In essay II of his “Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” John Locke provides his account of what makes a “man” the same man over time. Locke reasons that a man continues to be the same one man as long as he partakes in the same one life and the continuity of this one life over time is given by a continuity of organization. Locke also asserts that this is also true for other living entities such as plants and animals.
Firstly, Locke gives a distinction between an oak tree and a mass of matter. He says that in a mass of matter the organization is only a cohesion of particles of matter how ever they are connected. However, in an oak tree the particles of matter are distributed in a specific way that creates for a self-sustaining entity. That is, in an oak tree, the particles are arranged in such a way to create a life form that can extract nourishment from the earth, and produce leaves and bark etc. thereby perpetuating its own life. Locke then goes on to explain what makes something the same thing over time. In the case of living things, such as oak trees, the element that is important to show their continued existence, as the same entity through time, is the continuation of life. Although the oak tree changes constantly, it is still the same tree because it partakes in the same one life.
The same is true of animals: they are a single organization continuous over time. In this regard, animals are like machines. However, what makes them different is that an animal’s motivating force comes from within. In other words, the identity of animals consists in the same participation of matter in one common life. This, he says, is not unlike the case of a watch or a machine in general—the organization of matter is paramount. The difference is that in the case of living things, the source of change and growth is internal. This concept, according to Locke, applies to humans as well. It is the participation of a common life or the continuing of the same one life that makes a man the same man over time. The reason why Locke might deny that the underlying matter makes a man the same over time is because matter is always in a constant state of flux. It’s always changing and not consistent.
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Locke also argues that linking the “same man” to the “same soul” is problematic because to do so would make it possible for Seth, Ismael, Socrates, Pilate, St. Augustine, and Cesare Borgia to be the same man. He reasons that if the identity of the soul alone makes the same man and nothing of nature of matter rules out an individual spirit’s being united to different bodies then it will be possible for those men—Seth, Ismael, Socrates, etc.—who have different personalities and who have lived at extremely different time periods, to be the same man. According to Locke, this leads to a strange way of using the word ‘man’ when it is given meaning from which body and shape are excluded.
For the most part, I agree with Locke’s argument. However, I must say that I at first disagreed with him. The reason for this is because I felt that his argument was contradictory to his later argument of consciousness having an appropriating function. With his later argument, Locke contends that what defines a person is their memory or conscious. Thus, it is possible for person B to be person A if person B remembers himself as being person A. However, if person B was to commit a crime and does not recollect that he did it then person B is not responsible for the crime. According to Locke, person B would be an entirely different person from when he committed the crime and after (when he didn’t remember it).
I at first thought that this concept applied to Locke’s argument of what makes a man the same man over time as well. If this was so then his argument would have been contradictory because in the case of person B, he committed the crime and forgot about committing the crime in one lifetime. According to Locke, person B would not be the same person. However, I realized that I misinterpreted Locke’s use of the word “man.” In the context in which Locke uses the term, “man” means the body of a human, not the human himself.
Juvenile Offenders Justin Meunier Ever since the mid-nineteen eighties, juvenile crime has been on the rise. The number of crimes committed by juveniles has risen dramatically, and it will continue to rise unless some action is taken. Thus, juvenile offenders should be punished more severely to deter other teenagers from committing crimes and for the safety of all citizens. In 1986, approximately ...