The Self as Described — and Memory

  • Hywel D. Lewis


There can be little doubt that we do identify ourselves all the time, both for ourselves and for others, by description. For normal purposes this is all that is required. This takes the same course, in essentials, as identification in the external world. We may indicate which table is in need of repair, or to be disposed of, by saying ‘the round table’ or ‘the square table’. This will be in a context, this room or at least this house, where the description rules out any possibility of confusion. In the last resort we must have recourse to physical location. Two objects may be identical in all the respects of which we can think, two tables of exactly the same colour, shape, size, weight, the same material etc. There is no way in which we can say that one is different from the other. But one is in front of the window, one by the fire. If this were not the case, if there is no way in which one is different from the other, and they are in the same place exactly, then we have one table and not two. We do not always have explicit reference to spatial location in distinguishing physical objects. A vase may be unique if it is the only one of its kind actually made by a famous artist. It may also be the only one of its kind that I have ever seen, or the one that I bought.


Past Event Mental Property Physical Peculiarity Dispositional Trait Normal Purpose 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    See, for example, W. D. Ross, Foundations of Ethics, ch. VII (Oxford University Press, 1976).Google Scholar

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© Hywel D. Lewis 1982

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  • Hywel D. Lewis

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