Concerning personal identity my position is similar to that of John Locke. I reject the idea that my personal identity is tied to my soul, as Cartesian theory suggested. I also do not believe that my personal identity is tied to my body. It seems more plausible to me that my personal identity is tethered to my memories because I am a culmination of my experiences. What I have endured, learned, and observed have made me into the person typing this. Memories are what have created my personal identity.
My position on the mind and body problem, or that of dualism and monism, is conflicted. I see reason on both sides. Dualism’s side consists of Cartesian duality, or the matter and the mind. Monism’s side consists of idealism, physicalism, and neutral monism. The three are meant to divide the matter, the mind, and the consciousness. If I believed in Cartesian theory, and souls, I would be inclined to sway toward Aristotle’s view on this matter. He believed that the mind was a perfectly natural vessel of the brain, neither separate nor joined (16). Essentially he did not know if they were connected or not, he just did not see the point in asking because to him the relationship was not as complicated as everybody else made it out to be. However, I do not believe in souls so my personal view is more like that of philosopher John Searle. Searle believed that the mind is a natural part of the brain, rather than the soul (78). There is no connection or disconnection for Searle, or myself; the mind and brain simply are.
I am again like John Locke when it comes to the possibility of immorality. I firmly believe in Locke’s creed of tabula rasa. We are all blank slates in the beginning and we can be taught immorality as well as learn what is immoral. This is both negative and positive. It is negative because if the wrong people are charged with our care we can be taught the incorrect moral values and grow up inherently immoral. The idea of tabula rasa is positive even in this case though because it assures that if we adopt incorrect morals we can also reject them and adopt new ones. We can decide what goes on our blank slate and what gets erased.
My position on free will relies on science more than philosophy. Newton’s predetermination principle at one point had the world thinking that everything was preordained until Heisenberg introduced Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. The universe is indeed a giant clock and many things are predetermined but there are still certain things, like the position of an electron, which cannot be determined exactly by anybody. This suggests that nothing is preordained down to an exact science, not even science (25). If something as small and seemingly insignificant as an electron has free will then I believe I must as well.
Moral responsibility and punishment is a difficult subject. I survey moral inconsistencies in my own judgment every day, making it difficult to rely on my position. I know these inconsistencies are common but they do not inspire trust in myself. That being said I believe moral responsibility is most important when the health and wellbeing of yourself or others are at risk. We all have a moral obligation to one another under specific circumstances and that responsibility comes with trying to protect one another. Should we, however, be punished if we are forced to acted against these responsibilities? For example, a soldier goes against his moral responsibility to protect civilians by firing when a commanding officer directs him to do so. Several people die. Should he be punished, even though his commanding officer told him to do so? My answer to that is yes. The moral responsibility we have to each other is greater than any promise we make to serve others.
With technology advancing as it is I believe that artificial intelligence will one day be qualitatively similar to human intelligence. I do not see any harm in this, philosophically or otherwise, and never have. I understand Hollywood’s tendency to dramatize the idea of a hostile robot takeover or an unnaturally humanlike robot that makes actual humans uncomfortable but this is not how I see it. Artificial intelligence, qualitatively similar to that of human intelligence would be unnatural not only to a degree. Humans created the chips inputting the intelligence and humans will have decided what they know, what they do not know and whether or not they are able to formulate their own ideas and opinions. Philosophically, it still seems that a human mind is at work. It will just be in a different vessel. Because I believe that memories are what create my personal identity, I do not care about what vessel the brain is housed in, only what it thinks about and how it reacts.
Chalmers, David J. Philosophy of the Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. New York: Pearson, 2002. Print.
Colman, John. John Locke's Moral Philosophy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1983. Print.
Nimbalkar, Nambita. "John Locke on Personal Identity." Mens Sans Monograph (2011): 268-275.
Rockwell, Teed. Neither Brain nor Ghost: A Non-Dualist Alternative to the Mind-Brain Identity Theory. MIT Press, n.d.
Sutherlan, Keith. The Volitional Brain: Towards a Neuroscience of Free Will. Portland: Imprint Academic, 2000. Print.