Essay about Personal Identity, The Soul Theory, And The Memory Theory

Essay about Personal Identity, The Soul Theory, And The Memory Theory

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Personal identity, in the context of philosophy, does not attempt to address clichéd, qualitative questions of what makes us us. Instead, personal identity refers to numerical identity or sameness over time. For example, identical twins appear to be exactly alike, but their qualitative likeness in appearance does not make them the same person; each twin, instead, has one and only one identity – a numerical identity. As such, philosophers studying personal identity focus on questions of what has to persist for an individual to keep his or her numerical identity over time and of what the pronoun “I” refers to when an individual uses it. Over the years, theories of personal identity have been established to answer these very questions, but the most notable of these theories are the body theory, the soul theory, and the memory theory.
Advocates of the body theory (also known as the bodily continuity theory) argue that when we use the pronoun “I,” we are only referring to our physical, living bodies. Furthermore, in order for an individual’s numerical identity to persist over time, body theorists claim that only the body must persist because sameness of body equates to sameness of self.
However, many objections to this theory arise in John Perry’s A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality. First, in “The Second Night,” Miller explains the reason why he still refuses to accept the body theory: we can decide who we are without making judgments about the body. He calls upon an everyday example to illustrate this objection: “Consider a person waking up tomorrow morning, conscious, but not yet ready to open her eyes and look around…even before opening her eyes and looking around, and in particular before looking at her body or makin...


... middle of paper ...


...o our questions of personal identity.
In addition, those who find it hard to accept the memory theory bring up the legitimate concern of what happens to an individual’s numerical identity in the event of memory loss. But even this concern is not valid under the memory theory because this theory does not suggest that we need to remember everything to keep our identities. Instead, the theory rests on the transitive property of identity, meaning that as long as we can remember what we did yesterday and as long as yesterday we could remember what we did the day before, we are psychologically continuous across these two person-stages and therefore the same person at both time points.
In the end, when compared to the body theory that is easily refuted and the soul theory that is difficult to explain in concrete details, it is clear that the memory theory is our best bet.

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