[LEB] Locke and Battlestar Galactica

Okay, first let’s go over Locke’s theory of personal identity in a really small nutshell…

There are three sorts of substances: God, Finite Intelligences, and Bodies. They are all the same as long as they fit their nicely laid out identity conditions. Then, Locke introduces modes and relations, vegetables, animals, and man. Motions and relations also have nice identity conditions. However, as soon as we move on to living things, everything gets a little more complicated. Vegetables are the same even though they change through growing so Locke says that as long as they posses a continuous and common life created by all parts of the whole functioning together, that vegetable remains the same over time. He says animals are like vegetables in that even though bones and organs grow and change shape, they all contribute to one continuous and common life and therefore makes the animal the same over time. Now we move one step further…to Man (yep, capital-M Man). Man is like animals in that if there is one organized body that results in a continuous life, that Man is the same over time. He then takes a brief moment to discuss why the soul alone does NOT make the same Man which serves to show that when Locke talks about capital-M Man, there must be a physical aspect. Now, Locke throws a capital-P Person into the mix and we really start talking about personal identity.

In order to find out what exactly Locke means by personal identity, we have to find out what Locke says a Person stands for. Here comes the definition, straight from the horse’s mouth: “[A Person is] a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness which is inseparable from thinking, and, it seems to me, essential to it: it being impossible for any one to perceive without PERCEIVING that he does perceive” (Locke 9). Wow, so now we’ve added consciousness and the continuity of consciousness. Locke then talks about how even if you cut off a finger as long as your consciousness doesn’t go *whoop* off into that finger, you are still you/the same Person and you have the same personal identity. Locke then spends quite a few pages talking about what happens if that consciousness is interrupted: say you forget something, or sleep, or drink a little too much at a party and blackout and forget that you completely embarrassed yourself by singing karaoke, etcetera. Anyway, let’s wrap this up so we can talk about ~Cylons~. So, Locke basically defines personal identity as your consciousness: the sum of all your memories, thoughts, and experiences. If this consciousness is moved to someone else, Locke says you are the same Person but not necessarily the same Man. Locke believes that consciousness makes a Person and a specific Person has a unique Personal Identity. Okay, so yeah this is long and yeah there is much more nuance and description and definition of various terms but I did promise a really small nutshell so I guess we must stop for now move on to how Locke’s theory of personal identity fits with the cylons in Battlestar Galactica.

So, first of all, we gotta figure out which cylons we are talking about exactly. Refer to the handy diagram below:

See the toaster, we are not talking about that. We are also not talking about the various chunks of metal for the moment. See the lady in red? She’s Six, the fancy human-like cylon, and we’re going to talk about her. There are twelve different cylon programs. We’ve seen quite a bit of Six and we’ve also seen a new one try to kill Adama (yikes) in Part 2 of the Miniseries. Each number represents a different program that is loaded into a specific body. When that body dies, the “consciousness” of that cylon is uploaded into another body. Cylons appear human in every way except for the fact that they cannot die (except they can possibly cease to exist in the radioactive cloud but we haven’t really seen/learned much about that yet). When we first saw Six on the exploding space station and then saw Six later with Gaius Baltar, those two Sixes, by Locke’s definition of personal identity, are the same. Even though Six got a new body, she retained all her previous thoughts, memories, and reflections — she has a continuity of consciousness.

Okay, one more quick thing before we go: Type and token. The Type is the general layout or model of something. The Token is any specific unit of that Type. In terms of Battlestar Galactica, the Type is the cylon model while the Token is any specific cylon. I feel like this could relate to Locke in that the Type is similar to the Person and the Token is similar to the Man?

Anyway, that’s all for now…

-LEB