The Theory of Personal Identity

592 Words Feb 3rd, 2018 2 Pages
Any theory of personal identity should be able to solve two problems: first, the problem of individuation; second, the problem of continuity or persistence. How would you in your own words characterize these problems? Also, do these problems matter at all? Are they actually important? Why or why not?
Personal identity is basically a continuity of consciousness. It is the experience that I am the same person I was five years ago. This is perhaps the easiest and most straightforward concept of personal identity. It is difficult to say how a person actually knows that there is continuity of consciousness without falling into the Descartes "cogito" argument. Moreover, Butler points out the conundrum when using consciousness as a measure of personal identity. As Butler states, "present consciousness of past actions or feelings is not necessary to our being the persons who performed those actions or had those feelings." Instinctually, it is not a problem to suggest that even though a person changes significantly over time, there is certainly something to the fact that the individuated brain keeps a store of memories and those memories become part of the personal consciousness which informs identity. Identity is therefore constructed and reconstructed over time. As for the first premise, that a theory of personal identity should also be able to solve the problem of individuation, a similar conundrum arises. It is clear that reading the minds of others is impossible. Therefore,…