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n Filosofia Theoretica: Journal of African Philosophy, Culture and Religions - Mental surgery: another look at the identity problem
Dedicated to late Prof. C.S. Momoh, a thunderous philosopher, on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of his transition to the world of forms
Why does the same person continue to exist overtime, despite bodily changes? How do we know that we are today, the persons we were yesterday? What constitutes the person, is it the body, brain, soul or the memory? Are we going to survive our bodily death or is death the end thereof? And most importantly, Why am I me instead of not me? This very question may appear superficial at surface value but deep down, it is the basis of genetic diversity. Even farther than that, it is the explanation of one and many, of here and there, and of you and me. Were we all the same, then we would not talk of we, but I. In a world of "I", who am I? To this I respond, void!
But there is a long standing argument as to what constitutes me. In other words, what makes me a person? Is it the mind or the body? This problem was created early in the history of philosophy (Omoregbe, 183: Moreland,118-119) and down the line, so many years later, it is shadowing the application of personal identity. Most writers on this issue say the metaphysical soul is the person. They generally run into Ryle's category mistake, Ryle, 123) as well as the mistake of treating personhood as (in Leibnitz' term) a windowless monad (Russell,533). According to this view, bodily death is not the end of one's personal existence. This dualist view endorsed by Plato, Descartes and many others (Mautner, 417), is that we are a union of material body and nonmaterial soul. The body and the soul are different substances, one physical, the other mental, and each can exist without the other. It is the soul which gives us our distinctive identity (Descartes, 280-286), and it does not perish when the body dies. We continue to exist in some nonmaterial realm. Others say it is the psychological mind or the memory. According to this criterion, it is the continuity of the mind's content rather than the body which ensures personal identity. We are the same persons we were yesterday because we have overlapping thoughts and memories from the past to the present. This is roughly the view expressed by John Locke, the first philosopher to systematically investigate the problem of personal identity (Furman and Avila, 146). Others include, Thomas Reid and David Hume to mention a few.
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