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Values and Personal Identity - Do my commitments make me who I am?

There are various ways of forming responses to questions about what a person is.

Perhaps the most common is to understand a person as a kind of object - a thing or community of things. This approach is compatible with naturalistic (persons as animals, or as emergent from material) and less-naturalistic (persons as immaterial souls or streams of consciousness) conclusions.

As many philosophers have pointed out, however, modeling persons on objects can run into a conceptual brick wall - that persons are primarily subjects. What could this possibly mean, if a subject is not to be just one more object? It seems very difficult to regard myself strictly from my own first-person standpoint, without accepting alongside it the existence of second- and third-person standpoints on me.

In addition to wandering within and among these familiar avenues, we will take some time tonight on a third proposal: that persons are best understood neither as objects nor as subjects, but rather as foci of activity. To persons belongs a special way of being active - the way that involves pursuit of goals, and respect for various evaluative standards (models, reasons, criteria) that govern intelligibility and decision.

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  • David J.

    I have to work

    February 20, 2014

  • Jack

    Don't object to subjects being objects or subjecting objects to subjectivity.

    1 · February 20, 2014

    • eric

      Without objecting...while alive... what would it be like if the process of identifying subjects and/or objects came to a full stop? What then of (the search for) truth, beauty and goodness? What then of 'I am'?

      1 · February 20, 2014

    • Ann

      In essence, the product is the actual process.

      1 · February 20, 2014

  • Brian

    The substratum of man, as political animal, is the regime. Who we are, in terms of the judgments we issue and how we (self) legislate, depends on what preserves us as 'regime' .. and whether what we want in fact preserves us.

    February 19, 2014

    • Brian

      Aristotle says when we successfully enact regime change, a new polis is essentially created. In other words, if we change our fundamental spirit and character we can become a new man.

      February 19, 2014

  • eric

    A modicum of introspection reveals that all 'I am' is a felt locus of sensations within a mnemonic waste dump of (non)intentional attentions. There is no and there never was any caterpillar essence that remains via autolysis.

    Here is a cool paper on transforming the substance view into a relational view.

    May all beings re-cognize their butterfly essencelessness. A deep bow to the kindness of Zhuangzi.


    1 · February 16, 2014

  • Brian

    I'd say some, but not all, commitments determine what kind of person we are. Being principally driven by power is not the same as loving Star Trek.

    1 · February 12, 2014

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