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Problem of Personal Identity Essay

I. Introduction

In this paper, I will investigate the “Problem of Personal Identity”. The particular scenario I will respond to is: “Suppose that sometime in the future a crazy scientist creates a perfect clone of you. The clone has a qualitatively identical body to yours and has the same memories as you as well as same voice, character, and so on. How would yo convince a court of law that the clone is not really you? What theory of personal identity would help you to make your case” (Rauhut, 2011, p. 125)? First I will clarify key terms, and then I will apply those terms in my analysis of the question. Then I will close out by reflecting on my conclusion and some insights I gained about the Problem of Personal Identity.

II. Conceptual Clarification

Qualitative identity is a state of identity by looking the same or having the “same properties” (p. 107). An example of qualitative identity is two cars that look the same, as in same red paint, same build of car body, same type and brand of tires, etc., but are not one and the same vehicle since there is more than one. In other words, two objects or persons can look very similar but be two different objects or persons. Numerical identity is the condition of being the same if and only if it is truly “one and the same” object or person (p. 108). For example, I have a glass of water that I set on the table.

It is the only glass of water on the table and there is no one else around to put another glass on the table, thus when I come back to pick it up, it must be the same glass of water I had originally, and is numerically identical. In other words, if two objects or persons look very similar and even function very similar, they can only be numerically identical if they are one and the same object or person, and there is only one of the object or persons being described. The body theory is “often referred to as animalism;” identity conditions that “we are around as long as our physical bodies are around” (p. 114). The body theory is based on numerical identity, stating same body, same self. Even though the body may change through time, it is still numerically the same body and thus the same person that experiences through the body.

For example, a childhood friend comes back to visit after a longtime of not seeing her. She does not look the same, but-though you probably wouldn’t do this upon seeing her again-her DNA and fingerprints match the friend you knew before, so they must be the same person. Memory theory is the theory that our psychological collection of experiences of different life stages enables us to be sure we are us. In other words, “we are connected to the past as long as the past is somehow resent within us, and we will be connected with or present in the future as long as we recall this present” or “as long as my memories are around, I am around” (p. 119). For example, the friend who comes to visit you remembers many of the things you both experienced together, and so you assume she is indeed the same friend you knew before.

III. Analysis

In this section, I will investigate the scenario of convincing a court of law that a cloned version of me is not really me. First I will briefly discuss the theories of personal identity and the arguments that may form to disprove that the clone is not me. I will then discuss my decisive theory which best supports my case, the body theory, and my reasoning for this. The memory theory would ultimately disprove that I am a separate person then my clone because the clone shares my numerically identical memories. The memories are ultimately one and the same, and remembered by us both. Memory theorists would argue that as long as my memories are around, then I am around, and the body is irrelevant. As the clone also shares my personality or character that formed from those remembered experiences, it causes the theory to be even more convincing.

However, there are some issues that come into play, to include the problem of false memories. While my clone remembers all that I experienced, and remembers how each experience felt, these memories occurred before the clone existed. I can have memories of being Napoleon, but that does not mean I am Napoleon. Beliefs of reincarnation may come into play with these issues of memories before our physical existence, but with a clone, the case can be made with the help of the body theory and related science. The body theory best supports my case to prove my clone is a separate person from myself because of the science relative to the creation of my clone. We may be qualitatively identical and even have very near exactly replicated DNA, but small variations make all the difference.

A cloned version of myself comes much later then my own self came into being, and thus must have been “speed-aged”, causing my clone to have a much shorter lifespan than I myself will have (Think quest, 2011). Since clones are a natural concept as well, as identical twins and triplets are basic clones, DNA can also be looked at for variations. Even Siamese twins, who are virtually one body, have variations in the DNA of their separated parts, showing they are indeed two different bodies even though those bodies are connected. The immune system of a cloned being is also less stable than the original being that has been copied; this issue appears to be caused from the “speed-aging” process, and the cloning of antibodies (Think quest). The main feature of our two beings, myself and my cloned self, that cause us to decisively be two very different persons, is our age and true physical experiences.

The physical experience of the memories we share and when they occurred makes our character. Remembering being 5 years old does not make us five years old if we were grown in a lab and “seed-aged” to five years old in less than a week. Remembering my mother also does not make my cloned self my mother’s daughter. My mother knows only one of me, and would probably have a heart attack if suddenly two of me called her “mom”. If my original body is lost, my mother would mourn my loss rather than accept I am still here since my clone may still be here.

IV. Reflection

Insights into the Problem of Personal Identity gained include the science that makes the case for the body theory. Though the body theory essentially was the deciding theory in court to prove my clone is not myself, the memory theory has valid points of why the clone may in fact be myself in a different body. It is essentially logically possible, as it shows in movies, for me to switch bodies with someone and experience new memories without my body. While I did not discuss the soul theory, I also understand how one could argue the nonphysical form of self could continue on when the body dies and perhaps even later be reincarnated into a new body with past memories that body did not experience. However, that is for a different discussion and further investigation. These new insights can be applied in my everyday life, and my continuing to question what makes a person themselves. This will also enable me to better understand the reasoning behind various theories of reincarnation, scientific study and the concept of cloning, and even the religious aspects to what makes a self that may be different from my own beliefs.

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