Philosophy's Great Question: Who Am I?

Topics: Mind, Consciousness, René Descartes Pages: 4 (783 words) Published: March 6, 2015


Laney Harris
Philosophy 2010 eCore
Dr. Waskey
February 16, 2015
University of West Georgia

When asked what is the self, ancient people said, “It is right there. It is the center of rational thought, speech, everything.” (Broks) Today’s society defines the self as a physical body and emotional and psychological (or spiritual) being. One of philosophy’s greatest questions, “Who am I?” has been asked since western philosophers began practicing. While evaluating the self, other questions arose. When did I begin? What will happen to me when I die? John Locke, David Hume, and René Descartes have had some of the most discussed, debated, and widely accepted positions on self-identity. (Olson)

John Locke, also known as the “Father of Classical Liberalism,” was an English philosopher. He is viewed as one of the most influential figures of the enlightenment thinkers. His theory of the mind is considered one of the original concepts of the self and identity. Locke thought personal identity (of the self) to be based on consciousness. He theorized that one’s mind was empty at birth then shaped by experiences and sensations and reflections. Locke believed the self to be different and separate from the soul or the body. He also believed that one’s consciousness could be transferred from one substance (body) to another. (Nimbalkar) David Hume was an eighteenth century Scottish historian and philosopher. He is most known for his skeptical approach to philosophy. He claimed that there was no permanent “self” that continued over time. Like Locke, Hume believed that all knowledge was derived from impressions. He argued that all moral distinctions were derived from feelings of pleasure and pain not from reason. Hume concluded that one’s identity is just a union created in the imagination. (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – David Hume) René Descartes was a seventeenth century French philosopher,...
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