Identity in general30 September
The main points
The goal of this class was to discuss identity in general. We want our discussions of personal identity to focus on what is unique about the identity of persons. Personal identity will be problematic in many of the ways that brick identity is problematic. But we want to isolate what's distinctive about the case of persons (or show that, contrary to appearances, there really isn't anything distinctive about them. Furthermore, we want to avoid saying things about persons that would conflict with apparently obvious points about identity in general.
Two important points are:
Distinctions and platitudes
You should feel very comfortable with these. If you don't, learn them right away.
First, some distinctions:
We will almost always be talking about the latter in both cases.
Platitudes about identity are apparently obvious points; if our account of personal identity contradicts one of these, we'd better have a very good reason for sticking with it.
According to Locke, the fundamental building blocks of the universe are substances and modes of substances. But one hunk of substance can constitute several things: a mass of matter and a horse are made up of the same matter, at any given moment in time. The horse has a kind of unity over time by virtue of being a life that enables it to survive the loss or addition of matter, whereas the mass of matter does not.
Locke's account of animal and plant life is very important, in addition to being quite interesting in its own right. Locke thinks personal identity over time is analogous to animal identity over time.
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