Philosophical Story Challenge of the Week

Cast-of-DollhouseDoes anyone remember the show Dollhouse? It ran for two seasons a few years back and, all in all, it was pretty good. The show revolved around an organization that took in desperate volunteers (often criminals who saw this as a way to commute their sentence), asked for five years of their lives in return for a large sum of money ($5 million dollars if memory serves) and their freedom. What did they do for those five years? Well, the organization erased their memories and implanted new memories and personalities in order to rent them out for a variety of purposes ranging from prostitution to mediation to assassination. Sounds pretty immoral, right? I generally agree, and the show brought up this point more than once. However, one of the less obvious and more interesting questions that the show dealt with in some depth (for a television show at least) is the question of what makes me… well me.

Some popular arguments posit that what makes me a meaningful individual organism is entirely biological. My personality is a result of key events in my lives that develop into memories (what the movie Inside Out called ‘core memories’) which shape and mold the person I become. Thus, my memory is the core of who I am and without my memory I can be made into someone entirely different with no meaningful connection to my previous self.

However, others have rejected this idea and argued that there is something in the human individual that is more fundamental than memory. Some point to the concept of a human soul that exists beyond memory, will, or feeling and is the core of human identity. Others argue that memory, will, feeling, sense, etc are all simply parts of a large whole, which is the human soul, and that removing any one of them is detrimental to the identity, but does not simply destroy it entirely. Those who are of a more physicalist bent, but still reject the idea that my identity is defined entirely by my memories, have argued for a more fundamental biological or existential source of identity that memory enhances and supports, but does not and cannot simply define. Dollhouse tended toward this general set of theories, but never explicitly supported any one of them in particular.

For your challenge today, I want you to consider this issue in depth. What is it that makes you who you are. Is your identity entirely based on your memories? Without your memory would you be someone else entirely? Or is there something more fundamental than memory that defines identity?

As always, I would like you to write a story of 1000 words that presents your answer to the question.