Paper on Personal Identity
October 7th 2008
I have chosen to write my paper on personal identity. Personal identity asks the question, “What Am I?”, “Does my identity change over time”, and “What happens to me when I die?” I plan to show there is no such thing as personal identity based on the many different circumstances and factors that can be conflicts in a persons life.
Who you are is what factors make you unique from another person. It can consist of values and convictions that you center your life on. Any or all of those factors at any given time, can change, have that feature for a while and then loose it, or create new features that change who we are as a person. You can also argue that at what point does a woman’s egg become a person. Is it them moment of conception or at the birth of the actual being? Can an inanimate object such as a tree or a monkey take on human characteristics and become a person? Some will say an animal’s life is just as meaningful as a human’s so they can have personal identity. Others may also say that when a woman’s egg is fertilized that at that very moment it takes on human chacteristics and changes throughout the pregnancy so of course personal identity exists there in the very beginning.
What does it take for the same person to exist over time? This cannot be done, because you will experience some type of change in your life ,expected or unexpected events that will change your existence, or the being that once was. No one person is the very same as they were when they were born. What we experience in life greatly affects the way we react as human beings. David Hume the philosopher believed that the source of all genuine knowledge is our direct sense experience and through the process of introspection, we discover that there is no self ie no personal identity.(Chaffee, pg 122) Pain, pleasure, sadness, joy are all emotions that come at different times in your life. What makes us people are the contents of our experiences. One may argue that if there is no self then why do people experience identity crisis that torments some people and they feel that they are trapped in the body they are in and are not that same person. As well as people that say that there self identity persists through time and unifies their life and gives it meaning. This is all a part of how they perceive their being in life not a personal identity. How do we find out who is really here? Is the person here now the same as the person yesterday? One might argue that if a person remembers doing something it is infact you who did it. But what if that person looks just like you and does the very same thing at the very same time as you what keeps that person from being you? Only physical DNA could prove otherwise.
What about events that may cause death? Suppose you are an organ donor and your organs are transplanted into another person. Some would argue that you are taking on the deceased personal identity. When infact since we are what we feel and what we experience this is just simply not the case. Could one not also say that the organ less person is the one that keeps the same identity and this would also be false because death is a finality, you can no longer experience life and therefore those experiences that made us who we are cease. The example Hume gives is “I can never catch myself at any time without a perception, and can never observe anything but the perception.” Even when we actively look for the self, we simply can’t find it. All of our experiences are perceptions, and none of these perceptions resemble a unified and permanent self-identity that exists over time. As in death and all empirical sensations cease, it makes no sense to believe that our self continues to exist in some form.( Chaffee, pg. 123)
There are other situations such as, what if you were in a accident...