Culture Magazine

Personal Identity, Pregnancy, and Process Philosophy

By Realizingresonance @RealizResonance

null

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.

Who am I? Why am I me and not somebody else? Who was I and who will I become? These are the sorts of questions I have asked myself throughout my life, and I imagine that most people have thought about these enigmatic notions on one occasion or another. These questions have recently been in my mind again lately, but not primarily in regards to my own self and identity. My wife is pregnant with our first child, we will be welcoming a new baby girl into our family in less than a month. And we can’t wait!

Last March it was the best birthday present ever when my wife surprised me with a gift bag of onesies and the perennial pregnancy paperback, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I admit that I have not read the book cover to cover yet, but I am taking in the essential stuff and learning about the evolving process of a life growing inside. Of course this is a reality that my wife is experiencing much more directly than I ever could. In no time the pregnancy process will have culminated in a birth and my wife and I will be enjoying the process of raising an infant, toddler, child, adolescent, teenager, into the adult that our daughter will become. This journey is ahead of us, indeterminable, blooming with loving anticipation, hope and promise. Contemplating my wife’s pregnancy, a future raising our child together, and thinking about our unborn’s development into personhood has got me wondering anew about life, existence, and personal identity.

The other book I’m reading right now is Process Metaphysics by Nicholas Rescher, a treatise on why the essentialness of reality is processual rather than substantive in its fundamental mode. Reality to this view is in essence a complex manifold of nested processes that interact to create a complex of things and kinds of things, not the other way around. In mainstream philosophy this is a heterodox view, the dominant theme in metaphysics being the fundamental status of static things, with process being secondary to substance. Think about how reality is often explained in terms of quarks, atoms, molecules, objects, organisms, persons, and collectives of these things. Process philosophy seeks to understand things in terms of the processes that realize them into existence, finding these processes to be the salient feature that underlies all substantial entities. While contemplating the tricky and nuanced arguments one comes across in the debates over metaphysical ideas it dawned on me that my other reading material, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, provides its own kind of evidence in favor of process metaphysics. Because at root, pregnancy is not a thing or a substance, but a process. Furthermore, as pregnancy is the process that brings into being a new human life, it stands to reason that human beings are not just things, rather we are primordially processes.

The Puzzle of Personal Identity

After our baby is born she will be on her journey to personhood, a journey that is better described as a process not a thing. Who will she be? Philosophical psychology encounters a puzzling situation in the problem of personal identity. Who am I? Am I my physical body? Am I my mind and memories? What does it mean to be the same person over time, given that we all change and grow physically, mentally, and experientially? What does it mean to be a particular person, in a particular body, at a particular time in history? Generally speaking, the philosophical debate over personal identity has focused on three flavors of theory that focus in turn on body, memory, or psychological continuity. These questions about personal identity, and our modern notion of the self, stem from the Enlightenment era’s towering intellectuals like Descartes, Locke, and Rousseau. And the enigma of the self persists to this day.

René Descartes took a skeptical approach to reality and assumed that everything about his experience and sense perception was in doubt. After all, one cannot be sure that the physical world is not an illusion manifested by an evil demon, or a virtual reality. This leaves only one sure thing for Descartes, that he was a mind that could think, since even if his body and environment were illusion he could not be fooled at all if he was not a mind to be fooled. The lasting legacy of Descartes’ doubt is his Cogito Ergo Sum, the famous statement, “I think therefore I am.” (“Descartes’ Epistemology “) The implication is that a human is a Res Cogitans, a thinking thing. This answers the question of who one is in terms of rationality, dualism, and the mental.

Thomas Hobbes wondered how the physical self could hold the same identity over time, pondering anew Plutarch’s paradox of the Ship of Theseus, and of course adding a puzzling new twist of his own. Theseus was the hero of ancient Greek myth who killed the Minotaur, and after he returned from Crete his ship became a symbol for the Athenians. They preserved it from generation to generation until about 300 B.C.. Over such a long period of time the wooden planks had worn out and were replaced one by one until none of the original wood remained. The form and function were still there, but the materials were all together different. So was this the real Ship of Theseus or not? Hobbes added the additional complication that we should imagine all of the original wood was shipped back to a warehouse for safekeeping, and one day some workers completely reassemble the Ship of Theseus using the original materials (Grimm). In this case, which ship is the real ship, or are they both the real ship? Hobbes reminds us of the challenge of grasping the persistence of personal identity over time.

John Locke’s influential perspective was that humans were born tabula rasa, blank slates who absorb the impressions from sense experience and incorporate these into the self. Who one is then, is the aggregated bits of data that is imported into one’s memory. Locke imagines a situation in which the consciousness of a prince wakes up one day in the body of a cobbler. The reasoning by Locke is that the royal mind and memories would still constitute the prince even though he is inhabiting the body of a cobbler. To outside appearances that man would be a cobbler, but inside the real person is the prince. Although through empiricist rather than rationalist glasses, like Descartes, Locke explains personal identity in terms of persons being thinking things:

“[T]o find wherein personal identity consists, we must consider what person stands for;–which, I think, is a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness which is inseparable from thinking, and, it seems to me, essential to it…For, since consciousness always accompanies thinking, and it is that which makes everyone to be what he calls self, and thereby distinguishes himself from all other thinking things, in this alone consists personal identity, i.e., the sameness of a rational being: and as far as this consciousness can be extended backwards to any past action or thought, so far reaches the identity of that person; it is the same self now it was then; and it is by the same self with this present one that now reflects on it, that that action was done.” (Locke)

Thomas Reid disagreed with Locke’s view that the self was defined by memory and provided a famous critique in his story about the brave officer. Imagine that a brave officer becomes a hero by taking the enemy flag in battle, and in his height of glory he has the memory of being flogged as a boy for stealing from an orchard. Years later, as an old general, he remembers the glory of taking the enemy standard, but he no longer recalls being flogged as a boy. In terms of Locke’s memory theory of identity, the boy is the officer, and the officer is the general, but the boy is not the general (“Reid on…”). Clearly this does not work for us, and we think that the boy and the general are the same person regardless of the memory situation. Reid has demonstrated that Locke’s view is seriously flawed, although we may often feel that people who have memory impairments, such as Alzheimer’s, might be losing a fundamental part of the their self and identity.

David Hume looked inside in order to discover his self and did not find anything there beyond his perceptions at any given moment. Thoughts, for Hume, are always about something, an object, an idea, a sensation. He says:

“From what (experiential) impressions could this idea [of self] be derived? This question is impossible to answer without a manifest contradiction and absurdity; and yet it is a question which must necessarily be answered, if we would have the idea of self pass for clear and intelligible … For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception.” (Rescher 106)

Jean-Jacque Rousseau was the Enlightenment’s iconoclast, caught up in the sentiment of the times yet critical of it and sowing the seeds for the romanticism that was to follow. His ideas about the self marked a departure in perspective compared to the views of Descartes and Locke, with Rousseau recognizing the role the social life played in the determination of personal identity. People come into the world as unique individuals, but are then conformed into the culture that surrounds them, and uniqueness become a disadvantage due to the fundamental inequalities that are bound up in it. Rousseau laments the passing of our more primitive and solitary existence, a time when our true authentic selves were dominant. Rousseau famously said, “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains. Each one believes he is the master of the others and yet he is a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What could render it legitimate?” (“Jean Jacques Rousseau”)It is the social contract that conventionalizes one to the many and obscures the true individual underneath, making us all role players.

The philosophical debate over personal identity has evolved with the times, but the problem remains unsettled. Consider Derek Parfit’s updated twist on the Ship of Theseus Paradox. The hypothetical problem of reduplication creates an additional bias in favor of the body’s role as personal identifier. Suppose that tele-transportation technology, like that featured in Star Trek, existed in real life and worked by disintegrating a tele-traveler’s original body and, using the deconstructed information, reconstructs the tele-traveler, mind, body, and everything, in a new location far away. A horrifying malfunction occurs at one point and a tele-traveler is reconstructed several times, instantiating a multitude of exact replicas (Grimm). Who is the tele-traveler if they all have the same memories? The only way to distinguish between the recently diverged individual identities of these duplicates is the fact that they have distinct bodies, which although exact in appearance do not occupy the exact same space. With this puzzle case the theories that use memory or psychological continuity as the definitions of identity fail against the bodily definition.

For many, a disquieting implication of the bodily theory of personal identity is that it closes the door on the possibility of life after death. The reduplication thought experiment has not only been offered as proof of the bodily requirement of personal identity, but by implication it has been considered a proof against dualism and God, like the Paradox of the Stone and the Problem of Evil. Jeff Johnson, who I studied under, has illustrated problems with relying on the reduplication scenario as a deductive proof against theism. He argues that Robert Nozick’s Closest Continuer Theory offers a legitimate rival explanation for solving the question of personal identity that preserves psychological continuity as a possible definition. Using the hypothetical example of a faculty softball team called The Null Set, Johnson shows how the issue of identity might be broached. Suppose that Johnson and an all-star core of his Null Set teammates slowly relocate to Eastern Oregon University after spending several years competing together on the faculty for a different school in Colorado. At Eastern, Johnson and his companions decide to reform The Null Set, without realizing that the original team in Colorado still exists with a different staff (Johnson). With this reduplication of the team, who is the original Null Set, the squad with the majority of the original star players or the one that stayed in the original location? The closest continuer test can be used to determine the best candidate for the original Null Set team, even if disagreements can still exist about which criteria determines the closest continuer. For example, we could say that it’s the location not the players that make the team, as in the obvious case of professional baseball teams. This means that the real Null Set is the original team from Colorado, but there is no permanent resolution to identity lurking here.

Perhaps unraveling the puzzle of personal identity is so difficult because it has been left up to philosophers this whole time. What about the harder disciplines of psychology and neuroscience? Most of us are familiar with Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical notions of self, with the subconscious and primal id, the conscious reality facing ego, and the superego, our conformed sense of social norms (Cherry). Freud is interesting, but not much help with solving the problem of personal identity per se, since the id, ego, and superego do little to clear up any metaphysical confusion. In terms of today’s psychology and psychiatry, the focus is on practical issues like counseling for depression, stress, and marital difficulties, or otherwise diagnosing and prescribing for abnormal behaviors and brain chemistries. Not resolving paradoxes.

The Johari window is another practical tool that deals with the self, a strategy of personal analysis and reflection that breaks the self into four parts. The known self is the side what we know and show to others, the hidden self is what we know and don’t show to others, the blind self is what other know but we do not, and the unknown self nobody knows (López De Victoria). Another practical tool of personal discovery and development, in terms of characteristic profiles, but who is the real you if things are learned which prompt personal growth, such that what is blind becomes known, and what is unknown becomes blind, and so forth? We are still not out of the metaphysical woods yet. Other theories in psychology may actually provide a more useful insight into philosophical problem of personal identity and so I will revisit another contribution from this discipline later on.

Modern neuroscience has answered many questions about the brain and human behavior. So it might be reasonable to think that the problem of personal identity is solved this way. Professor Jeanette Norden, during a lecture titled “Consciousness and the Self” for the Great Courses series on neuroscience called Understanding the Brain, makes explicit the lack of insight that neuroscience currently has into these mysteries, even if we can safely say that consciousness depends on the existence of a neocortex. She says that while philosophers have broken the puzzle of consciousness into the easy and hard questions, she thinks it’s better approached as the hard, harder, and hardest questions.

The hard problem for her is the mapping of the correlates between neuronal processing in the brain and subjective consciousness experience, which is referred to as the easy problem by philosophers because it is at least solvable in principle with current and future science. The harder problem is understanding why consciousness exists to begin with and how it is possible for something like this to emerge in living things from seemingly unconscious material. No matter what we learn about neuronal correlates we still have not answer this harder question, even a little. According to Norden, “[t]he ‘hardest’ question of consciousness is that consciousness appears to be a ‘something’ that is happening to a ‘me’.” The puzzle of personal identity has not come close be being solved by neuroscience, especially since there is no location in the brain where identity is found, but rather it seems to be a distributed process of interaction within the brain.

The Process of Personal Identity

Personhood begins in the womb. And pregnancy is a process. This is true for the mother as well as the unborn (and of course the father too), with gestation and growth being the fundamental aspects of the emergence of new life. Pregnancy is finite, with a beginning and an end, in the typical experience the conception and the birth encapsulate nine months of internal changes in the mother and her offspring. This process view of pregnancy probably feels rather obvious. After all, we commonly consider the pregnancy in terms of three successive stages, the familiar trimesters. This way of thinking about pregnancy as a phased progression from conception to birth is common sense, but it reveals an interesting philosophical perspective too. People are not just things, not just substances. Whether it is the mother who carries a new human being to term, or the unborn who is conceived and grows in the womb, these aspects of life demonstrate fundamentality, temporality, and transiency.

Pregnancy is often divided into trimesters, but the developmental process happening in the womb can be divided still further. In the beginning the process of a person is brought into being with the fusion of two entities, egg and sperm, creating a zygote. Cell division begins rapidly, growing the egg geometrically, becoming a blastocyst that embarks on a quest from the fallopian tube to the uterus. Once this journey is complete the evolving entity inside becomes an embryo, with rapid growth cell division eventually morphing into those tiny and adorable components of the typical human baby, head, arms, hands, legs and feet. By the end of the first trimester this embryo has become a fetus. Measured in just inches and ounces, this miniature person can begin to move her eyes and wiggle her fingers. Growth continues at a fast pace, with proportions settling into place, with neuronal connections forming between the brain and the body, a quickening of movement and the initiation of awareness and perception. By the end of the second trimester she is measured from head to toe, rather than crown to rump, and her eyes are beginning to open. In the last trimester the baby grows into full term, kicking, sucking, and turning, getting ready to be born. She changes from egg to zygote, to blastocyst, to embryo, to fetus, to little baby, but through all of these phases and forms, these separately defined things, she is the same identity, the same continuity of process.

The sudden changes inside have a big effect on Mom, with the first trimester known for fatigue, morning sickness, aversions, and changes in mood. The second trimester brings a reprieve from the fatigue and new energy to be active and get things done, get things ready, nesting and all that. By the end of the third trimester Mom is ready to give birth, carrying a larger and more active child inside that is seemingly prepared for independence and autonomy already. As the partner I try to help out how I can. I remain humble and wondrous, empathetic to Mom’s needs and dutiful to her expectations. Painting the nursery, shoulder massage, nice words of encouragement, but in the end I can never know the process of pregnancy directly. Perhaps that is why the predominantly male endeavor of philosophy has neglected this processual aspect of personhood, the process of motherhood is felt and understood primordially, with the emergence of one entity from within another, while fatherhood is a role vicarious to the emergence of a new being.

My wife and I, as soon to be first-time parents, recently took a class on childbirth at the hospital. One of the many salient lessons was a discussion of the stages and phases of labor. If pregnancy is a process then labor most certainly is as well. Dilation is the first stage, with three phases, early labor, active labor, and transition, each progressing toward the second stage, pushing and birth the baby. Stage three is birth of the placenta and then finally the recovery stage. Calling pregnancy, labor, and birth a process may seem to understate the experience, so it is here where I must humbly declare my appreciation to my wife for bearing the process of child birth. Being a man I will never know the strength it takes. I love you Mary. Of course the process of child rearing has now just begun. And just as her parents experienced the pregnancy and labor that brought her into being, Mom directly and Dad vicariously, we will also share the experience of helping and watching her develop into the person she will become.

Next comes childhood. Rousseau, who was mentioned earlier, influenced a much more contemporary thinker who has a lot to say about children, the theorist on human development Jean Piaget. He believed that children progressed through stages of development, exploring, learning, and adapting to the world around them in four successive steps. The first of Piaget’s stages is the sensorimotor phase from birth to about age two. Not a tabula rasa, but born with the agency to look, listen, grasp, and suck, a baby knows the world through sense and motor experience only. The sensorimotor stage is even divided into 6 substages: reflexes, primary circular reactions, secondary circular reactions, coordination of reactions, tertiary circular reactions, and early representational thought. Piaget’s second stage is the preoperational, from about ages two to seven, with the development of language and symbol usage, role playing and pretending, but perhaps a little egocentrism as well. The third stage in Piaget’s scheme is the concrete operational, in which children ages seven to eleven develop the ability to apply logical consideration, although more the inductive type of logic which reasons from the specific to the general, and less of the deductive type which reasons from the general to the specific. The final stage begins at about age twelve and spans the adolescence and teenage years leading to adulthood. This is when kids begin to reason deductively and hypothetically and learn to plan the future in a systematic way (“Piaget”). Piaget’s stages, and other development theories, illustrate the evolving and processual nature of children growing to adults.

The journey of personhood does not end with childhood. We do not become fully formed static individuals at any arbitrary inflection point in the experience of existence. In his hugely influential book, Being and Time, Martin Heidegger took a phenomenological approach to the question of ontology, which to him meant applying the method of “letting what shows itself show itself in the way that it shows itself” (Cahoone) to the question of being. Being, existing, is an activity of entities, and Dasein (Heidegger’s word for the self) exhibits being in a dynamic sense. One of Heidegger’s great insights was to escape the philosophical legacy, left over from Descartes’, of thinking dualistically about the person as a mind separate from a body. We are not ghosts inhabiting machines, we are each Dasein, an existing entity who is finite and temporal, thrown into, interacting with, and shaped by the world and the time in which one lives.

Being in the world, according to Heidegger, means that the world and time that we inhabit is not separate from our existence but a fundamental aspect of selfhood. In addition, our mode of being is special in the sense that we reveal the world around us when we move about in it through our conscious experience. Dasein’s normal way of being is a tripartite structure, which is “ahead of itself, always being already in the world, and being alongside entities.” (Cahoone) The first part of the structure of being is called existentiality, and this is the experience of understanding the world and the objects in it in terms of possibilities of use. Understanding is oriented toward the future. The second part of Dasein’s structure of being is facticity, that one is always already in the world exposed to the facts of the current reality, inheriting the mood that is carried over from the previous moments. Facticity is oriented toward the past. The third branch in the tripartite structure of Dasein is falling, the identification with present experience in terms of other people and objects, as in normal daily interactions like idle talk. Falling is an inauthentic way of being in which we become absorbed into daily life and our social situation in order to avoid anxiety and existential angst. Falling is oriented toward the present.

Our existential angst is not a particular thing that can be resolved, but an ongoing apprehension about living one’s life, one’s care, one’s stand on one’s own existence. Authentic existence, for Heidegger, means being-unto-death, an aspect of his thought that I covered in more detail in the article, Authentic Iron Maiden and Global Domination. Being-unto-death is not meant to be macabre, rather it is the sense that we recognize our finite reality and allow it to drive our action and motivation to realize our own possibilities authentically, in anticipatory resoluteness. “‘Future’ does not here mean a Now, which not yet having become ‘actual,’ sometime will be, but rather the coming, in which Dasein comes toward itself in its ownmost ability-to-be.” (Blattner 105) From birth to death we have a continuous development of existence that does not cease until our end is actually realized, showing that personal identity is a process until the end of personal existence. Life is finite, at least in the material existence of this world that we have been thrown into, but also temporal, dynamic, creative, and personally directed during present moments into an open future.

The human sense of self has evolved in history as well. In an article I wrote, Happy Birthday to Me and the Telephone, I connected my own identity to that of the telephone through celebration of my March 10, 1976 birth date to the first telephone call, a monumental event that happened a century to the day earlier. Coincidental for my purposes here I wrote this illustrative passage:

“Wireless technologies are also evolving our culture and social habits. The contemporary Italian Philosopher of Technology Luciano Floridi suggests that we are in the midst of a revolution in human awareness representing a paradigm shift in the types of beings we see ourselves as. This is the fourth revolution of this nature, according to Floridi. From our ancient and classical perspective of special creatures of creation with mythical origins, we shifted to seeing our existence as much less special when we discovered that the Earth was not the center of the Solar System. This was the Copernican Revolution. The Darwinian Revolution caused us to reevaluate the human identity in a context firmly rooted in biological determinism and the animal kingdom. The Freudian Revolution cast into doubt our classical understanding of human consciousness and free will, with the recognition that cognitive processes below our awareness and control had large role in determining our behavior. Floridi argues that the current Information Revolution is altering our view once again and that we are coming to see ourselves as information exchanging entities. For example, our identities our represented online within social networking sites by archives of sense data and informational content. Our interests, activities, and living relations define who we are not only to the outside world, but more and more to ourselves. I think Floridi is really onto something here. That means the business I work for is more than just a new industry, it is an institutional framework supporting a revolution in human consciousness.” (Endicott)

Ontology is the study of being, so in this branch of philosophical inquiry the goal is to identify what exists, everything that there is and how it all relates. The Western philosophical tradition has mostly focused on ontologies of substance. It is this assumption that the universe is composed of substances with discrete objects that then have characteristics. The substance ontologies have had a hard time reckoning with change over time, because an object defined has a permanent identity that then must change through the incorporation of properties, characteristics, and relationships that can shift over time. Zeno’s Paradox, the mystery of how an arrow can ever reach its intended target when it should be stuck perpetually halving the distance, is an example of the problems that develop from thinking about change and motion from the static substance framework. The problem of the self, in trying to answer how personal identity remains when the body and mind are constantly changing, has continued to be an enigma for philosophers into the present day. Much of the paradox of identity can be resolved by shifting from a substance ontology to a process ontology.

The idea that process, and not substance, is the fundamental aspect of reality has been around since the ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus in the sixth century B.C.. He was the first to argue that change in the only constant, and quipped that “one cannot step into the same river twice.” (Rescher 9) Although it has never dominated Western philosophical thought, process and change has been the focus of several prominent thinkers, from Gottfried Leibniz and G.W.F. Hegel during Germany’s Enlightenment and Romantic periods to the American Pragmatists William James and John Dewey. James talking about the mind as a “stream of consciousness,”(Rescher 108) with the focus on the continuous experience of self. Yet, process philosophy did not really become a school of its own until Henri Bergson and Alfred North Whitehead. Bergson thought that time, flux, change, and creative energy were the basis of an underlying dynamic reality that we did not adequately conceive in our taxonomies of static things and objects (Rescher 16-18). Whitehead, in his standard bearing Process and Reality, lays out an entire metaphysical system based around “occasions” as the elementary building blocks of actuality, with entities such as electrons and atoms being only instantiations of things resulting from the creative processes that bring them about, the transition process, or that utilize them to different purposes, the concretion process (Rescher 20-23). Despite these insightful contributions, process metaphysic is not the dominant mode of thinking in Western philosophy and culture.

The debate between substance and process is not about what exists and does not exist, but about what is more primordial and fundamental to the true nature of reality. Substance philosophers emphasize distinct individual things analytically separated from each other, where process philosophers focus on the totality of reality through interactive interconnectedness. Substance philosophers highlight the fixed entities, with their modification by feature, condition, or relation being subsequent and secondary, while process philosophers elevate the activity and creative energy which results in the innovation of being and novelty of experience (Rescher 35). To most people this probably just sounds like splitting hairs, or impossible to settle, a sentiment captured by a magnet my wife gifted to me that paraphrasingly reads, Nietzsche said “to do is to be,” Kant said “to be is to do,” and Sinatra said “do be do be do.” Still, for the kind of metaphysical understanding one needs to resolve paradoxes the differences shape the rules of the rationality game that we play. They are the first principles, the a priori assumptions, the paradigmatic prism by which we allow everything else to be comprehended.

In process philosophy the dominance of doing over being is the fundamental aspect of entire reality, including personal identity and the self. Not in terms of what it means to be an individual person but what also what it means to live and exist in the world at the time that we do. We are connected to our own place and time, events and happenings, the occurring world, its history and its other occupants, an identity of evolving ecology that defines us as we define it. Nicholas Rescher (116) explains, “[t]he ‘self,’ the human person, is…best seen not as a substance or being (a thing of some sort) but as an experience-integrating life process of the human mode, the concrete realization of a developmental sequence comprising childhood, youth, maturity, and, finally, old age…as processists see it a person not only has a developmental career but is individuated by it as the particular individual that he or she is.” The stages of pregnancy and fetal development, the phases of childhood, passage of adolescence and the teenage years, milestones of adulthood, and living at the momentous and temporary apex of history are all indicators that a life is an activity one does, not a thing one has. Personal identity is a process of existence, not simply the possession of a body, memories, or psychological continuity.

Welcoming Willow to the World

My daughter, you are not yet born, but you move and kick in your mother’s womb. Your identity is not yet that of an individual, you are a potential person who will soon emerge into the world, a novel being, unique soul, and eventually an autonomous person and sovereign citizen. Nonetheless, there is a facticity about you already, a proto-identity that you inherit as you are thrown into our world. Your DNA, your gender, your birth date and birth place, your ancestry, your parental units, and your name which we have chosen for you. In the future, when someone asks you that ambiguous question, “who are you?,” your first answer will surely be, “I am Willow.” The government will choose for you a social security number. There will be plenty more facticity to follow, the world will already be what it is when you encounter it, as it presents itself to you, but the rest of the answer to the identity question is up to you, up to what you choose to do, because you will become the path that you follow…or the trail that you blaze. You will be what you think about, who you befriend, who you love, what activities you pursue, how you spend your time.

We are what we do and what we become involved in. This means that we are not just our past and our present, but also our future. Our identity is never complete, not a solid thing, until our personal process of living life comes to its inevitable end. My identity changes with each new article, or song, that I write. My identity changes with each new day that I work, learn, relax, engage, and journey. My identity changes until the day I die. In less than a month my identity will change in the most fundamental way I can imagine. I will become a father. This process of life, of growth and change embodied, is just beginning for you, but for me it is blossoming. This is the ultimate example of realizing resonance, a most excellent way of existing.

Jared Roy Endicott

Dedicated to my wonderful and loving wife Mary and my precious daughter Willow. My muses, my motivation, for you my heart and soul.

Personal Identity, Pregnancy, and Process Philosophy Subscribe in a reader


Works Cited

Blattner, William D.. Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Print.

Cahoone, Lawrence. “Heidegger’s Being and Time.” The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida. Chantilly, Virginia: The Great Courses, The Teaching Company, 2010. Audio.

Cherry, Kendra. ”The Id, Ego and Superego.” Psychology, About.com. 2013. Web. 20 Oct 13.

Grim, Patrick. “Self-Identity and Other Minds.” Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines. Chantilly, Virginia: The Great Courses, The Teaching Company, 2008. DVD.

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Albany, NY: Pomona Press, 2013 (orig. 1689). Kindle.

Johnson, Jeffrey L. ”Personal survival and the closest continuer theory.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. 1997. Eastern Oregon University.

López De Victoria, Samuel. ”The Johari Window.” Psych Central: World of Psychology, 2008. Web. 27 Oct 13.

Murkoff, Heidi, and Sharon Mazel. What to Expect When You’re Expecting. New York: Workman Publishing, 2008. Print.

Norden, Jeanette. “Consciousness and the Self.” Understanding the Brain. Chantilly, Virginia: The Great Courses, The Teaching Company, 2007. DVD.

Rescher, Nicholas. Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1996. Print.

Descartes’ Epistemology.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010 .Web. 27 Oct 13.

Jean Jacques Rousseau.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010 .Web. 27 Oct 13.

“Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development.” Psychology, About.com. Web. 25 Sep 13.

“Reid on Memory and Personal Identity.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2009 .Web. 27 Oct 13.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

By Myron Johnson
posted on 31 October at 10:20

I once met a psychologist by the name of Fritz Perls who is famous for saying: "You don't push the river, it flows by itself" and that has made a big impression on my life. In my reflection on those words, there is a balance to everything and we don't know what that means until we see the fulcrum point and make a decision whether we are at the peak juncture or if we are drifting away from it by happenstance. You are asking the right questions, but more concisely, you are wondering about the future and what will be reality for you, your wife and daughter and all the people who interact with you over time. That is not something that you can ascertain until you pass the point of knowing precisely what it is you were looking for in your search. For now: Don't push the river and you'll do just fine. Congratulations to you and Mary. This is going to be a wonderful experience for you both.