Rene Descartes And David Hume: The Problem Of Personal Identity

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The problem of personal identity lives with us everyday but we seldom gave it much importance. It deals with philosophical questions regarding our existence and our ‘self’ such as “Who am I?” or “Where do I come from?” Normally, one would rarely pause during the day to contemplate on the meaning of these questions and try to answer them. Unlike us, philosophers consider that such questions are crucial to our existence and strive to answer them in order to give a true meaning to our lives. Some philosophers like John Locke, René Descartes and David Hume developed theories regarding personal identity to answer the questions asked above, and one answer stated by a British philosopher named Richard Swinburne included: “We are partless immaterial substances—souls—or compound things made up of an immaterial soul and a material body.”(Swinburne, R., 1984, ‘Personal Identity: The Dualist Theory’: 21) Rene Descartes, as well, answers in a very similar manner by establishing his dualistic theory, also known as the mind/body dualism, which states that a human being is composed of two entities, namely a body and a mind. He further developed his theory to demonstrate that one’s personal identity is only found in the immaterial part of the human being – the mind, which can also be referred to as the soul. Descartes made a huge contribution to answer the questions asked above and was able to bring meaning into some people’s lives by telling them where to look for their true selves.

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