“Persistence problem: Lockeanism and animalism”

The persistence problem in relation to us is usually approached from a point of view that gives priority to psychological continuity. According to this view, which is inspired in an analysis of the “forensic concept” of person made by John Locke, the identity I have with a past or future entity comes from a psychological continuity of remembrances, beliefs, attitudes, and preferences. I am the future being who will inherit these features and the past being from whom I got them. Here the concern is with those problems related to numerical identity understood in diachronic terms. How can a thing be numerically identical to itself over time? How can I, a thing who changes, be the same and conserve my identity? My goal in this paper is to advance an argument against such a viewpoint. In order to do so, I start by defining the notion of identity and showing the problems that arise from the concept of diachronic identity. Since mental events supervene on physical events, those who hold the psychological continuity thesis are compelled to say that, in our case, that of human animals, there is a relation of coincidence, and not of identity, between animal and person. This results in several obstacles for determining which of these two entities I am. Lockeans advance subtle semantic reasons to come to an embarrassing conclusion—they admit that, although the sentence “I am a person” is true whenever I assert it, it is impossible to know who I am.