Abstract
John Locke claims both that ‘person’ is a forensic term and that personal identity consists in sameness of consciousness. The aim of my dissertation is to explain and critically assess how Locke links his moral and legal account of personhood to his account of personal identity in terms of sameness of consciousness. My interpretation of Locke’s account of persons and personal identity is embedded in Locke’s sortal-dependent account of identity. Locke’s sortal-dependent account of identity provides an important theoretical framework for my interpretation: It makes clear that Locke’s account of personhood is to be considered separately from his account of personal identity. My approach gives full credit to Locke’s claim that ‘person’ is a forensic term, because I argue that persons, according to Locke, belong to a moral and legal kind of being: they are subjects of accountability. On this basis I argue that two components explain why Locke argues that personal identity consists in sameness of consciousness: firstly, his particular moral and legal conception of a person, and, secondly, his particular understanding of the conditions of just accountability and just reward and punishment. Given one accepts Locke’s conception of a person and his understanding of the conditions of just accountability, it will be easy to see why Locke regards sameness of consciousness to be necessary for personal identity, but the more challenging question is whether sameness of consciousness is also sufficient. I critically assess this question by considering Locke’s account of persons and personal identity within Locke’s epistemological, metaphysical and religious views. I will argue that, at least from the divine perspective, the underlying ontological constitution has to be taken into consideration and that it is a verbal question whether Locke’s term ‘consciousness’ refers not only to phenomenologically given consciousness, but also to the underlying ontological constitution.
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