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Perry's Dialogue on Personal Identity

By nadiapavlovska May 06, 2013 1071 Words
Sam Miller holds the theory that “same body is correlated with same soul” and claims that “the two are intimately related but not identical” (Perry, 371). One is material, it has shape and size, it could be seen, touched and perceived – that is the body; and the other one is immaterial, it has no shape, size or color, it cannot be perceived – that is the soul. He thinks that survival after death is possible. According to him, after the body dies, the soul that belongs to the death body, its consciousness, continues to live. It is the “non-physical, non-material aspects” of Gretchen that he “expects to see in thousand years in haven”. Gretchen on the other hand, argues the possibility of survival after death and questions the theory that “same body means same soul”. She can’t help but wonder how Sam is so sure that it is going to be her, the very same person, who Sam will meet in the “Hereafter”. She wonders how he is even sure that she is the same person now she was when he last saw her a week ago at lunch. According to her the principle “same body, same soul” is a “well-confirmed regulatory, not something known a priori, or something known by experience” (Perry, 372).

And why is it that we cannot know by experience that “same body correlates with same soul”? The answer I find in Gretchen’s question to Sam: “If you cannot see or touch or in any way perceive my soul, what makes you think the one you are confronted with now is the very same soul you were confronted with at Dorsey’s?” (Perry, 371). People say: “See it to believe it”. I find this saying quite applicable in this situation. It is hard for Gretchen to accept Sam’s theory that they will meet after her death and that it is going to be indeed her. It is hard for me to accept it as well. First of all, the body’s mind, its consciousness is not a matter. We cannot see it or touch it. If we happen to meet it again and again there is no way to know whether it is the same soul because we have never actually physically experienced it. Second of all, the matter we can actually experience, because we can perceive it – the body - eventually ceases to exist. There is no way it could survive after its death: “Surely this very body, which will be buried and as I must so often repeat, rot away, will not be in your Hereafter” (Perry, 371). It would be a different body, which, according to the “same body same soul” principle, would imply a different soul. This again, could only be speculated on. It is quite possible that it is the same soul or a different one. We would not know the truth, unless we knew what the soul in questions looked like, felt like and sounded like.

The box of chocolate analogy proves that some relations could very easily be established by assumption. But again, it would only be an assumption. There is no way we could know if the correlation really exists unless we physically experience. In this case, there is no way we could know that the filling is caramel, given that the swirl on top is caramel, unless we bite into the candy. In the same manner, there is no way we could know someone’s soul unless we can perceive it. This is physically impossible due to the fact that one’s soul is immaterial. Sam had eaten a bunch of the same candy before, so by experience he knew the filling would be caramel. He had never had a bite of Gretchen’s soul before to know it would be the same soul in a probable meeting at a different time.

Question 2 – Second Night:

1. The first night Sam and Gretchen are speculating upon whether the soul is one’s identity or his body. The second night Sam defends the theory that neither one is. He examines the person’s identity as a composition of different parts or stretches connected to form a whole, regardless of whether the “same immaterial soul or the same body is involved” (Perry, 378). Those stages are the person’s consciousness at different times, which connected in a certain way form the whole, that is to say the person’s identity. To illustrate that, Sam uses the example of the “Blue River”. He points out that even though one could be looking at the river at a different time of day from a different position now than he did before it is still the same river. The water might be dirtier, deeper or shallower; the banks might be straighter or curvier, nevertheless, it is still the Blue River. The different stretches of it are connected by other stretches to form the whole river. In the same manner, one has different states of consciousness which connected with other different states of his consciousness form the whole of the person, or his identity. Very often people tend to analyze the different parts of one’s identity and seem to ignore the whole. Another illustrative example that Sam provides is a baseball game. The game itself has different parts, different innings. We might leave the game for ten minutes and when we come back a new inning has begun. It is a new part of the game; nevertheless it is still the same game. Similarly, people go through phases of their life, they change moods, they change opinions, they learn and get to know more; their bodies change. Overall, they are still the same people they were before. It is the same whole consisted of many different parts or person-stages.

In order for those parts to form a whole, a relative connection is necessary. Sam, given Locke’s example, suggests that this relative connection is memory: “He (Locke) suggests that the relation between two person-stages or stretches of consciousness that makes them stages of a single person is just that the later one contains memories of the earlier one.” (Perry, 378) Being able to remember previous stages of consciousness is what makes one the person he is at the time of remembering. According to Sam, one would survive after death because he keeps his identity by remembering all his stages of consciousness. It is memory that makes us who we are.

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