Jesse Mazer writes:
> I agree that Parfit's simple method would probably create a nonfunctional
> state in between, or at least the intermediate phase would involve a sort of
> split personality disorder with two entirely separate minds coexisting in
> the same brain, without access to each other's thoughts and feelings. But
> this is probably not a fatal flaw in whatever larger argument he was making,
> because you could modify the thought experiment to say something like "let's
> assume that in the phase space of all possibe arrangements of neurons and
> synapses, there is some continuous path between my brain and Napoleon's
> brain such that every intermediate state would have a single integrated
> consciousness". There's no way of knowing whether such a path exists (and of
> course I don't have a precise definition of 'single integrated
> consciousness'), but it seems at least somewhat plausible.
One way (perhaps the only way) I could see to do it would be for you
to gradually acquire amnesia, then once you have forgotten your past,
your personality could gradually change to match Napoleon's, then you
could gradually recover memory of Napoleon's past.
Whether such an extreme case would still support whatever conclusions
Parfit seeks to draw, I don't know. You're never half-yourself and
half-Napoleon. Rather, you sort of stop being anybody in the middle
of the process. I don't think it makes any sense to suppose that you
could be half-yourself and half-Napoleon.
Certainly the physical process Russell quoted could never work,
because there is no one-to-one correspondence between the neutrons in
your brain and Napoleons. And each neutron has a distinctive shape.
If you brought it over unchanged, it would intersect with and overlap
other cells in the brain, and be non-functional. But if you change its
shape, it won't be the same neuron in terms of its functional behavior.
If you brought neurons over from Napoleon's brain but altered them
in the process to match your own neurons physically and functionally,
then you would never stop being yourself.
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