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How Does a Person Remain the Same Person Over Time, Thesis Paper Example

Pages: 3

Words: 859

Thesis Paper

Does an object remain the same object over time? If so, how do you determine when an object is the same object as it used to be? It’s said that every seven years molecules completely regenerate. While someone may appear to be the same, molecularly they are completely different.  In addition, molecules and atoms are based on DNA which can be mutated over time through over exposure to the sun, aging, cancerous cells, drinking, smoking or exposing the body to a wide range of chemical substances.  Both these concepts point to the notion that people change over time. Traumatic events occur and result in emotional and psychological shifts in personality. Likewise, individuals can develop chemical dependencies that mutate their molecular structure over time, but that also change their personality and how their brain functions.  All of this brings up the question of how does one’s identity  stay the same over time? This in turn brings up the question, what is identity?

When it comes to defining personal identity, there are a wide range of loosely connected questions. The main two questions being “who am I?”, and the concept of personhood, “what does it mean to be a person?” This brings up two follow up questions such as the question of persistence or existence, “what does it take a person to persist or continue existing across different spans of time?;” and the final question, “What is the evidence that a person is who they are?” I believe in order for someone to exist, they have to first think they exist. If I say I don’t exist then there needs to be evidence to prove it’s not true.

Locke argues that the evidence of one’s own identity is found through memory. If the individual has the ability to reminisce over past endeavors or experiences, then they also have the ability to assess who they were then, who they are now, and formulate what they consider to be their identity. Of course personal identity is based on more than just what one considers themselves to be, it also has to do with how one views themselves in relation to the world and their place in it. This also relies on perception of the world around you. The notes use an example of a ship as shown below. It takes the concept of physical object and questions the nature of that object and how that nature changes the object over time.

In the example of a boat as a physical object, when a part of the boat is missing, one must question whether it’s still a boat. If the boat is destroyed is it still a boat, well if someone remembers it then I think yes it’s still was a boat. Once memory is gone the individual is no longer the same person and in the case of the boat, since it exist only in memory, when the memory fades, the boat no longer exists in the past or present tense. Identity is based on memory.  Even Alzheimer patients have some remnants of who they once were and while this is scattered if they hold onto a core concept of their prior self than that personality is sustained. Locke’s view about memory suggest though that if the Alzheimer’s patient loses grasp of who they once were, the prior self that liked ice cream and they identify now with the new version who doesn’t like ice cream and can’t remember ever liking it, then they have a different identity. if I want to be a powerful person, all I have to do is think of myself as a powerful person. My identity will exude power. Of course if I am in a powerless position, I might not immediately be relived of that powerless position, but I believe I will gradually find my way out of it based on my new found way of thinking. This is similar to a popular novel on the subject of manifesting one’s dreams into reality called “The Secret.” The book was very controversial for not being considerate of the poor, depraved, and the have-nots. People saw the book as being arrogant to imply that people are poor because they don’t imagine that they are rich. The problem is there is some truth to the book, just like there is some truth to Locke’s belief that evidence of identity is in memory and thought. The architect can’t build a building without first imagining it. A human being can’t speak a word without first thinking the word into existence.

In sum, I believe identity relies on the memory to be fully realized. As Socrates once noted, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This means one must build memories to contemplate for the sake of forming an identity.  All of the factors that make one who they are from the nature of what they are, to their past experiences in the world form memories on which identity is based. In response to the question how does a person remain the same person over time? The answer is through the persistence of their identity and evidence of that persistence is found in the memories they keep.

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