Comparing Thomas Reid and David Hume on the topic of the mind-body problem

Essay by ateyfourCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2003

download word file, 3 pages 5.0 1 reviews

Downloaded 94 times

Is there an "I", or a "self"? What exactly does this "self" refer to? These are questions raised by personal identity that many philosophers have attempted to answer. Most people would probably believe that they have a self, but there are people and philosophers that think differently. One such philosopher opposed to the idea of a self is David Hume. On the other side of the argument, Thomas Reid, another philosopher, believed that there is something called the self. According to his argument, we are able to accept that there is a permanent self through the phenomenon of memory.

Thomas Reid was a "common sense" philosopher. He looked at personal identity on a very simple level, and believed that he must have a self because he can remember; he has a memory. To Reid, memory was a notion of a subject. He said:

I remember that twenty years ago, I conversed with such a person; I remember several things that passed in that conversation; my memory testifies not only that this was done, but that it was done by me who now remember it.

If it was done by me, I must have existed at that time, and continued to exist from that time to the present.(240)

The key to identity is the relationship between something existing now and something that did exist in the past. Identity is the "uninterrupted continuance of existence". The person, Reid argued, is indivisible; it cannot be broken down into parts. If someone were to steal someone's car, or cut off an arm, that person's self would not be altered. He or she would still be the same person, with the same personality. Therefore, with his positions of identity and the person, personal identity is "the continued existence of the indivisible thing which...