that one exists, andable to think about any experience that happens. However the main fault withthis is that it is a circular definition. We are using the definiens in thedefiniendum which is not a good tactic of defining personal identity.
Next, acommon derivative of the consciousness theory is the consciousness ofexperiences theory. This is defined as having the same experiential content. This theory is based upon Locke’s theory of the mind being blank, and buildingfrom experiences. One would have personal identity because only one being cango through the same experiences in a finite space. This theory does solve someproblems arrived at by other theories.
Say for instance there are two twins.This would be difficult to explain in the body theory of personal identity, butwith the .