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To complete this assignment, answer each of the three questions below. Aim for fully-developed answers that demonstrate to me the extent of your understanding of the philosophical materials as well as your ability to engage in the philosophical thinking required by each question.
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In section 9, Locke defines a person as “a thinking, intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thing, in different times and places.” Many writers have noted that if this is what a person is, then it is quite unclear whether human infants and certain cognitively-disabled human beings count as persons.
Assignment: Develop an objection to Locke’s theory of personal identity on this basis and imagine how Locke might respond.
Locke holds that a later person is the same as some earlier person when the later person partakes in the same consciousness as the earlier person. But what does this mean? Locke clearly thinks that ordinary memory is sufficient. If the later person can remember some experience of the earlier person, then they both partake in the consciousness of that event and are thus the same person. But consider the following odd possibilities:
Marvin is obsessed with Bill Clinton; he has studied his life and has come to have what he takes to be vivid memories of Clinton’s experiences as president. In fact, Marvin’s memories are completely accurate.
A mad scientist has scanned Clinton’s brain and implanted accurate versions of some of Clinton’s memories into Marvin.
Marvin is hit on the head and by sheer coincidence has acquired accurate apparent “memories” of Clinton’s time in office.
Does Locke’s theory entail that Marvin is Bill Clinton in these cases? That would be absurd, so it better not.
Assignment: Rewrite a version of Locke’s theory (in summary) that does not have this result and assess the merits of your new version. How does your version show definitively that Marvin is not Clinton?
Alice is hit on the head and suffers complete and irreversible amnesia. She can’t remember her name and has no memories of her former life. Still, she retains her personality, her quirky sense of humor, her love of jazz, and other aspects of her psychology.
Assignment: Does Locke’s theory imply that Alice has not survived her injury? Is that a plausible result? If not, how might Locke’s theory be modified to avoid this implication? Does your answer to Question #2 (above) help you answer this question?
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