Locke vs. Williams

Topics: Fear, Self, Acrophobia Pages: 3 (1141 words) Published: February 27, 2012
John Locke Vs. Bernard Williams
In this essay, I will be explaining John Locke’s case of the prince and the cobbler and Bernard Williams’s second description of the A-body person and the B-body person. Bernard Williams has the correct analysis of the situation where the body is part of self-identity since it is inevitable for us to fear future pain. John Locke claims that memory is the key to identity, so “as far [as] someone’s memory goes, is so far the identity of the person.” (Campbell) First, Locke explains the concept of body swapping in terms of the prince and the cobbler: the “transfer of memories between the body of the prince and the body of the cobbler would mean the people have swapped bodies.” (Campbell) In this example, the prince and the cobbler have their memories switched and everyone would see that the prince’s body, now inhabited by the memories of the cobbler would be identified as the cobbler. The same applies for the cobbler’s body; we would agree that the cobbler would now be the prince since the memories are the continued consciousness (memory) of the prince. If I was the prince and asked to choose selfishly, which of these future people should I choose to be tortured and which to be rewarded? Locke would say, I should choose my present prince’s body, to be tortured and my future cobbler’s body, to be rewarded since Locke explains that memory alone makes up identity.

However, in Bernard Williams’s second scenario of the A-body person and the B-body person, he argues that the body is needed for personal identity. William’s key point is “…the principle that one’s fears can extend to future pain, whatever psychological changes precede [the pain] seem positively straight forward.” (198) Whatever psychological changes there are, we will still care about our future pain. Williams starts off with John Locke’s body swapping example, but then Williams asks, suppose that you are told that you would be tortured tomorrow. In rational thought, it...
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