Locke’s writings on personal identity delve
into themes examining memory and consciousness; the relativity of identity; and
the distinctions between man, person, and substance. To reduce ambiguity
associated with the relativity in defining personal identity, Locke classified
the person as the conscience. The conscious is separate from the body, but not
from the personality or the soul. Consciousness that persists through time
connects the person in the present with the same person in the past, regardless
of whether the same body maintained. Two persons may exist at one time, in
separate bodies, as long as a shared consciousness is present. Given that his
thorough ideas follow logically, I support Locke’s position that personal
identity lies within consciousness.
Locke explored what it is sufficient to be, and
the difference between, the identity of the person; the man; and the substance.
In his writings on identity, Locke presents the following questions: “What
makes a person the same person over time?” and “Can more than one person exist
within the same immaterial substance?” (Jacobsen, 2016, pp. 51,52).
Lock recognized that personal identity was relative, clarification of
the term was necessary before one could examine the matter further. As such, he
began his discussions on personal identity by expressing that such an idea cannot
be explored without first defining what is meant by ‘persons’. He indicates
that to be human is neither sufficient nor necessary, to meet the definition of
person; it is in awareness and consciousness that a person is defined.
Consciousness is the awareness of what is
experienced by our senses, and the awareness of our awareness of such. A man’s
consciousness is their identity; consciousness is the person within the man. The
identity of the person, the man, and the substance do not exist within each
More than one person can exist within the same
immaterial substance. One can remain the
same man and not continue as the same person. One man sleeping, will be a
different person than the same man awake. Locke : “Socrates waking and sleeping
is not the same person.” (Jacobsen, 2016, p. 53) Within the same
body, two persons may exist. If all memory were to be lost by the person, the
same man remains, but a new consciousness (person) enters the body.
It is in consciousness that a person can be the
same in the present as in the past. Memories of the past and present make up
the self, and links the self to its previous selves. To remember all memories
throughout time, with the same conscious awareness as was present during the making
of the memory itself, can be taken to show that the same person persisted
Two different bodies may share the same
consciousness and thus may be considered the same person. Locke wrote: “in the
identity of consciousness, wherein if Socrates and the present mayor of
Queenborough agree, they are the same person…” (Jacobsen, 2016, p. 53). Consciousness is entwined
with the soul, not the body. The prospects for immortality are not dependent on
resurrection within the same body. Rather, immortality occurs through the
consciousness moving to a new host body.