On Tue, May 30, 2006 at 08:55:19PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> I agree with the comments made by Jesse Mazer and Saibal Mitra, and
> would go further to suggest that there *necessarily* exists a continuous
> series of intermediates between any two minds, if you allow that
> essentially a mind is a mathematical structure - an algorithm or a
> computer program. You are not then restricted to constructing only those
> minds which could in theory be implemented on a human brain, or by
> making sequential changes in one person's brain to arrive at another
> person's brain. Using your PC/ Mac example, this would be like saying
> that although it might not be possible to convert one into the other by
> means of wirecutters and soldering iron, there are a large number of
> possible operating systems between OS X and Windows XP, all running on a
> general purpose computer, which would provide the required gradual
> transition.

Thinking about mind mergers as similar to the genetic cross-over
operation is a possible point of departure (although we do not know
apriori whether minds work that way).

However X-over tends to produce non-viable results, unless restricted
to module boundaries, which is AFAIK how sexual recombination works in

And my point is that modular cross-over does not provide sufficient
continuity for Parfit's argument to work.

Of course it is entirely possible that the analogy of mind to computer
program, or genetic code is not valid...

One other analogy I thought might be interesting to explore is the game
of converting one English sentence to another by changing one letter
at each step, with the rule that the intervening sentences must be a
grammatically valid English sentence.

This can usually be done, but in what sense are the intervening
sentences "in-between"? And is this a valid analogy for merging minds?

> Having said that, I still think it misses the point. The fact that
> Parfit's thought experiments sometimes seem to have a degree of
> scientific plausibility is just a bonus that makes his writing more
> entertaining. Parfit's ideas on personal identity are squarely in the
> tradition of John Locke, who wrote about transfer of "consciousness"
> from one person to another, suggesting that it is this consciousness
> (which importantly includes the donor's memories) which determines
> identity rather than the physical body in which it happens to reside.
> Clearly, this kind of mind transfer was a completely ridiculous notion
> in the 17th century, and probably still is. But technical feasibility
> (or indeed physical possibility) was not part of Locke's argument, nor
> was it used as ammunition against him by his philosophical opponents.
> His argument was that IF it were possible to transfer memory etc. from
> one person to another, THEN the recipient would feel himself to be the
> donor, even though he would notice that he had a completely different
> body. Opponents of this view argue that it is NOT the case that transfer
> of memories etc. from one body to another - WERE it possible - would
> result in transfer of personal identity (see R. & P. chap 10.82 for
> Bernard Williams' thought experiment, for example).

My response to Locke's thought experiment is that the result would a new
person, as embodiment has a strong effect on one's psyche as well. I would
not even predict that the new person is in between those of the donor
and donee, although obviously there would be some elements on common
(memories of the donor for example).

A/Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics                                    0425 253119 (")
UNSW SYDNEY 2052                         [EMAIL PROTECTED]             
Australia                                http://parallel.hpc.unsw.edu.au/rks
            International prefix  +612, Interstate prefix 02

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