Sidor som bilder


the sameness of a rational being. The question then is, whether the same rational being is the same substance; which needs no answer, because being and substance, in this place, stand for the same idea. The ground of the doubt, whether the same person be the same substance, is said to be this : that the consciousness of our own existence, in youth and in old age, or in any two joint successive moments, is not the same individual action, + i. e. not the same consciousness, but different successive consciousnesses. Now it is strange that this should have occasioned such perplexities. For it is surely conceivable, that a person may have a capacity of knowing some object or other to be the same now, which it was when he contemplated it formerly; yet in this case, where, by the supposition, the object is perceived to be the same, the perception of it in any two moments cannot be one and the same perception. And thus, though the successive consciousnesses which we have of our own existence are not the same, yet are they consciousnesses of one and the same thing or object; of the same person, self, or living agent. The person, of whose existence the consciousness is felt now, and was felt an hour or a year ago, is discerned to be, not two persons, but one and the same person ; and therefore is one and the same.

Mr Locke's observations upon this subject appear hasty; and he seems to profess himself dissatisfied with suppositions, which he has made relating to it. I But some of those hasty observations have been carried to a strange length by others; whose notion, when traced and examined to the bottom, amounts, I think, to this: “ That personality is not a permanent, but a transient thing : that it lives and dies, begins and ends, continually: that no one can any more remain one and the same person two moments together, than two successive moments can be one and the same moment: that our substance is indeed continually changing ; but whether this be so or not, is, it seems, nothing to the purpose ; since it is not substance, but consciousness alone, which constitutes personality; which consciousness, being successive, cannot be the same. in any two moments, nor consequently the personality constituted by it." And from hence it must follow, that it is a fallacy upon ourselves, to charge our present selves with any thing we did, or to imagine our present selves interested in any thing which befell us yesterday, or that our present self will be interested in what will befall us to-morrow; since our present self is not, in reality, the same with the self of yesterday, but another like self or person coming in its room, and mistaken for it; to which another self will succeed to-morrow. This, I say, must follow: for if the self or person of to-day; and that of to-morrow, are not the same, but only like

* Locke's Works, vol. i. p. 146. + Locke, p. 146, 147

# Locke, p. 152. ☆ See an answer to Dr Clarke's third defence of his letter to Mr Dodwell, 2d edit. p. 44, 56, &c.


the person of to-day is really no more interested in what will befall the person of to-morrow, than in what will befall any other person. It may be thought, perhaps, that this is not a just representation of the opinion we are speaking of; because those who maintain it allow, that a person is the same as far back as his remembrance reaches. And, indeed, they do use the words, identity and same person. Nor will language permit these words to be laid aside : since if they were, there must be, I know not what, ridiculous periphrasis substituted in the room of them. But they cannot, consistently with themiselves, mean, that the person is really the same. For it is self-evident, that the personality cannot be really the same, if, as they expressly assert, that in which it consists is not the same. And as, consistently with themselves, they cannot, so, I think, it appears they do not, mean, that the person is really the same, but only that he is so in a fictitious sense : in such a sense only as they assert'; for this they do assert, that any

number of persons whatever may be the same per

The bare unfolding this notion, and laying it thus naked and open, seems the best confutation of it How


ever, since great stress is said to be put upon it, I add the following things:

First, This notion is absolutely contradictory to that certain conviction, which necessarily, and every moment, rises within us, when we turn our thoughts upon ourselves; when we reflect upon what is past, and look forward upon what is to come. All imagination of a daily change of that living agent which each man calls himself, for another, or of any such change throughout our whole present life, is entirely borne down by our natural sense of things. Nor is it possible for a person in his wits to alter his conduct, with regard to his health or affairs, from a suspicion, that though he should live to-morrow, he should not, however, be the same person he is to-day. And yet, if it be reasonable to act, with respect to a future life, upon this notion, that personality is transient; it is reasonable to act upon it, with respect to the present. Here then is a notion equally applicable to religion and to our temporal concerns ; and every one sees and feels the inexpressible absurdity of it in the latter case. · If, therefore, any can take up with it in the former, this cannot proceed from the reason of the thing, but must be owing to an inward unfairness, and secret corruption of heart.

Secondly, It is not an idea, or abstract notion, or quality, but a being only, which is capable of life and action, of happiness and misery. Now all beings confessedly continue the same, during the whole time of their existence. Consider then a living being now existing, and which has existed for any time alive: this living being must have done and suffered and enjoyed, what it has done and suffered and enjoyed formerly (this living being, I say, and not another,) as really as it does and suffers and enjoys, wbat it does and suffers and enjoys this instant. All these suecessive actions, enjoyments, and sufferings, are, actions, enjoyments, and sufferings, of the same living being. And they are so, prior to all consideration of its remembering or forgetting ; since remembering or forgetting can make no alteration in the truth of past matter of facti And sup:

pose this being endued with limited powers of knowledge and memory, there is no more difficulty in conceiving it to have a power, of knowing itself to be the same living being which was some time ago, of remembering some of its actions, sufferings, and enjoyments, and forgetting others, than in conceiving it to know, or remember, or forget, any thing else.

Thirdly, Every person is conscious, that he is now the same person or self he was, as far back as his remembrance reaches: since, when any one reflects upon a past action of his own, he is just as certain of the

person who did that action, namely, himself, the person who now reflects upon it, as he is certain that the action was at all done. Nay, very often a person's assurance of an action baving been done, of which he is absolutely assured, arises wholly from the consciousnėss that he himself did it. And this he, person, or self, must either be a substance, or the property of some substance. If he, if person, be a substance; then consciousness that he is the same person, is consciousness that he is the same substance. If the person, or he, be the property of a substance; still consciousness that he is the same property, is as certain a proof that his substance remains the same, as consciousness that he remains the same substance would be : since the same property cannot be transferred from one substance to another.

But though we are thus certain that we are the same agents, living beings, or substances, now, which we were as far back as our remembrance reaches: yet it is asked, Whether we may not possibly be deceived in it? And this question may be asked at the end of


demonstration wbatever ; because it is a question concerning the truth of perception by memory. And he who can doubt, whether perception by memory can in this case be depended upon, may doubt also, whether perception by deduction and reasoning, which also include memory, or, indeed, whether intuitive perception, can. Here then we can go no farther. For it is ridiculous to-attempt to prove the truth of those perceptions, whose truth we can no otherwise prove, than by other percep

tions of exactly the same kind with them, and which there is just the same ground to suspect.; or to attempt to prove the truth of our faculties, which can no otherwise be proved, than by the use or means of those. very suspected faculties themselves.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »