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Concept of Personal Identity in Metaphysics: Analytical Essay

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Metaphysics, according to Merriam-Webster, is the part of the philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being. Personal identity is one of the main topics covered by the study of metaphysics. Personal identity is associated with the theme of the One and the Many and with a paradox: the individual remains the same despite their changes over time. The rationale for this paradox is the big challenge faced by metaphysics. Several philosophers tried to define personal identity by showing different theories. In this essay, the arguments used by Aristotle, David Hume, John Luke, Thomas Reik, and St. Paul to justify personal identity are presented, and a solution, based on my opinion, is exhibited.

Aristotle, Plato’s student, was the first philosopher to address personal identity. Aristotle argued that personal identity could be justified according to his Categories’ doctrine: substance and changes. This means that for Aristotle, the individual would be the substance and the changes that it suffers over time are accidents. David Hume, a Scottish philosopher, presented an alternate theory. For him, everything was based on real experiences. Therefore, he argued that self-identity is composed of different ideas that are joined, from previous experiences, into a whole. John Locke partially agreed with Hume. Locke argued that personal identity has more to do with mental changes than with physical changes. So, memory was a key player in Locke’s theory. For Thomas Reid, the problem of using memory as justification is that the concept of memory would predefine the person’s perception. Finally, St. Paul related his Catholic beliefs to conceptualizing personal identity. St. Paul argued that the person is not only based on the body, but also on the soul and spirit.

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Each philosopher, according to his belief, justifies personal identity. In my opinion, Locke and St. Paul were the ones that justified it better since they stick to my beliefs and principles. For me, personal identity is the union of our mind, body, soul, and spirit that progresses over time. The individual faces various situations that provide him/her with knowledge and experiences. These, in turn, help the individual become what he/she is today. On the other hand, the misuse of the term ‘change’ in the paradox (the individual remains the same despite their changes), brings more confusion when justifying personal identity. According to my thinking, the individual does not suffer a change but an evolution. Therefore, in order to properly justify personal identity, the correct phrase should be: “Individuals evolve, yet remain the same”.

In summary, it can be said that philosophers, through their theories, contributed ideas that help new generations to know and understand the origin of personal identity. From Aristotle to St. Paul, it was observed that personal identity is subject to people’s views and beliefs. Due to my religion and principles, I share the theories of Locke and Paul. So for me, personal identity is the union of the mind, body, soul, and spirit that progress over time. Accordingly, allowing the evolution of the individual.


  1. · Merriam-Webster. “Metaphysics.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,

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