John Locke's View On Personal Identity

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Summary of John Locke’s view on personal identity The concept of personal identity is a central philosophical component to a debate to which many theorists have contributed their theories to. One of the most prominent theories on personal identities was by John Locke, one of the influential theorist in the 17th century.

Locke first begins by making an important distinction between the nature of identity as being relative, rather than absolute. Through this distinction Locke claims that, the questioning of something being identical to another will be relative to the “category” or context we are discussing it in. Without identifying “the category” or classifying the thing we are discussing, it is unreasonable to assume questions or explore
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As mentioned earlier, Locke rejected the view that we need to be in the same form as earlier to be the same person. For instance, in a hypothetical sense if a human and a dog were to switch forms, and the human in dog form had the consciousness of the human, which would consist of past memories, then this would result in the same person. Although this example is hypothetical, the impact of memories on identity is paramount, since memory would be considered the psychological criterion- which is basically a psychologically linking relationship between a person at one time with a person in another time, in order to be considered one entity or comprising of the same identity (Jacobson: 55). The psychological criterion is a necessary condition for the theory, because without the memories, people would have multiple identities scattered over an individual’s life…show more content…
However, one of the most notable and significant criticism was put forward by Thomas Reid. Thomas Reid was a philosopher that followed after Locke, but unlike Locke he was more interested in empiric philosophy.

Thomas Reid presented his criticism of Locke through an anecdote. Essentially, Thomas illustrates that if an old man remembers himself being victorious in battle as a young man, then him as a senior and a young man (middle age) have the same identity. In addition, when he was a young man he remembered being punished as a young boy (child) for being disobedient, which would entail that the man in battle and the young boy share the same identity. However, the old man does not have any recollection of being punished as a young boy, meaning the young boy does not share the same identity as the senior or old man. This proposes an inherent problem in Locke’s theory, since the man shares two sets of identities that overlap and contradict each
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