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Perhaps the most interesting and controversial of the topics covered in the are the chapters devoted to Locke’s account of personal identity.
For this reason, Locke maintains an account of identity for living things that is unique, emphasising the “continuity of the same functional organisation… Locke then begins to build to his first premise, being that consciousness is what gives a living thing an identity.
He starts by differentiating what is meant by ‘man’, a living thing, and what is meant by ‘person’, a particular type of consciousness.
In order to examine the flaws in Locke’s theory, I will first establish a foundation of how Locke views personal identity, with some examples which he offers to support his claims.
I will then postulate the rebuttals of three prominent philosophers, William Molyneux, Thomas Reid and Joseph Butler, in an attempt to show some fallacies in Locke’s theory of personal identity. Mackie, and the identity of a living thing.
To illustrate, Locke articulates that if the consciousness of a prince’s past life was somehow transferred to the body of a cobbler whose body had been “deserted by his own soul”, then he would be the same ‘person’ despite not appearing to be the same ‘man’.
Locke then goes on to illustrate the contrary experience of the cobbler’s consciousness inhabiting the prince’s old body.Furthermore, we spend much of our lives living in the present moment without a thought given to the past events of our lives.At first glance this may throw a considerable spanner in the works of Locke’s thesis, but is easily remedied by Locke’s quick counterargument. 115The Prince and the Cobbler Having established that personal identity lies in consciousness, and that in order to be the same person over time one must remember their past experiences, Locke tells us the story of the Prince and the Cobbler, a claim based on a theoretical transference of consciousness between bodies.If, as Locke says, personal identity is based solely on consciousness and that only I can be aware of my own consciousness, then other people have no way of knowing whether they’re judging the same person, or merely the same body.Therefore, if someone commits a crime while they are intoxicated, and claim that they have no memory of the incident, then that person is “only responsible for the acts for which [they] are conscious” .This becomes Locke’s third premise, being that we derive our identity not just from being a conscious being, but by being able to remember what our past selves experienced.This premise immediately raises a problem, which Locke attempts to address; consciousness is constant, for “consciousness is often interrupted by forgetfulness” and sleep.This account quite drastically differs from the concepts of identity put forward by Descartes and the Cartesians, whereby the soul is the bearer of personal identity; There have been countless objections to Locke’s theory and its integral arguments since the was published, with several philosophers criticizing Lockean personal identity theory as ‘circular’ and ‘illogical’.In this paper, I will attempt to argue for the stance that Locke’s memory theory, whilst hugely influential and revolutionary, does not hold up to the objections given by his contemporaries.Understanding (1689), John Locke takes on the daunting task of critiquing the work of his predecessors, as well as developing his own theories to replace or refine them.His discussions touch on many metaphysical and epistemological conundrums, from the primary and secondary qualities of physical objects, to empiricism and notions of innate knowledge.