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Merleau Ponty Essay

1117 words - 5 pages

Does the identity of a person survive if that person succumbs to dementia? In his essay, Matthews, explores the different views, of Locke, Parfit and Merleau-Ponty, and how they define the identity of a person and how that definition applies to a person suffering from dementia. In this essay, I will summarize Merleau-Ponty’s definition and give his ideas on how to treat a person with dementia. I will then do the same for Locke and Parfit. Finally, I will compare both theories. In this essay, I will argue that Merleau-Ponty gives better advice on how to treat demented patients than does Locke and Parfit.
The philosophical problem that Matthews is trying to solve is what is the ...view middle of the document...

The two different elements, body and subject, both work together as a union and are not separate from one another. Our existence as a ‘person’ manifests not only from our embodiment, but also our bodily existence has to be accepted as the expression of our individuality. This doesn't mean just in the communication of language and recalled experience, but also in our habits, our behavior, our body-language and mannerisms (174). So, according to Merleau-Ponty’s theory, a person with dementia is still the same person they were before. Even though demented people have a loss of memory and or a loss of self- consciousness, through the lens of Merleau-Ponty’s theory, they are still alive and the same person. For example, Matthews knew a women suffering with dementia. She recalled little of her past, and lost her bearings of who she was, however, elements of her ‘self’ shown threw her dementia with her familiar characteristics of always being polite (175). Demented people may not have a sense of self-consciousness but they have the ability to retain some of their past mannerisms, or habits which shows that they have some elements of their ‘self’, and are not dead.
Locke and Parfit both have very different views on how to define the identity of a person, and therefore a different view on how to treat a person with dementia. Locke views a person not by his or her biological character, but by kinds of “characteristically personal activities and states” (165), which strongly suggests thinking. Locke believes what makes a person the distinct individual they are is that they can reflect on their own actuality and, so identify themselves as who they are. The origin of our own person is self-consciousness, which enables a person to “consider itself as itself” (165). Parfit does not have the same theory, but has a modification of Locke’s theory. Parfit’s theory is based on ‘psychological continuity’. This theory is a mixture of similar behavior and the ‘continuity of memory’ which Locke many time emphasizes. Parfit’s essential view on personal identity is that all there is to being me is “looking like me, behaving like me, thinking of myself as being me and remembering my past life as my...

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