Copyright © 2011 by Princeton University Press Published by Princeton University Press, 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540 In the United Kingdom: Princeton University Press, 6 Oxford Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1TW press.princeton.edu All Rights Reserved Revised edition, and first paperback printing, 2014 Paperback ISBN 978-0-691-16100-6 Library of Congress Control Number 2013957469 British Library Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available This book has been composed in Janson Printed on acid-free paper. ∞ Printed in the United States of America 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 Strawson_Locke on Personal Identity_N.indb 4 1/16/14 9:18 AM.
Contents Preface xi Chapter 1 Introduction 1 Chapter 2 “Person” 5 Chapter 3 “Person . . . is a forensic term” 17 Chapter 4 Concernment 22 Chapter 5 Consciousness 30 Chapter 6 “Consciousness . . . is inseparable from thinking” 42 Strawson_Locke on Personal Identity_N.indb 7 1/16/14 9:18 AM.
Preface This book began as a paper in the autumn of 1994, when I reread Locke’s discussion of personal identity in book 2, chapter 27 (2.27) of his Essay concerning Human Understand- ing, three hundred years after its first publication in 1694, and realized that I’d been misrepresenting him in tutorials at Oxford for fifteen years. I should have inferred this from the fact that Michael Ayers’s chapter on personal identity in volume 2 of his book Locke (1991) had a year earlier seemed bizarrely peripheral to the subject I thought I knew and in any case taught. Reading Ayers is one of the things that sent me back to Locke’s text—for better or for worse.
Chapter One Introduction It’s widely held that Locke’s account of personal identity, first published in 1694, is circular and inconsistent, and bla- tantly so. Locke, however, thought long and hard about the matter.1 He discussed it extensively with friends and col- leagues, and was a profoundly intelligent, generally very careful, and exceptionally sensible philosopher. He made no foolish error.
Chapter Two “Person” The word “person” has a double use, both now and in the seventeenth century. In its most common everyday use, to- day as in the seventeenth century, it simply denotes a human being considered as a whole, a person , as I will say. Its next 1 most common everyday use, which I will call the person use, 2 is the one that allows us to say, of a single human being, “She’s not the same person anymore,” or “He’s become a completely different person.” When Henry James writes, of one of his early novels, “I think of . . . the masterpiece in question . . . as the work of quite another person than myself . . . a rich . . . relation, say, who . . . suffers me still to claim a shy fourth cousinship,”1 he knows perfectly well that he’s the same human being (person ) as the author of that book, but 1 he doesn’t feel he’s the same person as the author of that 2 book, and we all know what he means, even though the no- tion of a person is not a precise one. James is using the word 2 “person” in the familiar way that allows one to distinguish 1 1915: 562–63. Typing “I am (I’m) not the same person” into an Inter- net search engine produces thousands of examples of this usage.
Chapter Three “Person . . . is a forensic term” The word “person” contains considerable opportunities for confusion, as we have seen. But help is not far to seek. Udo Thiel makes a crucial point when he notes the sense in which “person” is indeed a property term, a term for a moral quality, in Locke’s text. Throughout the seventeenth century, he says, “person” most commonly referred to an individual human being: it was simply a term for the individual human self. But in some philosophical discussions “person” referred to a particular aspect, quality, or function of the individual human being.
Chapter Four Concernment If we look for a thing-denoting term that corresponds to “Person,” it looks as if we need something like “unit of ac- countability.” A Person is a unit of accountability. A unit of accountability is always a subject of experience, and we natu- rally think of the subject of experience alone as the thing that is accountable. Strictly speaking, though, the subject of experience [S] consists only of [M] ± [I], at any given time, and we don’t have a full, actual unit of accountability, a Per- son, until we add on [A].
Chapter Five Consciousness The only things of which one can be Conscious are [M] one’s own body, [I] one’s immaterial soul (if any), and [A] one’s actions and experiences (including one’s thoughts in the narrower cognitive sense). So these, presumably, are what wholly constitute one as a Person, in Locke’s view, at any given time, as remarked on pages 14–15: [P] = [M] ± [I] + [A]. If the notion of a Person were a wholly or merely moral notion, one would expect the being or extent of oneself as Person to be identical to the being or extent of one’s field of responsibility. In fact, though, the notion of oneself as Person also includes one’s substantial makeup, material and/or immaterial.