Hannah Scribbles

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Who Are You?

In News & Media on December 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm

According to the Soul Theory, a necessary condition for person A to be one and the same as person B is that they have the same soul.  This theory is impossible to prove because the soul lacks definition, is physically unproven,  and because humans naturally identify one another based on physical characteristics.  According to this theory, however, it is possible to survive after physical death.

Arguers against the soul theory note its lack of definition.  Some of them propose the Body Theory, which states that A is the same as B only if they have the same body.  What exactly is meant by body in this case?  The physical form changes regularly and is never “the same” twice, a seeming contradiction.  However, the answer may lie with Aristotle, who noted two types of changes an identity can undergo:  accidental changes (a river’s changing current) and essential changes (the river dries up or is completely rerouted).  So, the body’s natural alterations are accidental, but what constitutes an essential change must be more severe such as death or brain injury.

But what exactly is it about the brain that causes identity?  Is identity a result of memory?  The Memory Theory supposes that A and B are numerically identical (one and the same thing) only if they are connected through time by stages that genuinely remember prior events.  Because this is partially a body theory, survival after death is not possible.

Detractors of the memory theory argue that, if you cannot recall ever being 5, then you were never 5.  Supporters called detractors idiots because one needn’t remember being 5 directly as long as  B is connected to A indirectly through a prior stage that remembers.  This also accounts for the Alzheimer’s critique of memory theory.  However, because memory theory uses circular reasoning that presupposes identity and does not allow for a greater complexity to personal identity than memory, it is inherently flawed and incomplete.

In an attempt to complete the memory theory, the Psychological Continuity Theory evolved.  In addition to memory, PCT states that A is the same as B as long as there is psychological continuity through the stages – as long as B is the product of A’s psychological growth.  So, according to PCT, if subject Sara was duplicated, Sara 1 and Sara 2 would be one and the same person as long as their causal connection had not branched (the Non-branching Theory of PCT).

However, this cannot be the case because No. 1 and No. 2, being of separate bodies, would not experience uniformly and so would immediately diverge psychologically.  This is the same argument used against the Closest Continuer Theory, which claims that B is one and the same as A as long as B is the closest psychological continuation of A in the event of multiple copies.

In the end I’m still clueless as to what creates personal identity, but at least I can say that the situation is so much more complex than the 450 words I’ve written about it that there might be an answer somewhere.  Until then, I still want to know:  Who are you?

My Entry Essay to the Journalism Program

In News & Media on December 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Before I was ten years old, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I was obnoxiously curious. I liked to ask questions and record the answers. Using my computer, I typed up the day’s accounts: “Red Car Drives Past,” “Pizza Planned for Friday,” or “Horse Says Fence is too Tall.”
By the time I graduated high school, journalism had a different meaning to me. It was darker, more serious. A friend of the mayor’s was arrested but not prosecuted on theft charges; it didn’t make the local paper. A toddler locked himself in a hot van and suffocated, and the paper reported; my neighbors were investigated for child abuse. I wanted to know what constituted news and who made it. I was curious.
During the next two years, I studied journalism at a junior college. I learned about public relations, dabbled in features writing and became assistant editor of the college paper, The Commuter. I questioned truth and whether journalists were inherently biased, I debated with professors over the ethics of photojournalism and, in the end, I decided to study philosophy as well.
After graduating junior college, I looked to the Rutgers journalism program for more knowledge. I am still curious. I want to understand more and, even if it is only to a small audience, I want to communicate that understanding to others.
The world is immense, and humanity is complicated. The public deserves to know more about the local government that affects it directly. The people deserve explanations rather than interpretations and to have science put into understandable terms. They need complex issues broken down and cataloged, one piece at a time, so they can put it back together in their own words, with their own voices.
In two or three years I see myself communicating information. The city might be Kansas City, Boston or Pittsburgh. I envision myself in a big newsroom or working from home, writing late into the night while the world surges forward. News does not stop, information is everywhere, and there I am, learning more so I can put the pieces together and write it down for others.

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