How John Locke Views Personal Identity – Sample Essay

Philosophers who focus on personal identity deal with specific questions, including determining the types of the things that that are persons according to Gasser (2010). John Locke views personal identity as being hinged on memory or consciousness as opposed to the body or soul. He conceptualizes consciousness as the recurring self-making out of oneself according to Forstrom (2009). Via the consciousness, moral responsibility or duty is assigned to given subjects and guilt, as well as punishment, is justified as implied by Perry (2008). Locke asserts that the self, or personal identity, is dependent on one’s consciousness as opposed to either the soul or the substance (Solomon, Higgins & Martin, 2016).

Read also The Fundamental Political Ideology of John Locke

Locke was a renowned physician and philosopher from England. He was among the Enlightenment thinkers who wielded the most influence on the others and was a libertarian and a British empiricist. He helped develop and advance many theories, including the theory of social contract and the mind theory. He made significant contributions to the fields of political philosophy and epistemology. The mind theory is commonly referred to as having been the initial trigger of contemporary conceptions of the self as well as identity. Locke’s work figured significantly in the works of other renowned philosophers, including Immanuel Kant, David Hume, and Rousseau. He was the foremost philosopher to characterize the self via consciousness’ continuity. Elementarily, the philosopher postulated that a newborn has a tabula rasa, or blank slate, for a brain. Unlike Cartesian philosophers who based own postulations on concepts that were already in existence, Locke held that at birth, one is devoid of intrinsic ideas. The knowledge that one accumulates over time is only impacted on by the experiences he or she draws from own sense perception according to Locke.

According to Locke,  a person remains the same as long is he or she is aware of own future, as well as past, actions and thoughts similar to how he is aware of own present actions and thoughts according to Gasser (2010). If one views consciousness as a given thought that moves along with a given substance making comparable persons, them the identity is only hinged on the recurring consciousness act according to Forstrom (2009). That demonstrates that the identity does not comprise of the substance’s identity but the consciousness’ identity as implied by Perry (2008). For instance, one may argue that he is the reincarnated Plato, consequently having a soul-substance that is comparable to that of Plato in all respects (Solomon, Higgins & Martin, 2016).

Even then, the person would be Plato if his or her consciousness, or awareness, of Plato’s actions, as well as thoughts, is comparable to the consciousness, or awareness, that Plato had of own actions and thoughts. That means that self-identity is not hinged on one’s soul, which may comprise of diverse personalities as implied by Perry (2008). As well, self-identity is not hinged on one’s body substance since even when a person’s body changes, he or she does not change according to Locke. The identity of an animal is maintained in life identity as opposed to substance identity as the animal’s body changes and grows. A human being’s identity is hinged on own consciousness on the other hand according to Forstrom (2009).

Even then, that characterization of self-identity occasions the conflict-laden that given that the identity is hinged on one’s consciousness, which only oneself may have awareness of, external human appraisers may never become aware of if they are merely appraising or punishing the same substance, or body, or the person of interest as implied by Perry (2008). Locke contends that one can only be adjudged for the body’s acts, which are obvious to all save God (Solomon, Higgins & Martin, 2016). Even then, one is only truly liable for acts that his or body commits when he or she conscious. This perspective is commonly employed in insanity defenses, which contend that a person is not liable for acts blamed on his or her body during periods for which he or she was insensible, or unconscious according to Gasser (2010).

The defenses, which are more common in criminal court proceedings than civil court proceedings, entail arguing that accused persons cannot be held liable for own actions owing to the persistent or even episodic psychiatric illnesses that they suffer. Such defenses have colored criminal proceedings since the Hammurabi Code times. In different legal jurisdictions, mental disorders and insanity are defined in line with different legal rules or provisions. In Canada and Australia, mental disorders and insanity are defined based on M’Naghten Rules. The terms that are commonly used where the rules are employed include “mental disorder defense”, “mental illness defense”, “not criminally liable owing to mental disorder”, and “not criminally liable owing to mental illness”. The defenses are rather rare in the US, Ireland as well as the UK. In every jurisdiction where the defenses are considered, the related mitigating factors may occasion reduced sentences or even charges. The factors may include diminished capacity and intoxication (Forstrom, 2009).

The conception that Locke has regarding personal identity is not hinged on the body or the related substance. Rather, it is hinged on the same persisting consciousness according to Forstrom (2009). The consciousness is as well separate from the soul because it may not have self-consciousness. Locke further demonstrates that the identity is not hinged on the brain: just like the substance, as well as the body, the brain changes but consciousness remains unvarying. Consequently, one’s self-identity is not in own brain but own consciousness according to Gasser (2010). Even them the theory of self that Locke developed borrows heavily from theology which excuses human justice failings, thus the sorry state of humanity (Solomon, Higgins & Martin, 2016).

The experience that Gregor Samsa has in “Metamorphosis” by Kafka (2008) does not present a challenge to the view that Locke has regarding personal identity. Samsa wakes up to find that he has metamorphosed into a creature that is insect-like. The transformation’s trigger is not revealed or explained. Samsa remains keen on adjusting to the new reality, or condition, as he tackles the concerns of his parents and sibling who view him as burdensome. The parents and sibling appear repelled by the creature, which appears verminous and horrible. Locke views the identity as consisting of memory continuity. That is because the intuitions that Locke has regarding personal identity make particular sense. Samsa gets a new body but not memories. Even if Samsa’s person was to remain unchanged following the metamorphosis as he perceived himself – he was keen on returning to his former engagements –then his body’s continuity cannot be a requisite personal identity criteria.

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