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Personal Identity Essays

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Personal identity, simply asking for who I am. What properties make the same us as in the past and in current and why we think we are the same person as we in the day before after waking up. Some people might think personal identity is just a little case and even not present a problem. However, when it comes to the case that transferring our mind with all information into a different, far superior body and the previous body will completely be annihilated, personal identity will play an important role.

Above all, there are two main theories when considering the problem of personal identity in this situation, which is, what is called the body theory and the memory theory. These two theories both to prove we are the same person overtime for the reason of sharing some kind of same properties in a distinct time (lecture PowerPoint slide seven). Firstly, the body theory indicates that we are the same person over time if we still have the same material body, mostly because we recognize people or being recognized by our bodies and we will no longer living without our bodies. It is directly perceived and by biological or physical nature. Therefore, in the case of transferring our mind into a different body and the previous body being destroyed will enable us to lose our identity as a result of not in the same body anymore. It seems like an unacceptable consequence.

In our normal scene, it appears accurate. However, the property ‘same body’ could be ambiguous. Does ‘same body’ means we have the exact, one hundred percent the same body to be the same person over time? As we know it is impossible in the scenes of science. For example, there are replace period of our cells inside and outside our body, such as the red blood cell turnover in about 4 months, the skin epidermis cells in ten to thirty days (Cell biology by the numbers, How quickly do different cells in the body replace themselves? View 12 October 2019). Apart from the cells, hairs and nails are growing every day too, which means our body change every second and minute. Furthermore, we do not have the same body as in childhood but we will not believe we are not the same person as the child we were before. For an extreme example, assume that person X’s heart has a mental problem and receive a heart transplant surgery of a heart from a dead person Y, we will not say it is person Y revive and person X becomes person Y. Even if we transferring mind into a superior body, it would be like we are getting strong or become beautiful without working out or having plastic surgery, and we will still considering we are the same person after working out or having plastic surgery. Therefore, body theory will be incompletely to identify a person is the same over time.

Secondly, the memory theory purposed by John Locke holds that psychological continuity enables us to acknowledge we are the same person in a distinct situation or over time. (US National Library of Medicine, John Locke on Personal Identity, Namita Nimbalkar ). Psychological continuity refers to our memories, which means we confirm we are the same person over time or in different circumstances entail a coherent memory in our consciousness. Conceivably, apply this theory in the case of transferring our mind with all information into a superior body, the option would be attractive. It is because we carry all of the memory and information of mind into the new body and seem with no risk of losing our identity.

Nevertheless, the use of memory as a property to identify us would occur some problems as the body theory. The memory will occasionally be vague, missing, or even false. For instance, we will not remember or remember incorrectly what we have done last week. Moreover, people generally do not have the memory when they were baby, or in early childhood. Then, the memory will be incoherent. However, some people stand that does not mean people are not the same person as before if they forgot their memories, for the reason that there is a continuous memory chain (PowerPoint slide from lecture). This suggests that even if we forget some memory in the past, our memory will be still coherent because of the memory of our experience in the last second (lecture PowerPoint slide twelve). Nonetheless, this explanation neglected the issues of the correctness of memory. If a person X has an illusion by the influences of overtaking medicine and has a false memory of being person Y in the past and in current, will it mean person X becomes person Y? On the other hand, in the memory theory, person X would not be the same person if person X lost all his memory too. Moreover, if we considering memory as the method to identify who is a different person in our society, we could do any illegal activities with our desire by just proving we do not have the memory of doing something illegal after done something illegal. The legal framework would be collapsed and no longer work.

After considering the two main theories, it seems like the body theory and the memory theory are both contain some potential problems and incompletely deal with the problem of personal identity, also the problem of transferring our mind into the superior body with destroying our previous body. We might start to review another possible way to think through it. For the dualist, like Descartes may think the soul is the property to determine you are the same person over time. Nonetheless, we simply cannot prove whether there is a soul in our body. Besides, there are also some alternative views on the problem of personal identity. For example, David Hume claims there is no such thing ‘self’ in the world, and the self we think of is just a totality of the conscious (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, David Hume, James Fieser). Derek Parfit even said personal identity does not matter in survival and people do not exist apart from components (Wikipedia, Derek Parfit). However, it would be an alternative way to analysis by saying personal identity is not a problem when dealing with the problem of personal identity.

In conclusion, in my point of view, if we assume that we will not lose our memory or have an illusion of being somebody else, the memory theory would be more capable to explain someone is the same over time and transferring our mind into a superior body will be a considerable option.

Reference

  1. Cell biology by the numbers, How quickly do different cells in the body replace themselves? View 12 October 2019, http://book.bionumbers.org/
  2. US National Library of Medicine, John Locke on Personal Identity, Namita Nimbalkar, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115296/
  3. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, David Hume, James Fieser, https://www.iep.utm.edu/hume/
  4. Wikipedia, Derek Parfit, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Parfit
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