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Plato's Identity Theory - the Self

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"If a man appeared tomorrow possessing every conceivable attribute of Socrates, is there any chance that he is the same person as Plato's tutor?"

There are many existing theories that deal with the issue of identity, all of them different. Views such as Plato's theory of the immortal soul, brain theory and even the various notions of empiricism all need to be given equitable consideration. Contemplation of key ideas needs to be done to if we are to answer the question, Can Ð''the self' be determined? Is the mind an intrinsic part of the physical being or is it something more intangible? Are the notions of continuity and connectedness in life, between moments and experiences able to be determined by rational thought? To determine questions these we must first examine the theories behind them.

Brain theory would dictate that as long as this person's brain patterns were identical to that of Socrates then the physical body does not matter. The person could, in all probability be Socrates the man in the only sense that mattered, the mental representation of his brain. This is a fairly simple explanation. A thought experiment that could be applied to discount this would be the notion of a machine that had the same thought patterns as Socrates. Would the machine Ð''be' Socrates as well? Can identity be reduced to the elimination of the physical self? This argument does not explore fully the notions of brain patterns and their connectedness to the physical body, whether or not they interact in any way, or whether the physical determines parts of identity in any way.

An examination of animal theory highlights the belief that, Ð''I am the same living creature/animal at different stages of development; I am the same organism, therefore when I die so does my mind'. To use an analogy, this means that when I look at a photo of myself when I was a child I am simply observing a stage in my development, not a separate consciousness or different mind, because Ð''wherever I end up so does my mind', it is just a period of growth your mind included. When we apply this to the hypothesis it makes the argument for Socrates' new existence implausible. Socrates died thousands of years ago, and in this way, he can therefore be nowhere else other than dead or decomposed. The living organism stopped existing and therefore this new Socrates cannot be the same as it is not part of the stages of development in any way. Using the premise of a brain transplant it is entirely feasible that this new Socrates could be one and the same as the original, in mental capacity alone, because while the brain may still be developing the physical body no longer has any connection to the mind.

A follower of Stream Theory would assume the position that as long as the entity could remember his life's experiences or at least remember a time when he could remember more of them than at present, then he could in theory be Socrates. The flipside to this same argument would be that this person could not remember the time between his Ð''actual' death and that of his reappearance in the later century. He wouldn't be a psychologically continuous being, as there is no collection of overlapping memories that bridge the gap between times.

It could be hypothesised that Socrates has been simply Ð''copied' a small time before his physical death, and slowly a process of duplication occurred, leading to a very slow appearance of him in this century. Or the event of time travel, Socrates could simply be transported to the future, which would allow for the possibility that his existence is continuous in such a way as his experiences and memories flow coherently. Were two Socrates' to exist simultaneously it could be said that neither has any identity, for as everything they possess is identical no identity can be established. Were they both to experience different sensations and emotions they could both simultaneously gain back their (each separate being) identity in some way, as the continuity that linked the identical properties of each person is broken.

Plato's theory of the immortal soul agrees with the previous suggestion, because it argues that this problem is impossible, even if there is some kind of continuity and connectedness between them. Because the past Socrates may be exactly Ð''similar' to that of future Socrates they are not



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