Identity. I am who I am

Here are some possible answers to this question. We might be human animals. Surprisingly, most philosophers reject this answer. We

Identity. I am who I am


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nsible for your actions. The only one whose future welfare you can't ignore is yourself. You have a special, selfish interest in your own future, and no one else's. But many philosophers deny this. They say that someone else could be responsible for your actions. You could have an entirely selfish reason to care about someone else's well-being for his own sake. I care, or ought rationally to care, about what happens to Olson tomorrow not because he is me, but because he is then psychologically continuous with me as I am now (see Section 4), or because he relates to me in some other way that doesn't imply numerical identity. If someone else tomorrow were psychologically continuous with me as I am now, I ought to transfer my selfish concern to him. (See Shoemaker 1970: 284; Parfit 1971, 1984: 215; Martin 1998.)

That completes our survey. Though these questions are related, they are different, and it is important not to run them together. What they have in common that makes them all questions about personal identity is difficult to say.

What is identity?

  • To talk about our identity, we try to answer the question, "Who am I?"
  • We have different kinds of identity: national identity, social identity, cultural/racial identity, class identity, familial identity, gender identity, sexual identity, etc. All these identities are formed beyond our control (at least partly). (This explains why some contemporary theories say that we have multiple identity and that our identity is split.)
  • Out of all of these inter-related kinds of identity we form our personal (sense of) identity. "Usually" we loudly pronounce (articulte and/or defend) a certain kind of identity unless it is strongly related to our beliefs or unless it is threatened.

Understanding others makes possible a better knowledge of oneself: any form of identity is complex, for individuals are defined in relation to other people - both individually and collectively - and the various groups to which they owe allegiance, in a constantly shifting pattern.

UNESCO, Learning : The Treasure Within, 1996

Understanding and valuing cultural diversity are the keys to countering racism. All individuals must feel free to explore the uniqueness of their culture and identity while developing understandings of the cultural diversity that exists in the world around them. Denying cultural expression means limiting the expression of unique perspectives on life and the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation.

Culture and language

Culture is a defining feature of a person's identity, contributing to how they see themselves and the groups with which they identify. Culture may be broadly defined as the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings, which is transmitted from one generation to another. Every community, cultural group or ethnic group has its own values, beliefs and ways of living.

The observable aspects of culture such as food, clothing, celebrations, religion and language are only part of a person's cultural heritage. The shared values, customs and histories characteristic of culture shape the way a person thinks, behaves and views the world. A shared cultural heritage bonds the members of the group together and creates a sense of belonging through community acceptance.

Language is intrinsic to the expression of culture. As a means of communicating values, beliefs and customs, it has an important social function and fosters feelings of group identity and solidarity. It is the means by which culture and its traditions and shared values may be conveyed and preserved.

Language is fundamental to cultural identity. This is so for people everywhere. For Bininj, their unique world is expressed in their language. For this reason, it is important that people keep their own language alive.

Cultural and linguistic diversity is a feature of most nations today as people from different groups live together as a consequence of historical events and human migrations. Within multilingual societies, the maintenance of the languages of the various ethnic and cultural groups is critical for the preservation of cultural heritage and identity. The loss of language means the loss of culture and identity. In many societies throughout history, the suppression of the languages of minority groups has been used as a deliberate policy in order to suppress those minority cultures. As a result a large number of the world's languages have been lost with the processes of colonisation and migration. [2]

As languages disappear, cultures die. The world becomes inherently a less interesting place, but we also sacrifice raw knowledge and the intellectual achievements of millennia.


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