International Conference on Persons edition:10th location:Nottingham date:3-7 aug 2009
Traditionally, the question of how a person can be a unity throughout his life was answered by referring to the objective realm: the cartesian soul guaranteed our personal unity. But for Locke, the soul was considered irrelevant to the real question of personal identity, which was: how can I know that I am the same person throughout my life? For Locke that question was not answerable from an objective point of view, but only by a 'person', which for Locke meant as much as 'consciousness' or the first-person perspective. For Locke, I am the same 'person', as long as I have the same consciousness.
But how exactly should we understand this 'person'? No longer tied to the objective realm, does this mean that the term 'person' is totally autonomous? This is indeed what Locke's account sometimes seems to suggest. Inspired by these suggestions, people like Hume and eventually Parfit followed these very same lines of thought. By showing that these accounts in the end always entangle themselves in a version of Butler's circularity-objection, I will demonstrate that 'person' can never stand on its own but is always tied and interwoven, not with the objective realm, but with the third-person perspective - or what Locke calls 'man'. Finally I will give two reasons why Locke thought it was important to disconnect 'person' and 'man'.