Philosophy 101 - 6.2 Self and Identity

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Apply the dilemma of persistence to self and identity.
  • Outline Western and Eastern theological views of self.
  • Describe secular views of the self.
  • Describe the mind-body problem.

Today, some might think that atomism and Aristotle’s teleological view have evolved into a theory of cells that resolves the acorn-oak tree identity problem. The purpose, or ergon, of both the acorn and the oak tree are present in the zygote, the cell that forms when male and female sex cells combine. This zygote cell contains the genetic material, or the instructions, for how the organism will develop to carry out its intended purpose.

But not all identity problems are so easily solved today. What if the author of this chapter lived in a house as a child, and years later, after traveling in the highly glamorous life that comes with being a philosopher, returned to find the house had burned down and been rebuilt exactly as it had been. Is it the same home? The generic questions that center on how we should understand the tension between identity and persistence include:

  • Can a thing change without losing its identity?
  • If so, how much change can occur without a loss of identity for the thing itself?

This section begins to broach these questions of identity and self.

Silhouettes of an infant, a toddler, a young child, an older child, and an adult.
Figure 6.6 As we age, the cells in our body continually die and are replaced, and our appearance can change a great deal, particularly in childhood. In what way can we be said to be the same being as we were 10 or 20 years ago? This is a perennial philosophical question. (attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)
This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax