Metaphysical Studies Of The Self And Personal Identity

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Metaphysical studies of the self and personal identity were near non-existent prior to René Descartes’ “Meditations on First Philosophy”. While “Meditations” was not written with the main focus on personal identity, Descartes makes assertions regarding the subject through the possessive voice. Most of the assertions regarding personal identity materialize in Mediations two and six. By using “I” in his essay, his epistemological paper is turned into a paper that also concerns self, consciousness, and identity. A writer that focuses more specifically on personal identity in his book titled “Concerning Human Understanding” is John Locke. The twenty seventh chapter in book two of Concerning Human understanding has a very explicit focus on…show more content…
He claims that the two are inseparable when he claims that “thought is an attribute that belongs to [him]” and that he exists within his soul (10). As long as Descartes is thinking, the self exists, “for it might possibly be the case if [he] ceased entirely to think, that [he] should likewise cease altogether to exist” (10). Through this claim, Descartes makes it clear that the ability to think is the greatest factor of the self, for if thinking no longer takes place, neither does the existence of the self. An issue that Descartes encounters however, is that it is implied that it is possible to differentiate one consciousness from another, since we can only be sure of our own consciousness.
Later in the sixth meditation, Descartes attempts to answer if material things can exist. In this, he explores the idea that body can in fact exist, and that body has an impact on how will view the self. He writes that he is not in his body as a “pilot in a vessel” but instead, is “very closely united to it, and so to speak, so intermingled with it that [he seems] to compose with it one whole” (29). This demonstrates that while the body is not necessary for personhood to exist, one’s body is very connected to the person. He uses the example of experiencing pain to further demonstrate the correlation between the two. When he experiences a pain that is not visible to his sense perceptions, or feels hungry or thirsty, it is his thinking faculties that present him with
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