PERSONAL IDENTITY THEORIES IN COMPARISON

Personal identity theory is not a new phenomenon, but it has been linked to several research attempting to understand various personality characteristics. Such research can be traced back to Plato’s period. The questions are designed to shed light on people’s relationships with themselves and others. Identity, in basic terms, determines what a thing is and what distinguishes it from all other things. As a result, personhood includes all of the characteristics that contribute to personality. Many philosophers have concluded that attempting to describe our identity is futile because it is impossible to separate self from the equation and examine “self” critically. Thus, this argument seeks to expand on the theories of personality through investigating the discussion in Doctor Who’s science fiction show.

Identity theory is primarily a logical theory that sets out to describe persons’ role-rated behaviors. It is closely related to the social psychological theory that emphasizes on multi-faceted and compelling self that resolves the connection between social structures and personal behaviors. Personality is viewed from a perspective of traits that makes a person feel different from any other being or thing for that matter. Psychology attributes such notion to individual behavior that distinguishes a person from others.

The theory of identity explains social behavior that exist between self and others. The tenet is symbolically linked to the interaction developed between a person and the society and the effects that results from that cooperation. Ideally, identity works as a critical link between social structure and individual action thereby suggesting that behaviors can be interpreted from the interaction of the society and self.

John Locke explores the concept of personal identity from the perspective of consciousness, which he believes can further explains the notions behind life after death. In this tenet, personal identity is viewed as a contest with the fundamental inquiries of people’s presence, and what they are, and what happened after death. Parfit also argues that if a person survives brain surgery, such that the brain is transplanted to another person, then the memories and experiences would be carried through the brains, hence, suggesting that the identity is retained through the brains. Such kind of analysis regarding individual identity provides the background and circumstances for the distinctiveness of the person over the time. The same challenge of character is described as the diachronic problem of personality. Such challenge is founded on the features or traits that define a person at any time. As such, Locke was one of those scholars who were opposed to the notion regarding the Cartesian theory that assumed that soul accounts for personal identity. In one of his essays found in “Identity and Diversity,” Locke conceptualizes consciousness as repeated self-identification on oneself. That perception contradicts what both the Augustinian hold as originally wrong and Cartesian position.

Locke contemplates the idea that links the body and the soul in which he believes that thoughts may certainly be accepted by those ascribe to scientific notions and often identify with brain consciousness. The view is based on the precepts that body as anything may change, but the conscious remains the same. Accordingly, personal identity cannot be derived from the brain but conscious based on the argument that brain is the part of the body. The consciousness remains unchanged, but the brain can be changed by circumstances thereby indicating that personality is derived from the awareness of the person. Locke also looks at the problems of identity as centered in the discussion of life after death and the concept of immortality. The concern is that if there exists life after death, then there must be a person with the same identity as the person who died. If such exists, the identity can be moved through consciousness from one soul to another such as the character moves with the consciousness of the individual.

Locke asserts that if consciousness remains the same from one object to another, but the soul is changing, then preservation of personal identity is achieved. However, it is also clear that consciousness might be lost through loss of memory. The soul might remain the same even when the memory is lost. In this case, there is the same soul but different person since there is no consciousness. Such argument affirms that personal identity is not constructed from the concept of soul or thinking substance.

Locke notes that things exist as atoms, complex bodies, and persons. He suggests that atoms are unchanging and occur in a clear space from each other. Such thoughts meant it was easy to explain what comprises an atom as it continues to exist over time. Evidently, the definition of matter according to such perception of Locke does not seem to favor living things, in that, they change after a while. However, he uses the same narration when dealing with a human being which creates a sense of weakness in his theory. The weakness of such argument is the fact that personal identity cannot be a contrast of time.

The argument as a present by John Locke, given the changes that exist, indicates that one’s identity exists as long as one’s consciousness exists. That notion refutes the discussion of identity in relation to matter. One might also try to connect the facts that consciousness implies or accompanies thinking which in one way or another implies memory. In this light, memory forms an essential consideration in the construction of self, and, therein, personal identity.

In countering the argument presented by John Locke, the discussion that memory defines personality cannot be assumed to be the absolute truth. His argument is that identity is constructed from consciousness. In this case, memory informs what personality entails, however, this is not always the truth. In my argument, my assumption from the case study of a person who undergoes an accidental resulting in brain interference impacting the memory, shows that the person does not lose his identity. The personal identity of such an individual does not become obsolete since the person is still the same and only part of the memory has changed. In this case, John Locke’s argument is not apparently true. While focusing on life after death, the soul becomes the carrier of the memory, which in my opinion carries the identity of the person. If the soul was not present then the memory will by itself not exist, hence, identity will not exist. In this light, personal identity is not constructed by memory, however, it influences the formation of the identity.

Another critical theory that tries to explain personal identity is the soul and the body theory. The premise examines what happens when “Person A” has a personal identity and only if they have the “Same body X.” The concern regarding this construct is that it is possible to have changes in the body, hence, the definition might not to hold. Another concern has to do with body alteration such as when a person undergoes body surgery. Moreover, when a person is faced with an accident and part of the body is removed, that person does not stop being the same. The case of Dennett where he wakes up from surgery, has some loss of memory and has undergone surgery shows that the body cannot be the only thing that identifies a person. Moreover, he talks to his brain and suggests that those are “his brain” and the rest is just the body that sits next to him, hence, dissociating the body from the mind or what can be viewed as the identity. DNA can also be used to clone another person which raises the concern of identity-based on the body of the two.

The body theory also assumes the body does not change at any time if the living material remains the same. The body, in this case, is a construct of the identity and forms an essential part of personality. Without the body the person cannot exist, hence, the identity of the person is lost. Accordingly, the nature of the body is not transferable, thus, supporting the premise that the body is essential in the formulation of the identity. Unlike soul theory, the weakness of the body is that once it dies and decays, then the existence of the person stops. The account of future life is not acceptable in this approach since once a person dies the body stops to exist. However, when incorporating the argument of possible future life than a weakness inexperienced in the body theory.

As part of the counter-argument, I believe that the body cannot form the defining point of self. In fact, when comparing this theory with John Locke’s consciousness theory, it is evident that a person recounts or develops consciousness based on the experiences of the body. Perry through the character of Miller argues that, if a person lives like a mere body, the death of it would certain reflect the end of life. Moreover, the memories that broadly define Locke’s theory are only achieved through body’s experience with outside world. Accordingly, as much as the body is a pivotal part of self it does not adequately account for the personal identity.

The soul theory asserts that a person’s identity is retained in the soul in that if the soul exists in future then person lives in it. The challenge associated with this theory is primarily based on identification or definition of the soul. When looking at soul from a religious perspective, it would mean the spirit of a person passes through one’s body into the next realm. Such an argument is difficult to explain since there is no proof that such realms exist in the first place. The discussion on the existence of other realms and after life are purely based on beliefs that some scholars have termed as unfounded. Thus, the soul theory presents a weakness as it fails to define personal identity based on clear ideas with concrete evidence but dwells on faith.

Given the assertion of soul theory as an incomplete identification of personal identity, my observation is that the weakness is presented by the fact that soul by itself does not present a full case of personal identity. Accordingly, the soul can only connect with other factors to produce a full identity of a person.

When linking the above mentioned theories to Doctor Who, the traveler of both space and time, it is evident that he physical and personality changes do not intefere with his memories. The regeneration from those changes temporarily disorients and weakens the doctor, but he still retains his identity all through as he experiences the transformations. The changes he experiences raises issue of time travel paradox as discussed by Lewis. He asserts that, if time travels then it should not give rise to contradictions in that personality should remain the same even as the person moves within time. The doctor also has some female companions who change from time to time and gives him an opportunity to explain some basic facts about himself to the new companion. The book explores the issues of personal identity and offers explanations regarding “who” we are. Moreover, the science, logic, speciesism, perception, physics, and causation are described in the text.

The critical aspects addressed in the text are particularly regarding the philosophy of personal identity. Through undergoing physical changes, the Doctor raises concerns regarding personality issues such as to what defines or describes personality. In this light, the argument seems to follow the logic of John Locke indicating that body and soul change based on memories as noted in the personality of Doctor Who is created in different realms. Accordingly, it is evident that Doctor Who indirectly through his complex personalities indicates that identity is not built or defined by the body or the soul. The changes of the female characters also tend to imply that personality is not based on the physical body as indicated by the body theory but through memory.

The philosophical angle taken by discussion is that personal identity is an essential aspect of human life since people seek to understand themselves as independent things others and different objects. In this view, consciousness plays an imperative function in the definition of personality. Without the existence of consciousness and memories created in Doctor Who, it will not be possible to recognize as the same person considering that his body and soul keeps changing over time as he moves from one realm to another.

Personal Identity is critical to a person since it entails traits to which a person feels a special sense of ownership. It helps to differentiate a person from other people or things through the properties that creates the sense of attachment to that individual. Identity is not something that is limited to philosophy, but something that psychology theories have also attempted to explain through indicating the different stages which personality is developed from childhood to adulthood. Fundamentally, personality is shaped or influenced by experiences that a person goes through in life and in most cases influences whom they become in future. As such, personal identity is can be argued to be formed from history.

Conclusively, different theories try to explain who we are and what defines us as people. Such theories of personal identity are established in the explanation if what determines the identity of a person. The soul, body, and consciousness theories are among others that attempt to explain personal identity as a critical aspect of humanity. The above highlighted theories are different in the way they approach the concept of identity, however, they remain apparent in one thing, that is, identity is a critical aspect of humanity. Doctor Who and the discussed philosophical view of John Locke supports the concept identity as being built from memories and consciousness. As such, through looking at different theories that explain identity, the essay has shown that identity is an important thing that cannot be adequately explained using one single theory. Generally, the essay has shown the merits and demerits of different discussions regarding identity and has taken the position that John Locke’s theory offers a better point of view in line with identity.

Bibliography

Dennett, Daniel. “Where Am I?” Lehigh.Edu, 2017.

https://www.lehigh.edu/~mhb0/Dennett-WhereAmI.pdf

Hogg, Michael A., Deborah J. Terry, and Katherine M. White. “A Tale of Two Theories: Critical Comparison of Identity Theory with Social Identity Theory.” Social Psychology Quarterly, 1995, 255-269.

Lewis, Courtland, and Paula Smithka. More Doctor Who And Philosophy. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 2015.

Lewis, David. “The Paradoxes of Time Travel.” American Philosophical Quarterly, 13, no. 2, 1976, 145-52.

Locke, John. “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” Perry, John. Personal Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008, 33-52.

Parfit, Derek. “Personal Identity.” The Philosophical Review80, no. 1, 1971, 34-47.

Perry, John. A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co, 1978.

Vaughn, Lewis, and Jillian Scott McIntosh. Writing Philosophy: A Guide for Canadian Students. OUP Canada, 2013.

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