Do you agree or disagree with John Locke claim that personal identity
TOPICS: 1) Do you agree/disagree with John Locke’s claim that personal identity is a matter of memories and that the body is irrelevant to a person’s self-identity? Briefly summarize Locke’s position and present your own point of view. Reading: pp.335-339 2) In your view, who is “Schwanda” in Meredith Michaels’ story of the steamroller accident? Clearly explain the reasons for your position.
Reading: pp.346-349 3) Do you agree/disagree with Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist claim that the self is a matter of personal choice and responsibility? Briefly summarize Sartre’s view and explain the reasons for your own position. Reading: pp.350-354
General instructions: • Choose one topic below, clearly indicate your topic, and address the questions asked • Write a paper of about 400 words (it may be longer but not shorter) • Give the correct titles of the texts and name of authors you use • Do not consult any additional sources.
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Criteria for judging Reaction Papers: comprehension of the given text; willingness to engage with it; quality of own arguments and ideas in response to the text; concise and persuasive presentation of own arguments; creative connections made; quality of writing – use of proper English.
Locke’s most thorough discussion of the persistence (or diachronic identity) of persons can be found in Book 2, Chapter 27 of the Essay (“Of Identity and Diversity”), though Locke anticipates this discussion as early as Book 1, Chapter 4, Section 5, and Locke refers to persons in other texts, including the Second Treatise of Government. The discussion of persons and their persistence conditions also features prominently in Locke’s lengthy exchange with Edward Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester (1697–1699).
Locke begins “Of Identity and Diversity” by first getting clear on the principle of individuation, and by setting out what some have called the place-time-kind principle—which stipulates that no two things of the same kind can be in the same place at the same time, and no individual can be in two different places at the same time (L-N 2.27.1).
With some of the basics of identity in place, Locke posits that before we can determine the persistence conditions for atoms, masses of matter, plants, animals, men, or persons, we must first know what we mean by these terms. In other words, before we can determine what makes atoms, masses of matter, plants, animals, men, or persons the same over time, we must pin down the nominal essences—or general ideas—for these kinds. Of this Locke says,
’Tis not therefore Unity of Substance that comprehends all sorts of Identity, or will determine it in every Case: But to conceive, and judge of it aright, we must consider what Idea the Word it is applied to stands for…. (L-N 2.27.7)
That we must define a kind term before determining the persistence conditions for that kind is underscored in Locke’s definition of “person”. Locke starts off by saying,
This being premised to find wherein personal Identity consists, we must consider what Person stands for….
He goes on,
which, I think, is a thinking intelligent Being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider it self as itself, the same thinking thing in different times and places…. (L-N 2.27.9)
A person for Locke is thus the kind of entity that can think self reflectively, and think of itself as persisting over time.
Locke additionally asserts that persons are agents. For Locke “person” is a
…Forensick Term appropriating Actions and their Merit; and so belongs only to intelligent Agents capable of a Law, and Happiness and Misery. (L-N 2.27.26)
Persons are therefore not just thinking intelligent beings that can reason and reflect, and consider themselves as the same thinking things in different times and places, but also entities that can be held accountable for their actions. It is because persons can think of themselves as persisting over time that they can, and do, plan ahead, with an eye toward the punishment or reward that may follow.