SP: 'So given months or years, you really are like a car in which every single component has been replaced, the only remaining property of the original car being the design'

MP: Yes, indeed. For the word design here, I prefer to use 'structure', with the proviso that the structure/s we are interested in is/are not just static but some are dynamic. I like to use the word 'construct' [noun] to refer to these things. The kinds of changes occurring may be summarised in a very general sense as of three types: 1/ apparent non-change, which might be really invariant down to the smallest level of measurement, but might also be cases of just oscillation about some average length or volume [say] with no significant topological, charge or mass changes, 2/ cyclical changes in which topology, charge, charge distributions, or mass, whatever, vary in some significant repeating way, and 3/ non-repeating changes which might be manifestations of growth and development, creation of memories, damage from disease or just entropy-the passage of time.

I have many times participated in discussions of what can be classed as a 'thing' in the real world, including persons in a purely categorical sense, but very often the simple idea of 'thing' is dismissed just as I am in the process of pointing out that there is every good reason to take thoughts and perceptions, plans and memories as all being things in the brain. As far as I am concerned I have never seen any killer argument as to why it is not valid for me to do so.

Just recently I made the assertion that Rene Descartes was wrong to say that mental things have no extension. Somebody responded with something like" Oh yeah! And how long is my idea of a ..... something or other ...?" [I have lost track of which message, indeed which list, this took place on but 'Pink elephant' would do for an example.] Well I think the evidence accruing from all the studies of brain imaging and so forth, shows fairly clearly that active constructs span many regions within the brain: cortex, cerebellum, limbic system, and so forth, and it is the topographic and temporal features of the activity which endow each construct with its figurative identity and function. These things which simply ARE the mental content of our brains, exist as explicit, active dynamic logical entities when invoked, and exist only implicitly at other times as the components of structural particularity in synapses, dendrite length and location, etc. which came about when the constructs came into existence in the brain in question.


Mark Peaty  CDES



Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

Mark Peaty writes:

Brent: 'However, all that is needed for the arguments that appear on this list is to recreate a rough, functioning copy of the body plus a detailed reproduction of memory and a brain that functioned approximately the same. That much might not be too hard. After all, as Stathis points out, you're not the same atoms you were a week ago' MP: Well! I'm not going to let YOU pull the levers or press any buttons if I have to be faxed anywhere soon! You make philosophers' copy-machines sound like props for Frankenstein's Monster or that movie 'The Fly'. Furthermore " ... memory and a brain that functioned approximately the same" would seem to be rather less than what Bruno's arguments about copying require. But my point is that, whilst the ideas are cute, they are also nonsense any way. Most people have problems enough living from day to day, and the only time that 'copying' of a person really has any relevance is where surgery or prosthetic augmentation of some kind really should be done to alleviate suffering or prevent premature death. As for Stathis's assertion about seemingly minor changes which commonly occur to people's brains as they get older, like the odd little stroke here and there, it is always a question of the facts in each case. Some deficiencies turn out to be crucial in terms of quality of life: loosing the use of one or two fingers could be annoying, embarrassing and on occasion quite dangerous. Losing the ability to remember the names of all the people you know, would likewise not be nice. On the other hand, losing the ability to recognise things on the left side of your world, or losing the ability to see the people you knew before as being THOSE people such that you become convinced that the person you are with is a substitute, now that could be very dysfunctional and very distressing. I have seen it written that in fact most people who survive past middle age, do in fact suffer from 'micro' strokes quite often but usually the perceived experience is that of progressively weakened memory. Not Alzheimer's which is a league of its own, but just difficulty remembering certain things.

Our bodies, including all neural tissue, are constantly falling apart and being rebuilt. Experiments with radiolabeled amino acids in mice, for example, suggest that the half life of protein in the brain is about 10 days. The turnover at synapses is even faster, a matter of minutes. So given months or years, you really are like a car in which every single component has been replaced, the only remaining property of the original car being the design.

Stathis Papaioannou

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