On Jul 3, 2005, at 12:56 PM, Jonathan Colvin wrote:

Hal Finey wrote:


If imperfect or diverged copies are to be considered as 
lesser-degree selves, is there an absolute rule which applies, 
an objective reality which governs the extent to which two 
different individuals are the same "self", or is it ultimately 
a matter of taste and opinion for the individuals involved to 
make the determination?  Is this something that reasonable 
people can disagree on, or is there an objective truth about 
it that they should ultimately come to agreement on if they 
work at it long enough?


The former. Remember: "There's no arguing about taste".


I agree.  And also remember (from David Hume), "In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark’d, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it shou’d be observ’d and explain’d; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it."

In other words -- no matter what you think about your degree of identity to a person, or how many facts you know about the situation you're in, those facts alone can't tell you how you >should< act.

As to whether duplicates are the same "self", I think this is, again, a place where "I" leads us astray.  Take this situation:  I will create an exact duplicate of you.  For one 24-hour period you will, from a remote location, experience the duplicate living your life (via some closed-circuit camera and virtual reality goggles, or something).  I will then give you the option of either (1) killing yourself (painlessly, instantly) and giving the duplicate 5 dollars, or (2) pushing a button that makes the duplicate vanish, and you go back to your old life as if nothing happened.  Lee would choose option (1), I take it, because he sees this situation as "I get 5 dollars".   I think this interpretation, using "I", has an unnecessary complication to it.  What I think Lee is really saying (in third person terms) is, "Person A ought to terminate person A's life, because person A desires the existence of (person B + 5 dollars) more strongly than he desires the existence of (person A)." 

Now we can see that by calling them both "I" or "Lee" or "self", Lee is merely >providing an ethical justification< to his choice, not making a metaphysical statement about personal identities.  In other words, it is because he extends the "normal" desire of self-preservation to the duplicate, that he would accept certain choices.  Whether this is in fact correct is not a scientific question but one for philosophical ethics (and a very interesting one).

Pete Carlton

Reply via email to