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Weekly Submissions

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on October 22, 2008 at 3:26:46 pm





Lex Pulos

This chapter covers the material extensively, illustrating the complexity of personal identity. One aspect that interested me the notion of the person-stage: “a set of simultaneous experiences all of which belong to one person.” I wonder if this concept is even possible? Perry discusses the examples of how this cannot occur because we cannot remember everything. I wonder if this is even possible in a short-term conception? In the moment can we experience all of the ideas or thoughts tat we are thinking in the time from 10:01 to 10:03?

I would say that we can not, as there are hundreds of concepts that are directing us in different directions and the thought of our identity may shift several time from time A to time B. there appears to be too much emphasis on memory in the discussion, as there are multiple elements that add to identity beyond memory; situation, context, audience, etc…


Jenessa Strickland

In the first chapter of ‘Personal Identity’, Perry discusses Locke’s memory theory of identity. Locke argued to have a personal identity, one must have be “ an intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places” (Perry p. 12). This strikes me as a pretty reasonable requirement to begin with. My question is this: this memory requirement is framed in terms of a capacity for reflection, but what if that capacity is never exercised? Do I still have a personal identity if I literally never reflect on myself as myself “in different times and places”? Or to put it in slightly different terms, Perry describes the possibility of body-transplants, in which one could possibly retain this capacity for reflection about oneself, even in another body (p. 4-6). Is someone suffering from amnesia, someone in the same body but with no memory (or even no capacity for memory) of her previous experiences, a completely new person? Along the same line of thinking, research has shown that, in general, the more we remember events from our pasts, the less accurate our memories become. Do our ideas about who we are as persons also become inaccurate the more we reflect on our previous experiences? (I don’t pretend to have any answers to any of these questions I’m posing; I just find them thought-provoking.)


I like all of these questions. I really don't have any of the answers to any of them either, but I liked what the author said about thinking that personal identity is in some way tied to the physical body. It seems like that would kind of fit with what we learned in Mindware. Even in Dr. Azari's talk with us, she mentioned that we have a front part of the brain that no other animal seems to have, and which seems to help us to develop the mental faculties and capabilities that we have. I really don't know a whole lot about the subject of personal identity, but so far I like the idea that there is a physical base involved with our identities. If this is true, I think it could go a long way towards helping to answer the questions you ask, but on the other hand, it would probably just bring up even more questions. Oh well...



In the paper on dynamic systems it examines a number of systems that can be considered dynamic. It shows how these systems are quantified and how these quantifications in the form of equations can be used to predict the behaviors of the dynamic systems they represent. I am assuming that we are, in taking the mind to be a dynamic system, trying to draw a connection between how the dynamic systems in the paper were quantified and how we could quantify the mind.Yet all of the systems in the paper were physical systems that could be observed and the mind it not such an observable system.

This brings about the question as to how we could go about quantifying the mind as these dynamic systems in the paper were quantified if the mind cannot be observed.


I think your concern gets to the heart of it, but I took the paper to imply that there are systems whose behavior cannot be predicted, but only modeled. They're quantifiable, but by no means concrete: <--All this is is a relatively simple function (; x=population, n=generation, r=growth rate) modeling population growth. (Read: Screwing like rabbits=chaos.) It goes from one answer to two to...lots. So where in that little equation does the craziness come in? And Intelligent behavior is a perfect example (read: unpredictability=intelligence). Even if we could account for all the inputs and outputs, all we could do would be try to make up a story relating the two. But it's not that the mind is not an observable system at all. We do have neuroimaging and behavior as manifestations of the physical system. The question is whether we can make any more sense of it all by thinking of things like strange attractors, which is just another way of talking about what kinds of overall patterns tend to emerge (note, however, the modesty of the plurality of both 'kinds' and 'patterns').




Personal Identity


Shawn Brady

In the section titled “Locke, Quinton, and Grice”, the phrase “could contain” is used repeatedly. “[Locke} speaks, not simply of the past thoughts and actions to which we extend our consciousness, but those to which it could be so extended” (p 16). However, this seems to be begging the question. Sure, Wilson could contain the memory about the baseball game. But this only shows that it is not a-priori impossible. The real crux of the problem is whether Wilson does actually contain such memories.

For instance, let us say I went to a basketball game. After the game, my friend Rita wants to know if I am the same person as that she sat next to in the arena. So, she asks, “do you remember when Shaquille O’Neal dunked the ball in the second quarter?” I respond, “No”. According to Locke, Rita is allowed to conclude that I am the same person simply by doing the following. She could say, “Well, you were at the game, so it is possible that you could contain such a memory. Thus, you are the same person.” However, what is this “could contain” based upon? After all, I said that I did not remember the dunk. Is this begging the question?

David Murphy
My question is only partially connected to Personal Identity. Instead it ties in with Mindware. In the first chapter, Perry brings up several different ideas that try to help us understand what personal identity is and what it constitutes. If our brains/minds really do use the environment as a dynamic partner in cognition, is it really possible to have personal identity? If the environment plays such a role in how we think, doesn't it kind of universalize our minds to some extent. Even if the universal qualities the environment supplies us is very very small, because they are there can we really say that we have our own personal identity rather than identity that shares with people in the same situations, but with some unique features too?
Mark Gerken

While I agree that ones problem solving ability is increased through externalizing information, this experiment seems to me to be less accurate than it first appears. Mainly, as far as I understand it, people do not have photographic memories. Looking at the duck/rabbit image I could recreate it by remembering that its a representation of a duck and is looking left. I could not create a detailed mental replica, even with advance warning. However, since I know some of its traits I can approximately replicate it on a piece of paper. Once I have a hard copy I could find the second interpretation of the image. This shows the correlation above. However, I believe this to be greatly influenced by the way we perceive objects,. Mainly, the traits I'm looking for, or have time to find, while looking at the image. If I showed you a detailed car picture and asked you to tel me what color the sky was; you would not know, most likely. This is not because you need to externalize the information, but because the color of the sky was not one of the main traits you were looking for. Why is this not an equally valid explanation of this phenomena.


Matt Sidinger


Perry goes through many different propositions as to how one can define experience relating to a person. When he gets to the part about it being a memory, he continually argues that if someone had the experience they and can’t remember it they are still the same person. My question to that is what about people who have lost their memories. Are they still the same person? They have the same body; but what identity do they have?




I think that the person who looses their memory is definately the same person.  Whether they lost the memory or not they still went through the process of having the experience, developing the memory, and then loosing the memory.  Wheter the person remembers it or not they are still the same individual it just becomes a new part of who they are that they forgot the memory.  They still had it at one point.  So they no longer have the same identity but they are the same person.  I think that for Perry, having ever had the memory or having teh capacity for the memory is all that one needs to be the same person. -Andy Tucker


Andy Tucker

One idea that is presented by Perry is how Locke’s conception of personal identity is not a case of identity in the “strict and philosophical sense” of the word (p. 22). I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this. Just as Perry goes on to show, there is no possible way that a believable conception of personal identity could conform to this principle of the “strict and philosophical sense” because the person that we are today is does not have all the same properties that we had yesterday or will have tomorrow. Yet none of us would disagree that these three people with different properties are one individual.
If following the principle of the “strict and philosophical sense” of identity is too strict to produce a working definition of personal identity and we don’t want to follow too lenient of a principle, then what criterion should be followed for constructing such a definition?
Armand Duncan
My question this week is in relation to Locke’s theory that a person’s memories are the defining aspect of their identity.  A paradox arises when we consider that people’s memories change over time and that there may be times that they don’t have memories of, say because of amnesia or even consumption of alcohol or narcotics.  The paradox is, does this absence of memory commit Locke that they remained the same person during these periods of memory lapse?   My question is, could memory be stated in a negative sense?  That is, could we say that the remembrance of an event which triggered a loss of memory be a kind of memory?  Could the loss of memory be a facet of a subject’s memory of itself?  This would seem to preserve Locke’s definition by defending him against some of his detractors.


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