An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Of Identity And Diversity

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Among Locke’s other writings, his correspondence with Molyneux (Locke 1976–1989, Volumes 4 and 5) provides helpful insight into the composition of II.xxvii.

Additionally, some parts of Locke’s correspondence with Edward Stillingfleet help to clarify Locke’s views (Locke 1824, Volume 3).

In the 20th century, psychological accounts of personal identity were often called neo-Lockean theories.

It is controversial whether neo-Lockean theories differ from Locke’s own theory, and it can be asked whether the moral and religious dimension of Locke’s theory constitutes an important difference.

The chapter can be divided into two parts: in the first he outlines his general account of identity, and in the second he applies his general account of identity to persons and personal identity.

The discussion of Locke’s general account of identity in the secondary literature has focused on whether Locke’s account of identity can be regarded as a version of the thesis that identity is relative and on how Locke understands modes and substances in chapter 27.

This entry aims to first get clear on the basics of Locke’s position, when it comes to persons and personal identity, before turning to areas of the text that continue to be debated by historians of philosophy working to make sense of Locke’s picture of persons today.

It then canvases how Locke’s discussion of persons was received by his contemporaries, and concludes by briefly addressing how those working in metaphysics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have responded to Locke’s view—giving the reader a glimpse of Locke’s lasting impact and influence on the debate over personal identity. The discussion of persons and their persistence conditions also features prominently in Locke’s lengthy exchange with Edward Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester (1697–1699).

The flip side of the principle of individuation is what we might call the principle of identity, a criterion that two things meet just in case they are not two things at all but are, in fact, one.

Imagine, for instance, that you are looking at a picture, taken some years ago, of a baby, and you are wondering if it is a picture of you.


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