John Locke Personal Identity Essay

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John Locke's Psychological criterion for personal Identify
Timothy P. McKay
Student: 250691978

John Locke's account of identity was a radical rethinking on the subject of personal identity. Moreover, his conception of personal identity shaped modern thought about the subject by placing the emphasis on a psychological criterion . Locke argued that there is a distinction between the human being, the person, and the soul, and that the identity of the person relies upon the continuation of the same consciousness. In other words, Locke believed that personal identity remains if the same consciousness remained. However, at the time of publication, Locke was heavily criticised by those who argued that his uses of the word 'consciousness' was too ambiguous. Some, such as Thomas Reid, interpreted Locke as equating consciousness with memory, and as a result of the fallible nature of memory, argued that Locke's account of personal identity failed .
The purpose of this paper is to explore Locke's account of personal identity and show that critics of Locke's account wrongfully advocate for an interpretation that equates consciousness to memory. Section one of this paper will discuss Locke's account of personal identity as it appears in the text. Followed by section two which will discuss traditional interpretations of Locke's account which equate memory with consciousness. Section two will draw mainly on Thomas Reids "Gallant Officer argument. Finally, section three will reflect on the first two sections and argue why the memory criterion is wrong.
1. Locke's account
Most scholars agree that identity is an important topic for Locke because of the implications it has on his account of moral responsibility. Locke is concerned with an indi...

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... of personal identity. However, consider the following passage:
If it be possible for the same man to have a distinct incommunicable consciousness at different times, it is past doubt the same Man would at different times make different Persons. (II. xxvii. 20)
Assuming that Locke would agree with Reid's Gallant officer argument and that the school boy and officer are distinct persons then why would Locke question this possibility? Considering Locke has already admitted to the fallible nature of memory, if he truly thought personal identity consisted in the continuity of memory he would also have to admit to new persons being created every time an individual forgot an event. Again, the use of "if possible" suggests that Locke means more than just ordinary memory.
Finally, perhaps the most notable textual evidence from Locke's account of personal identity
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