You’re You

Fast forward almost two centuries from Aristotle’s time to that of John Locke’s, we approach Locke’s profoundly titled work “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” (or more like, “Four Books Concerning Human Understanding”).

Unlike Aristotle’s focus of the whole, Locke focuses on the individual, specifically an individual’s personal identity. He gives very thorough, albeit long-winded, explanations of what he believes is existence and identity.

When talking about existence, he says that no two things, even if they are of the same kind, same place, and in the same instant, can be the same thing. He maintains that there can only be one of anything. Everything is one of a kind and unique. For example, even if they’re mass produced marbles, each looking the same, each marble is distinctly its own.

This makes sense, because Locke isn’t thinking about the object, but the object’s identity. On identity, he says that while things may change in appearance and physical characteristics, its inherent being will not change. To him, identity can’t be calculated by any means of measurement, and once an identity forms, it can’t be lost.

I find his views on being and identity comforting. Nowadays, especially in a world where there are so many people, it’s hard to stand out. There are so many people that are similar to each other that it can be easy to consider oneself replaceable. But don’t think that, think like Locke. With Locke’s mentality, even if other people may look like us, have the same skills as us, or have any other characteristics similar to ours, we each have our own distinct identity that can’t be substituted. Even if we lose someone close to us, alter our appearances, or change our jobs, we can’t lose our identity. We are who we are. You are who you are, and Locke says that nothing can take that away from you.

One response to “You’re You

  1. Strangely, while I was reading this, I didn’t know what Locke was going for. I knew that he was a big player of the Enlightenment, and he thought of various things like Tabula rasa (the blank slate that everyone has that will become one’s identity by the influence of the environment) and the social contract theory, used even in the American Revolution.

    You said that Locke’s ideas on Identity made you feel comforted and unique. I also had a similar feeling, because I knew his ideas focused on the properties of the individual. It was kind of nice.

    However, he also brought a lot of analogies that made it seem really scientific and objective, the opposite of what subjectively made me feel. In the end, it felt like I was just another example. I know that his examples were to demonstrate a point, but still, it’s interesting how his objective examples could make someone feel special in that one moment in that specific time and place.

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