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Personal Identity Essay, Research Paper
Personal Identity can be broken down into three areas: 1.) Body 2.) Memory
and 3.) Soul. In John Perry’s “A Dialogue on Personal Identity and
Immortality” these composing aspects of personal identity are discussed at
length. In the reading and class discussions the body was defined clearly as a
part of one’s person, even alluded to at times as a “prison” in which one
cannot escape until one dies. Memory and one’s Soul seemed to be lumped
together many times, understandably so, for the two bare many things in common
such as they are intangible, cannot be completely defined as to what each
exactly is (people remember things that did not actually happen to them, are
those still memories?; do you have one soul throughout your life?), and both
are thought to compose one’s character and beliefs. This essay will deal with
the two aspects of one’s personal identity which are the most obvious in day to
day life, that of the body and of soul/memory.
As stated beforehand, memory and the soul bare many of the same qualities.
The body and soul, however, also share this trait. Perry illustrates in his
essay that the body and soul are similar because there is a “link” between one
another, that is they both make up a person and are responsible for the
qualities associated with being an individual (height, weight, character,
belief, etc.). Perry also comes back to challenge this using the analogy of a
river. If one goes to a river, and then the next day goes back to the same
river, the person will not say that it is a different river, although almost all
of the properties of the river have changed (water molecules, pollution level,
temperature, etc.). This is the same with a person, for we say that a person
at adolescence is still the same person at adulthood, even though the the
persons beliefs, knowledge, and character may have changed over the years.
Perry answers this problem by saying that we can still regard the person as the
same by the relative “similarity” of the person to how they were in the past,
and that “[the] sameness of body is a reliable sign of sameness of all; of
soul” . In another example, Perry differentiates between the body and the soul
by saying that “personal identity” (referring to the soul/mind) cannot be based
on bodily identity, for one can judge who one is without having to make any
judgments about the body. Perry continues to elaborate on this by saying even if
he woke up one day and found he had a different body or form (going as far as to
refer to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis) he would still be the same person
(possessing the same character, beliefs, memories, etc.) Perry then identifies
that at the heart of the soul and memory of a person’s identity is one’s memory.
This brings up the question of if there were two people with the same memories,
would they not have the same personal identity? Because of the fact it is
impossible to have two people of the same identity, Perry finds that the body is
more important then previously anticipated. Overall, every aspect of one’s
self (body, soul, and memory) contributes to what makes them a person with a
unique identity and attributes all their own.
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