Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-06-02 Thread Stathis Papaioannou


Brent Meeker writes: Youdon'thaveto.Bodyidentityisnotsufficienttoestablishthe"factofthematter".People maybeacquitedtomurder(byreasonofinsanity)becausetheysufferfrommultiplepersonality disorder.Insuchcases,one"personality"isgenerallynotawareoftheother(s).

Mainstream
psychiatry where I come from does not believe in MPD, but I suppose it is
theoretically possible that several independent personality streams could
co-exist in the same brain, and it is a good model for our discussion. Suppose
that one of the personalities commits a crime, then lies dormant so that the
personality in the pilot’s seat when the police arrest the suspect honestly has
no knowledge of the act, but later, through psychotherapeutic intervention, both
personalities are reintegrated. Would it then be fair to punish “both”
personalities for the crimes committed by one before the reintegration took place? 

The question is, can you come up with a definition of personal identity which allows us to decide in these and other unusual cases whether two instances of a person are in fact the same person?Stathis PapaioannouExpress yourself instantly with MSN Messenger! MSN Messenger
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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-06-02 Thread Stathis Papaioannou


Bruno Marchal writes: Inanycase,itistellingthatevenParfit'sphilosophical adversariesdonotfocusonlackofscientificplausibilityasan argumentagainst*philosophical*validity.Forthemostpart,hecould havemadethesamepointshadhebeenwritingacenturyago,drawing onreligiousmythologyratherthansciencefictionforhisthought experiments.  Perhapsaphilosopheronthelistcouldcomment?Oops,sorry.ButperhapsIamaphilosophertoo?AfterallPythagoras inventedtheterm:) InanycaseIagreewithyou.Thoughtexperimentonsoulandidentity, includingwhathappensincaseofduplicationappearsalready implicitlyinPlotinus,andexplicitlyinAugustine.  BrunoI feel I can intuitively recognise the difference between scientific statements and philosophical statements, but I don't think I've done a good job articulating this difference in recent posts. It's not just empirical versus theoretical, because I would say maths is more like what physicists or chemists do than what epistemologists or ethicists do, for example. Logic is an exception, claimed by both philosophers and mathematicians, but I understand that even here there is a difference in emphasis depending on the logician's background. Of course, "philosophy" was a generic term for multiple scholarly fields not so long ago, but I am talking about current usage. Can anyone pin down the distinction I'm looking for?Stathis PapaioannouExpress yourself instantly with MSN Messenger! MSN Messenger
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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-06-02 Thread Brent Meeker

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
 Brent Meeker writes:
 
   
 You don't have to.  Body identity is not sufficient to establish the fact of 
 the matter.  People 
   
 may be acquited to murder (by reason of insanity) because they suffer from 
 multiple personality 
   
 disorder.  In such cases, one personality is generally not aware of the 
 other(s).
 
 Mainstream psychiatry where I come from does not believe in MPD, but I 
 suppose it is theoretically possible that several independent 
 personality streams could co-exist in the same brain, and it is a good 
 model for our discussion. Suppose that one of the personalities commits 
 a crime, then lies dormant so that the personality in the pilot’s seat 
 when the police arrest the suspect honestly has no knowledge of the act, 
 but later, through psychotherapeutic intervention, both personalities 
 are reintegrated. Would it then be fair to punish “both” personalities 
 for the crimes committed by one before the reintegration took place?

I think that leads to digressions on fair and the purpose of punishing crimes.

 
 The question is, can you come up with a definition of personal identity 
 which allows us to decide in these and other unusual cases whether two 
 instances of a person are in fact the same person?

That's a good question.  Maybe, as in the case of punishing a crime, it depends 
on why we need to 
make this decision, i.e. what action we're contemplating.  According to the 
popular description of 
MPD (and I don't know whether such really occurs or not) one personality knows 
about the other(s) 
but not vice versa.  But suppose they were completely separate - by that I 
think you would mean they 
didn't share any memories, they just time-shared the body.

Brent Meeker

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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-06-01 Thread Russell Standish

On Wed, May 31, 2006 at 09:32:29PM -0400, Jesse Mazer wrote:
 
 True, but the same is true of gene-space--there are vastly more sequences of 
 A,T,C,G that would fail to produce anything like a viable multicellular 
 organism (or even a viable single-celled organism) than there are sequences 
 that would. But the theory of evolution implies that any two organisms that 
 have ever existed in the history of earth can be connected by a smooth 
 series of small modifications, with each intermediate being a viable 
 life-form.

Well gradualists would have it this way. But in reality large changes
in genetic code (and correspondng phenotypic changes) do
occur. Nevertheless, it does point to limitations in the analogy.

 
 Likewise, the space of all coherent novel-length english texts is tiny 
 compared to the space of all novel-length combinations of letters in the 
 Library of Babel, but I think God could probably find a continuous path 
 between any two novels--say, War and Peace and Huck Finn--with each one 
 differing from the last by a one-word substitution, and each one being a 
 coherent novel with no obvious absurdities. The key is that the midpoint 
 wouldn't have to be a weird amalgam of the plots of the two novels, you 
 could go through a long series of distinct plots which are quite different 
 from either of the two endpoints.

Hmm - I'm not so sure, but at least this question could probably be
resolved mathematically in some sense. Anyone want to give it a go?

 
 And the
 conscious states we know of are not fully contiguous either.
 
 What do you mean? The strength of the synaptic connections between different 
 neurons or groups of neurons does change in a fairly continuous way, no? Of 
 course even if we specify all the synaptic connections and strengths, one's 
 conscious state can change in the short term as different neurons become 
 active, but I don't think this is important to Parfit's thought-experiment, 
 you can imagine a gradual change in the strength and arrangement of synapses 
 even while over the short term there may be more variation in mood and 
 thought processes.
 
 Jesse
 

The conscious states we know of are all the examples of human beings
on this Earth. As we well know, these brains are quite distinct from
each other. The debate hinges upon other possible brains
configurations that fill the gaps, and whether these could possibly be
conscious. 

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Re: Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-06-01 Thread Russell Standish

The importance of gradual change in the spectrum argument, is that
since personal identity can be conserved through discontinous changes
(the example you cite here), then any gradual change should not alter
identity either.

The slight flaw in this argument comes again by analogy with the
genetic code with gradual change considered equivalent to point
mutation. However a single point mutation is sufficient to
dramatically alter the phenotype, whereas large changes to the genome
can accrue without change to the phenotype at all (the so called
neutral mutations).

On Thu, Jun 01, 2006 at 02:07:09PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
 Jesse Mazer writes:
  
  The strength of the synaptic connections between different  neurons or 
  groups of neurons does change in a fairly continuous way, no? Of  course 
  even if we specify all the synaptic connections and strengths, one's  
  conscious state can change in the short term as different neurons become  
  active, but I don't think this is important to Parfit's thought-experiment, 
   you can imagine a gradual change in the strength and arrangement of 
  synapses  even while over the short term there may be more variation in 
  mood and  thought processes.
 I don't think anyone has questioned the importance of *gradual* transition 
 from one person to another in Parfit's argument. After all, we have 
 discontinuities in consciousness all the time: when we are asleep, if we 
 perform some action in a drunken stupor and later forget that it ever 
 happened, following a head injury which may result in the excision of entire 
 chunks of our lives from memory. Given this, we can imagine changing from one 
 person to another despite discontinuities.
  
 Stathis Papaioannou
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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-06-01 Thread Bruno Marchal

Le 01-juin-06, à 03:58, Stathis Papaioannou a écrit :

x-tad-biggerI don't see that there have been any scientific developments in the last twenty years which make Parfit's thought experiments more or less plausible. 
/x-tad-bigger


I think so.




x-tad-biggerThe only exception I can think of is in his favour: there is speculation that teleportation may indeed be theoretically possible. 
/x-tad-bigger


I think that classical teleportation is theoretically possible almost by definition (assuming comp). I guess you are thinking about quantum teleportation which has indeed be realized on large distance (about 20 up to 40 km, to my knowledge). But this is quite different: in quantum teleportation of a quantum state the original state has to be destroyed, for example.





x-tad-biggerIn any case, it is telling that even Parfit's philosophical adversaries do not focus on lack of scientific plausibility as an argument against *philosophical* validity. For the most part, he could have made the same points had he been writing a century ago, drawing on religious mythology rather than science fiction for his thought experiments./x-tad-bigger
x-tad-bigger /x-tad-bigger
x-tad-biggerPerhaps a philosopher on the list could comment?/x-tad-bigger



Oops, sorry. But perhaps I am a philosopher too? After all Pythagoras invented the term :)
In any case I agree with you. Thought experiment on soul and identity, including what happens in case of duplication appears already implicitly in Plotinus, and explicitly in Augustine.

Bruno

PS: I will comment some ascension's posts tomorrow (hopefully: if not it will be for Saturday).

http://iridia.ulb.ac.be/~marchal/


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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-06-01 Thread jamikes

And why do you want to restrict a 'person' to a cut view of its neurons
only?
Isn't a person (as anything) part of his ambience - in a wider view: of the
totality, with interction back and forth with all the changes that go on?
Are you really interested only in the dance of those silly neurons?

John M
- Original Message -
From: Saibal Mitra [EMAIL PROTECTED]
To: everything-list@googlegroups.com
Sent: Monday, May 29, 2000 9:07 PM
Subject: Re: Reasons and Persons



 There must exist a ''high level'' program that specifies a person in terms
 of qualia. These qualia are ultimately defined by the way neurons are
 connected, but you could also think of persons in terms of the high-level
 algorithm, instead of the ''machine language'' level algorithm specified
by
 the neural network.

 The interpolation between two persons is more easily done in the high
level
 language. Then you do obtain a continuous path from one person to the
other.
 For each intermediary person, you can then try to ''compile'' the program
to
 the corresponding neural network.

 - Original Message -
 From: Jesse Mazer [EMAIL PROTECTED]
 To: everything-list@googlegroups.com
 Sent: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 02:29 AM
 Subject: Re: Reasons and Persons


 
  Russell Standish wrote:
  
  
  On Mon, May 29, 2006 at 07:15:33PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
   
I don't see why you are so sure about the necessity of passing
through
non-functional brain structures going from you to Napoleon. After
all,
there is a continuous sequence of intermediates between you and a
fertilized ovum, and on the face of it you have much more in common
mentally and physically with Napoleon than with a fertilized ovum.
However, technical feasibility is not the point. The point is that
 *if*
(let's say magically) your mind were gradually transformed, so that
 your
  
  We need to be a bit more precise than magically. In Parfit's book he
  talks about swapping out my neurons for the equivalent neurons in
  Napoleon's brain. Sure this is not exactly technically feasible at
  present, but for thought experiment purposes it is adequate, and
  suffices for doing the teleporting experiment.
  
  The trouble I have is that Napoleon's brain will be wired completely
  differently to my own. Substituting enough of his neurons and
  connections will eventually just disrupt the functioning of my brain.
 
  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.
 
  Jesse
 
 
 
  


 


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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-06-01 Thread Saibal Mitra

John, actually I don't want to do that per se. I think that ultimately we live 
in a 
universe described by the very complex ''laws of physics'' that describe the 
qualia we 
experience. Perhaps it is better to say that we are such complex universes. We 
are 
simulated in a universe described by simple laws of physics. Our brains are 
simulating 
us. We shouldn't confuse the hardware with the software


Saibal


Quoting [EMAIL PROTECTED] [EMAIL PROTECTED]:

 
 And why do you want to restrict a 'person' to a cut view of its neurons
 only?
 Isn't a person (as anything) part of his ambience - in a wider view: of
 the
 totality, with interction back and forth with all the changes that go on?
 Are you really interested only in the dance of those silly neurons?
 
 John M
 - Original Message -
 From: Saibal Mitra [EMAIL PROTECTED]
 To: everything-list@googlegroups.com
 Sent: Monday, May 29, 2000 9:07 PM
 Subject: Re: Reasons and Persons
 
 
 
  There must exist a ''high level'' program that specifies a person in
 terms
  of qualia. These qualia are ultimately defined by the way neurons are
  connected, but you could also think of persons in terms of the
 high-level
  algorithm, instead of the ''machine language'' level algorithm specified
 by
  the neural network.
 
  The interpolation between two persons is more easily done in the high
 level
  language. Then you do obtain a continuous path from one person to the
 other.
  For each intermediary person, you can then try to ''compile'' the
 program
 to
  the corresponding neural network.
 
  - Original Message -
  From: Jesse Mazer [EMAIL PROTECTED]
  To: everything-list@googlegroups.com
  Sent: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 02:29 AM
  Subject: Re: Reasons and Persons
 
 
  
   Russell Standish wrote:
   
   
   On Mon, May 29, 2006 at 07:15:33PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

 I don't see why you are so sure about the necessity of passing
 through
 non-functional brain structures going from you to Napoleon. After
 all,
 there is a continuous sequence of intermediates between you and a
 fertilized ovum, and on the face of it you have much more in
 common
 mentally and physically with Napoleon than with a fertilized ovum.
 However, technical feasibility is not the point. The point is that
  *if*
 (let's say magically) your mind were gradually transformed, so
 that
  your
   
   We need to be a bit more precise than magically. In Parfit's book
 he
   talks about swapping out my neurons for the equivalent neurons in
   Napoleon's brain. Sure this is not exactly technically feasible at
   present, but for thought experiment purposes it is adequate, and
   suffices for doing the teleporting experiment.
   
   The trouble I have is that Napoleon's brain will be wired completely
   differently to my own. Substituting enough of his neurons and
   connections will eventually just disrupt the functioning of my brain.
  
   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.
  
   Jesse
  
  
  
   
 
 
  
 
 
  --
  No virus found in this incoming message.
  Checked by AVG Free Edition.
  Version: 7.1.394 / Virus Database: 268.8.0/353 - Release Date: 05/31/06
 
 
 
 
  
 




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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-06-01 Thread jamikes

Saibal,
your phrase:
...very complex ''laws of physics'' that describe the qualia we
experience. ..
includes laws: the recurring observational portions in the model observed,
(if our view extends, the 'laws' may alter)
and a restriction to what we experience. Which is continually expanding as
our epistemic enrichment goes on - and/or as we learn to 'think' better.
I may compare your position in hard/soft ware dichotomy to my ignorance is
computer science what I never learned:
I see lights on/off and some hardware when I peek into the box and hear
noises, and read what comes on the screen. As an engineer I may guess that
the hardware turns and contacts lick off signs, organize them, but from
software I have no idea (not compiler, not programs, not how your name comes
out of 0,1, but
I accept it and manipulate my computer (poor soul!) to DO what I want.
This is the level I feel in your (and others) position about our brain
(even if it includes the software) simulating us even understand the
universe.
Starting with that 'nothin' we know and speculating about the rest.
The ideas may be recent, but the modus operandi (mental) is ancient.

Thanks for the reply

John M

- Original Message -
From: Saibal Mitra [EMAIL PROTECTED]
To: everything everything-list@googlegroups.com; John M
[EMAIL PROTECTED]
Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2006 11:50 AM
Subject: Re: Reasons and Persons



 John, actually I don't want to do that per se. I think that ultimately we
live in a
 universe described by the very complex ''laws of physics'' that describe
the qualia we
 experience. Perhaps it is better to say that we are such complex
universes. We are
 simulated in a universe described by simple laws of physics. Our brains
are simulating
 us. We shouldn't confuse the hardware with the software


 Saibal


 Quoting [EMAIL PROTECTED] [EMAIL PROTECTED]:

 
  And why do you want to restrict a 'person' to a cut view of its neurons
  only?
  Isn't a person (as anything) part of his ambience - in a wider view: of
  the
  totality, with interction back and forth with all the changes that go
on?
  Are you really interested only in the dance of those silly neurons?
 
  John M
  - Original Message -
  From: Saibal Mitra [EMAIL PROTECTED]
  To: everything-list@googlegroups.com
  Sent: Monday, May 29, 2000 9:07 PM
  Subject: Re: Reasons and Persons
 


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RE: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Stathis Papaioannou


Russell,

  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).

You're being too practical. That's fine for scientific speculation, but
it can be an impediment in trying to understand philosophers. If I say,
if I were God, I would get rid of all the flies, I am saying something
about my attitude to flies; the fact that me becoming God might be a
practical and probably a theoretical impossibility is beside the point.
Similarly, Parfit's thought experiments are designed to explore the
meaning of the term personal identity, not the likelihood that Star
Trek will become reality. Certainly, in the world we live in it is very
easy to come up with a reliable *practical* method for verifying a
person's identity, such as asking his wife, or via neuronal DNA
analysis, or whatever; but this does not really tell us what, in
essence, personal identity is. What if, by science or magic, a person
were perfectly duplicated? What if, by science or magic, incremental
changes were made to a person's mind so that his mental state came to
resemble that of a different person? Is it possible to arrive at a
definition of personal identity which would yield what everyone would
agree is the right answer in such cases? Parfit's conclusion is that
there is no such definition possible; no objective truth of the matter
regarding personal identity. What we are left with is something perhaps
disturbingly vague: what matters to us in survival is just the feeling
of psychological continuity, regardless of what physical processes take
place to bring about this feeling.

Stathis Papaioannou   

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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Russell Standish

On Wed, May 31, 2006 at 04:36:46PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
 You're being too practical. That's fine for scientific speculation, but
 it can be an impediment in trying to understand philosophers. If I say,

I'm sorry, but you've already lost me here. If there is no grounding
in understood terms, and in this discussion group that largely means
scientific notions, then we are not having a discussion at all.

Cheers

-- 

A/Prof Russell Standish  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics0425 253119 ()
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RE: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Stathis Papaioannou

Russell Standish writes:
 
 On Wed, May 31, 2006 at 04:36:46PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
  You're being too practical. That's fine for scientific speculation,
but
  it can be an impediment in trying to understand philosophers. If I
say,
 
 I'm sorry, but you've already lost me here. If there is no grounding
 in understood terms, and in this discussion group that largely means
 scientific notions, then we are not having a discussion at all.

Of course we have to have a grounding in understood terms if we are to
have any sort of discussion. But there is a difference between science
and philosophy. Philosophy need not necessarily deal with
verifiable/falsifiable facts about the world, which to science is the
sine qua non. The same thought experiment  can lead to completely
different discussions, depending on which way you look at it. Take the
idea of making an exact copy of a person. The physicist may look at
whether it is possible even in principle to make an exact copy of
something down to the quantum level, and whether this level of fidelity
would be necessary to yield functionally equivalent brain processes. The
neurosurgeon may consider what Parfit calls fission: whether it would
in fact be possible to get two identical minds by cutting the corpus
callosum,  given the slight differences between hemispheres, the effect
of the surgical trauma, and so on. To the philosopher, on the other
hand, these questions are only a side issue. What he is interested in is
the conditional: IF a person could be perfectly duplicated, THEN which
of the two copies would we say is the continuation of the
pre-duplication person? Would it be one, both or neither? What should
the person about to undergo duplication expect to experience? Can we
come up with a definition of personal identity which provides a
satisfactory and unequivocal answer to these questions? If not, what
does this say about the concept of continuity of personal identity over
time, which hitherto we all thought we understood? 

I suppose there are some scientists (and probably even more laypeople)
who would regard the purely philosophical questions with contempt: if
mind duplication etc. is a practical or theoretical impossibility, why
waste time thinking about such nonsense? My purpose is not to enter into
that debate, but just to point out that Parfit is a philosopher, and you
have to keep that in mind when reading his work.

Stathis Papaioannou

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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Brent Meeker

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
...
 You're being too practical. That's fine for scientific speculation, but
 it can be an impediment in trying to understand philosophers. If I say,
 if I were God, I would get rid of all the flies, I am saying something
 about my attitude to flies; the fact that me becoming God might be a
 practical and probably a theoretical impossibility is beside the point.
 Similarly, Parfit's thought experiments are designed to explore the
 meaning of the term personal identity, not the likelihood that Star
 Trek will become reality. Certainly, in the world we live in it is very
 easy to come up with a reliable *practical* method for verifying a
 person's identity, such as asking his wife, or via neuronal DNA
 analysis, or whatever; but this does not really tell us what, in
 essence, personal identity is. What if, by science or magic, a person
 were perfectly duplicated? What if, by science or magic, incremental
 changes were made to a person's mind so that his mental state came to
 resemble that of a different person? Is it possible to arrive at a
 definition of personal identity which would yield what everyone would
 agree is the right answer in such cases? Parfit's conclusion is that
 there is no such definition possible; no objective truth of the matter
 regarding personal identity. What we are left with is something perhaps
 disturbingly vague: what matters to us in survival is just the feeling
 of psychological continuity, regardless of what physical processes take
 place to bring about this feeling.
 
 Stathis Papaioannou   

Of course such cases already arise in which Alzheimers or schizophrenia changes 
a person into
someone else, i.e. we say he is no longer himself.  Just because there is 
an continuum of
intermediate states it doesn't follow that there is no fact of the matter.

Brent Meeker


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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Russell Standish

On Wed, May 31, 2006 at 03:30:00PM -0700, Brent Meeker wrote:
 
 Of course such cases already arise in which Alzheimers or schizophrenia 
 changes a person into
 someone else, i.e. we say he is no longer himself.  Just because there is 
 an continuum of
 intermediate states it doesn't follow that there is no fact of the matter.
 
 Brent Meeker
 

Of course our personalities change through time - we are not the same
person as the child we remeber being and the personalities
in other Multiverse branches that branched from us are also different
persons.

These are also indisputably contiguous cases. The case in contention
is something like - is it possible to go from Jesse Mazer (I think it
was) and move in incremental steps through the Multiverse, stepping
from person to person and end up at Bruno Marchal? It is not
immediately obvious to me that this should be true. If anything, the
various analogies we have point to the opposite conclusion.

If two persons are contiguously linked then I would accept that
Parfit's thought experiment works, and leads to a spectrum of persons
between the two end points. For example, if I step into Bruno's
duplicater in Brussels, and end up in Washington, then I do believe it
will be possible (in theory) to perform Parfit's experiment on myself
and my twin in Moscow for as long as we both live (ie years after the
duplication).

However, I'm not sure I can be so easily converted into a person whose
origin is completely different (different birth, different childhood
etc.) without passing through unconscious states.

This would imply that there exist islands of indentity, and having
limited awareness in time and multispace, we can only ever be aware of
one instance from each island, but that might change with technology.

BTW another analogy is the islands of geneflow within biological
species. Within biology, we have such things as ring species, where
two species at a location (eg Britain) cannot interbreed, yet can
interbreed with neighbouring species to the east and west in an
interrupted chain that circumnavigates the pole. (Sorry I may not be
explaining the concept of ring species too well - look up Wikipedia).

In such a case, perhaps ring identities such as Jesse Mazer -
Bruno Marchal do exist - but I'd like to be surer of the analogy. Also
ring species are the exception, not the rule, in Nature.

Cheers

-- 

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Mathematics0425 253119 ()
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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Russell Standish

Sure, and if Parfit's discussion boiled down to if we assume that a
spectrum of identies is possible for the sake of argument, then...

We can also make the opposite assumption, and come to the opposite
conclusions. Not especially edifying, wouldn't you think.

Parfit was trying to bias the discussion one way by providing some
plausibility arguments. With our extra twenty years of knowledge in
complex systems, neurology and genetics, I argue that these
plausibility arguments are looking a little threadbare. This does not
diminish Parfit's contribution, seen in the context of the time he
wrote his book. But I am not interested in historical relativism, I'm
interested in the best understanding of a topic that can be wrought
using all evidence and arguments available.

Cheers


On Wed, May 31, 2006 at 10:19:56PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
 
 Of course we have to have a grounding in understood terms if we are to
 have any sort of discussion. But there is a difference between science
 and philosophy. Philosophy need not necessarily deal with
 verifiable/falsifiable facts about the world, which to science is the
 sine qua non. The same thought experiment  can lead to completely
 different discussions, depending on which way you look at it. Take the
 idea of making an exact copy of a person. The physicist may look at
 whether it is possible even in principle to make an exact copy of
 something down to the quantum level, and whether this level of fidelity
 would be necessary to yield functionally equivalent brain processes. The
 neurosurgeon may consider what Parfit calls fission: whether it would
 in fact be possible to get two identical minds by cutting the corpus
 callosum,  given the slight differences between hemispheres, the effect
 of the surgical trauma, and so on. To the philosopher, on the other
 hand, these questions are only a side issue. What he is interested in is
 the conditional: IF a person could be perfectly duplicated, THEN which
 of the two copies would we say is the continuation of the
 pre-duplication person? Would it be one, both or neither? What should
 the person about to undergo duplication expect to experience? Can we
 come up with a definition of personal identity which provides a
 satisfactory and unequivocal answer to these questions? If not, what
 does this say about the concept of continuity of personal identity over
 time, which hitherto we all thought we understood? 
 
 I suppose there are some scientists (and probably even more laypeople)
 who would regard the purely philosophical questions with contempt: if
 mind duplication etc. is a practical or theoretical impossibility, why
 waste time thinking about such nonsense? My purpose is not to enter into
 that debate, but just to point out that Parfit is a philosopher, and you
 have to keep that in mind when reading his work.
 
 Stathis Papaioannou
 
 
-- 

A/Prof Russell Standish  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics0425 253119 ()
UNSW SYDNEY 2052 [EMAIL PROTECTED] 
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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Jesse Mazer

Russell Standish  wrote:


BTW another analogy is the islands of geneflow within biological
species. Within biology, we have such things as ring species, where
two species at a location (eg Britain) cannot interbreed, yet can
interbreed with neighbouring species to the east and west in an
interrupted chain that circumnavigates the pole. (Sorry I may not be
explaining the concept of ring species too well - look up Wikipedia).

In such a case, perhaps ring identities such as Jesse Mazer -
Bruno Marchal do exist - but I'd like to be surer of the analogy. Also
ring species are the exception, not the rule, in Nature.

Ring species are the exception, but that's just because of extinction--if 
you had a time machine and could collect specimens from throughout history, 
of course any species could be smoothly joined to any other by tracing back 
each one's lineage to their common ancestor.

Anyway, I agree with your basic point--although practical possibility is not 
important to philosophical thought-experiments, *logical* possibility 
certainly is, and if there were no smooth path between me and Napoleon (or 
Bruno or anyone else) in the phase space of all possible minds/brains, such 
that every intermediate point on the path was a single integrated mind, then 
Parfit's thought-experiment wouldn't work. I don't think this island idea 
is very plausible given the hugeness of the space of all possible 
minds/brains, but it can't be ruled out.

Jesse



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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Jesse Mazer

Russell Standish wrote:



On Wed, May 31, 2006 at 07:53:35PM -0400, Jesse Mazer wrote:
 
  Anyway, I agree with your basic point--although practical possibility is 
not
  important to philosophical thought-experiments, *logical* possibility
  certainly is, and if there were no smooth path between me and Napoleon 
(or
  Bruno or anyone else) in the phase space of all possible minds/brains, 
such
  that every intermediate point on the path was a single integrated mind, 
then
  Parfit's thought-experiment wouldn't work. I don't think this island 
idea
  is very plausible given the hugeness of the space of all possible
  minds/brains, but it can't be ruled out.
 
  Jesse
 

Huge it is, but implementation space is even huger. We don't have an
adequate theory of what arrangements of things can be conscious, but
if we limit ourselves to brains we have a problem. There are vastly
more nonconscious arrangements of neurons than conscious ones.

True, but the same is true of gene-space--there are vastly more sequences of 
A,T,C,G that would fail to produce anything like a viable multicellular 
organism (or even a viable single-celled organism) than there are sequences 
that would. But the theory of evolution implies that any two organisms that 
have ever existed in the history of earth can be connected by a smooth 
series of small modifications, with each intermediate being a viable 
life-form.

Likewise, the space of all coherent novel-length english texts is tiny 
compared to the space of all novel-length combinations of letters in the 
Library of Babel, but I think God could probably find a continuous path 
between any two novels--say, War and Peace and Huck Finn--with each one 
differing from the last by a one-word substitution, and each one being a 
coherent novel with no obvious absurdities. The key is that the midpoint 
wouldn't have to be a weird amalgam of the plots of the two novels, you 
could go through a long series of distinct plots which are quite different 
from either of the two endpoints.

And the
conscious states we know of are not fully contiguous either.

What do you mean? The strength of the synaptic connections between different 
neurons or groups of neurons does change in a fairly continuous way, no? Of 
course even if we specify all the synaptic connections and strengths, one's 
conscious state can change in the short term as different neurons become 
active, but I don't think this is important to Parfit's thought-experiment, 
you can imagine a gradual change in the strength and arrangement of synapses 
even while over the short term there may be more variation in mood and 
thought processes.

Jesse



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RE: Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Stathis Papaioannou


Brent Meeker writes: OfcoursesuchcasesalreadyariseinwhichAlzheimer'sorschizophreniachangesapersoninto "someoneelse",i.e.wesayheis"nolongerhimself".Justbecausethereisancontinuumof intermediatestatesitdoesn'tfollowthatthereisno"factofthematter".

We say "he is no longer himself", but what we mean is that even though we know he is the same person, he is not like the person he used to be before he got sick. And we know that he *is* the same person despite this fact because he has continuously occupied the same body. So yes, in every situation anyone has ever encountered, there is a simple enoughcriterion - body identity - which will determine the "fact of the matter" in case there is any doubt. But the challenge is to come up with a criterion that covers all *possible* situations. Body identity will not do if we could teleport from one place to another: I could kill someone, teleport away, then argue in court that it wasn't me who did it because I have a different body now. DNA evidence could then be cited to prove that I was the criminal, even though I had a different body. But I could get around this by genetically modifying all the cells in my body in such a way as to leave my memories and personality intact, or I could upload my mind to a computer and destroy my biological body. What about defining identity in terms of psychological continuity? Apart from it being much harder to prove this, there are other ways to escape punishment. I coulddeliberately or accidentally excise parts of my memory including any knowledge of the crime, orI could spread my memories of the crime and aspects of my personalityto other individuals. On a computer network, how would you show that these electrons over here are descended from the original murderer and deserve punishment, while those electrons over there, which appear to encode the same information, are innocent? I'm sure legislators will try to come up with something, but at this point, it should be obvious that the certainty with which we currently view matters of personal identity is just a consequence of the fact that we live simple, animal lives from birth to death.

Stathis PapaioannouExpress yourself instantly with MSN Messenger! MSN Messenger
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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread George Levy




Russell Standish wrote:

  
This would imply that there exist "islands" of indentity, and having
limited awareness in time and multispace, we can only ever be aware of
one instance from each island, but that might change with technology.

BTW another analogy is the islands of geneflow within biological
species. Within biology, we have such things as ring species, where
two species at a location (eg Britain) cannot interbreed, yet can
interbreed with neighbouring species to the east and west in an
interrupted chain that circumnavigates the pole. (Sorry I may not be
explaining the concept of ring species too well - look up Wikipedia).

In such a case, perhaps "ring identities" such as Jesse Mazer -
Bruno Marchal do exist - but I'd like to be surer of the analogy. Also
ring species are the exception, not the rule, in Nature.
  


If we can define an intermediary state common to all species then we
will have bridged all the isolated island. 
It seems that at the embryonic stage and possibly at the fetus stage,
rhe nervous circuitry is so simple that it may be common between all
individual of a specie and there are no identity islands. So we could
say with near certainty that Bruno Marchal and Jesse Mazer used to
be one and the same. 
In addition we may assume that embryonic and fetal development allows
for a continuous distribution of neurons in the brain rather than in
discrete space positions, and an incremental connectivity of the
neurons such that any particular neuron may differ by a single
connection. With these assumptions we may infer that there is a
continuity in personal identity from anyone to anyone. 

George

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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Brent Meeker

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
 Brent Meeker writes:
 
   
 Of course such cases already arise in which Alzheimer's or schizophrenia 
 changes a person into
   
 someone else, i.e. we say he is no longer himself.  Just because there is 
 an continuum of
   
 intermediate states it doesn't follow that there is no fact of the matter.
 
  
 
 We say he is no longer himself, but what we mean is that even though 
 we know he is the same person, he is not like the person he used to be 
 before he got sick. And we know that he *is* the same person despite 
 this fact because he has continuously occupied the same body. So yes, in 
 every situation anyone has ever encountered, there is a simple 
 enough criterion - body identity - which will determine the fact of the 
 matter in case there is any doubt. But the challenge is to come up with 
 a criterion that covers all *possible* situations. Body identity will 
 not do if we could teleport from one place to another: I could kill 
 someone, teleport away, then argue in court that it wasn't me who did it 
 because I have a different body now. 

You don't have to.  Body identity is not sufficient to establish the fact of 
the matter.  People 
may be acquited to murder (by reason of insanity) because they suffer from 
multiple personality 
disorder.  In such cases, one personality is generally not aware of the 
other(s).

Brent Meeker

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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-31 Thread Russell Standish

The problem with the embryonic brain argument (which I actually raised
BTW), is that is almost assuredly not conscious, and not a person in
the way we're using the term here.

Obviously its a little hard to find an exact cutoff between consious
and unconscious states, but the onset of self-awareness (or at least
the mirror test passing aspect of it) at age approx 18 months would be
an upper bound.

Already by about 2 years old, there is a massive die off of neurons,
as connections and neurons are culled - which leaves me to suspect
that by the time the brain houses consciousness, no two brains are
structurally alike, even genetically identical ones.

Cheers

On Wed, May 31, 2006 at 07:51:21PM -0700, George Levy wrote:
 Russell Standish wrote:
 
 This would imply that there exist islands of indentity, and having
 limited awareness in time and multispace, we can only ever be aware of
 one instance from each island, but that might change with technology.
 
 BTW another analogy is the islands of geneflow within biological
 species. Within biology, we have such things as ring species, where
 two species at a location (eg Britain) cannot interbreed, yet can
 interbreed with neighbouring species to the east and west in an
 interrupted chain that circumnavigates the pole. (Sorry I may not be
 explaining the concept of ring species too well - look up Wikipedia).
 
 In such a case, perhaps ring identities such as Jesse Mazer -
 Bruno Marchal do exist - but I'd like to be surer of the analogy. Also
 ring species are the exception, not the rule, in Nature.
   
 
 
 If we can define an intermediary state common to all species then we 
 will have bridged all the isolated island.
 It seems that at the embryonic stage and possibly at the fetus stage, 
 rhe nervous circuitry is so simple that it may be common between all 
 individual of a specie and there are no identity islands. So we could 
 say with near certainty that Bruno Marchal and Jesse Mazer used to be 
 one and the same.
 In addition we may assume that embryonic and fetal development allows 
 for a continuous distribution of neurons in the brain rather than in 
 discrete space positions, and an incremental connectivity of the neurons 
 such that any particular  neuron may differ by a single connection. With 
 these assumptions we may infer that there is a continuity in personal 
 identity from anyone to anyone.
 
 George
 
 
 
-- 

A/Prof Russell Standish  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics0425 253119 ()
UNSW SYDNEY 2052 [EMAIL PROTECTED] 
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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-30 Thread Russell Standish

Well yes, I suppose there is a set of assumptions about persons that
makes the argument work, the trouble is can we come up with a truly
believable set of assumptions? (My comment also on Jesse Mazer's post also).

This is good - it is delving deeper into Parfit's argument, exposing
subtle traps within.

Cheers 

On Tue, May 30, 2000 at 03:07:49AM +0200, Saibal Mitra wrote:
 
 There must exist a ''high level'' program that specifies a person in terms
 of qualia. These qualia are ultimately defined by the way neurons are
 connected, but you could also think of persons in terms of the high-level
 algorithm, instead of the ''machine language'' level algorithm specified by
 the neural network.
 
 The interpolation between two persons is more easily done in the high level
 language. Then you do obtain a continuous path from one person to the other.
 For each intermediary person, you can then try to ''compile'' the program to
 the corresponding neural network.
 

-- 

A/Prof Russell Standish  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics0425 253119 ()
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RE: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-30 Thread Stathis Papaioannou

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.

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).

Stathis Papaioannou

 -Original Message-
 From: everything-list@googlegroups.com [mailto:everything-
 [EMAIL PROTECTED] On Behalf Of Russell Standish
 Sent: Monday, 29 May 2006 8:22 PM
 To: everything-list@googlegroups.com
 Subject: Re: Reasons and Persons
 
 
 On Mon, May 29, 2006 at 07:15:33PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
 
  I don't see why you are so sure about the necessity of passing
through
  non-functional brain structures going from you to Napoleon. After
all,
  there is a continuous sequence of intermediates between you and a
  fertilized ovum, and on the face of it you have much more in common
  mentally and physically with Napoleon than with a fertilized ovum.
  However, technical feasibility is not the point. The point is that
*if*
  (let's say magically) your mind were gradually transformed, so that
your
 
 We need to be a bit more precise than magically. In Parfit's book he
 talks about swapping out my neurons for the equivalent neurons in
 Napoleon's brain. Sure this is not exactly technically feasible at
 present, but for thought experiment purposes it is adequate, and
 suffices for doing the teleporting experiment.
 
 The trouble I have is that Napoleon's brain will be wired completely
 differently to my own. Substituting enough of his neurons and
 connections will eventually just disrupt the functioning of my brain.
 
 Perhaps there is some other way of passing through functioning brain
 states, but not in the way Parfit describes it. Perhaps there is a way
 going through a sequence of brains states to when I was an embryo,
 then reversing the process via developing Napoleon's brain. But would
 each stage be conscious? It is still debatable whether children under
 the age of 12 months are conscious (eg in the sense of being
 self-aware), let alone the mind of a foetus.
 
 All I can say is that things are definitely more subtle than Parfit
was
 implying.
 
 
 --


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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-30 Thread John M


Russell, 

IMO ANY argument (set of assumptions) is truly
believable for people with a mindset that finds it so
(truly believable that is.)
Also Jesse's 'need' for a high level qualia-assignment
is human postulate upon things more than just human.

We have the bad habit to think with our human mind
(some, of course are immune to any thinkng) and accept
our own human delusions as the 'truth' in our
thinking.

But, Alas, how else could we do it?

John M

--- Russell Standish [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 
 Well yes, I suppose there is a set of assumptions
 about persons that
 makes the argument work, the trouble is can we come
 up with a truly
 believable set of assumptions? (My comment also on
 Jesse Mazer's post also).
 
 This is good - it is delving deeper into Parfit's
 argument, exposing
 subtle traps within.
 
 Cheers 
 
 On Tue, May 30, 2000 at 03:07:49AM +0200, Saibal
 Mitra wrote:
  
  There must exist a ''high level'' program that
 specifies a person in terms
  of qualia. These qualia are ultimately defined by
 the way neurons are
  connected, but you could also think of persons in
 terms of the high-level
  algorithm, instead of the ''machine language''
 level algorithm specified by
  the neural network.
  
  The interpolation between two persons is more
 easily done in the high level
  language. Then you do obtain a continuous path
 from one person to the other.
  For each intermediary person, you can then try to
 ''compile'' the program to
  the corresponding neural network.
  
 
 -- 


 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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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-30 Thread Hal Finney

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.

Hal Finney

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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-30 Thread Russell Standish

On Tue, May 30, 2006 at 03:02:05PM -0700, Hal Finney wrote:
 
 
 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.

Yes - I think this is roughly equivalent to the regression to embryo
process I suggested before.

 
 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.
 

My reading of Parfit was that half-yourself/half-napoleon states were
required. Perhaps others more familiar with Parfit can comment.

 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.
 
 Hal Finney

I'm not sure shape of neurons is sufficient - we can suppose (for the
sake of argument) that nanoscale wires are connected between neurons
on Napoleon's brain and your own, and that once in place, the
neurosurgeon just needs to activate the links 1 by 1 (all 10 billion
of them).

My objection was that there will not be a one-to-one correspondence
between neurons in the two brains. Napoleon probably has a Josephine
neuron that I don't have and so on. So even switching over neurons
will not give half-half states. Instead when the Josephine neuron is
connected to my brain it will probably have some other
function. Indeed as I argue, the most likely result is non-function.

A more likely scenario is that whole modules are swapped at a
time. The human brain is quite modular, a part dedicated to processing
vision, another for smell, another to control the left arm and so
on. Swapping whole modules (assuming sufficient technological prowess)
could well lead to functioning hybrid brains. However the resulting
in-between brains do not lie on a spectrum, as is needed for
Parfit's argument. The result is a distinct person in each step. Some
versions may result in split persons, by analogy with the split brain
case - ie if we constructed a brain with my right hemisphere and
Napoleon's left, and left out the connections in between.

Cheers

-- 

A/Prof Russell Standish  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics0425 253119 ()
UNSW SYDNEY 2052 [EMAIL PROTECTED] 
Australiahttp://parallel.hpc.unsw.edu.au/rks
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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-30 Thread Russell Standish

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
nature.

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)
Mathematics0425 253119 ()
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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-30 Thread Jayceetout

Can I add a nuance that seems to be missing from this discourse?

What if the original 'programming' or 'configuration' of the neurons
(the entire brain including the neuron/astrocyte syncitium) was as a
single entity and intrinsically dynamic?

That is, the laying down of the brain configuration is to some extent
based on the manner(order) of exposure of new information and the net
of all prior history. Subsequent recall is then only possible via the
brain itself recreating the equivalent to the sensory feeds that
originally programmed them and that correspond to that which is
required to be recalled. An intrinsically dynamic associative memory
would behave like this.

We are all used to thinking of things in terms of static 'declarative'
(which I think may be a misnomer in brain function, not sure yet)
memory. In computers we are all used to dynamic declarative memory in
the form of the ubiquitous dynamic RAM (the memory stick) , where the
dynamic part is hidden from us in the hardware. We are able to point to
a location with a stick and say that information is stored there.

But a dynamic associative memory is a very different beast.

If this is the case then at any moment during the conversion from one
brain configuration to another you would have to duplicate the sensory
feeds as well so as to completely duplicate (reprogram) the dynamic
transitional states so that you could claim to have properly performed
the conversion. If so then a neural level conversion becomes
inappropriate as the hardware replacement alone is not taking the
characteristics with it that we think are being taken. Neuron by neuron
replacement becomes arguably inappropriate to achieve the aim of the
thought experiment.

The neuron by neuron replacement is possibly a more valid thought
experiment tool for the (human = philosophical zombie) conversion,
but it could be inappropriate for (human A to human B) conversion.

Also assumed here is that astrocytes play no role, which is not
justified.

It would seem that this 'dynamic' aspect provides an nuance currently
missing, unless I have misinterpreted things. The real situation could
be far more complex than the thought experiment and thus the thought
experiment may be impoverishing the discussion by limiting our
conclusions.

cheers,
colin


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RE: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-29 Thread Stathis Papaioannou

Russell Standish writes:

 Even though it is very unlikely to happen in reality, it is easy
  enough to imagine that the relatively minor physical/psychological
  changes that have occurred in the past day are exaggerated, so that
  instead of changing from me-yesterday to me-today, I change from
  me-yesterday into Napoleon. The point is that this type of radical
  change would be different in *degree*, not different in kind from
the
  type of change that occurs normally. One could even argue that
turning
 
 Sure, but that's exactly where I'm in disagreement. The change into
 Napoleon is a difference in kind, not degree, as one would have to
 pass through non-functional brain structures in order to change from
me to
 him. Whereas to change from me to me as I was twenty years ago can be
 achieved by passing through functional brain structures (all the
 instances of me over the last twenty years).

I don't see why you are so sure about the necessity of passing through
non-functional brain structures going from you to Napoleon. After all,
there is a continuous sequence of intermediates between you and a
fertilized ovum, and on the face of it you have much more in common
mentally and physically with Napoleon than with a fertilized ovum.
However, technical feasibility is not the point. The point is that *if*
(let's say magically) your mind were gradually transformed, so that your
thoughts became more and more Napoleonic and less and less Standishian,
then by this process, you would become Napoleon. It is analogous to the
situation where the old man remembers being a young man, the young man
remembers being a child, but the old man does not remember being a
child. Although the old man has no recollection of being a child, he
still identifies as being the same person as that child because there is
a continuous series of intermediates each of whom recalls the one
immediately prior, if not the ones several stages earlier. This is what
people actually believe and act on, for example if a person is found
guilty of a crime which he has since genuinely forgotten committing. The
whole thrust of Parfit's philosophizing involves taking such normative
definitions of personal identity and, by trying them out in various
irregular situations and thought experiments, showing up their
deficiencies.

Stathis Papaioannou 

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RE: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-29 Thread John M

I read the remark of Russell and Satathis's reply with
great interest. 
Russell wrote (among others):
*
  ...The change into
  Napoleon is a difference in kind, not degree, as
 one would have to
  pass through non-functional brain structures in
 order to change from me to him. 
*
reflecting a rather mechanistic-physicalist view of a
mentality in 'degrees' followable by (not
substantial?) alterations from a (nonfunctioning, but
assumed?) prior state, I would suggest: in
infinitesimal steps as in the well esstablished qualia
of calculus. Russell seems to disagree, taking the
analog view (in kind).
Let me return to this after 2 quotes from Stathis's
reply:
*
1.  However, technical feasibility is not the point.
The point is that *if*
 (let's say magically) your mind were gradually
 transformed, so that your
 thoughts became more and more Napoleonic and less
 and less Standishian,
 then by this process, you would become Napoleon.
*
2. ...the old man remembers being a young
 man, the young man
 remembers being a child, but the old man does not
 remember being a
 child. Although the old man has no recollection of
 being a child, he
 still identifies as being the same person as that
 child because there is
 a continuous series of intermediates each of whom
 recalls the one
 immediately prior, if not the ones several stages
 earlier.
*
Comparing the two I find Russell's position more
mentality-oriented than Stathis' (more mechanistic),
however he mentions Parfit's personal identity
tested  in thought-experiments. (I dislike thought
experiments as artefacts composed to rationalize upon
one's not so rational ideas into a fabricated sci-fi
situation.)

The personal identity (I call it: SELF?) is an open
question. The old man identifies himself with all
stages of his earlier life even if episodes emerge he
did not actively remember. (I know, I do). It is more
than stepping backwards in phases. It transcends time,
particular qualia-attributes, rationale and approval. 
I identify (an arthritic octagenerian) with the teen
youngster who made that memorable ski-jump. I feel
it... also the frustration when at school I was not
prepared and could not recite the poem which I now
know quite well. 
Self is more than 'degrees of bodily, emotionally or
mentally experienced states', it is myself in total
ambiance (a situation psych cannot handle and physics
has no units to measure). It does not end by the skin
and not by personal thoughts. It includes a complexity
of the 'situations' without transition of yesterday's
me into Napoleon. Triggered? yes. Explained? not yet.

(My problem with MWI transitions of Q-suicide ideas: 
what part of 'SELF' are we talking about? it includes
the totality as e/affecting us (and vice versa), very
much as THIS universe circumstances and in another
ambiance the same 'self' is not identifiable. Same
question as in reincarnation: who is I
reincarnated?) Self is a mentally interrelated part of
the totality with some inside reflection to itself (no
good words available). Sort of a duality? Relational
compolsition?
It works in all of us, I have no idea if less neuronic
animals have it (never asked them) or plants,
galaxies?

Besides: 'self' related things go atemporal -
aspatial.
Not followable in time-series or state-space series.
It is not analysably changing details from A-C through
B.
It is - well, who knows? - a (complex) quality-jump in
some 'analog'(?) manner, if we think comp.
I still do not know HOW to think about it. 

John M




--- Stathis Papaioannou
[EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 
 Russell Standish writes:
 
  Even though it is very unlikely to happen in
 reality, it is easy
   enough to imagine that the relatively minor
 physical/psychological
   changes that have occurred in the past day are
 exaggerated, so that
   instead of changing from me-yesterday to
 me-today, I change from
   me-yesterday into Napoleon. The point is that
 this type of radical
   change would be different in *degree*, not
 different in kind from
 the
   type of change that occurs normally. One could
 even argue that
 turning
  
  Sure, but that's exactly where I'm in
 disagreement. The change into
  Napoleon is a difference in kind, not degree, as
 one would have to
  pass through non-functional brain structures in
 order to change from
 me to
  him. Whereas to change from me to me as I was
 twenty years ago can be
  achieved by passing through functional brain
 structures (all the
  instances of me over the last twenty years).
 
 I don't see why you are so sure about the necessity
 of passing through
 non-functional brain structures going from you to
 Napoleon. After all,
 there is a continuous sequence of intermediates
 between you and a
 fertilized ovum, and on the face of it you have much
 more in common
 mentally and physically with Napoleon than with a
 fertilized ovum.
 However, technical feasibility is not the point. The
 point is that *if*
 (let's say magically) your mind were gradually
 transformed, so that 

RE: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-29 Thread John M

L'esprit de l'escalier:
after reading my post below as an interesting
list-post it occurred that I left out an important
addage:
I may feel as the same person (self) in my earlier
life and situations - I do not IDENTIFY with 'it'. I
know: it is me but not I am like that. Not even:
I was like that - I observe it as an interesting
book I read already. Or something thelike.
Just to add to the happy misunderstanding

John M

--- John M [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 
 I read the remark of Russell and Satathis's reply
 with
 great interest. 
 Russell wrote (among others):
 *
   ...The change into
   Napoleon is a difference in kind, not degree, as
  one would have to
   pass through non-functional brain structures in
  order to change from me to him. 
 *
 reflecting a rather mechanistic-physicalist view of
 a
 mentality in 'degrees' followable by (not
 substantial?) alterations from a (nonfunctioning,
 but
 assumed?) prior state, I would suggest: in
 infinitesimal steps as in the well esstablished
 qualia
 of calculus. Russell seems to disagree, taking the
 analog view (in kind).
 Let me return to this after 2 quotes from Stathis's
 reply:
 *
 1.  However, technical feasibility is not the
 point.
 The point is that *if*
  (let's say magically) your mind were gradually
  transformed, so that your
  thoughts became more and more Napoleonic and less
  and less Standishian,
  then by this process, you would become Napoleon.
 *
 2. ...the old man remembers being a young
  man, the young man
  remembers being a child, but the old man does not
  remember being a
  child. Although the old man has no recollection of
  being a child, he
  still identifies as being the same person as that
  child because there is
  a continuous series of intermediates each of whom
  recalls the one
  immediately prior, if not the ones several stages
  earlier.
 *
 Comparing the two I find Russell's position more
 mentality-oriented than Stathis' (more mechanistic),
 however he mentions Parfit's personal identity
 tested  in thought-experiments. (I dislike thought
 experiments as artefacts composed to rationalize
 upon
 one's not so rational ideas into a fabricated sci-fi
 situation.)
 
 The personal identity (I call it: SELF?) is an open
 question. The old man identifies himself with all
 stages of his earlier life even if episodes emerge
 he
 did not actively remember. (I know, I do). It is
 more
 than stepping backwards in phases. It transcends
 time,
 particular qualia-attributes, rationale and
 approval. 
 I identify (an arthritic octagenerian) with the teen
 youngster who made that memorable ski-jump. I feel
 it... also the frustration when at school I was not
 prepared and could not recite the poem which I now
 know quite well. 
 Self is more than 'degrees of bodily, emotionally or
 mentally experienced states', it is myself in total
 ambiance (a situation psych cannot handle and
 physics
 has no units to measure). It does not end by the
 skin
 and not by personal thoughts. It includes a
 complexity
 of the 'situations' without transition of
 yesterday's
 me into Napoleon. Triggered? yes. Explained? not
 yet.
 
 (My problem with MWI transitions of Q-suicide ideas:
 
 what part of 'SELF' are we talking about? it
 includes
 the totality as e/affecting us (and vice versa),
 very
 much as THIS universe circumstances and in another
 ambiance the same 'self' is not identifiable. Same
 question as in reincarnation: who is I
 reincarnated?) Self is a mentally interrelated part
 of
 the totality with some inside reflection to itself
 (no
 good words available). Sort of a duality? Relational
 compolsition?
 It works in all of us, I have no idea if less
 neuronic
 animals have it (never asked them) or plants,
 galaxies?
 
 Besides: 'self' related things go atemporal -
 aspatial.
 Not followable in time-series or state-space series.
 It is not analysably changing details from A-C
 through
 B.
 It is - well, who knows? - a (complex) quality-jump
 in
 some 'analog'(?) manner, if we think comp.
 I still do not know HOW to think about it. 
 
 John M
 
 
 
 
 --- Stathis Papaioannou
 [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:
 
  
  Russell Standish writes:
  
   Even though it is very unlikely to happen in
  reality, it is easy
enough to imagine that the relatively minor
  physical/psychological
changes that have occurred in the past day are
  exaggerated, so that
instead of changing from me-yesterday to
  me-today, I change from
me-yesterday into Napoleon. The point is that
  this type of radical
change would be different in *degree*, not
  different in kind from
  the
type of change that occurs normally. One could
  even argue that
  turning
   
   Sure, but that's exactly where I'm in
  disagreement. The change into
   Napoleon is a difference in kind, not degree, as
  one would have to
   pass through non-functional brain structures in
  order to change from
  me to
   him. Whereas to change from me to me as I was
  twenty years ago can be
 

Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-29 Thread Russell Standish

On Mon, May 29, 2006 at 07:15:33PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
 
 I don't see why you are so sure about the necessity of passing through
 non-functional brain structures going from you to Napoleon. After all,
 there is a continuous sequence of intermediates between you and a
 fertilized ovum, and on the face of it you have much more in common
 mentally and physically with Napoleon than with a fertilized ovum.
 However, technical feasibility is not the point. The point is that *if*
 (let's say magically) your mind were gradually transformed, so that your

We need to be a bit more precise than magically. In Parfit's book he
talks about swapping out my neurons for the equivalent neurons in
Napoleon's brain. Sure this is not exactly technically feasible at
present, but for thought experiment purposes it is adequate, and
suffices for doing the teleporting experiment.

The trouble I have is that Napoleon's brain will be wired completely
differently to my own. Substituting enough of his neurons and
connections will eventually just disrupt the functioning of my brain.

Perhaps there is some other way of passing through functioning brain
states, but not in the way Parfit describes it. Perhaps there is a way
going through a sequence of brains states to when I was an embryo,
then reversing the process via developing Napoleon's brain. But would
each stage be conscious? It is still debatable whether children under
the age of 12 months are conscious (eg in the sense of being
self-aware), let alone the mind of a foetus.

All I can say is that things are definitely more subtle than Parfit was
implying. 


-- 

A/Prof Russell Standish  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics0425 253119 ()
UNSW SYDNEY 2052 [EMAIL PROTECTED] 
Australiahttp://parallel.hpc.unsw.edu.au/rks
International prefix  +612, Interstate prefix 02


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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-29 Thread Jesse Mazer

Russell Standish wrote:


On Mon, May 29, 2006 at 07:15:33PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
 
  I don't see why you are so sure about the necessity of passing through
  non-functional brain structures going from you to Napoleon. After all,
  there is a continuous sequence of intermediates between you and a
  fertilized ovum, and on the face of it you have much more in common
  mentally and physically with Napoleon than with a fertilized ovum.
  However, technical feasibility is not the point. The point is that *if*
  (let's say magically) your mind were gradually transformed, so that your

We need to be a bit more precise than magically. In Parfit's book he
talks about swapping out my neurons for the equivalent neurons in
Napoleon's brain. Sure this is not exactly technically feasible at
present, but for thought experiment purposes it is adequate, and
suffices for doing the teleporting experiment.

The trouble I have is that Napoleon's brain will be wired completely
differently to my own. Substituting enough of his neurons and
connections will eventually just disrupt the functioning of my brain.

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.

Jesse



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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-29 Thread Saibal Mitra

There must exist a ''high level'' program that specifies a person in terms
of qualia. These qualia are ultimately defined by the way neurons are
connected, but you could also think of persons in terms of the high-level
algorithm, instead of the ''machine language'' level algorithm specified by
the neural network.

The interpolation between two persons is more easily done in the high level
language. Then you do obtain a continuous path from one person to the other.
For each intermediary person, you can then try to ''compile'' the program to
the corresponding neural network.

- Original Message - 
From: Jesse Mazer [EMAIL PROTECTED]
To: everything-list@googlegroups.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 02:29 AM
Subject: Re: Reasons and Persons



 Russell Standish wrote:
 
 
 On Mon, May 29, 2006 at 07:15:33PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
  
   I don't see why you are so sure about the necessity of passing through
   non-functional brain structures going from you to Napoleon. After all,
   there is a continuous sequence of intermediates between you and a
   fertilized ovum, and on the face of it you have much more in common
   mentally and physically with Napoleon than with a fertilized ovum.
   However, technical feasibility is not the point. The point is that
*if*
   (let's say magically) your mind were gradually transformed, so that
your
 
 We need to be a bit more precise than magically. In Parfit's book he
 talks about swapping out my neurons for the equivalent neurons in
 Napoleon's brain. Sure this is not exactly technically feasible at
 present, but for thought experiment purposes it is adequate, and
 suffices for doing the teleporting experiment.
 
 The trouble I have is that Napoleon's brain will be wired completely
 differently to my own. Substituting enough of his neurons and
 connections will eventually just disrupt the functioning of my brain.

 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.

 Jesse



 


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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-28 Thread Russell Standish

On Sun, May 28, 2006 at 03:35:07PM +1000, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
 
 Philosophers are at the opposite extreme of engineers, in that they
 consider the practical details of their thought experiments to be
 unimportant. I think the idea that Parfit is exploring in the term
 psychological spectrum is how much one can change and remain the
 same person. I think I'm the same person I was yesterday even though
 my brain has changed physically and my mind has changed to reflect that
 change. Even though it is very unlikely to happen in reality, it is easy
 enough to imagine that the relatively minor physical/psychological
 changes that have occurred in the past day are exaggerated, so that
 instead of changing from me-yesterday to me-today, I change from
 me-yesterday into Napoleon. The point is that this type of radical
 change would be different in *degree*, not different in kind from the
 type of change that occurs normally. One could even argue that turning

Sure, but that's exactly where I'm in disagreement. The change into
Napoleon is a difference in kind, not degree, as one would have to
pass through non-functional brain structures in order to change from me to
him. Whereas to change from me to me as I was twenty years ago can be
achieved by passing through functional brain structures (all the
instances of me over the last twenty years).

Cheers
-- 

A/Prof Russell Standish  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics0425 253119 ()
UNSW SYDNEY 2052 [EMAIL PROTECTED] 
Australiahttp://parallel.hpc.unsw.edu.au/rks
International prefix  +612, Interstate prefix 02


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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-28 Thread Russell Standish

I borrowed a copy of Parfit's book from UNSW's library. I daresay USyd
will have a copy too, perhaps even the State library.

Unless you meant my book, to which you've already had a sneak
preview. It can be purchased from http://www.booksurge.com.au, but I
will make an announcement on that in a few weeks' time.

Cheers

On Sat, May 27, 2006 at 06:01:47PM +1000, Kim Jones wrote:
 
 Russ
 
 where can I get a copy of this alarming book?
 
 
 cheers
 
 
 Kim
 
 
 On 24/05/2006, at 5:28 PM, Russell Standish wrote:
 
 
  Several list members cajoled me into reading David Parfit's Reasons
  and Persons. So I braved our dragon infested library, and sourced a
  copy. I can see why his book is relevant to this list, particularly
  part 3 of his book Personal Identity. It was a good recommendation -
  I can certainly recommend this as one of the background readers - too
  late it missed the cutoff for my book :)
 
  However, there was one thought experiment that concerned me, and it
  relates to his notion of psychological spectrum. We are to suppose
  that it is possible to generate psyches in between our mind and that
  of Napoleon Bonaparte, by progressively swapping in neurons from NB's
  brain.
 
  Since we have a number of closet computationlists here, I paraphrased
  the thought experiment as what if we swapped the transistors in my PC
  for that of a (old-style PPC) Mac. At first, there would be little
  difference, and the machine would be indistinguishable from that of a
  PC - save a few bugs (anyone remember the Pentium division
  bug?). Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, the machine would
  be virtually indistinguishable from a Mac. But what about the machines
  in the middle? Surely these machine would simply be
  non-functional. Replacing PC transistors with Mac transistors would be
  no different from simply disabling the PC transistors - eventually a
  critical path would be severed, and the machine would be defunct.
 
  No two human brains are wired identically - indeed our daily
  experience updates the connections between our neurons. Gradually
  replacing neurons in our brain by someone else's neurons would have
  the same effect as simply removing neurons one-by-one. For a while,
  there would be little noticable effect - brains are, after all quite
  robust against damage. But eventually, and well before the magical 50%
  mark I would suggest, the structural organisation of our brain would
  be lost, and we'd lose consciousness.
 
  Since quite a bit of Parfit's later arguments depend on this
  psychological spectrum thought experiment, it seems some of his
  identity issues aren't in fact problems at all. Anyone have a comment
  on this, or is it all obvious philosophy 101 stuff that I missed.
 
  Cheers
 
  --  
  -- 
  --
  A/Prof Russell Standish  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
  Mathematics0425 253119 ()
  UNSW SYDNEY 2052 [EMAIL PROTECTED]
  Australiahttp:// 
  parallel.hpc.unsw.edu.au/rks
  International prefix  +612, Interstate prefix 02
  -- 
  --
 
  
 
 
-- 

A/Prof Russell Standish  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics0425 253119 ()
UNSW SYDNEY 2052 [EMAIL PROTECTED] 
Australiahttp://parallel.hpc.unsw.edu.au/rks
International prefix  +612, Interstate prefix 02


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Re: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-27 Thread Kim Jones

Russ

where can I get a copy of this alarming book?


cheers


Kim


On 24/05/2006, at 5:28 PM, Russell Standish wrote:


 Several list members cajoled me into reading David Parfit's Reasons
 and Persons. So I braved our dragon infested library, and sourced a
 copy. I can see why his book is relevant to this list, particularly
 part 3 of his book Personal Identity. It was a good recommendation -
 I can certainly recommend this as one of the background readers - too
 late it missed the cutoff for my book :)

 However, there was one thought experiment that concerned me, and it
 relates to his notion of psychological spectrum. We are to suppose
 that it is possible to generate psyches in between our mind and that
 of Napoleon Bonaparte, by progressively swapping in neurons from NB's
 brain.

 Since we have a number of closet computationlists here, I paraphrased
 the thought experiment as what if we swapped the transistors in my PC
 for that of a (old-style PPC) Mac. At first, there would be little
 difference, and the machine would be indistinguishable from that of a
 PC - save a few bugs (anyone remember the Pentium division
 bug?). Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, the machine would
 be virtually indistinguishable from a Mac. But what about the machines
 in the middle? Surely these machine would simply be
 non-functional. Replacing PC transistors with Mac transistors would be
 no different from simply disabling the PC transistors - eventually a
 critical path would be severed, and the machine would be defunct.

 No two human brains are wired identically - indeed our daily
 experience updates the connections between our neurons. Gradually
 replacing neurons in our brain by someone else's neurons would have
 the same effect as simply removing neurons one-by-one. For a while,
 there would be little noticable effect - brains are, after all quite
 robust against damage. But eventually, and well before the magical 50%
 mark I would suggest, the structural organisation of our brain would
 be lost, and we'd lose consciousness.

 Since quite a bit of Parfit's later arguments depend on this
 psychological spectrum thought experiment, it seems some of his
 identity issues aren't in fact problems at all. Anyone have a comment
 on this, or is it all obvious philosophy 101 stuff that I missed.

 Cheers

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

 

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RE: Reasons and Persons

2006-05-27 Thread Stathis Papaioannou

Philosophers are at the opposite extreme of engineers, in that they
consider the practical details of their thought experiments to be
unimportant. I think the idea that Parfit is exploring in the term
psychological spectrum is how much one can change and remain the
same person. I think I'm the same person I was yesterday even though
my brain has changed physically and my mind has changed to reflect that
change. Even though it is very unlikely to happen in reality, it is easy
enough to imagine that the relatively minor physical/psychological
changes that have occurred in the past day are exaggerated, so that
instead of changing from me-yesterday to me-today, I change from
me-yesterday into Napoleon. The point is that this type of radical
change would be different in *degree*, not different in kind from the
type of change that occurs normally. One could even argue that turning
into Napoleon is not as great a psychological change as that experienced
by an infant growing up, or an adult who becomes demented in old age.
Given these examples, what criterion can one come up with which allows
that one is the same person over the course of one's life, but a
different person if one changes into Napoleon (not having been
Napoleon previously)?

That last question is the search for a criterion for personal identity.
Parfit's answer is that the question is misguided. There is no objective
truth regarding continuity of identity over time, or as the result of
teleportation, or brain duplication, or all the other processes which
may in future become reality. What matters to us is not continuity of
personal identity in some absolute sense, but the feeling of
psychological continuity. And the reason *this* matters to us is simply
that our brains evolved that way: those organisms that do not believe
they are the same individual from moment to moment or day to day and
hence have no regard for their future well-being would soon die out.

Stathis Papaioannou


-Original Message-
From: everything-list@googlegroups.com
[mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On Behalf Of Russell Standish
Sent: Wednesday, 24 May 2006 5:29 PM
To: everything-list@googlegroups.com
Subject: Reasons and Persons


Several list members cajoled me into reading David Parfit's Reasons
and Persons. So I braved our dragon infested library, and sourced a
copy. I can see why his book is relevant to this list, particularly
part 3 of his book Personal Identity. It was a good recommendation -
I can certainly recommend this as one of the background readers - too
late it missed the cutoff for my book :)

However, there was one thought experiment that concerned me, and it
relates to his notion of psychological spectrum. We are to suppose
that it is possible to generate psyches in between our mind and that
of Napoleon Bonaparte, by progressively swapping in neurons from NB's
brain.

Since we have a number of closet computationlists here, I paraphrased
the thought experiment as what if we swapped the transistors in my PC
for that of a (old-style PPC) Mac. At first, there would be little
difference, and the machine would be indistinguishable from that of a
PC - save a few bugs (anyone remember the Pentium division
bug?). Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, the machine would
be virtually indistinguishable from a Mac. But what about the machines
in the middle? Surely these machine would simply be
non-functional. Replacing PC transistors with Mac transistors would be
no different from simply disabling the PC transistors - eventually a
critical path would be severed, and the machine would be defunct.

No two human brains are wired identically - indeed our daily
experience updates the connections between our neurons. Gradually
replacing neurons in our brain by someone else's neurons would have
the same effect as simply removing neurons one-by-one. For a while,
there would be little noticable effect - brains are, after all quite
robust against damage. But eventually, and well before the magical 50%
mark I would suggest, the structural organisation of our brain would
be lost, and we'd lose consciousness.

Since quite a bit of Parfit's later arguments depend on this
psychological spectrum thought experiment, it seems some of his
identity issues aren't in fact problems at all. Anyone have a comment
on this, or is it all obvious philosophy 101 stuff that I missed.

Cheers

-- 


A/Prof Russell Standish  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics0425 253119 ()
UNSW SYDNEY 2052 [EMAIL PROTECTED]

Australia
http://parallel.hpc.unsw.edu.au/rks
International prefix  +612, Interstate prefix 02





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