Monday, March 01, 2010

Continuity of Identity

I have a couple of writing tasks soaking up my time. I might write a little on one here tomorrow. But I wanted to put a pulse through the blog. First, this week's Lenten post is up on my Dean's blog (

I notice that they have a session at the Wesleyan Theological Society on Friday at Azusa Pacific University over Joel Green's book, Body, Soul, and Human Life. I'll be there and may Twitter the conference. In general, Twitter hasn't worked much for me because I don't do much that is worth tweeting hour by hour, but I might use it on Friday.

In any case, one of the benefits of the idea of a soul is that it can provide for continuity of existence between now and resurrection. Indeed, it can provide for continuity of existence even in life, since I may lose memory or like Phineas Gage can have a personality-changing rod blow through my frontal lobe.

Time has fascinated me since high school. I remember chilly mornings in Florida of 60 degrees (oh, those were the days! oh me, oh Indiana!) walking across a breezeway to a classroom building wondering how it happened to be "now" and knowing there would be another "now" the next day but wondering how I got from one now to the next.

I have felt that strange feeling often. I have some writing assignments due. How strange that it is "now," here in bed early in the morning. How do I get to submission late afternoon today or to California on Friday?

The thought struck me last week that my strange feeling of "now-ness" was part of the continuity of identity question. Continuity of identity is not simply a question of now and resurrection in the future. It is a question of now and tomorrow. Sleeping is truly like a death. I cease to exist and then resurrect in the morning. Is it "me" that wakes up? What makes it me?

I count it as me. Tomorrow's me has memories of me. Tomorrow me's body has occupied continuous space in the intervening time (whatever that means). But isn't there a sense that if you don't do something for me now, you are doing it for someone else tomorrow?

These are mysteries to me. If my question before was, "How do I get from this moment to later?" My question this morning is, "Is it even really me in that later moment?"

P.S. I promise that I have not been doing drugs this morning :-)


Pstyle said...

This is a super question. Is the me of four years ago (for example) really me?

Is there a continuity of existence for the humern person, or, do we rediscover ourselves every moment, relying soley on our memory to put the pieces together?

The curious case of "Clive Wearing" has a lot to offer I think.

Bob MacDonald said...

Did you read this Hopkins poem also this morning - a curious coincidence

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"Me" has to do, yes, with memory, but it also has to do with development, personality, interests, vision and/or focus.

The "me" of yesterday, I "know", but do I identify with that "me" in the sense of "who I am today"? I hope not, and yet, I hope so!

People understand things from their own exposure(s) and these exposures form a perspective. Perspectives are part of "me". This is personal understanding of history.

Not only is identity a personal one, but also an "educated" or "objective" one. Education, or exposure to knowledge, in whatever discipline becomes a part of the person, as well. The knowledge one gains is accepted (resonates; conditioning, cultural transference), rejected (not understood, unimportant or threatening) or revised/reframed (knowledge incorporation). And this is where perspective is sometimes changed, as well.

The disciplines are all voices/frames of reference/understandings/evaluations of knowledge, life and understanding. And each discipline is a way of framing. So, each discipline is a "culture".

Bill said...

I would reply to you now, but the you now is no longer the you who wrote "now", then. Is it?

Ken Schenck said...

Especially since I've had at least two naps since then...