Re: Are First Person prime?

From: David Nyman <>
Date: Sun, 06 Aug 2006 18:20:22 -0000

Bruno/ George

I thought I might offer the following analogy to help to clarify the
application and relevance of the distinctions I'm trying to make
vis-a-vis the different types of 'first person'. I wouldn't want to
push it too far, but I think it has a certain formal similarity to the
points I've been trying to establish.

Suppose that I am a PC running Word and Excel at the same time.
Suppose also that in some way you were able to interrogate me (i.e. the
PC) during some cycles when I am running Word, and ask me - "who are
you?". Given that I could refer only to the data available to me 'as
Word', I could only reply: "I am Word, of course!". Alternatively, if
the interrogation occurred during those cycles when I was running
Excel, my response would have to be: "I'm Excel".

Now this somewhat loose analogy makes the point that we have no
recourse but to refer to whatever data is accessible to us in
attempting to answer any query whatsoever, including those relating to
identity. However, going back to the analogy, an observer might be
tempted to inform me, in my incarnations as PC-as-Word and PC-as-Excel,
that I should really say: "I am a PC running both these applications
during different cycles under WindowsXP". So, in this limited domain,
'my' run-time instantiations of 'Word' and 'Excel' play the role of
FP1i, and the run-time PC-under-WindowsXP, that of FP1g. The analogs
of these 'actors' - their descriptions in my narrative - would be
examples of 'FP2' : i.e. a *representation* of a first person, *not*
the unique 'runtime' FP1i.

Now of course we can say: "But the PC itself is more fundamentally an
electronics hardware platform with a certain architecture". Fine, then
the claim should be "In that case 'I' am that platform with that
architecture". But suppose we believe that the 'hardware' is an
emulation within comp? Well, "In that case 'I' am a comp emulation".
It's 'I' all the way down, as far as you care to go. Whatever you
believe the 'fundamental level' to be, or even if you think there is no
such thing, that's what is substantively making the claim to be 'I', in
the global sense of 'FP1g'. And, since individual first persons are
somewhat in the position of 'Word' and 'Excel', or for that matter 'the
PC' in the analogy, each 'FP1i' is making the same claim: "I am the
context of a local capability and knowledge base that gives me access
to such-and-such information".

Comp/ QM/ MW etc. exist mutually as something of the nature of a
'superposition' - i.e. whatever exists does so in a unified manner that
we can only 'a posteriori' attempt to organise into schemas or
'levels'. Consequently I feel justified in claiming that my ultimate
first personhood is founded in the whole not simply some part or level.
Further, IMO, this may be the only coherent way to understand the
arbitrariness of indexicality - that the individual 'I' is only a
delimited point-of-view arising from local structure, not an
independent ontological status. Self-identification and the status of
'knower' are alike derived from locally-determined capabilities and
information 'in context', somewhat like that of 'Word' or Excel' in the
context of the PC in my analogy.

Lastly, I suppose that my personal motivation here really stems from my
sense that the questions 'why is there anything?' and 'why am I here?'
amount to the same thing. That is to say: the 'something' isn't 'out
there' - the way its analog is represented in the 'knowledge
base' - but 'in here'.

Does this help at all?


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Received on Sun Aug 06 2006 - 14:22:24 PDT

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