By Danielle,

Can You Survive the Death of Your Body? - Bodily Criterion of Personal Identity

7/17/2012 DK 0 Comments

Previous post: The Criteria of Personal Identity

Image by:  http://creatingpositiveaffirmations.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/healthy-mind-healthy-body.html 

The body view of personal identity asserts that people are bodies. That is, A and B are the same person (numerically identical) as long as they have the same body - continuous bodily existence.

Ordinarily, this would be an easily agreeable theory as we identify others by remembering their faces and bodies, and perhaps by touching/feeling.

However, some puzzling questions arise when accepting this view:
  • What happens if our bodies change? For example, if one of my legs is amputated, am I now a different person? Or am I missing a part of my identity?
    We have probably said and heard other people say 'I'm a different person now' after going through dramatic changes in their looks: hair cuts, weight gain/loss, etc. Although we do not take these sayings literally, physical changes do seem to have somewhat significant meanings and impact on our identities. So, are they literally true?
  • What about ageing and growing? As living organisms, we lose and gain matter (cells). When our bodies no longer consist of the same matter they once consisted of, are we completely different persons? That is, is the "adult me" not numerically identical to the "child me"?
  • Another point against the body view is the connection between the bodily identity and psychological identity. If we accept the body view (agreeing that persons are bodies), then we are agreeing that psychological relations are unnecessary for personal continuity. However, ordinarily, we also identify others  by their personality, memories, values and interests. Then, even if I were to have a tragic accident from which I've lost the above things, am I exactly the same person?
  • While it may be possible to argue against the three points above, this argument, to me, seems to be the strongest and most puzzling point against the bodily criterion of personal identity, which arrives from logical steps of premises:
    • If the identity of persons is the identity of bodies, and
    • We make judgements about the identity of a body by feeling and seeing, etc,
    • Then, we must be able to make judgements about identity of our own bodies by feeling, seeing, etc.
    However, we can make judgements  about our own identity without seeing or feeling ourselves.

It is easy to see the flaws of the bodily criterion of personal identity as humans are complex beings with (seemingly) more to our identities than just biological make-ups. Then, what determines our identity, if not the continuous bodily existence?

In my next post I will discuss the pros and cons of accepting the Soul View.

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