Identity is what distinguishes oneself from the other. Psychological-based theories by
John Locke and soul-based theories by Rene Descartes are identical concepts that demonstrate
identity. The concepts are based on substances such as finite intelligence, bodies, and God.
Consciousness is the awareness of the thought or memory and is the property of thought.
Depending on the theory, personal identity is equatable to the body, mind, and soul. Personal
identity is concerned with philosophical issues resulting from our being a man and is based on
John Lock developed the psychological-based theory suggesting that similar individuals
can exist at different times. Locke defined personal identity as "Considering anything existing at
any determined time and place, we compare it with itself existing at another time and thereon
form the idea of identity and diversity" (Locke par.1). Rene Descartes had a different view on
identity as he perceived thinking to reflect on oneself and understand the behavior's impact on
oneself. The soul-based theory illustrated by Descartes also affirms the presence of a
supernatural being who grants identity through the mind, and he quoted, 'I think therefore I am.'
Lock and Descartes illustrate two distinct concepts to describe the personal self and
The psychological-based theory is found neither in the body or the soul but in memory
and Consciousness. Lock's theory insists that the nature of self is transitive over time only
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through remembrance. Locke argues that bodily continuity is not sufficient for personal identity
but mental continuity (Locke par. 1). Memory determine personal identity; hence anything past
the memory is not part of the self. The continuity of memory on the passing of time identifies
The psychological theory distinguishes between person, man, and substance. The
substance is material and extended in space, according to Lock, such as the body. The person is
the consciousness, whereas the self is the memories and self-reflection. People can, therefore,
use reason and experiences to acquire external knowledge. Individuals are identical to their past
selves only if they have a memory of what they did. Human understanding and learning are
limited to experience, observation, and experimentation and begin as a 'blank slate.'
The body and the soul are separate, although the soul inhabits the body. Since persons are
thinking substances, then souls are thinking substances (Locke par. 15). The soul is an
immaterial substance that bodily motions cannot hurt. Therefore, Locke dismisses links of
personal identity to the soul and emphasizes consciousness to rule out personal identity. Locke
assumes the possibility of transferring consciousness from one soul to the other and substituting
one soul for another.
Lock's theory also asserts that Consciousness is part of personal identity. The same body
with different Consciousness over time represents different personal identity. Locke connects
Consciousness and existence when he notes, "For, it being the same consciousness that makes a
man be himself to himself, personal identity depends on that only, whether it be annexed solely
to one individual substance, or can be continued in a succession of several substances" (Locke
par. 10). Psychological-based theory implicates that one can not be held accountable for past
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misdeeds they have no memory of since it's two different people. Self-consciousness makes
similarities in identity in different situations.
If a body loses consciousness track to the point of no recovery, account for a new self at
a new period. The existence of a man is a continuous living form defined by Consciousness.
People should be rewarded and punished only for the memories they can recall (Locke par. 11).
Conscious awareness of oneself by thinking, reflecting, and reasoning identity makes self-
consciousness. Consciousness unites the identity of two selves in a person, and no person can
exist without Consciousness. Only identity of Consciousness proof the existence of the body.
Rene Descartes advocated for the soul-based theory to establish identity. According to
Descartes, ideas should be found on innate experience and reason rather than culture and
authority. Relying on senses to identify self-identity can be misleading, for instance, dreams and
optical illusions (Descartes par. 6). Perceptions are therefore not an efficient concept establish
reality. Most things perceived to exist may be dreams since there are no ultimate signs to
distinguish between sleep and awake. Descartes considers things he cannot think through as
indubitable. Wonder, love, hatred, desire, and joy are the fundamental passions identified by
Descartes. The soul-based theory insinuates that passion can be tamed through training and
guiding the mind, even in individuals with soul weakness. Descartes notes that there may be an
omnipotent evil genius who deceives and manipulate identity.
Descartes adopts the concept of 'I think therefore I am' to address the concept of
existentialism. Thinking provides solutions to the most profound problems and is proof of
existence. Descartes considers things he cannot think through as indubitable. Descartes also
assumes the presence of an omnipotent evil genius who deceives and manipulates identity
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(Descartes par. 9). Relying on independent thinking without seeking external knowledge is an
aspect of self-identity.
The body and the mind are two separate entities since the mind is a thinking non-physical
element. The mind occupies intelligence, understanding, and passion, whereas the body is a mere
shape with motion. Thinking to reflect on oneself and understanding the impact of the behavior
on oneself drives passion. Relying on independent thinking without seeking external knowledge
is an aspect of self-identity. Wonder, love, hatred, desire, and joy are the fundamental passions
identified by Descartes. The soul-based theory insinuates that passion can be tamed through
training and guiding the mind, even in individuals with soul weakness. Thinking is the only way
to prove existentialism since even doubting about thinking is thinking (Descartes par. 8). Every
self is a thinking thing, and thinking is a sign of existence.
Rene Descartes addresses the issue of Consciousness as a non-physical substance.
Consciousness is undeniable because it is reflected from within. People are aware of their
thoughts, and since thoughts drive intellect, imagination, and all body activities, people are self-
conscious. The form of thought or idea is the immediate perception that creates Consciousness of
the thought, whereas the object of thought is what the idea represents (Descartes par. 1). Any
thought, according to Descartes, is acknowledgeable to the self and represents intention. For
Descartes, Consciousness is the internal thoughts a person is aware of through reflection.
Locke's account of identity does not appear to agree with Descartes. Locke's idea of self
is a series of past memories, thinking the present and self-reflections, whereas according to
Descartes, we exist because we think. Lock believes self-identity is psychological rather than
physical, whereas Descartes support that identity is two distinct categories: body and soul
(Descartes par. 15). According to Lock, the personal self is altered by remembrance, whereas
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Descartes asserts that the thinking mind alters the body. Lock bases the idea of personal identity
on memory, while Descartes's argument focuses on thinking.
Soul-based theory and psychological-based theory have different perspectives on
Consciousness. The psychological-based theory argues that guilt is based on remembrance,
whereas the soul-based theory identifies Consciousness as an innate thought that makes an
individual guilty. In Lockes' theory, one cannot be guilty of what he cannot remember (Locke
par. 10). Descartes argues that people are aware of their thought, making them guilty all the time.
Locke's psychological-based theory has a strong point of view than Descartes's soul-
based theory. Although both Locke and Descartes describe the role of the mind to identify self-
being, Descartes' theory does not critically account for knowledge. In his view, knowledge is an
innate quality one is born with acquired from God and undergoes consequential change through
thinking. Lock evidence on altering the mind is concrete as he believes ideas are generated from
experience (Lock par. 12). Gaining ideas through learning from experiences is more accurate
than innate thinking in the process of human development.
The soul theory by Rene Descartes and psychological-based theory by John Locke define
identity and Consciousness. Locke holds that memory continuity is the record of personal
identity. At birth, the mind is blank, and learning and knowledge are imparted through
experience and reflection. Descartes argues that thinking is the evidence for existence, and one
can not exist without thinking. Knowledge and ideas are exclusively innate, linking the process
of self-alteration to just thoughts. Consciousness, according to Descartes, is a result of inner
reflection of inner thought hence undeniable. I find Locke's psychological theory more
convincing than Descartes' soul-based theory.
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"John Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding." Enlightenment: Objectivist
Descartes, René. Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy: With Selections from the
Objections and Replies. Cambridge UP, 1996.