Re: [Fwd: NDPR David Shoemaker, Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction]

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2009 18:48:55 +0100

On 20 Feb 2009, at 14:01, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

> 2009/2/20 Brent Meeker <> wrote:
>> Review of a book that may be of interest to the list.
>> Brent Meeker
>> -------- Original Message --------
>> Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
>> 2009-02-26 : View this Review Online
>> <> : View Other NDPR Reviews
>> <>
>> David Shoemaker, /Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief
>> Introduction/,
>> Broadview Press, 2009, 296pp., $26.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781551118826.
>> *Reviewed by Amy Kind, Claremont McKenna College*
> Thank-you for alerting us to this book. I'll pick out just one passage
> from the review for comment:
>> Though Shoemaker argues that the last three views suffer from serious
>> problems that prevent them from being plausible accounts of our
>> identity
>> over time, he offers a different sort of argument against the Soul
>> Criterion: There are good practical reasons to "insist on a tight
>> connection between the nature of personal identity and our practical
>> concerns, and thus reject any theory of personal identity -- like the
>> Soul Criterion -- that denies this connection." (33) Even if souls
>> exist, we lack any kind of epistemic access to them; rather, we
>> reidentify individuals in terms of their bodies and/or their
>> psychologies. Thus, souls are irrelevant to the practical issues
>> under
>> consideration, and this irrelevance is taken to justify the
>> rejection of
>> the Soul Criterion.
> Predominantly on this list we use the psychological criterion of
> personal identity, originated by Locke and developed using various SF
> thought experiments by Derek Parfit.

See also Dennet and Hofstadter's Mind'I for further references.

> This criterion is assumed true if
> you are to agree to teleportation or replacement of your brain with a
> functionally equivalent electronic analogue, and is contrasted with
> non-reductionist theories involving the existence of a soul.

This "constrast" is misleading. Parfit believes in Token and tokens
identity. He overlooked the subjective indeterminacy and the reversal
consequence. That is why he finds natural to call his teleportation
preserving identity a "reductionist" thesis like if it were reducing
the notions of "souls" and consciousness to organized piece of matter.
But the idea of betting we can survive digital substitution is really
reductionist in the other way round. This view, (at least that is was
the UDA is supposed to explain) leads to a reduction of matter to soul/
consciousness and eventually to machine-nameable and machine-
unnameable relations.
Concerning "soul" the comp idea is even antireductionist; it prevents
any theory (third person communicable) to give a name to it, without
eliminating it.

> If I have
> a soul, it might not be transferred in the copying process even though
> the copy acts the same as the original. I can understand this if the
> copy is a philosophical zombie for lack of a soul, but it seems that
> according to Shoemaker's usage the soul is not identical with the mind
> or consciousness.

 From a logical point of view Shoemaker is right. You can say "no" for
many reasons to the doctor.
The copy will not even behave as you.
The copy will behave like you, but is a phi-zombie.
The copy behaves like you and as a soul/personality/consciousness, but
yet is not you (and you are dead)
The copy is you (in Parfit sense: that it is as better than you).
the copy can be you in deeper and deeper senses (roughly speaking up
to the unspeakable "you = ONE").
I talk here on the first person "you". It is infinite and unnameable.
Here computer science can makes those term (like "unnameable") much
more precise.

> This leaves open the possibility that my copy might
> both behave *and* think the same way I do but still not be the same
> person. But if that is so, then as Shoemaker says, that would make the
> soul irrelevant.

The word "soul" is charged with history. I use it usually in the sense
of the knowing first person, and assuming the comp hyp, or weaker
hypothesis with similar self-copying quality, you cannot dispense from
the existence of such a soul. In arithmetic this will be related to
the fact that the theaetetical idea of defining knowledge of P by
justification of P when P is true lead to a modality which acts like
"pure justification" but reasons like a knower. It is the same
arithmetical part of truth, but it is "seen" differently, necessarily
so by incompleteness(*). Eventually this is important because it
justifies a purely scientific (third person communicable) notion of
soul, and matter will be generated by that soul.
Note that such a theory of soul is verifiable.

I appreciate Parfit, but he remains stuck by its "Aristotelian
Theology" (like so many, of course), and that is why, I guess, he
calls "comp" (or weaker a-like) a reductionist view, where I would
pretend such a view is more like a vaccine against many (if not all)
reductionist conception of the person.


(*) G* proves Bp <-> (Bp & p) for each p. But there are proposition k
such that G does not prove Bp <-> (Bp & p).

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Received on Sun Feb 22 2009 - 13:05:46 PST

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