Metaphysics: Am I the same person I was when I was a baby?

3 thoughts on “Metaphysics: Am I the same person I was when I was a baby?”

  1. Thanks for a great read! I agree with your conclusion. Generally people resort to arguing that it is memory which lay the foundation of identity, unfortunately rendering those with Alzheimer’s non-existent… It’s also a curious conclusion though, when you say “physical and other” are you supposing dualism? I hope this comment finds you.

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    1. Hi Oscar, many thanks for your comment. I’m not supposing dualism, more positing a distinction between psychology and physiology. If you read my post on Identity Theory, you can see that the problem of mind and matter being the same is far from a settled issue. This doesn’t mean that I think consciousness/mind isn’t in some relation to the physical brain, just that we don’t yet know what this relation is, I.e we can’t yet give an account of consciousness that describes what it is, in the way that we can describe what the brain is (in so far as it consists of physical particles).

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  2. This was a neat article, but I think its just a linguistic trick. I’d say that “sameness” means different things depending on where the relevant objects are located in time. If two objects exist in the same moment and are called the “same”, that’s comparative. Nobody is claiming that two footballs are the same exact object when we call them the “same”, we’re claiming that they both correspond to our idea of “football”, and beyond that have similar qualities sufficient for the discussion at hand. For example, an end table and a coffee table wouldn’t be the “same” for the purposes of decorating, even though they’re both “tables”. However, if I’m looking for a place to put my drink, they might as well be the “same” because they perform the necessary function equally well.

    However, if I am being compared to my previous self, and am being called the “same”, then the word is substantially different. The claim is no longer that there are comparative qualities per se, but that I am the same object in a later time frame. For simplicity, lets temporarily return to the football. If I puncture the ball and draw a happy face on the other side, it would still be the “same” football that it was before my interference. That is, it is the same object, but it has been altered. If I were to hold up the football and tell a story where I played a football game with it, nobody would expect that I had played that game with the football in its current shape. They would assume that back then the football was whole. Without having stipulated that, however, my audience would be aware that this was the “same” football. It was the football minus some history.

    As to your question about identity, I think the same treatment applies. Though our personal qualities (naive vs. mature) may change over time, our adult selves are still built on our childish selves. Human personality traits aren’t as simple as “I was that then and I’m this now”. What we are today is dependent on what we were as kids. A simple example is: reading The Mayor of Casterbridge changed my life. When I was a child I learned to read. As a result of having that ability, I was able to fall in love with books. My love for books endeared me to my English Teachers, who encouraged me and gave me advanced material. My enjoyment for the advanced material prompted me to take the English Major. An English Professor I took mentioned the name Thomas Hardy, who I noticed in my next trip to the bookstore on The Mayor of Casterbridge. The person I am now is entirely different from the child I was before in no small part because of that book. However, the life I’ve lived up until this point constitutes a series of events that are reliant on one another, forming a narrative. That narrative is what I call me, or to use your parlance, my identity. I am not only my present moment, but also my history AND my potentiality (though that’s another discussion). This is what’s meant when we say, “I am the ‘same’ person that I was as a child”.

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