So, in one of my courses, we are in the middle of the standard run through theories of and problems with personal identity. This always makes me reflect on a long-ago graduate/undergraduate seminar on identity with Calvin Normore and a poor, misguided undergraduate—doubtless a tenured professor somewhere now—who wrote a paper with the closing line: "The lion has spoken and I have understood him."
[The lion was his kitty and it spoke while it was on his lap and I'm still not sure whether that counts as any sort of argument against Wittgenstein's point, but I'm not sure Ludwig was ever altered in the ways that this young man might have been. I believe I have digressed.]
But, more importantly, or more pointedly, I was musing this week on our uses of the word "same". And, what we mean when we claim to be the same person. For instance, I say that I have lived in the same house for the last five years. And, this is true. And, we all know what it means. And, I also say that I have the same sunken eyes as my grandfather. And, this is true. And, we all know what it means. And, without going crazily polysemous. We know that the "same" in the two statements means the same thing in different ways in each case. That is, in part, that the relationship that "same" picks out is context-dependent.
How does the context determine the relationship in the statement: "I am the same person I once was"? Or, "I am the same man you met in the late '90s"? Is this more like the sameness of my house or the sameness of my eyes?