Philosophy of 'Self' (2) - Are you the same person as your younger self?

Remember the story of Dorian Gray? The immortal who had an old painting in his attic? If not, let me refresh your memory.

Dorian Gray is a fictional character created by Oscar Wilde, in his story fittingly named

...Dorian Gray.

Gray is a self indulged character that decides to sell his soul for an eternal life of youth. In exchange, he keeps in his attic a portrait that ages, instead of him.

The relevance of this post to this story is simple. Dorian Gray does not suffer from the effects of ageing, so he LOOKS and acts without any affects ageing has on a SUPERFICIAL level. Please bear this in mind for a short while whilst we compare this with the more mortal version of 'self', i.e the human race.

So, it is inevitable that over time our faces will become less firm, our skin tone will dull, our hair will thin and our physiques will start to change ... sorry if that is depressing, but we cannot get away from ageing - we know from history and observation that we cannot escape it like Dorian Grey did. Unless you believe you can sell your soul to the devil. (I will touch on this, briefly, later)

Assuming we cannot defeat the affects of ageing, are we the same person if we look the same as we did 20/30 years ago say?

There maybe some scenario's that suggest we are not (on a superficial level) the same person. In this instance we are looking at 'self' on a physical make up- a forensic make up of matter. Take a model for example. What you may have done in a modelling career 20 years ago, would have changed due to what the recruiters are looking for in the appearance. Outwardly, we are no way the same person, but inwardly may be different story.

Now lets take a look at how the body in his material, physical form can mean we are same person as we were 20 years ago.

We have all watched crime productions where the murderer gets sloppy, leaves their DNA lying around and the intelligent cops catch them and lock them up for a long time with their evidence. Doesn't matter if that crime happened 20 years ago or one year ago ... if that DNA matches, the crime is done by that SAME person. Right?

Well, maybe there is another side where we flip the tables a little. Remember my last post about 'Do you have a soul?' If not, you could read it here:

Do we have a soul?

Basically I touched briefly on the idea the 'self' could be identified in different ways.

For this next bit, I would like you to consider how our 'self' is made up of an 'inner self', something immaterial. The psychology, if you like.

Here are some examples of how the 'self' may change on an immaterial basis using the theories of dual personalities like Sigmund Freud used. I don't mean multiple personalities here, I mean in the philosophical sense that our 'self' is made up of hidden memories and thoughts - obviously that is the short version, but you get my drift.

Are we the same person if:

  • We are intoxicated

  • We have dementia/brain injury or other neurological condition

If this is the case ... would it be considered that you were the same person if the above was now reality? How should, or does this affect any action you take in that persona? Guilty of a crime or battling a moral dilemma for example.

So far we have compared two different perspectives, but what about if we add another to the mix ? What if we had a floating soul that makes up our self? A soul that can transfer through to an afterlife that does not need a body to exist . Would this mean our 'self' is the same person in the following situations?

  • A past life (Karma?)

  • A hideous crime (an act of the devil?)

If you are interested in this theory then do check out philosopher John Locke.

Finally there is one more I would like you consider. If you have read my last blog, the one I pointed out above, you will see I have taken on three different perspectives on the 'self', one being a perspective from David Hume, an 18th/19th century philosopher.

I would like to add a little about David Hume's perspective. I am fascinated about his theories because they are so different and so thought provoking.

His view would be that an unchanging immaterial soul, a substance as described by philosopher John Locke , is not credible due to it being based on a false premise- I.e, does god even exist? There is no 'self' in Hume's mind as he believed that we are bundle of experiences and impressions (again please see last post). So, no real example to be had here, other than it may well be irrelevant ... as the self does not really exist!


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About me - I'm Sarah, I am a self-published author, copywriter and colour therapist. I am also in my final studies of a creative writing & philosophy.

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