The Philosophy of Identity

             "Our own bodies can move without the will conducting them” (Descartes 73). This philosophy is based upon the idea that the body is simply a machine used by its agent, the soul. Therefore, not only would the body be able to operate without the soul, as Rene Descartes suggests, assuming that will is enveloped in the idea of the soul, but the soul would also be able to survive outside the body, interchanging bodies and outside forms but still able to continue to exist or function in spite of losing its original (or perhaps just long term) agency. The narrator in "The Mask” certainly uses this idea in the formation of her identity. At first she barely even recognizes any connection between her body and her identity (or what she views as her identity). Then, as the two blend, she divides them again, morphing into a machine, much like the metaphor Descartes employs. The separation of the body and soul not only allows her body to function without her identity conducting it but also allows her identity to remove itself from its original body to that of a machine.

             The narrator's identity in "The Mask” is shown as a separate entity from that of her body, and therefore her identity does not exist as a result of or even in connection with her body, rather it is formed by her thoughts, memories and destiny. From the beginning, it is evident that her identity does not depend upon her body. She existed "in the beginning” (Lem 67), experiencing the "darkness and cold flame” (67) even before she experiences any physical knowledge of her body. As each new sensation is discovered, from physical feeling to actually knowing her gender, she is able to comprehend more and conceive of more ideas, yet she was still "in complete ignorance about [herself]” (69), referring to her body. She is able to know of her feelings and reactions during this time of discovery which therefore lead one to the idea that she has some sort of consciousness during that time and that this must be her identity or soul because her body, as yet, played no part.

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