The Problem of Personal Identity by Thomas Nagel - Essay Analysis

2021-06-06 05:39:58
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Harvey Mudd College
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Essay
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In the essay The Problem of Person Identity. By Thomas Nagel provides criteria for identifying a person over a period of time. Nagel in his work argues using different theories about the identity of a person. Nagel also brings in the issue of death, and in his writing questions whether we can survive death. He further uses an experiment to make a reader to understand the context of the question. In the experiment, scientist invents a machine that can subsequently replicate a person, with an award of $1 million if it succeeds (Nagel 53). The replication process will keep your memories in the perfect copy. However, your current body should cease to exist. In essence, I can connect Nagels assertion with that of my life. In my opinion, given the option, I would not accept the offer because I believe that I am unique and no other person can take over my existence, even for the perfect copy. For this reason, I believe that I would not enjoy the amount offered because I would have ceased to exist.

From reading the essay, I have understood that personal identity is subject to different interpretations, which is proved by the various theories brought up in the essay. Nagel in his work highlights various theories that offer an explanation of personal identity over time. The Bundle Theory holds that a person is mainly consistent of a body and a collection of mental items (Nagel 54). However, as Nagel points out, the Bundle Theory leaves out the soul, which is subject to all a persons experiences, it is indivisible and present in the entirety of an individuals existence. In my opinion, his view of Bundles Theory is not consistent with a human being because we cannot disjoint a human body into different components like a car. Even so, he goes further and supports the Bundle Theory using the Split Brains Theory where for left handed or patients that cannot connect the two brain hemispheres act as if they were disjointed and had two personalities or streams of consciousness, or rather, two people in a single body. However, when taken into context, Nagel points out the Bundle Theory opposes what we thought we were and thus we cannot go to heaven as we cease to exist when the brain dies, which is in line with the Soul Theory. However, Nagel goes ahead and points out the limitation of the soul theory. He asserts that it would be hard to know whether the same kernel was present at different times as the soul cannot be touched or detected in any way (Nagel 57). For this reason, he is for the Same-Body Theory and the Memory Theory. According to Nagel, the Same-Body Theory asserts that X, which exists at an earlier time, and Y, who exists at a later time are the same person (numerically) if and only if they have the same body (Nagel 58). On the other hand, the Memory Theory holds when, X, who lived at an earlier time, is the same person (numerically) as Y, who lives at a later time, if and only if Y can remember doing what X did, feeling what X felt, thinking what X thought and so on (Nagel 60).

The essay as thought provoking after reading it I was forced to differ with what I knew about personal identity. Being a Christian, the essay provoked what I had amassed as it tends to provoke the concept of death, that our identity can only be realized on earth. However, the essay rejected the soul theory. In fact, given the controversies of the Soul and Bundle Theories, I like the way he came to conclude that the Same-Body and Memory Theories are the most effective in solving the problem of identity. Further, his justification was convincing as they hold even with time progression. In essence, the two theories show a progression of time and can easily be proved. In essence, I remember when I was a child, but then I grew up. I hold the same body as when I was small. As such, I can conclude that when I was a child and now, I am still the same person. In fact, I can still remember some of the memories, such as my fourth-grade teacher, as well as most of my friends from childhood. For this reason, I support Nagels views that I am still the same person, and therefore, the Memory Theory and the Same-Body Theory are perfect theories of defining who a person is. I also agree with Nagels position that the Bundle Theory is flawed in that a person cannot be disassembled just like a car because this will automatically kill him. Even so, I tend to agree with the soul theory, because the soul is indestructible, but the body is. Further, from what I have gained through reading the essay, I can say that an adult is the same person as he was a kid years ago because he has the same soul and it can be proved in that there is a psychological and spatiotemporal continuity between the child and the adult.

Work Cited

Nagel, Thomas. The Problem of Personal Identity. Problems from Philosophy, 3rd Ed by Rachels, James. McGraw-Hill, 2011, pp 52-66.

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