Who I am vs. who I will have been

7 December 2012

Yes, I do very much like playing with tenses, but in this case I want to focus more on epistemology than grammar – though the two are, of course, intertwined.

I think memory, knowing, and identity are also intertwined. An integral aspect of WHO I WAS is WHO I KNOW MYSELF TO HAVE BEEN, which itself is in part a function of memory. For the sake of discussion, let’s take it to be that I am someone at this moment. Of course, who I become, say, a year from today, will have been partly determined by the me I am now—but isn’t it also true that who I am now is to be partially determined by who I will remember myself to have been? To put it starkly: if I close this site, in the intervening months, and delete the content of this post, and no one remembers it and nothing ever reminds me of it (all fairly plausible, wouldn’t you think?), won’t I have been no one at all, even though I BE someone now?

We have good reasons to think ourselves constant, stables selves, unique and singular beings with IDENTITY. But we have more and better reasons for doubting this.

Nevertheless, it’s not quite true that I will have been no one, as a faulty memory is just part of the infinite complex of causes and conditions, and can’t retroactively alter them. But the me I am now will also, being perfectly forgotten, never have existed…

Still, this doesn’t make the decisions made by this me any less significant – and won’t have made them so retroactively (so to speak). It just means that a shift in perspective is in order.

Or so I think at the moment.

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