“same” consciousness, Locke’s views


“same” consciousness, Locke’s views

Locke is a famous philosopher who came up with the claim on personal identity which related to consciousness. He claimed that “The same consciousness being preserved…..the personal identity is preserved”. The claim is not helpful as he did offer any explanations. Locke introduced a general account that helped distinguish the identity of living things, masses of atoms and atoms. All individual atoms are similar at one point in time and they stay that way for a long duration. The identity atoms are not problematic because of their unique organization and this is what differentiates them from other elements.


However, the organizations can be affected when changes are made to the atoms as well as their functions. One key function of the atoms is that they assist in the continuation of life and this enables living things to have sameness. Locke believes that a body stays the same for long periods of time and it is only during death that it stops being a body.  It is regardless of whether the living thing is a horse or even an oak. Locke believes that human beings are animals and just like living things they are individuated. Therefore, man refers to the living body that has a defined shape. He is quite aware and informed that there is no settled definition of the word ‘man’. This means that there is a variety of different competing meanings of the word man.

Locke has his own definition and argued that it involves distinguishing between a ‘body’ and ‘man’. He used many thoughtful experiments as well as deducing certain unacceptable consequences that originate from the competing definitions. Locke goes ahead to point out that there are people who tend to differentiate man using soul possession. These people believe that man has sameness from the time they are infants even up to old age. They tend to accept the doctrine of reincarnation because of the definition that they believe in.

It is evident that it is not easy to understand what Locke means when he is referring to the same ‘man’ and same ‘body’. He has given some perfect examples to illustrate what he wants to be known. He wants to come up with a distinction that will be used for adopting the two terms. He does not want to accept the Cartesian claim that personal identity is born from the soul. Furthermore, as a result of the distinction, the issue concerning the dead resurrecting cannot be well understood. For example, he came up with a story about what happens to a man’s body upon death. It is no wonder when a man dies; the different parts of the body disappear to various places. The dead man and his body will no longer be able to come together and thus Locke’s concept needs further interpretation.

Same ‘consciousness’ and personal identity are quite important and the reason why Locke gives a positive account concerning the two issues. Consciousness means being aware and also a sensation feeling as Locke seems to believe. This means that consciousness is directed inwardly and the reason why he claims that “consciousness is the perception of what passes in a Man’s own mind”.  Consciousness exists inside the mind and body of a human being and cannot be seen or felt.

It is thus different from the sensory perception, which focuses on what goes on outside and not inside. According to Locke, the most important aspect of personal identity is that people should be informed about themselves. As time progresses, people continue to exist and people have the option of experiencing themselves as living things. A person is able to experience their own substantiality even when changes are made to a substance. Therefore, the self will still exist continuously and can never be a substance as explained in a Cartesian sense.

The issue of personal identity was related to shared memories by Locke after providing his own unique account. All human beings have individual memories, which can either in the form of self-knowledge or meaning-based or perception-based. This means that the only time people will have shared memory is when they perceive the same things. In turn, this enables people to have similar or shared memories because they experienced certain things together. However, personal identity is not related to shared memories as it is not unique to have similar consciousness as someone else.


According to Locke, selfhood and identity have no relation to the mind’s or body’s continuity. People who cannot remember their past have no identity and this is similar to people who have shared memories. However, Descartes is quick to object Locke’s argument on personal identity using his concept of mind-body dualism. He says that “A is the same as B if A’s body is animated by the same Cartesian mind/soul/ego as was B’s body”. This proves that we cannot always judge other people just because we think that we know them.  In conclusion, personal identity, same ‘consciousness’, same ‘man’ and same ‘body’ were well explained by Locke. He ensured that people would be more informed concerning issues related to human beings. However, more people need to do more research into Locke’s works so as to acquire more information about his philosophical insights.



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