Filosofia Theoretica

Volume 3, Issue 1, 2014

Peter Bisong Bisong
Pages 50-66

Jonathan O. Chimakonam’s Concept of Personal Identity: A Critical Reflection

What is it that constitutes personal identity, is a question that has engaged the minds of scholars for eons of years. This question has become more complex in recent times with the emergence of biomedical technologies like allotransplantation, xenotransplantation and other forms of genetic engineering, which have tended to obliterate the uniqueness that hitherto existed in individuals. With organs and tissues being transplanted at will from one human to another, it becomes difficult to define what constitutes personal identity of person A who received an allotransplant from person B. Is he person B or Person A or both? This question would be a hard nut to crack for the adherent to a bodily theory of personal identity like Chimakonam. To assume that personal identity resides in the continuation of the same body will amount to a conclusion that Mrs. B who had a face and breast transplant is not Mrs. B but somebody else. The society Chimakonam holds as a judge of personal identity, would actually see her as not Mrs. A. But is she really not Mrs. A? This work concludes that she is Mrs. A because it is the individual that is the judge of personal identity and not the society. Personal identity resides in the consciousness. This is because it is consciousness that marks human from animals. This is not to say that the body is not a criterion of personal identity, personal identity resides more in consciousness than in the body. The body could only serve as a criterion, where the consciousness is lost, but when consciousness is regained, the body ceases to be the criterion. The body could at best be said to be a temporary criterion of identity, and would give way when consciousness returns.