Can A Person Change?

Listen to this sound clip

Danny Trejo

danny trejo changed man criminal to actor

Danny Trejo turned his life around. [Photo: LA Weekly]

Frank Abgernale

Kweisi Mfume

Now, how do we know that we are always the same person?

This isn’t a very hard question is it? Many would reply that it’s obvious you are always you!

But are you? When we say someone’s changed, can they have changed entirely?

If someone was a Conservative and changes to Liberal, aren’t they a different person? Or would you say they are the same person with different views…?

I would say the latter and so would John Locke, a 17th century Philosopher, who believed that our personal identity, essentially who we are, is made up of our previous memories united under a single consciousness. In other words, we are the same person because we have direct connectedness of our memories.  Locke is concerned with the continuity of one’s thoughts, feelings and emotions over periods in time that the memory remembers (psychological continuity).


So this would mean that it is nothing to do with the shell we currently reside in and by that I mean our bodies. Locke believes that if your body and anothers was swapped then you would be the same person in a different shell.

This idea is explored in the film ‘Face-Off’ with Nicholas Cage and John Travolta where they cut their faces off in what can only be described as the most ridiculous attempt at Police work ever….Seriously…you would cut your face off and put on one of a mass-murderer? Who thought that would go well?

The video below shows the two men with their own mind but faces swapped and bodies altered to fit the others description…

Okay, so that make sense, but Simon Blackburn attempts to cause problems to this theory with the idea of a murderer passing out from a blood head rush after committing a crime, having no recollection of his past after waking.

That’s right, this murderer now has amnesia…would this mean that they are not the same person? Because in accordance with Locke’s theory a person’s identity isn’t associated with their physical shell or their transcendent soul that people may believe each individual has; rather with their memories.

Would you still feel the same if this person, after molesting your baby murdered him/her?

If they have forgotten the crime they committed and all of their previous thoughts and desires, such is in the case of total amnesia, how can we possibly demand retribution for a crime that we are not sure THIS NEW PERSON would commit or even think of commiting?

A person’s mind is his own and you’d be surprised how many murderers claim amnesia because it’s hard to debunk. But just imagine it…are you the same person?

Does this woman in the USA deserve to be punished for something she can’t remember? (Click)

Thomas Reid was an 18th century philosopher who gave the analogy of a now general who in his past had became a brave ensign by capturing a standard and even before that had been flogged for stealing apples in his childhood. The problem lies in that the general can remember becoming the brave ensign, but cannot remember the flogging for stealing the apples; does this mean that the now General and the child who stole the apples are separate people? Because Locke’s idea of connected memory would then be logically incorrect if identity was considered as a transitive relation. So Reid would argue memory is not a sufficient condition of personal identity.


Put in simpler terms, the picture above is of me many many years ago and let us say I can’t remember what I was doing or where I was. I have no memory of this event. According to the criticism of Locke by Reid this would mean I’m a different person, but just because I don’t remember, does that make me a different person?  No, I don’t think so.

We need to strengthen Locke’s argument so we introduce a philosopher by the name of David Parfit who amended Locke’s argument by stating that connectedness was only needed in the form of continuity, that is, if the General could remember being the brave ensign and the ensign could remember being the child then that would make logical sense for them to be the same person through memory. You got me? Well let me explain in terms of myself…

The image below is of me ridin’ dirty in the living room of a flat in a Tulse Hill estate many years ago, for arguments sake, let us say I definitely remember being this kid and the kid in the picture remembers being the baby in the previous picture.


The picture below is a current picture of me. This Karam cannot remember being the baby in the first picture and according to Locke’s initial theory with Reid’s objection it would mean it is a different person, although as we have now introduced Parfit’s amendment into the equation, I can say that the person in the image below remembers being the kid on the play horse, but not the baby on the table, however the kid on the play horse remembers being the baby on the table. Thus we have a form of overlapping continuity of memory which can tell us we are the same person or we have the same personal identity…

Picture 1 Baby = A

Picture 2 Kid = B

Picture 3 Current me = C

B=A (that is B remembers A) and C=B (that is C remembers B)

Therefore A=C (We have the same personal identity)


I believe that is what it is to be somebody; having your own personal identity rather than the shell you are in.

The first picture of Part 1 is that of Dionysus, best described as the Greek god of hedonistic pursuit, he is the God of wine, ecstasy (not the drug), parties & festivals, drunkenness and basically it seems the pleasure of being forever young.


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