Ayers: Person ej blott moralisk enligt Locke

Ayers förkastar helt den vanliga tolkning som innebär att Lockes personbegrepp skulle vara rent moraliskt. Denna tolkning åberopar i synnerhet en känd passage i vilken Locke hävdar att “person”

“is a Forensick Term appropriating Actions and their Merit…This personality extends it self beyond present Existence to what is past, only by consciousness, whereby it becomes concerned and accountable, owns and imputes to it self past Actions, just upon the same ground, and for the same reason, that it does the present…And therefore whatever past Actions it cannot reconcile or appropriate to that present self by consciousness, it can be no more concerned in, than if they had never been done.” [Cit. i Locke, II, 266.]

Ayers kritiserar D. P. Behans och andras uppfattning att dessa formuleringar innebär att personlig kontinuitet för Locke överhuvud icke är vad Ayers kallar “a natural relation”, utan istället att

“what links past to present is not cognitive consciousness of the past in the sense of memory, but an act of moral concern or acknowledgement which sets up a kind of non-natural, proprietary relationship. On this view Locke’s notion of a person is so thoroughly ‘forensic’ (and so like the notion of legal property itself) that the identification of persons and questions of their continuity fall right outside the scope of ontology, being somehow concepts of pure ethics.” [Ibid. 266; Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie bygger sin framställning av Lockes personbegrepp bl. a. på Behans artikel ‘Locke on Persons and Personal Identity’, i Canadian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 9, 1.]

Men denna tolkning, “even in so far as it is at all clear”, kan enligt Ayers icke upprätthållas i ljuset av allt det övriga som Locke gör gällande rörande personbegreppets förhållande till medvetandet, rörande medvetandets natur, dess förhållande till det förflutna i minnets form, och analogin mellan medvetandet och livet. Fastän förbindelsen mellan de engelska termerna “consciousness” och “conscience” förvisso var starkare på Lockes tid än idag, och fastän detta även är av betydelse hos Locke, [Ibid. + not 87.] gäller dock för denne att

“Consciousness is distinct from conscience, and prior to it. The point in associating them was to find reason for identifying the individual ‘thinking thing’ (i.e. that which is distinguished and united, at the experiential level, by consciousness) with the ‘legal’ individual, the moral agent subject to law, responsible for a past and concerned for a future. If Locke saw the class of persons as important to ethics rather than for biology, that does not mean that self-conscious rationality, which defines that class and unifies each of its members, is anything but a natural attribute…It is true that external property is united to us by merely legal or moral relation, and in the most primitive cases by an act of appropriation. Our actions themselves, on the other hand, not to speak of our experiences and the parts of our bodies, are ‘appropriated’ to us by an entirely natural and given principle of unity, namely consciousness, rather than by some acquisitive act of acknowledgement or ‘owning’ on our part.” [Ibid. 267 f.]

Vi konstaterar alltså åter att personskapet för Locke konstitueras av (det icke-substantiella) medvetandet i sig, och av minnet som är beroende av det.

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