John Locke's Diachronic Personal Identity Theory

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To ask, “What is a person?”, one must take into consideration the weight of the question. It is often implied that in being a person, one is entitled to certain moral protection and moral assessment. But then, to what limitation shall we set for the classification of an entity as a person? To define a person as a biological synonym to the term human being would restrict the definition from encompassing future or past entities that may display characteristics deserving of not being treated as a mere means, or to be responsible for their actions. For example self-aware animals with well-developed brains or entities of artificial intelligence may possess characteristics we might subscribe to what it means to be a person. However, then justifying …show more content…
English philosopher John Locke presents the diachronic personal identity theory to define a person at one person stage to be defined as the same person at a different person stage, so long as the latter person does or can remember experiences had by the person at the first person stage. This theory composes that personhood is based on the memory link between the two consciouses of different time periods, rather than the body a person is in. Locke contends that personal identity is to be founded on consciousness rather than on substance with his case of the prince and the cobbler. In this modified version of the case to fit modern understanding of consciousness, the central nervous system of a prince is relocated into the body of the cobbler. The central nervous system carries all of the mental characteristics and thoughts of the prince into the new body, so that he still considers himself as the prince and can remember experiences had in the previous body. This complements the framework of the diachronic personal identity theory that despite the change in substance, the memory links indicate the prince to still be the prince, just in another body. Locke would find it justifiable then that a person is not restricted to be defined by the body they reside in, but rather their consciousness and the links it holds to earlier person stages. It is important, however, to distinguish …show more content…
In an example presented by Mitchell Green in Engaging Philosophy, he introduces a scenario where a duplicator machine has the capability to make an exact replica, molecules, conscious, memories, and all, of you, so long that once the replicated you is created, the you that entered the machine is destroyed. This carbon copy would appear to have all of the memories you had, but would you consider them the same person as yourself, and be comfortable transferring the life you have to this replicated version of you? This further supports Reid’s first claim that psychological continuity provides substantial evidence for personal identity over time, but on its own could not entirely establish it. To then seek further evidence to support this theory, one must consider integrating the body into it. In Locke’s statements, he refers to consciousness as a result of the soul, but as modern times revealed, consciousness is directly linked with the central nervous system. The central nervous system is an integral portion of the body to remember events, or remain self-conscious, and with the loss of it, it would be inconceivable to endure that level of change. The diachronic identity theory must then be further reformed to encompass this by adding that person stage one is

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