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We, therefore, have to modify our previous conclusions:
Having a memory is not a necessary nor a sufficient condition for possessing a self-identity.
We are back to square one. The poor souls in Oliver Sacks' tome, "The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat" are unable to create and retain memories. They occupy an eternal present, with no past. They are thus unable to access (or invoke) their self-identity by remembering it. Their self-identity is unavailable to them (though it is available to those who observe them over many years) - but it exists for sure. Therapy often succeeds in restoring pre-amnesiac memories and self-identity.
V. The Incorrigible Self
Self-identity is not only always-on and all-pervasive - but also incorrigible. In other words, no one - neither an observer, nor person himself - can "disprove" existence of his self-identity. No one can prove that a report about existence of his (or another's) self-identity is mistaken.
Is it equally safe to say that no one - neither an observer, nor person himself - can prove (or disprove) non-existence of his self-identity? Would it be correct to say that no one can prove that a report about non-existence of his (or another's) self-identity is true or false?
Dan's criminal responsibility crucially depends on answers to these questions. Dan cannot be held responsible for Jack's murder if he can prove that he is ignorant of facts of his action (i.e., if he can prove non-existence of his self-identity). If he has no access to his (former) self-identity - he can hardly be expected to be aware and cognizant of these facts.
What is in question is not Dan's mens rea, nor application of McNaghten tests (did Dan know nature and quality of his act or could he tell right from wrong) to determine whether Dan was insane when he committed crime. A much broader issue is at stake: is it same person? Is murderous Dan same person as current Dan? Even though Dan seems to own same body and brain and is manifestly sane - he patently has no access to his (former) self-identity. He has changed so drastically that it is arguable whether he is still same person - he has been "replaced".
Finally, we can try to unite all strands of our discourse into this double definition:
It would seem that we accept that someone has a self-identity if: (a) He has same hardware as we do (notably, a brain) and, by implication, same software as we do (an all-pervasive, omnipresent self-identity) and (b) He communicates his humanly recognizable and comprehensible inner world to us and manipulates his environment. We accept that he has a specific (i.e., same continuous) self-identity if (c) He shows consistent intentional (i.e., willed) patterns ("memory") in doing (b) for a long period of time.
It seems that we accept that we have a specific self-identity (i.e., we are self-conscious of a specific identity) if (a) We discern (usually through memory and introspection) long term consistent intentional (i.e., willed) patterns ("memory") in our manipulation ("relating to") of our environment and (b) Others accept that we have a specific self-identity.
In conclusion: Dan undoubtedly has a self-identity (being human and, thus, endowed with a brain). Equally undoubtedly, this self-identity is not Dan's (but a new, unfamiliar, one).
Such is stuff of our nightmares - body snatching, demonic possession, waking up in a strange place, not knowing who we are. Without a continuous personal history - we are not. It is what binds our various bodies, states of mind, memories, skills, emotions, and cognitions - into a coherent bundle of identity. Dan speaks, drinks, dances, talks, and makes love - but throughout that time, he is not present because he does not remember Dan and how it is to be Dan. He may have murdered Jake - but, by all philosophical and ethical criteria, it was most definitely not his fault.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com