The problem of personal identity - of what makes you, you - has for a long time been investigated through thought experiments. John Locke asked us to imagine what it would mean to say that your immortal soul had in a past life been that of a warrior who fell at, say, the seige of Troy - given that you have no actual memories of being that warrior, and only the most coincidental resemblances in personality, outlook, knowledge, and beliefs. Leibniz asked us if we'd agree to 'become' the Emperor of China, on the sole condition that we took with us no memories of our present actual life. In this way, they tried to bring into focus our intuition that what matters in personal identity is continuity of memory and personality, and that our belief or lack of it in any immortal spark is strictly irrelevant.
But the self itself may not even be a mortal spark.
At a session chaired by Steven Gale, Julian Baggini spoke yesterday (Monday 22 August) on his book The Ego Trick
, in which he explains the 'bundle theory' of personal identity, long familiar in the teachings of Buddhism in the East, and first explicated in the West by Hume.
Read the rest here
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