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reason, and, more inconsistently than all, bey their own identity, to dispute it! They cannot debate it without supposing that they are themselves, that they are now thinking themselves, that in meeting objections they must defend themselves : in short, as a perfect specimen of arguing in a circle and of selfconfutation, they must believe that they are themselves to be convinced that they are not themselves.
In the same manner of contradiction, some have maintained that consciousness and memory are imperfect pledges of identity, —that they may distort and betray. Such persons give their opinions and adduce their arguments against identity, as by no means satisfactorily attested. But in this very demur do they not rely on their own consciousness and memory? do they not calculate on the correct state in which these exist ? Each present assent of mind is dependent on consciousness : each previous step of reasoning, or fact of observation, depends on memory. Therefore they confess the accuracy of their consciousness and the infallibility of their memory in resisting identity, while they denounce them both as vague and treacherous when believers in identity appeal to them as the mediums of their conviction.
Identity is a relation,—it has respect to time. That which was momentary could not be the same. The same with what ? Itself? It did not, it does not, exist. The greater part of our perceptions is relative. What is space ? we cannot conceive of its abstract and infinite,—but we may conceive a relation of distance from body to body. What is motion ? It is inconceivable in itself, but we can conceive of it when it takes place between opposite points. What is time? Our conception of it is in relation to succession. So is number; so is magnitude. Upon the nature of time we might reasonably descant as intimately bearing upon personal identity ; but, as says old Polonius,
“ To expostulate
A graver authority, Augustine, says—" I know what time is,
when I am not asked ; when I am asked, I know not what it is." Our best idea of it is only analogous. Duration, long, course, distance, space, range, interval, are not unusually applied to it. We judge of its continuance by those events without, and emotions within, which succeed one another. Pleasure renders time more sensibly short because we are less attentive to succes sion :-pain, more sensibly long, because anxious for transition The following lines of Byron, taken from different parts of his works, may illustrate the idea :
“ The mind then hath capacity of time,
" Their hourglass was the sea sand, and the tide,
Like her smooth billow, saw the moments glide;
“But yet, what minutes ! minutes like to these
Rend men's lives into immortalities."
But it is not in such succession that time can consist. Let the events and ideas of a life be crowded into one more brief, or distributed over one more extended, is the time the same? Could those events and ideas curtail or enlarge it? Time must answer to truth, on the same first principles as have been resorted to in vindication of our identity : principles which contain the essence of reason, the very axioms of mind; without which the mind could not embrace a theorem or proposition : principles that consolidate the foundations of all sensible and demonstrative knowledge: and that will dispel those wild incoherences which we must stimulate our fancy to conceive, and torture our understanding to defend.
The embarrassments to which personal identity has been reduced by some are specious and amusing. Knowing the hospitalities of this town, I tremble to announce an objection, which, if valid, will cashier them for ever. With horrible temerity Epicharmus was wont to say, "he who is invited by any one
over night to come the next day to dinner, comes that day uninvited, considering that they are no more the same men, but have become others." Nor is it uncommon in our opponents to argue with their own understanding of terms after their explanation has been settled between us, and to raise exceptions which only derive plausibility from their wordy war. Were I to say of some antique mansion with a modern front, it is the old house, I might be pointed to the part that is new: or, were I to say it is a new house, I might be pointed to what is old. I should be speaking of different things, but both in my sense of them would be true. I should still be open to captious objection.
“ Let us suppose,” says Berkeley, “ several men together, all endued with the same faculties, and consequently affected in like sort by the senses, and who have never yet known the use of language; they would without question agree with the perceptions. Though, perhaps, when they came to the use of speech, some regarding the uniformness of what was perceived, might call it the same thing : others, especially regarding the diversity of persons who perceived, might choose the denomination of different things. But who sees not that all the dispute is about a word ? viz. whether what is perceived by different persons may yet have the term, same, applied to it ? ........ If you should say we differ in our notions, for that you superadded to your idea the simple abstracted idea of identity, whereas I did not; I would tell you, I know not what you mean by that abstracted idea of identity; and should desire you to look into your own thoughts, and be sure you understood yourself."*
Esteeming identity as necessary to the sentient and thinking principle, we are
we are not unwilling to concede that that principle may assume various casts and determinations, be seen in diversified states and conditions. It is the subject of pleasures and pains, of sympathies and antipathies, and all new acquisitions of knowledge give it a new modification. These exercises cannot be identical though they pertain to
Third Dial. of Hylas and Philonous.
the identical substance. What new trains of thought do we pursue, what additional habits of enquiry do we adopt, what clashing motives of conduct do we entertain! We often hurry from one extreme to another. We often contradict in future life all the pledges of our earlier years ! These concessions form the amount of the capital objections to the doctrine of our identity.
Now, then, the objectors must have some more perfect notion of identity than mind can authorise, else why deny to it identity in the absolute sense ? They must be capable of conceiving, or accustomed to observe, something more identical. That something cannot be in their minds, for that would give up the dispute,-it must therefore be in the external universe. In what is then designated, nature, is something which is immutable: something which gives the idea of identity more strictly than can the human soul. To such a supposition, I answer in the following way. That the phænomena by which we ascertain matter are so distinct from those which characterise mind, that a perfect comparison cannot be instituted between them; what would be perfectly identical in matter would not be analogous to that which was perfectly identical in mind. But I still further remark, that there is no such perfect identity in the physical universe; the relations of atoms and of worlds are continually varied; whether those of the scattered dust or the fixed star. There is not only casual change, but a law of change in all ; constant production, decomposition, and re-production. And again : diversity and identity impress themselves on all things, and there is not a particle but of which we may say, that it is at once another and the same. More over, diversity is quite as hypothetical as identity, for though we know that all things change, yet the change is not rarely imperceptible. Identity is, in such cases, the more obvious, though not the more necessary. And the objection weighs no more against our opinion than against itself: for if diversity destroys identity, identity may be as unsparing to diversity.
It may now be asked how we learn that others are the same with themselves? Some would refer to their materiality;
and answer, that they are known because each man has, at any given time, more of an old body than a new : because the transformation is not so palpable to sense as the consistency. But the conclusion we come to is more probably drawn from ourselves. Ourself is surrounded with its determinate physical accidents: wherever we see those, and the person acting by them, we infer the interior person and self. We cannot conceive of another's self. And hence the curiosity we feel to examine the privacies of men's lives: hence the avidity with which we seize on diaries and autobiographies. We have thus more of the consciousness of others than we otherwise could obtain. A person's self is thus suggested by his appearance; but when his language, expression, sentiments, are different from what they were, we are staggered as to his identity notwithstanding the corporeal resemblance ;-we say he is not himself, he is not like himself, he is absent. The appearance of man changes,in consulting that appearance at remote periods the self could not be identified. If Æneas in his dream could recognise Hector, though “ quantum mutatus ab illo,” yet Laura knew not Beppo !
Thus, in jurisprudence, it is possible that the guilty self may escape, and the innocent be implicated: that the Comedy of Errors, not uncommon in ordinary life, may be converted into a tragedy under the purest administrations of justice. An alibi has been proved after conscientious oaths have been sworn to inculpate the person. Yet on the other hand few have the consummate self-control to maintain they are not themselves. The eye confesses what the tongue denies. The incognito is a somewhat difficult part to play: but no inferior tact can sustain it in defiance of criminal evidence.
It is no mean illustration of the wisdom which shines in all the arrangements of nature, that a sensible index points to that which could not be the object of sense.
A character as various as individuality is stamped on the human frame, certainly not capable of leaving an infallible impression, but sufficiently obvious for all the purposes of recognition required by intercourse and friendship. The dumb animal can read it: often