personal identity

personal identity
The problem is that of what makes the identity of the single person at a time or through time. To take the latter first, we can each imagine ourselves as having been rather different, or as becoming rather different, as indeed we will in the normal course of life. What makes it the case that I survive a change, that it is still me at the end of it? It does not seem necessary that I should retain the body I now have, since I can imagine my brain transplanted into another body, and I can imagine another person taking over my body, as in multiple personality cases. But I can also imagine my brain changing either in its matter or its function while it goes on being me that is thinking and experiencing, perhaps less well or better than before. My psychology might change, so its continuity seems only contingently connected with my own survival. So, from the inside, there seems nothing tangible making it I myself who survives some sequence of changes. The problem of identity at a time is similar: it seems possible that more than one person (or personality) should share the same body and brain, so what makes up the unity of experience and thought that we each enjoy in normal living? The problems of personal identity were first highlighted in the modern era by Locke, who recognized that the idea that the sameness of a person might consist in the sameness of underlying mental substance, the solution proposed by Descartes, was incapable of providing any criterion for use in the ordinary empirical world, for instance in connection with the just attribution of responsibility for past action. Locke's own solution lay in the unity of consciousness, and in particular in the presence of memory of past actions; this account has been criticized as either circular, since memory presupposes identity, or insufficiently consonant with normal practice, since people forget things that they themselves did. The unity of the self failed to survive the scrutiny of Hume, whose own theory that the unity consisted in a kind of fiction (perhaps like that of a nation or a club, whose existence through time is not an all-or-nothing affair) was one of the few parts of his philosophy with which he declared himself dissatisfied. The organizing principle behind the unity of consciousness was a central element in Kant's reaction to the sensational atomism of the empiricists. Contemporary philosophy contains successors of all these attacks on the problem.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Personal identity — Personal Per son*al (p[ e]r s[u^]n*al), a. [L. personalis: cf. F. personnel.] 1. Pertaining to human beings as distinct from things. [1913 Webster] Every man so termed by way of personal difference. Hooker. [1913 Webster] 2. Of or pertaining to a …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • personal identity — index personality Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • personal identity — noun the distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity you can lose your identity when you join the army • Syn: ↑identity, ↑individuality • Derivationally related forms: ↑identify (for: ↑identity) …   Useful english dictionary

  • Personal identity — The issue of personal identity has been discussed in different ways: * Personal identity (philosophy), questions about how an individual at one time is the same individual at another time * Identity (social science), an umbrella term used… …   Wikipedia

  • Personal identity (philosophy) — In philosophy, personal identity refers to the essence of a self conscious person, that which makes him or her unique. It persists making the person modifications happen through one single identity.DescriptionThe question regarding personal… …   Wikipedia

  • Personal identity number (Sweden) — The personal identity number (Lang sv|personnummer) is the Swedish national identification number. When it was introduced in 1947 it was probably the first of its kind covering the total population. It is issued by the Swedish Tax Agency (Swedish …   Wikipedia

  • Identity (social science) — Identity is an umbrella term used throughout the social sciences to describe an individual s comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity. This term, though generic, can be further specified by the disciplines of psychology and… …   Wikipedia

  • Identity formation — is the process of the development of the distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity (known as personal continuity) in a particular stage of life in which individual characteristics are possessed by which a person is… …   Wikipedia

  • Identity control theory — Identity Control Theory, created by Peter Burke, focuses on the nature of peoples identities and the relationship between their identities and their behavior within the realm of their social structure. The identities of the individual are rooted… …   Wikipedia

  • Personal life — redirects here. For The Thermals album, see Personal Life (album). The home often reflects many aspects of one s personal life. Personal life is the course of an individual s life, especially when viewed as the sum of personal choices… …   Wikipedia

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