Russell Standish writes:

> >Even though it is very unlikely to happen in reality, it is easy
> > enough to imagine that the relatively minor physical/psychological
> > changes that have occurred in the past day are exaggerated, so that
> > instead of changing from me-yesterday to me-today, I change from
> > me-yesterday into Napoleon. The point is that this type of radical
> > change would be different in *degree*, not different in kind from
the
> > type of change that occurs normally. One could even argue that
turning
> 
> Sure, but that's exactly where I'm in disagreement. The change into
> Napoleon is a difference in kind, not degree, as one would have to
> pass through non-functional brain structures in order to change from
me to
> him. Whereas to change from me to me as I was twenty years ago can be
> achieved by passing through functional brain structures (all the
> instances of me over the last twenty years).

I don't see why you are so sure about the necessity of passing through
non-functional brain structures going from you to Napoleon. After all,
there is a continuous sequence of intermediates between you and a
fertilized ovum, and on the face of it you have much more in common
mentally and physically with Napoleon than with a fertilized ovum.
However, technical feasibility is not the point. The point is that *if*
(let's say magically) your mind were gradually transformed, so that your
thoughts became more and more Napoleonic and less and less Standishian,
then by this process, you would become Napoleon. It is analogous to the
situation where the old man remembers being a young man, the young man
remembers being a child, but the old man does not remember being a
child. Although the old man has no recollection of being a child, he
still identifies as being the same person as that child because there is
a continuous series of intermediates each of whom recalls the one
immediately prior, if not the ones several stages earlier. This is what
people actually believe and act on, for example if a person is found
guilty of a crime which he has since genuinely forgotten committing. The
whole thrust of Parfit's philosophizing involves taking such normative
definitions of personal identity and, by trying them out in various
irregular situations and thought experiments, showing up their
deficiencies.

Stathis Papaioannou 

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