Personal Identity: A Comparative Study of Views from John Locke and David Hume


Understanding personal identity is crucial in comprehending the nature of human beings. Locke and Hume, although sharing certain similarities in their philosophical ideologies, differ in their theories concerning personal identity.

John Locke's Perspective on Personal Identity

Locke argues that personal identity is determined by consciousness and memory. According to him, an individual remains the same person as long as they can remember past experiences and maintain continuity of consciousness. Memory plays a vital role in connecting different phases of an individual's life, providing a sense of identity and unity.

David Hume's Perspective on Personal Identity

Hume's stance on personal identity contrasts with Locke's viewpoint. He claims that personal identity is an illusion and does not exist. Hume suggests that there is no "self " that remains constant over time. Instead, he emphasizes the collection of perceptions and experiences, which continually change and reshape our sense of identity.

Comparison between Locke and Hume

While Locke emphasizes memory as the foundation of personal identity, Hume rejects the notion of a unified self altogether. Locke believes that personal identity is rooted in consciousness, while Hume argues that personal identity is a bundle of perceptions.

Implications of Personal Identity Theories

Locke's theory of personal identity has significant implications for a wide range of fields, including psychology and ethics. Understanding how memory shapes our sense of self allows for a deeper understanding of memory-related disorders and the ethical implications of memory manipulation.


Q1: How does Locke define personal identity?

A1: According to Locke, personal identity is determined by consciousness and memory.

Q2: What is Hume's perspective on personal identity?

A2: Hume claims that personal identity is an illusion and consists of a collection of changing perceptions.

Q3: What are the implications of Locke's theory of personal identity?

A3: Locke's theory has implications for psychology, ethics, and understanding memory-related disorders.

Q4: Do Locke and Hume agree on the concept of personal identity?

A4: No, Locke and Hume hold contrasting views on personal identity.

Q5: How does memory influence personal identity?

A5: Memory plays a crucial role in creating a sense of identity by connecting past experiences.


In conclusion, John Locke and David Hume present distinct viewpoints on personal identity. While Locke emphasizes memory and consciousness, Hume rejects the idea of a unified self. Exploring these perspectives broadens our understanding of human nature and its complexities.