On 6 July 2012 10:27, Bruno Marchal <marc...@ulb.ac.be> wrote:
*In which structure is that relative-frequency defined, and to whom does it
apply? How can we verify it?*
The structure, if you like, is the total state of knowledge of the "knower"
(as you have characterised it in a post to Brent) which ex hypothesi must
embrace all possible occasions of sentience. Each such occasion is here
conceived as a set of spatio-temporal relations in the context of a
particular personal history. Taken as a whole the structure is of course
timeless and eternal. Hoyle's heuristic is then simply a way of thinking
about this structure such that occasions are given (i.e. from the pov of
the knower) in proportion to their measure, in mutually exclusive
succession. Hence the intrinsic spatio-temporal relations of the substrate
are conceived as unfolding experientially in the form of the myriad
personal histories. It's a way of rationalising the experiential dynamic,
if you like, from the pov of a universal knower, which as you yourself
point out, cannot be an arithmetical, or indeed a physical, notion.
You ask me how this could be tested; since it is a way of thinking, rather
than a theory, the only relevant test is whatever power it may possess to
reduce confusion and enhance conceptual clarity. I became particularly
aware of this when reading some of the posts about jumping and
backtracking, etc. When we reason about some divergence of "my future
moments" in copying scenarios it is perfectly natural of course to
relativise these to my personal history as given, without consideration
that the relevant reference class might be any broader. Furthermore, since
our reasoning here seems naturally to "follow" the spatio-temporal
evolution of some underlying "real system" (as Bitbol calls it), it does
not seem relevant to distinguish the logico-physical relations of next or
prior from the bare notion of succession itself.
Real problems of coherency in this way of thinking emerge, however, when we
begin to consider "future moments" of low intrinsic measure, such as in
quantum suicide scenarios, or extreme threats to conscious survival. At
this point, we seek to avoid cul-de-sacs or occasions of extreme
improbability by resorting to notions of jumping or backtracking referred
to a particular personal identity, or even in extreme cases the idea of
merging with the infant consciousness of a different identity entirely. But
here we are no longer following - or at the very least least are forced to
undertake highly non-standard excursions within - the real system. This
reaches perhaps its reductio ad absurdum in Saibal Mitra's treatment of
memory erasure scenarios. He is forced by this mode of reasoning to
speculate, for example, that the "you" that "escapes" disaster by memory
erasure has "swapped histories" with another "you" that would otherwise
have avoided it! It is interesting to speculate how one would test, or
even recognise, *this* eventuality!
It should, I hope, be obvious that all of the above incoherencies can be
resolved quite simply by adopting the heuristic under discussion. The
structure under consideration, as I have said, is the total state of
knowledge of the knower; all possible occasions of sentience, duly
distributed amongst distinguishable personal histories in due measure,
exist within it. All that is required, conceptually, is to make explicit
the experiential notion of the mutually-exclusive succession of occasions
of sentience; all relativisation of personal identity and past-future
relations are referred to those aspects of the substrate associated with a
given occasion. There is no suggestion of prior or next in the bare notion
of experiential succession; no extrinsic ordering whatsoever is implied.
The logical consequence is that *all* notions of personal history are
referred to a singular point-of-view: that of the knower. "I" am
fundamentally that knower, and the knowledge successively recoverable from
occasions of sentience is what informs me of who, where, when, and relative
to what, I am on any given occasion.
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