It’s perhaps unfortunate that we are arguing about this because I think we basically agree on what Derek Parfit has called a reductionist theory of personal identity (in his 1984 book “Reasons and Persons”; apparently “reductionist” was not in wide use as a term of abuse back then). I like to emphasize the instantaneous or granular nature of personhood not because we literally die and are resurrected every moment, as those words are commonly understood, but because it would make no significant difference to our stream of consciousness or sense of self if in fact this were the case. Although in our experience the sequence of mental states making up an individual’s stream of consciousness always occur in the one brain, the brain does not provide any special “glue” joining the mental states together, and no such joining is necessary. Two or more mental states are experienced as part of the one stream of consciousness if their content is related in a particular way, like elements in a set. How, where and when the mental states are implemented is irrelevant and unknowable from a first person perspective, unless it actually affects the content of the mental states.
Hal Finney in his recent thread on teleportation thought experiments disagrees with the above view. He suggests that it is possible for  a subject to apparently undergo successful teleportation, in that the individual walking out of the receiving station has all the appropriate mental and physical attributes in common with the individual entering the transmitting station, but in reality not survive the procedure. I have difficulty understanding this, as it seems to me that the subject has survived by definition.
Stathis Papaioannou

> To: everything-list@googlegroups.com
> Subject: RE: A calculus of personal identity
> Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2006 16:45:41 -0700
> Stathis writes
> > Perhaps it would help if I spoke about my computer rather 
> > than myself. Clearly, its physical state changes from moment 
> > to moment: the phosphors on the screen, the position of the 
> > hard disk, the electrical activity in the CPU...
> > changing the CPU or the hard disk or the operating system may
> > or may not matter, changing the CPU AND the hard disk AND the 
> > operating system probably does matter and I would then say 
> > I have a new computer, even if the monitor and some of my 
> > files are the same. The point is, these criteria are 
> > *necessarily* vague, and it is always possible to come up 
> > with examples that will defeat any attempt to pin down 
> > what is "my computer".
> So yes, then it's not possible to say that it's the same computer
> from nanosecond to nanosecond.
> But then, perhaps we are using language wrong! While we've
> known since Hericlitus in 500 B.C. first pointed it out, that
> you can't step in the same river twice, people do not *mean*
> river in that overly precise sense. They in fact do *mean* the
> broad set of phenomena that flow through the valley over time.
> It is the same with us, or your computer. When someone says
> "you", they do not mean the instantaneous version. So, 
> since when they say "you" and you say "I", it's almost
> never meant in such a pedantic and way over-specified way,
> we should talk about what we and they *mean* instead. And!
> Let's also, while we are at it, let the word stand for what
> we mean.
> > By what I have said above, I know that the person waking up
> > in my bed tomorrow is not me, but I behave as if it is me,
> > because this convenient and sanctioned-by-evolution view
> > is as deeply ingrained as is breathing.
> You seem to be after what the word really means. But
> actually, it only means what we use it to refer to. When
> he say "you just got a parking ticket for that, pal",
> the officer is talking about the Stathis phenomena over
> time and space.  And he *should* be.  It would be just
> terrible if he had to consciously recite what he means
> in detail.  Instead, you actually know what he means
> already.
> > Moreover, although this working sense of continuity of
> > identity is vague and arbitrary, I have never thus far
> > been in a real world situation where there is ambiguity
> > as to whether it is or isn't me.
> Right. But except in mathematics, I don't believe it 
> possible to have perfect definitions. Eternal Truth
> Number Two: every statement must be further modified.
> > When I am copied with one duplicate missing a third of my
> > memories while the other duplicate has all of my memories
> > but in addition has acquired half of your memories and
> > George Bush's sense of personal identity, then I will be
> > confused.
> Yes  :-)  and so will we all. Cryonics patients who are
> revived one day may be missing lots of memory.  Are then
> then "the same person" is a sensible question! It is not
> arcane like wondering whether they are the same person
> they were last week (of course they are), or whether they
> would be the same person if the phone had just rung.
> > > Yes, but is it more deeply wired than your conviction 
> > > that you are only in the here and now in a single world,
> > > and that the OMs over time and space and dovetailers is
> > > a stretch?
> > My conviction that I am a series of transient beings is an
> > intellectual conviction only. The illusion that I am not
> > is not something I can overcome intellectually.
> But what is reality?  :-)  Why not let the words "me", "I",
> "you", etc., refer to what we actually use them to refer to
> in daily life?
> > Or, I can put it somewhat differently, amounting to the same
> > thing: I know I exist only transiently, but I don't let this
> > affect my behaviour, which is determined by the view that am
> > a single entity persisting through time.
> You *know* that you only exist transiently?  Actually, you
> only acquired this 'understanding' after a lot of reading.
> Most people are spared this.  :-)  The "you" that they mean
> and the one that you used to mean (before the protracted
> discussions and thought) *does* exist over time.
> Naturally, there are meaningful discussions still: namely,
> is a Nazi war-criminal who killed a lot of people when
> he was 18 still the same person as the 84 year old whose
> been tending sweet potatoes in his garden ever since?  Am
> I really the same person that I was when I was ten? Clearly,
> these are difficult questions, like the difficult ones that
> you brought up about your memories being distributed among
> George Bush and others.
> So as a rough guide, what about this?  What people ordinarily
> mean---and what we and they should continue to mean---is 
> percent fidelity of memories? That is, if by some measure (?)
> my memories overlap only 50% with who I was when I was a
> teenager, then perhaps that teen would be 50% me. But
> even more difficult questions abound, as I'm sure that
> you well know.
> Lee
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