Crash Course Philosophy is brought to you
by Squarespace. Squarespace: share your passion with the world. Who is The Doctor? Is it this guy?
Or this one? How about him? As any good Whovian knows, the answer is yes,
all of them. But, also, wait: No. In the show Doctor Who, each incarnation of
The Doctor has a completely different body, different mannerisms, likes and dislikes and,
to some extent, memories. So… how are they all The Doctor? Science fiction is great at giving us scenarios to grapple with that seem far-out and only barely possible. But when you think about it, the issue of Who is Who isn’t that much more clear-cut in real life. The fact is, you can take the same questions I asked about The Doctor, and ask them about anyone. Like…me. I mean, are these people any more similar
to each other…than these people? [Theme Music] Last time, we talked about identity – or basically, what makes an object the same over time. And the concept can get more complex when we talk about our own identity, or the identity of others. When talking about ships or trees, we might be willing to say yeah, ok, that’s just not the same thing it used to be. But when we’re talking about, say, me! I have the strong belief that I’m the same person that mom and dad brought home from the hospital back in 1980. I’m that same kid that cut his hand open
on that broken flower pot – I have the scar to prove it! And there’s some guy in the future who’s still going to be me, even though he’ll be all stooped over, and wrinkled, and gray.
At least, I hope. And you probably think of yourself in the same way – that you’ll keep being the same person, from birth to death. But, you could argue
– and some have – that the only thing that really remains constant
about you your whole life is your name. And for some of us, even that changes! Philosophers have struggled with the issue
of personal identity for a long time, trying to find that special something – that
essential property – that makes you you, the thing that preserves
your identity through time, and through all the changes that come with
it. Let’s take a look at some of ideas they’ve
come up with. First there’s the Body Theory. This is sort of the default position that
most people have – and the assumption that Doctor Who messes
with so badly. It says that personal identity persists over time because you remain in the same body from birth to death. Now, in a sense, that’s true – I don’t know anybody outside of, like, Freaky Friday that’s had a body transplant. But, it’s not like you consist of all of the same, identical stuff that you had when you were born. You’ve sloughed off and replaced your outer
layer of skin, for example, hundreds of times so far. Your red blood cells only live about 4 months
before they’re cycled out. Even your skeleton is constantly being remodeled. So, kind of like the Doctor – or the Ship
of Theseus – you’re constantly being replaced by new
physical versions of yourself. And if you are your body, then how much of
you can change until you become a new you? Can you get a haircut? What if you lose or
gain a lot of weight? Or grow a beard? Or put John Travolta’s
face on your face? Let’s go over to the Thought Bubble and explore the ideas of our bodies, and ourselves, with some Flash Philosophy! 20th century English moral philosopher Bernard
Williams proposed a thought experiment, to make us consider where we think our personal
identity resides. It goes something like this:
You and I have been kidnapped by a mad scientist. He tells us that, tomorrow morning, he’s
going to transfer all of your mental content – all of your beliefs, memories, personality,
everything – into my brain. And then he’s gonna move all of my mental
content into your brain. Presumably, this is how he earned the title
of mad scientist. But he also tells us that, after the procedure
is complete – and your mental content is in this body,
and my mental content is in yours – he’ll give one of the bodies a million dollars,
and the other body will be tortured. And he’s decided to let you pick which body
gets the torture and which one gets the cash. What do you decide? Your answer should give you a clue about where you think your identity lies. Thanks, Thought Bubble! Now our friend John Locke didn’t cotton to the idea that the most essential aspect of a person is her body. For Locke, the thing that makes you you is
the non-physical stuff – your consciousness. But Locke recognized that we don’t maintain a single consciousness over the course of our entire lives. We go to sleep every day, but, when we wake up, our conscious selves remember who we were the day before. So Locke posited a Memory Theory of personal
identity. He believed that your identity persists over time, because you retain memories of yourself at different points, and each of those memories is connected to
one before it. Now, we don’t remember every single moment – I mean, do you remember what you ate for lunch last Tuesday? But you can probably remember a time when you did remember that – like, say, last Tuesday afternoon. And if you can remember that version of yourself, then you’re still connected to the Tuesday-at-lunch
person, through a chain of memory. And this process can take us back a lot farther
than last Tuesday. Locke said that if you can remember back to
your first day of kindergarten, you maintain a memory link to that person. Sure, your Mom also remembers that day, but
no one remembers it from the inside – the butterflies in your stomach; the way your new shoes felt stiff after a summer of running barefoot. That’s your memory, and since it’s yours, you must be the same person who experienced that memory. The memory theory actually makes a lot of sense, but it’s got some problems of its own. First off, no one remembers being born. Now that’s not a bad thing, really – I mean, I imagine none of us would really want to recall that particular experience – or the couple of years that we spent after
that, pooping in our pants. But, if personal identity requires a memory, then none of us became who we are until our first memory, which means we all lost at least a couple
years at the beginning. What’s more,
if you’re committed to this view, you have to accept that people stop being
the same person if they lose their memories. So, say a person begins to suffer from dementia. Once he’s lost the ability to remember his
past, does he stop being that person? So the memory theory presents problems for
both the beginnings and ends of life, but there’s also the issue of false memories. Memory, after all, is notoriously tricky. We know that a group of eyewitnesses are likely
to recount the same event very differently. So, how do we know that the memories we have
are accurate? And if they’re not – if things didn’t
actually happen the way you remember – then how do those faulty memories influence
your identity? Do they make you a partially fictional person? So, at first, Locke’s theory seems to have
some advantages over the Body Theory, because consciousness and memory persist through
your body’s physical changes. But, after just a little interrogation, you
find that memory is pretty tenuous too. Now, here’s the sixty-four-thousand-Altairian-dollar
question: Does any of this really matter? Like, who cares if there’s a you that persists
from your birth to your death? Maybe all you feel like you need to know is that your self has to go to work and pay bills, and that’s plenty. But the matter of personal identity isn’t
just a conceptual puzzle. It’s also deeply important when you’re
thinking about how you should live your life. For example, do you believe that you have
obligations to particular people in your life? Well, if those people don’t persist as distinct identities, then your obligations might not either. And the same goes for how people think about
you. Your boss only has to give you the raise she
promised you, if each of you remains the same person you
were when she made the promise. In fact, if next Friday, you’re not the same person anymore, she doesn’t even have to pay you! The fact is, we’ve all built our lives and
our society on the expectations that individuals will continue to be who they are, unchanged – and those people expect the same thing out of you. So now you can see…this really is your problem.
You expect a paycheck. You expect people to keep their promises. But as we learned back with Clifford and James
and epistemic responsibility, you don’t just get to believe things without
reasons. So if you think you deserve that paycheck,
you need to figure out why. Today we talked about personal identity. We considered the two main answers people give to the question of where your identity lies – in your body, or in the connected memories
of your consciousness. We found some pretty significant problems
with each of them, and then we talked about why the persistence of identity is actually something you should care about! Next time, we’ll return to this issue, to talk about whether you really need the idea of a “you” that persists over time. If you still exist then, I hope you join me. This episode of Crash Course Philosophy is
made possible by Squarespace. Squarespace is a way to build a website, blog
or online store for you and your ideas. Squarespace features a user-friendly interface,
custom templates and 24/7 customer support. Try Squarespace at
for a special offer. Squarespace: share your passion with the world. Crash Course Philosophy is produced in association
with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel and check out a playlist of the latest episodes from shows like Coma Niddy, Deep Look,
and First Person. This episode of Crash Course was filmed in
the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio with the help of these awesome people and our equally fantastic graphics team is Thought Cafe.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. We all are different from when we were born because our personality and minds change when we encounter and experience new things. So we are changing rather consistently and sometimes in small ways in others more radical ways.

  2. I believe that you are your memories, and the fact that those memories are not accurate is not even relevant. And yes my dad is still walking around but he died a couple of years ago.


  4. Is there a realm of thought where we only exist from moment to moment? Or is that some way of just accepting ignorance and not asking questions because if you only last a moment what does it matter? I'm not talking physically existing more like the things which make you, you are constantly evaluating each other voting in and out others to try and make a more perfect island even if it is only perfect to the inhabitants of the island. You are who you are in this moment and if in the next you are a cowboy then you are a cowboy because that's all there is to it. Every possible adjective was or is at one point not applicable to us and we may have adopted it suddenly or graydally but by doing so we changed who we are. The universe wasn't always this big at one point it was small and Mother Theresa was just Theresa at one point. In the moments we are deciding who we are in terms of our human limits we can't become an earthquake or a supernova now but maybe one day we will become part of a plate tetonic and a star. I suppose I'm offering a subjective perspective but who knows what I'll think when I press COMMENT maybe I'll change and see a concrete world becoming a new person only a shadow of my former self.

  5. Pay check is given to a action/activity and not to a specific human … it's an reward mechanism keep motivation on… Your boss gives you bonus for extra effort …he is not giving you any reward… If someone else acted in similar way…he would reward them too … At least in Ideal world … I know there are biases and people discriminate upon their prejudices … But it's entirely different thing ….

    And what you feel and what you do can be entirely different things… You can go against your nature … against your identity …if time forces to be…the best example is not so strong but none the less an alliance between racially superior white Hitler and dark coloured Japanese … I am sure that Hitler felt that he was working against himself… but none the less he did… because he saw no other options

  6. Time for more Asian philosophy!
    Buddhism rejects the idea of a self for two primary reasons: the first is that everything is both constantly changing and dependant on everything else and thus empty of any sort of "sef-ness". We can look at a tree and we can think of it as an independent tree, it it easily definable from other trees, but with closer understanding we see that it comes from the tree that dropped the dead that grew, and that earlier tree also had and even earlier tree from which it came, and also had the conditions of water, fertile soil, sunlight, and anything else that helped it become the tree we see. But to say that this tree is an independent entity would be to ignore all of the above, and isnt realistic. The same is true for people. We have DNA that, while unique, does not come out of nowhere, as well as thoughts, preconceptions, and preferences that are developed by those around us and our personal experiences. If you have a father, or don't have a father, you are shaped by that, and without that influence you wouldn't be you. So it appears that a self independent from anything else is merely a mental construction that helps us live our everyday lives. But these influences change over time, and would leave you utterly unrecognizable to your past self, as well as a current inability to recognize the future version of yourself. We can all agree that we are not exactly the same person as we were when we had our first memories, there's simply too little in common, but Buddhism takes it a bit further and asks how long in the past are we the same person we are now? 10 years? 5? One year? Six months? One? A week? Yesterday? When we woke up? A second ago? There is no easy answer to this, as every moment we exist we are influenced by litterlally infinite amounts of new conditions, our bodies never stop changing, we receive new information constantly, and we form opinions based on temporary feelings and long held, but subtly changing beliefs.
    The second reason Buddhists reject the self is that there is no clear locus of control, nothing to point to a "soul" that is independently "us" for the duration of our lives. They require that the soul is something that is fundamentally you, and thus has to be in charge all the time. It's not our body, which many would easily agree with, it's not our feelings, not our memories, not our consciousness, because as was said in the video, there are periods where we are unconscious. Since there's nothing that is identifiably "us" that is always in control there is no self, according to Buddhist philosophy.

  7. You don’t have to remember when you were 4, just have to remember a time where you remembered a time where you remembered.
    If you only have a weeks worth of memory you have a continuity as long as you have some memory for some time as last week is connected to the previous

  8. I would argue that any sense of identity changes constantly. All you can be is the sum of your parts, and due to different addends are introduced with every passing moment, your sum is changing. If you are your sum which is changing, then your identity is constantly changing. So it is pointless to try to have identity, rather accept your nothingness

  9. I would say a personal identity is a collective mind of ones experiences and expertise, what makes a person themselves and what identifies them as who they are is their actions and reactions throughout their lives, it's not all the memories of the past, it's the valuable memories, the ones that had us act upon them.

  10. i’d really like someone to argue with me on another theory, i believe that the body and memory theory all are thinking about it too hard. i believe that identity resides in perception. i am myself because i think i am myself, and everyone else believes i am myself. the ship of theseus is the ship of theseus because i retain the idea that it is. identity is not a physical thing and you’re never going to come up with an infallible theory about the physical essence of an identity. identity is a cognitive phenomenon, and cannot be explained within the constraints of any noumenon

  11. My solution to the puzzle: I offer to Hank to take the torture in his body in exchange for half of the money.

    My logical argument I use to persuade him is this:
    Since my mind is the younger of the two, it is probably the most resistant to torture. The downside is that Hank's body is probably the least resistant to torture, however, it is the lesser of two evils, since living with long-term mental trauma can be argued to be worse than living with long-term physical trauma. And my mind stands the biggest chance of escaping torture with minimal mental trauma.

    But Hank asks, why do you get half the money, shouldn't you get it all since you're taking the torture?

    I say no, because, yes it is my mind experiencing the torture, but it's also Hank's body that's suffering the physical duress and strain of the torture.

    Therefore if we're switched back again via some circumstance, it only makes sense that we split the money equally since we both took half the suffering.

  12. Is there an existing argument that you are owed the wages of past-you's labor on the principle of "next of kin"? If so, who's argument is it and what's it called?

  13. Alright here’s my two cents,

    Identity is an illusion created for our society. If we were say caveman we wouldn’t care about our identity we would just do what we have to do to survive.

  14. no I don't think I'm the same person that I always was in fact I'm glad I'm not if I were to meet the 13 or 15 or 20 year old version of myself now I would probably hate them

  15. the thing is and yet that personality traits are fairly consistent across time, if I'm not mistaken the literature indicates that people that are neurotic as adults were fussy as infants meaning that they have the same traits across time

  16. well I am firmly of the opinion that if I get Alzheimer's I need to die because I do not want to experience a losing my mind losing myself

  17. This subject still gives me a headache. I've been thinking about it for 3 years, since my philosophy classes in high school, but I still don't have any answers. I feel like everyone has good arguments, but at the same time, each argument has major flaws, but then don't appear as ones if you really think about it, like, it never ends (just see the comment section). I have an opinion on every single subject that I know of (can't have an opinion on smth you've never heard about, right?), but not this one, it's really frustrating.

  18. Identity is a label applied by humans, or possibly by other sentient beings as well. Therefore you are you if the majority of people around you (including you) believe you are you. This can change (if I somehow am convinced that I was possessed/replaced by Elvis and I convinced everyone around me, I say I would be Elvis, but good luck getting that to happen).

  19. I like to believe that our identity it something that has to deal with our personal expeirence in life. If i were to have my memeroies erase,i would consider my self to differenet because i would have loss of my personal memories

  20. I think a more pressing example of personal identity are people put in comas or who have had massive neurological damage. If we imagine a married couple and one of them is injured in such a way, when does the surviving spouse' obligation end? Some would say never, because the coma patient is still alive. Others would argue that the body is still alive, but that the person, the identity, is gone.

  21. A transgender person will claim that they are the ''same'' person, legally and socially, as that which they were before the reassignment surgery / procedures.  Further, given that the Law in most countries would still prosecute a transgender person for any crimes done (if discovered) when the transgender person was of the prior form, it is clear that the Law regards a ''person'' as an entity of a distinctly continuous DNA.   Therefore, ''gender'' and ''person'' are (now) two different things.

  22. The thing is that you use memories from the beginning of your life otherwise you won’t be able to talk, walk, you won’t have all your basic behavioral and emotional stereotypes. The fact that you don’t have memories about actions doesn’t mean that you don’t have all other types of memories that define you as a person.

  23. I hope to live as a spiritual being…"Self has really two meanings, or is used in two senses," "one is self, the identity of the individual created by God." "The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has, the lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on." ~ Baha'i Faith

  24. If I worked 30 days of the month, and I loose my memories in an accident the 31th of that month, I loose my identity. Then, does my boss has to pay me for that month of work?

    Even more, if I die, should she still pay that money to my account?

  25. I don't think memory defines identity. I believe that it's based on our conciousness and the only cells not replaced at some point in our life is cells in our cerebral cortex. So this makes me think thats where our soul/conciousness is

  26. There are many people who have short bursts of memory from birth or as babies… 🙄 (just saying it's not as concrete as you say, yes no one has complete memories of being a baby, but there are exceptions…)

  27. It seems to me that if there can never be a definitive determination of what constitutes an "identity" the term can never be better than relative.

  28. I think personal identity is composed of the continuity of existence itself in the form of our memories and brain patterns and that slow subtle changes don't disrupt that continuity. This does happen to imply a method of moving minds between substrates that sustain them, that being that if substrates were exchanged fluidly where one offloads one function at a time but all functions still work together. I like to think of this in terms of mind uploads. One function at a time, yet still a complete and continuous experience then your mind has been transferred.

  29. memory has been fascinating to me since i listened to malcolm gladwell's podcast and the double episodes about memories. what he said that really sticks with me is "the lesson of that story is that only a fool accepts the evidence of his own memory for gospel. the lesson of this story is: we are all fools".

  30. Mabey your personal identity is like money or free will its a concept that is required for our society to function more deeply for us to function as individuals?!

  31. Did anyone else notice that he’s consistently using feminine pronouns (she and her). It’s a breath of fresh air 🙂

  32. If you eat something, it becomes a part of your body indistinguishable from what you may consider to have been the you deciding to eat anything even if its not edible and even if it is poorly digested, can you really distinguish something you've eaten from yourself? Even a ship or a tree, part of it or the whole thing.

  33. The biggest lie … is the eye! Our “identity” is an artificial construct.. the ‘all seeing eye of Ra(god)’ is the creation of “the self” when one worships god, they are only worshipping the collective ego, which is the reflection in a mirror, and the dark side of the moon … the new church is the cult of personality… that’s what social networks are… the worshipping of ourselves! Just like in this video going through the mind maze of all of the intellectual phases of the ego… and what it means… which is NOTHING! When an “individual” is experiencing the life of themselves through the human body and it’s bodily senses, and in particular the sense of vision/sight, the person never can see how they look like unless they look into our modern glass/mirrors… which means the experiencing they are seeing or viewing is the life of others around them, which is who they are! We are not our bodies… we are what our bodies are experiencing, sensing, doing, touching, consuming.. etc… like the idiom “you are what you eat” means what you are consuming is WHERE and WHO you are….

  34. I agree with Aristotle and Aquinas. Accidents can change but the essence remains. The Substance (essence) is what constitute as as certain beings despite what fluid properties. One can be different but remain the same person. 🌌

  35. I know how we are. We're just ______ pretending to be a person. Our environment makes us who we are. If we were born rich, the status stays with us. If we had a bad childhood that influences us. We are _____ pretending to be something, because we forgot that we were originally ______. It is the memories and actions and relations and beliefs that makes the person. Our identity dies.. but who we are essentially, our souls can never be destroyed or replicated. Memories work strangely. If we died but sent our memories on a computer do we become that computer? or does the computer who was nothing became us? Who we truly are is _____. We praise ____ and worship ______. But we forgot that deep down inside we are ____.

  36. "WHO are YOU?" – Absolem

    "I-I hardly know, sir, just at present- at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." – Alice

  37. I'd say that every person is really a team of people. A person cannot not be on their own team because he exist. Merely existing puts any person on the his own team. When two parties agree to something, it doesn't matter if some members of the teams don't agree or if some of them don't show up. What matters is that the teams agreed. Therefore, if a contract exists between two teams, that contract must be forfilled unless both teams agree to get rid of that contract. I deserve that paycheck.

  38. I've lost so many important memories from my adolescence from taking so much klonopin, seizures, days of binge drinking and hypo manic states and now I feel very lost in a way I feel like what people know and have seen of me it's not completely what I am idk it's just that because I don't have my own memories living off versions of what people have told me it's a tricky thing

  39. maybe there is only one identity, one fundamental "I am", and every human, scifi story,, action hero character, or amoeba, is just a spinoff of the one main I am, powered by the nature of reality and the variation in experience acquisition.

  40. Here's a thought experiment… A hypothetical universe with a universal clock and +ve fundamental base particles (cells) in an all pervasive -ve sea that neutralises and holds the same-charged +ve cells together in a hex lattice….. This is completely empty, DEAD SPACE….. Energy can cause the +ve cells to move, either causing distortions or traveling cells that squeeze through the lattice, with the lattice charge imbalance pulling the pushed aside lattice cells back in behind the traveling, free cell, giving it an inertial kick…. The universal clock causes all actions to happen in sync, with the lattice reforming perfectly for a split (Planck) second, every 'tick'…… The entire universe goes from dead to alive every tick……. If higher level particles are not made of free cells and their field effect on the lattice but are instead just distortions of field lattice traveling in the lattice then we are never made of the same parts as we are made of the fixed field we currently reside in…..

    I don't believe in this universal clock or that we are merely distortions in one or more fields…

  41. The memory is just a record of who we are. The fact that you continuously remember being the same person, that you feel you are, is what does it – that, and the things that matter to you which stay the same or change in a chain like fashion

    Essentially, because it’s your story, thats why people with DID are considered to have multiple people in them, because each has a personal story

    Your continuation of your story as developing you from who you were to who you become is you, the whole shifting thing – like a piece of music, even though it changes, it’s still the same song, because it develops congruently

  42. Massive confusion re memory. Speaks with a deceptive self-confidence about a topic for which he has little appreciation.

    Welcome to the age of media academia.

  43. I see no issue with memory theory. For all I know I only ever live in the instantaneous moment and all moments prior I died and was reborn with the same memories up until that point. As long as what exists continuous my conscious stream of thought I don't really care. I mean the old cliche saying is "I think therefor I am" not "I am therefor I am". All I am and ever care to be is my memories.

  44. This identity problem raises more problems at justice courts that needs to decide if, for example, someone with personality disorders can be responsible by their acts.

  45. I don't understand who I am – what I am – just like school- People call me stupid, clumsy, and dumb – there is no such thing as self-esteem inside a meringue … as I am a living corpse – hollow and dead – as I am not with my soul and body. My mind commands me And my heart is subject to someone like that

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