Homework Tips

  1. Read the question really carefully.
  2. Make sure you answer all parts of the question, and answer in a logical order.
  3. Show that you're using the text by quoting or using terms and concepts from the reading.  
  4. Give the issues a little thought before you start writing.
  5. Advice: do the first homework of the week, so you can replace it with later homework in the week, if necessary.
Model homework (HW12 -- 551 N&Q 1)

Question: In section 9, Locke gives an account of what personal identity consists in. Later, he argues that immaterial souls are irrelevant to personal identity. Explain Locke’s account of personal identity and how he uses it to argue that immaterial souls are irrelevant. Is Locke’s account of personal identity plausible?

            In section 9, Locke states that personal identity is “the sameness of a rational being: and as far as this consciousness can be extended backwards to any past action or thought, so far reaches the identity of that person; it is the same self now it was then” (Locke 546). In short, as long as a person has the same consciousness when he did an action in the past as he does when he does the action in the present, the person has the same personal identity. He also argues that immaterial souls are irrelevant to personal identity because if “the same immaterial substance, without the same consciousness, no more making it the same person, by being united to any body, than the same particle of matter, without consciousness, united to any body, makes the same person” (Locke 549). In other words, if a immaterial soul travels to different bodies but has a different consciousness, it has a different personal identity. The example Locke uses is that if a soul is Nestor or Thersites in a past life but doesn’t remember it, the immaterial soul is irrelevant and the personal identity is different. Locke’s theory is not plausible because with this theory, the same man is a different person drunk and sober or asleep and awake and cannot be held responsible for actions in different states. This is unrealistic because they could not be persecuted for drunk illegal actions while sober.

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