Locke on Personal Identity

Philosophy Research Archives 3:113-144 (1977)
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Abstract

In this paper I offer an analysis, reconstruction and defense of Locke's account of personal identity. I begin with a detailed analysis of Locke's use of the term 'conscious' in its historical context. This term, which plays a central role in Locke's theory, had senses in the seventeenth century which it does not have today. In the light of this analysis, an interpretation of continuity of consciousness as the ancestral of memory is given. It is argued that this interpretation of Locke's theory of personal identity does not involve an ontological commitment to immaterial substances, and Locke is defended against the historically important criticisms of Butler and Reid. In the conclusion I suggest that the account of the individuation of persons implicit in Locke's discussion of personal identity is similar to the account of contextual individuation given by Hintikka.

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Jane L. McIntyre
Cleveland State University

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