I am the same person that I have always been. But I am not the same. I have heard that the human body is reconstituted with all new physical components over the space of seven years. And yet such a human retains its individual identity.
Heraclitus wrote of a river: “Changing, it rests.” He also wrote:
“On those who enter the same rivers, ever different waters flow– and souls are exhaled from the moist things.”
“We step and do not step into the same rivers, we are and we are not.”
Borden Parker Bowne proposed a doctrine of the self that combines the past and present, along with self-awareness and memory, into a “unity of one consciousness.” We know of the self as a permanent entity that survives the vicissitudes of life, changeless despite enduring changing states.
I am a personality. But is there no mutability to the self? Am I not malleable? Can I not adapt?
According to the “Philosophy of Philosophy” of Francis Ellingwood Abbot:
- Knowing is Being.
- Doing is Knowing.
- Therefore, Doing is Being.
By syllogism, Abbot sought to demonstrate that existence, knowledge, and action can be understood in a unitary system. What we know and what we do are inseparable from who we are.
Personal identity, then, is realized through experience. This concept offers some hope that, by seeking out new positive experiences, the individual can become.
Changeless essence, changed by experience. The same person, but different. Changing, I rest.