John Locke’s Theory of Personal Identity Essay

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John Locke (1632-1704) said ‘To find wherein personal identity consists, we must consider what person stands for …’ (Locke, in set book, p. 275). Therefore, to recapitulate Locke’s philosophy on personal identity it is necessary to clarify how he inimitably used the term ‘person’ and consequently other words, such as ‘substance’ and ‘man’, which he utilized to form his philosophical ideas. Furthermore, his work on personal identity inspired debate amongst many subsequent philosophers and motivated disagreement and as such, it is important to counter Locke’s views with opposing arguments. The primary way in which Locke argued and elucidated his ideas was through the thought experiment, which Locke carefully fashioned as an imaginary…show more content…
37-8). Meaning that these basic ‘substances’ were devoid of consciousness; however, they occupy space with mass and weight and like the immaterial ‘substance’ is not complex enough to have a personal identity. A further sub-category of the term ‘substance’ is the divine or the God ‘substance’, of which Professor Paul Snowdon says that this is, ‘… spread out everywhere, omnipresent, and sustaining lots of other properties that God supposedly has’ (Snowden, ‘Locke on persons’, audio recording, 2011). As Locke’s philosophies were developed and written during the 17th century, a time of political and religious transformation, that resulted in a civil war, God and his judgement on resurrection day were present in most people’s minds. Modern day philosophers such as Paul Snowdon (ibid) and Nigel Warburton (Warburton, 2011, p. 36) agree that this general mood of the population had an impact on Locke’s ideas and therefore his conclusions, thus, this Christian ethic was prevalent within Locke’s ideas. Moving on to more complex ‘substances’, such as plants and animals, Locke explained why this category, for him, did not include a consciousness or ‘self’. He wrote ‘… a thinking intelligent being … has reason and reflection and can consider itself as itself…
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