Author: Chad Vance
Category: Metaphysics
Word Count: 1000

You might be someone. Presumably, you had previously been a younger individual. But, in virtue of the facts the actual situation which you which more youthful person are one together with same individual? This basically means, how is it you continue to exist with time?

There have to be something which grounds our proceeded presence, for we make judgments that presume that people persist every day—for instance, when we assign benefits and punishments for them, or ethical responsibilities, or home rights, an such like:

  • The girl presently being punished for a few previous criminal activity had better be exactly the same individual who committed it, otherwise her punishment is unjust.
  • If I will be obligated to keep a promise, I'd better function as one who caused it to be in the first place, otherwise i've no such obligation.
  • If you currently possess a car, then you've got to be the person who bought it, or else you have got no genuine claim to its ownership.

Clearly, issue of what grounds the persistence of one’s identity is an incredibly crucial one. Let’s glance at some proposed responses.

1. The Body

Maybe our anatomical bodies have one thing regarding our continued presence; as long as my body continues to occur, we persist.

But, mere sameness of human body with time does not be seemingly enough to ground the continued existence of a person.1 For, if that were the truth, then a brain-dead human body in a persistent vegetative state (totally lacking awareness) would still be similar individual as the one who as soon as chatted and thought and laughed with others. That appears wrong.

To illustrate further, imagine this tale: our body of the next-door neighbor leads two very different lives—one through the day, and something during the night. From 6am to 6pm each and every day, his human anatomy claims to be called “Day Man.” Day guy believes that their human anatomy sleeps every night, but what actually happens is, from 6pm to 6am, their human anatomy is awake and claiming become called “Night guy.” evening guy and Day Man have different jobs, friends, goals, tastes, etc., and in addition do not have knowledge of both. Doesn’t it appear to be what we have here's an instance of two people inhabiting one body? If that is right, then sameness of human body is not just what grounds sameness of person; for in that case, it might prove that Day guy and Night guy were really just anyone rather than two (since they share the exact same human anatomy).

2. The Soul

Many people believe that that which we are is not something material, but rather something immaterial. They say that every folks has a soul—or rather, is a soul—and that souls are immaterial items that reside in systems. Possibly our souls ground our continued existence; provided that my heart continues to exist, we persist.

But, if that have been therefore, we might do not have way of once you understand whether or not individuals continue to exist in the long run. Since souls are immaterial, we cannot see or touch or smell them. Souls, when they exist, are completely undetectable by the senses. But, it seems that we can know whether or not some body in today's moment is the identical individual as some previous one. You may not welcome friends and say, “But, how to understand whether or not you're really my buddy? My buddy is merely an immaterial thing, and since I have cannot see immaterial things, I have not a way of knowing whether my buddy stands before me personally.”

Furthermore, those who believe in souls typically believe that souls can keep their bodies and go elsewhere (for instance, to heaven). But, then, for many we all know, whenever a soul will leave one human anatomy it just inhabits another. Abraham Lincoln’s soul could have left their body after their death and migrated into my own. If that happened, I quickly have always been Abraham Lincoln—one plus the same individual, so that I was after the 16th president regarding the United States, who composed the Gettysburg Address therefore on—a outcome that lots of find counter-intuitive.

3. Psychology

If Day guy and Night Man are a couple of differing people, then it's simply because they have two different psychologies. If a body in a persistent vegetative state is no much longer you, then it's because that human body is no much longer conscious. Basically have always been not Abraham Lincoln, despite sharing one and also the exact same immaterial heart, it is because We cannot keep in mind doing something that Lincoln did.

Hence, we would believe psychology or consciousness is what grounds our proceeded existence.

But, awareness alone won't do. Suppose your body woke up today claiming become Pope Francis; the human body now possesses all the pope’s memories, all their thinking and viewpoints, and claims to be the pope. In short, imagine your system getting out of bed aided by the pope’s psychology. Imagine also that the actual human body of Pope Francis woke up inside Vatican today and proceeded with company as usual, doing pope things. Now the two of you have the pope’s therapy, so apparently you are both Pope Francis. But, that can’t be. You cannot both function as pope (how could anyone maintain two places at once?). So, psychology alone doesn't appear to be what grounds identity.

4. Conclusion

Intuitively, the real pope is the guy whom wakes up in the Vatican. At the same time, your system is only an imposter pope. Might this be since the man in the Vatican gets the exact same human body and therapy due to the fact man elected to your papacy, while your body has only his therapy?

This line of thinking has resulted in numerous hybrid proposals. As an example, perhaps you continue to exist as time passes only so long as the body along with your therapy do. With this proposal, success of only your body (age.g., as a human vegetable) or just your psychology (e.g., if downloaded into a new human anatomy) would not suffice the survival of you.


1For one thing, strictly speaking, we do not have even the same systems as time passes. In the end, our anatomical bodies are constantly taking in brand new material once we inhale and eat and drink, and constantly losing material as we perspire and excrete and exhale or lose our locks and epidermis our knees. So, most body-theorists don't actually think that precise sameness of material is what grounds identity. Rather, it is just physical continuity that really matters. As an example, even though my body consists of somewhat different product today than it was yesterday, there's nonetheless some causal continuity between my present body and my previous the one which binds them together as you while the exact same.


Locke, John (1689). “Of Identity and Diversity”, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, area II.27.

Olson, Eric T. (2010). “Personal Identity”, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Parfit, Derek (1971). “Personal Identity”, in Philosophical Review, vol. 80, 3-27.

Parfit, Derek (1987). “Divided Minds therefore the Nature of Persons”, in Mindwaves, Blakemore and Greenfield, eds. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell), 19-26.

Perry, John (1978). A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality.

Towards Author

Chad is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy within College of William and Mary. He received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also holds levels in astrophysics and theology. He specializes in metaphysics and it is very interested in normative ethics, used ethics, philosophy of faith, and very early modern philosophy.

Follow 1000-Word Philosophy on Twitter, Twitter and donate to get e-mail notice of new essays in the bottom of

How to cite this essay: