Descartes Personal Identity

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The seventeenth century is marked as the beginning of the era of modern philosophy. This age of new knowledge was influenced by the Enlightenment period, which proposed a new way of thinking that encouraged one to use reason in order to make their own decisions and discoveries rather than relying on authority to tell them what to think. It was during this time period that several philosophers introduced their theories regarding ambiguous topics, such as the definition of knowledge, love, and personal identity. Two particular philosophers who hypothesized about personal identity were René Descartes and John Locke. René Descartes was born in a small town in France in 1596, and lived until 1650 when he died at the age of 53. He was a philosopher, …show more content…

Although the two philosophers agree that the identity resides within the mind, or consciousness, rather than the body, the reasoning as to why they believe this is not the same. In Descartes’ case, the mind/soul is the source of one’s identity due to it being static and unchanging; while Locke believes the mind to be where personal identity derives from due to the mind being where one’s memories are stored. Another difference between the two philosophers can be found by analyzing their definition of the mind. As stated, Descartes understood the mind to be a fixed, consistent entity, suggesting that one’s personal identity is also unchanging. However, because Locke viewed personal identity as a compilation of an individual’s memories and a person is always obtaining new memories, it can be presumed that Locke also believed that the identity was too constantly changing and evolving. This is perhaps the greatest difference between Descartes and Locke, because the debate over whether identity is fixed or variable brings forth an array of follow-up questions and …show more content…

Simply stating that the mind is constant and unchanging leaves out a lot of information and provokes a multitude of questions: Is every part of the mind included in the identity, or are there parts of the mind that are excluded from the identity of one’s self? What exactly is the mind made up of? Is it a collection of personality traits, memories, emotions, or something else entirely? Defining personal identity and where it comes from is an ambiguous inquiry as it is, and proposing a solution that is just as vague and perplexing seems redundant. The simple fact that Descartes’ theory leaves so many questions unanswered, as opposed to Locke’s hypothesis that includes what the identity consists of, is what influenced my preference for Locke’s ideology on the topic of personal identity over Descartes’.
Overall, every philosopher I have studied so far since the beginning of my exciting journey into the world of philosophy has proved to have conceived very intriguing ideas. Out of all of those I am currently familiar with, from Socrates to David Hume; my personal favorite is John Locke. Not only am I impressed with his ideas on personal identity, but also his adoption of the concept of natural human rights. If it were not for his influence on the society

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