Advanced Essay #3: What Makes Us, Us


My goal for the paper was to be patient in my writing, and to learn something about either my writing skill or the topic I wrote about, or both.  I think I did a good job not rushing too much, using techniques like reading out loud and listening to the advice from the video we watched in class about how writing is all about revision.  I could have spread the writing out better rather than working for longer periods of time for certain days that way I could pick up more easily, however I wanted to write when I was in the best mood or had an idea.  I learned I can be a patient writer, but not to the point of starting from scratch.  I’d rather change and delete and change and delete, until the paper is how I like it.  I think that can be seen if my paper is compared to my rough draft.

Advanced Essay #3:  What Makes Us, Us

What is the ultimate factor in figuring out our own identities?  Objects can be useful in explaining identity, by personifying them and showing how identity is determined through change.  In an example of a scenario from the video, “Who Am I?” by Amy Adkins, the idea of persistence of identity is brought up.  The video says that the “I” is always changing and is made up of many things, so it is extremely difficult to explain identity.  This essay will explore the most important pieces to all of our identities, and consider the question, “What types of changes cause a change in identity”?  

In the video, a ship made of many planks of wood is constantly being repaired with new planks.  The process is very gradual, but eventually there are more new than old planks, and after even longer the boat is made of all new planks.  Physically the boat is completely different than originally.  However, its identity remains the same.  After a 100% physical change, there was not a point in time where the ship was not itself anymore.  The meat of what makes up our identities is our experiences, memories, and actions.

The past does not go away, and links people to previous versions of themselves, making our experiences an important element of Identity. More experiences are added to our lives along the way, however the old ones are always there, a constant piece of us throughout changes and additions to our bodies and minds.  Going back to the ship analogy, the reason it can identify as the same ship as it was before any repairs were made is because of its experience. Physically it is 100% different when all the planks are replaced, similarly to how a person is physically much different after a long time.  

Suppose there are two people who look alike, even identical twins.  They both identity as separate individuals, and have their own identity.  Physical characteristics have some measure in defining us, but they are not totally unique or long lasting, and actually mean less to us.

20th Century Moral philosopher Bernard Williams proposed an experiment.  The premise is that two people would swap brains, and then have to decide if they would want the body they had originally came into the situation with to be rewarded and the body with their mental content now to be tortured, or vice versa.  Practically everyone asked this question chooses the body where their mental content now is to be rewarded and their old body to be tortured.  This shows that physicality does not define our identities as strongly as our experiences and memories, because we see more value of ourselves in our mind than body.

Hank Green in a Crash Course Philosophy video opines his thoughts on identity, reasoning that, “Personal Identity persists over time because you remain in the same body from birth until death.” The body changes, but the important thing to draw from this quote is that since we are in one body all this time, we can be identified by our past and actions we made.  We all have our own unique actions that remain the same, and speak a lot about us.  Our actions show where we stand, and express our desires.

Identity is based on experiences, memories, and actions, because they are all tightly linked to us regardless of anything.  We are all recognizable by these three things, all enveloped by our experiences.  Our experiences defines us because they are everything that has happened to us in our entire lives, through all changes.  In a change of identity, our experiences still defines us because they are never wrong in telling us about ourselves.  How could they be? They are our life story.  

Work Cited

Adkins, Amy. “Who Am I?.” Youtube. TED-Ed, 13 January 2017    <>.                   

Green, Hank.  “Crash Course Philosophy #19.” Youtube.  PBS, 27 June 2016.  13 January 2017. <>.