To be true to one’s self means changing to become that self


EXCERPT: [...] Many have witnessed someone they loved change so profoundly that the person remaining seems an entirely different one. [...] Yet, many other large changes don’t disrupt our identities. In fact, some profound changes actually seem to make us become really or truly ourselves. [...] All of these result in tremendous transformations, but they don’t threaten identity. Instead, these changes seem to unearth our core selves, making us become who we really are. This allows for a seemingly paradoxical statement: paradigm cases of continuing to be the same person involve becoming radically different.

[...] Philosophy often emphasises the significance of being the same person despite change. It asks how various changes – such as total memory loss or a brain transplant – might create a different person. This helps to clarify aspects of personal identity and the self, but it also overshadows intuitions about the significance of change itself. The ideal or model way to persist through time is not to stay exactly the same. Instead, it is to change.

[...] Purposeful self-modification does not problematise personal identity. Instead, it reveals facets of one’s true self. Ordinary life offers numerous examples of identity-preserving and purposeful changes. [...] These changes do not make us seem ‘less ourselves’. Instead, these changes seem to help us become who we are.

[...] This interpretation of the self as purpose-driven also makes sense of a recent experimental-philosophy discovery: we have a tendency to see improvements as more identity-preserving than deteriorations. People judge changes for the better as more consistent with identity than changes for the worse. The hypothesis of the purposeful interpretation is that the change for the better informs our impression of the earlier person....

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