I can’t really tell you who I am, but I can tell you who I’m not. I’m not you, and I’m not me; the difference however, is that I am not becoming you; I am, however, becoming me! Will I ever truly be me? I don’t think so, as long as I continue to change. Even if I exist throughout eternity as an immortal being, I believe I will still, by necessity of my being, be (in the state of becoming).
Confusing? Yep! I find the whole conversation about identity and personal identity very intriguing. It wasn’t really until I started listening to the Theology Program (TTP) from bible.org a year or so ago, that I ever really cared to think about “what is my substance”. It wasn’t until getting the books for this philosophy class that I truly understood the immense importance of answering such a question.
It’s interesting that with the question of personal identity, you can describe what you are not, easier than you can describe what you are. I am not all fire (sorry Heraclitus), I am not all water (sorry Thales), I am not all air (sorry Anaximenes), I am not a tree, I am not a bird, I am not you, I am not the professor (sorry pantheism); it seems that what I can say in substance, is that I am both earth and spirit.
I am not going to take the time to explain why I believe I am both earth and spirit, except to say that I believe the rational and empirical evidences to the existence of God are undeniable, and I believe that the rational and empirical evidences to Judeo-Christianity are also rationally and empirically undeniable. Isn’t that a huge claim? Yep! Will everyone reading this post agree with it? Nope!
However, I’m basing my belief in this on the foundation of the biblical understanding of the creation of man and woman from the bible, and throughout the whole of scriptures. I believe that Mankind (meaning both men and women) were formed out of dust, and had the breath of God breathed into them. However, I also find that an Orthodox Judeo-Christian worldview must by necessity accept that there is something much more to us than just a Spirit, and that our body (or a body) seems to be a functional requirement for existence.
Now, I still think the philosophical discussion brings great weight to the question; because the answer seems to also define how we approach other sciences like medicine and psychology (to name a few).
I would have to say that I am, most closely in my own mind, related to Descartes and Plato in believing in Dualistic Interactionism (however I equate the mind/soul as one entity and the body as the other in the dualism). I believe the conceivability argument based on Leibniz’s law is pretty solid when looking for a rational explanation of the differences, and being a rationalist, this seems to heavily influence me.
However, I also have to say, that I think there are a few problems for Dualistic Interactionism that can’t readily be explained. For example, the question of the problem of Interaction, where it is questioned how immaterial substances can interact with material substances (for example, most people can’t move objects with their thoughts, it requires same substance interaction (physical to physical to move objects)). There is also the law of the conservation of mass that presents another problem against Dualistic Interactionism. This law states that the mass of a closed system will remain constant, regardless of the processes acting inside of the system; ergo, how does a decision to act create the necessary energy to act?
Additionally, theories surrounding forms of materialism like behaviorism or the identity theory have some benefits in that we can see with modern science and psychology that physical alterations (either to the structure or the chemicals) of an individual’s brain can greatly influence who they are (at least by way of how they act, think and react to stimuli). However, even with those theories we find input stimuli doesn’t always necessitate a certain output (as behaviorists believe), and studies in science have begun to show that areas of the brain have the ability to take on different and new mental functions
So all these forms of Identity theory are very interesting and have certainly made me think, but in the end, I would say that I am becoming, who I am becoming, and yet, I will never be who I am.
Society for Neuroscience. (n.d.). Brain Reorganization. Retrieved 02 13, 2008, from Society for Neuroscience: http://www.sfn.org/index.cfm?pagename=brainBriefings_brainReorganization