An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Of Identity And Diversity

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Distinctive about Locke’s theory is that he argues that the notion of a person is to be distinguished from that of a human organism, or “man” to use Locke’s term, and that of a substance.

By distinguishing the notion of a person from the more traditional notions of a human organism and a substance, Locke is able to address moral questions of accountability without having to take a stance on the question of whether the underlying ontological constitution of a person is material or immaterial.

Locke’s journal entries from 20 February 1682, reprinted in Locke 1936 and Locke 1683, document his early thoughts on the topic.

Other particularly relevant chapters include “Of Power” (II.xxi), which he revised at the time he wrote II.xxvii; his chapters on modes, substances, and relations (II.xxii–xxiv, xxviii); and his chapter on general terms (III.iii).

In the 20th century, psychological accounts of personal identity were often called neo-Lockean theories.

It is controversial whether neo-Lockean theories differ from Locke’s own theory, and it can be asked whether the moral and religious dimension of Locke’s theory constitutes an important difference.The secondary literature on Locke’s account of persons and personal identity often focuses on how Locke’s claim that personal identity consists in sameness of consciousness is to be understood.However, some interpreters also draw attention to the importance of the moral and legal dimension which Locke makes explicit in his claim that “person” is a forensic term (II.xxvii.26).This entry aims to first get clear on the basics of Locke’s position, when it comes to persons and personal identity, before turning to areas of the text that continue to be debated by historians of philosophy working to make sense of Locke’s picture of persons today.It then canvases how Locke’s discussion of persons was received by his contemporaries, and concludes by briefly addressing how those working in metaphysics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have responded to Locke’s view—giving the reader a glimpse of Locke’s lasting impact and influence on the debate over personal identity. The discussion of persons and their persistence conditions also features prominently in Locke’s lengthy exchange with Edward Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester (1697–1699).The flip side of the principle of individuation is what we might call the principle of identity, a criterion that two things meet just in case they are not two things at all but are, in fact, one.Imagine, for instance, that you are looking at a picture, taken some years ago, of a baby, and you are wondering if it is a picture of you.Helpful background is further provided by Locke 2002, Locke 1997, and Locke 1988, especially the chapter “Of Property” (Locke 1988, II.v).INTRODUCTION Identity is a relation: it is the relation that each thing bears to itself.He added it to the second edition in 1694 upon the recommendation of his friend William Molyneux.Locke’s theory was soon after its publication discussed by his contemporaries and has influenced many present-day discussions of personal identity.


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