Being human essay

human / mind / identity / person / self

Title: Being created human; opposed to merely animal 

It was the seventeenth-century philosophical paradigm that was mainly concentrated on separation of subject and object, as well as mind and body. Consequently, mind was perceived as a certain space to generate representations which differed from worldly objects. To this end, Descartes perceived human mind as a thinking thing, which significantly differed from other substantial things within the world existence. At that, since that time there is a serious philosophical debate over materiality and mentality, which greatly influence our existence. For instance, modern cognitive psychology attempts to reveal the evolution of the modern mind by defending the existence of discrete and objective entity, which is literally a mind. This substance can be therefore observed by us via the consequences of its functioning. (Thomas and Harrison, 2004).

Considering a person as a mental subject, John Locke claimed that consciousness predetermines personal identity (Charles, 2001). In due sense, Locke placed a difference between the so-called ‘human hood’ and ‘personhood’ based on consciousness. Thus, Locke stressed on the rationality of thinking predominantly based on consciousness.  To this end, Locke emphasizes that reflexive consciousness unifies a person over time and at a time.

To him, to understand personal identity, one should understand that consciousness is more inclusive compared to memory, and is simultaneously essential and indispensable part of thinking. In due context, Locke states that “when we see, hear, smell, taste, feel, meditate, or will any thing, we know that we do so” (as cited in Martin, 2000, p.15). Thus, Locke compares consciousness with reflexive awareness. At that Locke’s view of consciousness coincides with Descartes’ perception of ‘self-reflexive nature of consciousness’.

Further, Locke accounts for personal identity. In his reasoning, he states that every person is able to persist through change of substance. Secondly, a person should be responsible for own thoughts and deeds . At that, the main thing for a person is to remain accountable for the previous thoughts and deeds. Exactly this essential feature, according to Locke, distinguishes a person from a human. At that, persons acquire reflexive consciousness.

Therefore, Locke’s main distinction lies between humans and persons due to identity, survival and accountability reasons. At that Locke relates human and personal identity to the resurrection, which is the doctrine of Christianity. In addition, Locke’s idea of person corresponds with his perception of ‘self’. At that, he states that a person “is thinking intelligent being that has reason and reflection, and can consider it self as it self, the same thinking thing in different times and places” (as cited in Martin, 2000, p.18).

In his Treatise of Human Nature (1739). Section IV, David Hume provides his considerations regarding personal identity.  Overall, Hume states that ‘self’ or ‘person’ cannot be regarded as a single impression. Conversely, these subjects encompass various impressions and ideas. David Hume thought that most of human beliefs are not reasonable. At that, clear reasoning ability is overwhelmed by human insights and feelings. At that, Hume stated that reason cannot be accountable for happenings around us. At that, we cannot judge about a person on the basis of reason. Therefore, due to Hume’s radical thoughts, he is now known as a sceptical and anti-rationalist philosopher.

Among other philosophers the empirical approach has been most radically defended by David Hume. This has mainly predetermined the Anglo-Saxon philosophy of mind. At that, empiricists deny any independent status to the self. They particularly claim that there is no such thing as a self, neither any referent for the term I. At that, many empiricists tend to reduce the notion of ‘self’ to a series of perceptions or to some experiential by-product of one’s states of mind. Moreover, many of them deny the existence of a self and describe it as linguistic illusion. However, empiricists agree that there is no self apart from, within, or above the person.

Due to these reasons, the empiricist approach has been criticized for its sceptical consequences. If the self is mere fiction, then we are left with a catalogue of more or less typical features of the individual. However, is it possible to isolate features that can serve as absolutely certain criterion for personal identity (Glas, 2006).


The philosophical discussion about personal identity has primarily been concentrated on qualitative identity-on the qualities (features, characteristics) that are necessary and/or sufficient for calling a person a person. These qualities refer to what human beings share. To know what it is to be a person, is an issue that cannot be separated from the question about whom this question is raised. The search for criteria for personhood by analytic philosophers is executed from a third person perspective (i.e., from a perspective that describes persons as objects or as facts in the world); however, personhood is not a quality or feature belonging to a neutral bearer or owner of that quality or feature. In human beings the relationship between owner and feature is itself a defining feature.

A person is a neutral bearer of functions, roles, attitudes, and inclinations. The person relates to these functions and roles in an instrumental way. At that, self-knowledge is gained in a subject-object relationship in which the person occupies the position of subject, and the functions and roles occupy the position of object. Current theorizing, for instance, in cognitive-behavioural theory underscores this instrumental view, which itself is part of a much larger, technical worldview (Glas, 2006).



Glas, G. (2006). PERSON, PERSONALITY, SELF, AND IDENTITY: A PHILOSOPHICALLY INFORMED CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS. Journal of Personality Disorders. New York: Vol. 20, Iss. 2; pg. 126, 13 pgs

Martin, R. (2000). Locke's psychology of personal identity Journal of the History of Philosophy. Baltimore: Vol. 38, Iss. 1; pg. 41, 21 pgs

Thomas, J., Harrison, R. (2004) Archaeology's Place in Modernity/Archaeology on Trial: Response to Julian Thomas. Modernism/Modernity. Baltimore: Jan 2004. Vol. 11, Iss. 1; pg. 17, 20 pgs


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