When a bird is alive it eats ants and when it dies the ants eat it. Body is that which we have gathered from this planet and we leave it in this planet. It’s a home we built using raw materials from here. The human body is everything that makes up, well, you? Are we the food we eat? Are we our body? With what will we identify our self?

Does a person’s self identity laid on the physical features of his body? We usually identify people by their physical characteristics like their body features, face, voice and so on. Even our identity cards hold our finger prints and retinal images. In crime investigation they typically use fingerprints and in more advanced investigations DNA is used. These things along with voice patterns, blood sample, dental records, etc are physical attributes that we carry with us through life.

In that case can we consider the body we hold as permanent? Most of the cells in our body get replaced every now and then. We shed our skin, hair and so on to replace new ones. As the atoms within our body come and go, what remains permanent is under scrutiny. What is our specific material substance? Does our body retain a consistent structural form that is central to our identity?

How do we establish personal identity in the case of identical twins and human cloning scenarios? In the former two people are clearly visible as identical on their physical features, DNA, voice pattern etc. The latter case is of the modern technological wonder; human cloning where many people are identical in terms of all the features. These are parallel people with physical structure and identity.

In a more complex technological medical innovation we hear of whole body transplantation. We are familiar with different organ transplants. However the news is that now, doctors are able to transplant all new body. It’s also called brain transplantation. ‘HEAVEN’ (Head Anastamosis Venture)

In case of psychiatric illness like multiple personality disorder, who is the Mr. X and who is the Mr. Y? In case of amnesia where full memory is lost, who am I? In case of head injury where a person’s mental features are altered where do we go?

It seems, then, that physical structure alone is insufficient for establishing one’s personal identity over time.

Next Time…
Who built this body? Is it this, you? Who are you? Watch for the next episode
Identity – The mind

Manoj Christopher

Director, Morpho Thinkers