In Book 2 of “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” by John Locke, Locke talks about how “the variation of great parcels of matter alters not the identity”, and then he goes on to give the example of the oak tree, and how “an oak growing from a plant to a tree… is still the same oak”, and that a “colt grown up to a horse, sometimes fat, sometimes lean, is all the while the same horse”. (Ch. 27, 3) This I completely agree with and understand. However, it appears to me that Locke is being a bit narrow in his argument. Locke is only focusing on the physical aspect identity instead of looking at the spiritual or emotional aspects identity, which I believe, when concerning humans, are the things that play the biggest part in altering one’s identity.
If I applied Locke’s argument about how physical variation does not alter identity to humans, he would be completely correct. Humans go from being an infant to an adult to a person of old age. Throughout this entire physical process, it is true that this person is the same. Their identity is not altered. If they were to take fingerprints when they were eight years old and then when they were eighty-eight years old, the prints would match because they are still the same person. However, from the age of eight to eighty-eight, the person has gone through a lot of spiritual and emotional changes. What they used to do and how they acted and what they believed in as a child changed when they became an adult, and may have even changed some more when they became elderly. And this change is what truly alters a person and causes them to not have the same identity as they did when they were of younger age.
This is the only problem that I have with Locke’s argument. I wish that when he talked about physical traits not altering identity that he would have compared it to spiritual and emotional aspects and how they do alter a person’s identity
In Meno, Socrates gives several examples of fathers who worked their hardest to try and teach their sons how to be good. However, the teachings do not work. (Meno, 94a-e) Then, Socrates says that teaching cannot be taught. Well, I disagree. As children are growing up, they pick up habits from their parents and family, who are the principal people that teach them. Whatever children are being taught to do is what they will do unless they choose not to. You see, in my opinion, being good boils down to a choice- whether or not you will follow the habits and teachings of the people closest to you or not.
There are four types of outcomes that people can choose based on the habits of their parents: good habits from parents = good habits from children, bad habits from parents = bad habits from children, good habits from parents = bad habits from children, and finally, bad habits from parents = good habits from children. Parents can teach their children habits that are either good or bad, and children can learn from those habits and decide which habits they want to continue doing for the rest of their life. In society today, there are two different types of stories that are frequently heard. The first is the story about the parents that give their children a fabulous upbringing and are nurturing and caring, and their child(ren) end up making a mess of their life by practicing bad habits. The second is the story about a child who had a rough start in life (like the deadbeat parent, the “always drunk” parent, the abusive parent, or the uncaring/unsupportive parent) and made it a goal to become successful and, by practicing good habits, achieved that goal.
Everything about a person’s character, which determines if they are good or not, depends on the choices that he or she makes. It is not a matter of you not being receptive to good things that causes you to be a bad person, but a matter of if you decide to be receptive to the things that you were taught, whether they be good or bad.
I do not believe that “Meno’s Paradox” is truly a paradox. When he says that you cannot find out about something that you know about because you already know it, he is completely wrong. One reason why this is wrong is because we are human beings, and we will never know everything about one thing. Many times, the subjects that we want to know about are too broad. For example, we can want to know everything about math, or everything about a person, but that can never happen because the information is simply too much for our brains to handle. Another reason why we will never know everything is because knowledge is relative. One person can think that knowing everything about Obama does not include knowing how many pieces of hair he has on his head, while another person thinks that knowing everything about Obama does include knowing that. Finally, we will never know everything about a specific subject or topic because knowledge is not static; it is dynamic. What is thought to be true and knowledgeable now can change in the future. New discoveries on different subjects are made everyday, some of which are proven true or false. Let’s say a person really did know everything about math. If they are on their deathbed, and five seconds before they die a new mathematical discovery is approved as being true and knowledgeable, then that person died not knowing everything about math. Another example is if you want to focus only on knowing what Bill eats for lunch every Wednesday. If Bill has eaten a chicken salad sandwich every Wednesday for the past ten years, then you will think that you know what Bill eats for lunch every Wednesday. But what if Bill decides that he wants to try the tuna salad sandwich one Wednesday and decides that since he likes it so much, he will eat that sandwich from then on instead of the chicken sandwich? Then your knowledge of what Bill likes to eat for lunch every Wednesday will have to change.
Meno also believes that you can’t find out about something that you do not know about because you do not even know what it is you are trying to find out about, and he is wrong in this case as well. For one thing, this statement is bogus, because if you are trying to find out about something, then you already know what you want to find out about. Also, you can find out about something that you previously knew nothing about. What people have to do is look at how they obtained information about something that they knew nothing about in the past. You could have asked someone who you thought was knowledgeable on the subject, or you could have gone to the library and gotten a book on what you want to know about. You would do the same when you are trying to learn about new things- either ask a person or read a book or look for answers on the internet. Of course, there are always questions that people ask that not a single person has any knowledge on. This is when I refer to my saying that knowledge is dynamic. You could do research- whether it is looking at different books on topics that relate to that subject or getting opinions from people that know some things on that subject- and come up with an answer on your own. This is what people did in the past, and it is what people will continue to do in the future. Of course, people that come behind you will test your discovery that supposedly adds new knowledge, and it will either become approved or rejected by the masses.