Plato's Identity Theory - the Self

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Plato's Identity Theory - the Self

By | March 2007
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"If a man appeared tomorrow possessing every conceivable attribute of Socrates, is there any chance that he is the same person as Plato's tutor?"

There are many existing theories that deal with the issue of identity, all of them different. Views such as Plato's theory of the immortal soul, brain theory and even the various notions of empiricism all need to be given equitable consideration. Contemplation of key ideas needs to be done to if we are to answer the question, Can ‘the self' be determined? Is the mind an intrinsic part of the physical being or is it something more intangible? Are the notions of continuity and connectedness in life, between moments and experiences able to be determined by rational thought? To determine questions these we must first examine the theories behind them.

Brain theory would dictate that as long as this person's brain patterns were identical to that of Socrates then the physical body does not matter. The person could, in all probability be Socrates the man in the only sense that mattered, the mental representation of his brain. This is a fairly simple explanation. A thought experiment that could be applied to discount this would be the notion of a machine that had the same thought patterns as Socrates. Would the machine ‘be' Socrates as well? Can identity be reduced to the elimination of the physical self? This argument does not explore fully the notions of brain patterns and their connectedness to the physical body, whether or not they interact in any way, or whether the physical determines parts of identity in any way.

An examination of animal theory highlights the belief that, ‘I am the same living creature/animal at different stages of development; I am the same organism, therefore when I die so does my mind'. To use an analogy, this means that when I look at a photo of myself when I was a child I am simply observing a stage in my development, not a separate consciousness or different mind, because ‘wherever I end...

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