« ForrigeFortsett »
dence has little or no connection. Repeater acts of consciousness, resting upon the same action, will prove
that some substance in which it inheres is in existence, and that this substance is the same; but
they will not prove to any one what it is. Consciousness will prove that it is unchangeable in its nature; but it will neither identify any one of its properties, nor tell us what those properties are which constitute it.
I am well assured, that without consciousness we can know nothing. But, though the modes of our consciousness are multiform and various, perhaps the distinct species of identity, which are in existence, are more multiformn and various than the modes of consciousness which we possess. In order therefore to prosecute our inquiry with some degree of accuracy, we must simplify our question, and disencumber ourselves of all extraneous matter. Hence then, to inquire into the distinct nature of identity, and our distinct perceptions of it, must be the subject of another section.
On our distinct Ideas of Identity, founded upon
the diversity of its Nature.
When we turn our thoughts to the term Identity, and attempt to make inquiries into its nature, it is indispensably necessary that we should define with accuracy, not only the sense in which we use it, but the subject itself to which it
may be applied. The necessity of doing this, in the case before us, will appear still more evident, when we reflect, that there are many views in which the human body may be considered, which form no part of our present investigation. There is an identity of the component parts of which the body is formed, and there is an identity of the modification of them. There is also an matter and spirit ; and there is an identity, which, detached from these, is only applicable to the body itself. These terms convey
These terms convey to us distinct ideas, which, though applicable to the same subject, are only connected by a remote affinity.
The identity of modification must consist in the same position of every particle which is included in any given substance; so that neither any particle, nor the position of it, can possibly be removed, while this identity of modification is presumed to continue. And should any particle be removed from its primitive station, and lodged in some other part of the same portion of matter, the identity of modification must be thereby so effectually destroyed, as though it had been totally removed from the corporeal mass.
But, although the identity of modification should be thus destroyed, it will not follow that the identity of the component parts must perish. For, while the particles of which any given portion had been composed, remain unmixed with foreign parsticles in the same mass, the identity of the compoment parts must remain, in what form soever the
particles themselves may be combined and connected together. But, if any given particle should be removed from the given mass, or any new acquisitions should be made, in either, or in both of these cases, the identity of the component parts of this given body must be entirely lost. It therefore follows, that the removal of one particle from its primitive position will destroy the identity of modification, while the total removal of another from the mass will as totally destroy the identity of the component parts themselves. It is indeed true, that after these changes, the identity of the particles themselves will remain; but this will be the identity of distinct particles taken separately, and not the identity of the component parts considered as one collective whole.
The identity of man, considered as a compound, must consist in the union of two distinct substances,
vitally united together. To constitute this identity of man, neither the identity of the modification of the parts, nor the identity of all the parts themselves ican be absolutely necessary. The man may continue, though the parts of which his body is composed may be considerably changed. And while the union continues between the matter and spirit of which he is composed, our complex idea of man remains uninjured and entire. Such are the ideas which I have of modification, of compound parts, and of man.
But, when we turn our thoughts to the identity of the human body, our idea becomes distinct from those which have been considered, and involves several questions of considerable difficulty and of considerable importance. It is an identity which must continue permanent amidst those perpetual changes which the body undergoes.
But, since the particles which, from time to time, adhere to the corporeal mass, are in perpetual fluctuation ; and, since almost every moment impresses upon our bodies some considerable change, it will be impossible to fix the identity of them in the whole of the numerical particles which have occasionally adhered to that vitality which animates the human frame. A variety of arguments would operate to refute so absurd a supposition, as that which would make the identity of the body to consist in the same numerical particles ;--particles, which have perhaps occasionally adhered to different bodies, which bodies on this account may with justice present to them an equal claim. And, though the apparent modification of the body may seem to continue amidst these vicissitudes; yet, whatever resemblance it may bear, it cannot be the real modification of the same particles; because they are supposed to have given place to others, which are now removed, and will perhaps adhere to it no more.
To know with certainty in what the identity of the body consists, is perhaps a point of considerable difficulty. It is a question, which is more easily proposed than answered; and we seem to know with more certainty in what it does not consist, than in what it does. This, however, will admit of little doubt, that the thing itself, and the evidences of it,
are distinct ideas.
We may be totally ignorant of the nature of the former, while the latter may be attended with all the assurance necessary to produce conviction ; just as we may be assured of our own existence, though we may never be able to know with certainty what it is that constitutes it. The evidences of a fact always presuppose the existence of that fact; and for that reason can never constitute that faet which they presuppose. In like manner, the consciousness which I now have that. a certain action was performed by me, (the self same person who now writes) is to me a sufficient evidence that sameness remains to the present moment; and will be so, as long as my consciousness of that action continues, notwithstanding all the changes which my body has undergone ; even though I should never be able to comprehend in what it is that this sameness consists. For, if consciousness cannot be transferred from one system of matter, or from one substance to another, without losing its own identity, which I think no one can either affirm; or successfully controvert; it will follow that my reflex act of consciousness will, at any given period of my existence, afford me the most unquestionable evidence that I am the same person and not another. For, if I am now conscious that I was once conscious of a fact, which is past and gone, my present consciousness will be a sufficient evidence of
my past consciousness, and place that former conscibusness beyond the reach of uncertainty and doubt. And, as that former consciousness must be on the