Personal identity is what makes someone who they are over the course of their lifetime. When you think of personal identity you typically think of their outside features, like the color of their eyes, hair, skin, but it is also the events that lead them up to who the are today. Personal identity is very important to have, and everyone is different because everyone has gone down different paths that have shaped them. Philosophers have disagreed on personal identify because some think its all about the mind and some think it is the body.
Rene Descartes was the philosophers who said, “I think therefore I am” and got people really thinking of the human body and our Life extension. When talking about personal identity Descartes believes that the mind is separate from the body, and the mind represents the self of a person. The mind is not physical while the body is physical. He believed that after the body passed away, the mind was still functioning and existing. Which has also is what they though in his time about the soul being left behind for judgement day. Descartes was also one to doubted everything he thought. There is a great example in Meditation I. For example, Descartes describes that the mind can be so deceived. He states, “How often have I dreamt that I was in these familiar circumstances, that I was dressed, and occupied this place by the fire, when I was lying undressed in bed?” (Descartes, Meditation I p. 2) By saying all this, I think Descartes is trying to say that our minds are capable of many great things, and while we will physically pass away, our minds are still kept going because of knowledge that is shared.
Descartes did have his doubts on his theory’s in philosophy so that’s why I think that this theory is false. He Said “…just as easily as I conceive of a triangle that it is a figure of three sides only; but I cannot in any way imagine the thousand sides of a chiliagon [as I do the three sides of a triangle], nor do I, so to speak, regard them as present [with the eyes of my mind].” (Meditations on First Philosophy, p.26). The mind can see things in a different way that what the physical object can be. The extension of the physical world cannot be complete because we cannot comprehend it to the fullest. I think since he tells you that he doubts about his philosophy you cannot truly know if it is all correct.
I think that is theory can make sense, but you cannot have a mind without the body. Without the body the mind there would be no knowledge going into a person. You have to have the mind and body to be and connect as one. Personal identity must remain the same from when you were born all the way to when you are older and die. That’s why personal identity lies within the body. You may not look the physical way you did when you were a child, but person identity is what makes you you and while growing you will become someone else, but still have the same physical body.
In a great video I found the speaker said “If personal identity requires a memory, then none of us became who we are until our first memory. Which means we lost all lost at least a couple years at the beginning.” (Personal identity: Crash course). That is just a great example that it cannot be that personal identity lies in the memory because just because you could not remember it does not mean that it was not shaping you into who you were meant to be as an adult. The mind and memory need your physical body to remain living. Descartes would say that it was all in the mind and who you are could still exist after the body is gone and that just simply cannot be physically proven.
Descartes' mind/body theory tells us that the mind and body are two completely different substances. We all have both a mind and body, but they are separate things. Descartes views the mind as being one's self vs the body given that if you were to be given a new body by some sort of means, as long as you kept all of your previous memories, you were still the exact same person. I just do not believe that can be so because considering that you are considering that just taking one person’s brain and putting in another human being would mean that they would now have all the ideas and feelings that one person once had. That does not seem to be the case because people have brain surgery and transplants. The mind cannot go on living without the physical body.
Descartes would probably try to justify his reasonings by bringing in his options on God and the afterlife and saying that the mind lives on even when the body does not seem to do so. That is how they justified burring someone’s body and putting them underground. In some religions they think they cannot get rose up when Jesus comes back if their physical body is underground, so they have graves on top of the ground, but some also believe that your soul that is connect to your body and mind is what will get taken to heaven. You need both the body and the mind to have personal identity. You are what you have grown through if it is physical or mental.
Think of Personal Identity. (2021, Mar 27).
Retrieved September 24, 2023 , from
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