In Book II of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Locke succeeds at confusing me. Which I can only assume is what he was trying to do because I have no idea what his intent was otherwise—I was that confused. From what I gather, our identities are basically a continuum of awareness of ourselves at any instant in time? It is mind boggling to think of myself as being aware of myself in a series of “insensibly succeeding” snapshots of being and it is very bleak to think that now, that instant where I was so hopelessly mind-boggled by Locke is a part of my collective self-awareness and inextricably a part of my identity for as long as I remain aware of that instant. Which brings me to one of many questions: Does reality even have anything to do with our identites?
Locke, in describing the difference between a living oak and a mass of matter, stated that a life, or its organization of parts, exists “constantly from that moment both forwards and backwards”(An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II. 4). It makes sense that the past, or your recollection of it, have a lot to do with your identity. On the other hand, the future hasn’t even happened! I don’t understand how you could possibly guess at what your future self will be like, however, I can see how your being aware of your future self can influence your identity. I am sure many people identify themselves by future goals and expectations for themselves, it probably makes it easier to be more self aware in the present. It just seems silly that our identities can be influenced by things that may or may not happen just because we are “aware” of them. I have the same concern with our past awarenesses. Human recollection is definitely not a reliable thing; people often remember things differently than from what actually occurred and yet it is not the realistic sequence of events which influences our identities but our highly suspect “awareness” of ourselves from that time. So it seems our identities have less to do with reality than our own versions of it.
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