Are you the physical body?

two people's physical bodies with organs
If we ask someone who they are, they will most likely describe their body’s physical features. Or perhaps their body‘s country of origin. They might say “I am American" or "I am British." Or “I am black” or "I am white." Or "I am a woman" or "I am a man." Or “I am five feet tall and weigh 125 pounds" or "I am six feet and weigh 200 pounds."

This begs the logical question: Are you the physical body?

If so, what happens when your body changes? Do you become a different person?

What happens if you change your hair color or get a tattoo?

What happens when your body gets older?

What happens if your body gets crippled or you accidentally lose an arm or leg?
What happens if a person changes their body's gender?

When your body changes, does your identity change?

This is answered simply by each of us as we refer to something we did in the past. We will say, "when I was younger, I ________." Even though it was five, ten even 20 years ago, we still feel that I am still the same person I was - indicated by the use of the word "I". If we didn't think that I was me 20 years ago, we wouldn't use "I" or "me."

This constant self-identification becomes more important when we realize that science has determined that practically every molecule and atom in our body is recycled and replaced within five years. This means the makeup of our body is constantly changing.

Most of us assume that our identity runs deeper than our physical body. A person with a black body wants equality with a person with a white body because that person considers that beneath the skin, we are all of the same substance. Similarly, a person with an obese body wants to be treated equally with someone with a more slender body. Why would we request equality unless we are assuming we have deeper identities?

The debate of the self

As science has debated this topic of self, there have been two general views (Popper and Eccles 1983): The first assumes a machine-like information-processing generating system with various modules of activity, all competing for control. This “chaos-machine” theoretically builds upon a system of learning and evolution without any central person or actor.

The other, more prevalent view historically portrays the body as driven by an inner self or life force, central and governing to the body’s existence. Proponents of this inner self model have included Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Jesus and many other teachers and philosophers throughout modern and ancient history. For example, Jesus taught:

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matthew 10:28)
While some have considered the soul as some sort of organ or component of the body, others refer to the soul as part of a trinity: “body, mind and spirit.”

The word "soul" from Jesus' statement is translated from the Greek word, ψυχή (psychē), which means, according to Strong's lexicon, "the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing" and "the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions." The lexicon goes further to say, "the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from other parts of the body)."

Thus, according to Jesus, we do not have a soul - each of us is a soul.

What happens when my body dies? Do I die with it?

We know every body dies. We can easily observe that the body no longer functions. Regardless of which outward signs and symptoms we use, there is a dramatic change in the body at the time of death. The body ceases to function. The body ceases the display of life and the outward demonstration of personality.

Where did this personality go then? Did it disappear into thin air? Did it evaporate with the final breath? Did this personality die with the death of the body?

Before we can fully understand death, we must understand life. What is a live person, and what is the difference between life and death? What is the difference between a dead body and a living body, and how is the personality we know and hold dear connected with life?

This means we must delve into the source of the energy and life of the body. Where is the generator of the body? Who or what is running the body? This certainly relates to the concept of identity: Are we each simply a temporary physical body? Are we simply cellular machines that decompose after a few decades?