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

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Sun, 1 Mar 2009 18:48:02 +0100

On 01 Mar 2009, at 09:54, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

> 2009/2/28 Bruno Marchal <>:
>> It leads to a very complex question: should we allow people to
>> torture
>> their doppelganger, for example as a ritual or sexual practice? Of
>> course not without their consent, given that the golden ethical rule
>> with comp is "don't do to the other what the other does not want you
>> to do on him/her (except to save your soul)". But could someone makes
>> the decision before the duplication? This is an advanced question
>> which will make sense when we will all be virtual (with respect of
>> the
>> physical layer). Comp is consistent with a variety of answers.
>> Less provocative, a similar question is: do I have the right to
>> reconstitute an army of "Bruno" to extinguish a nuclear energy source
>> which is on fire?
> Assuming I were completely selfish and ruthless, I would not agree in
> advance to do anything that would hurt my copy before the copy was
> made, since I might end up being the copy. But after the copying this
> would no longer be a consideration, and I would not hesitate to hurt
> the copy or the original (depending on which one I was) no matter how
> short the time since differentiation.

All right, I understand. The question now is: are you sure it is in
"your" interest to be that selfish. It is not a moral question: can
you be coherent, take the full piece of botter "dead is not big deal"
of the midazolam argument, and keep that sort of selfishness.

Do you prefer to live in a country 1 where "self-torture" is allowed
but only when the decision is made before the duplication (and yes you
could be the victim indeed), or in a country 2 where "self-torture" is
allowed after the duplication. It seems to me that your midazolam-
argument (I re-quote below(*)) should in fine relativize the very
notion of selfishness.

I think it is preferable to live in the first country: yes I could be
the victim, but I can remember my consent. In the second type of
country, I could even more so be the tortured one ... eventually; and
without my consent. OK?

I guess you did see this, because of your terrible assumption:
"Assuming I were completely selfish and ruthless, ...". The "real"
question is: let us suppose you are not selfish ... can you sympathize
with those who will propose some right of self-torture?

Note that in "The prestige", the self-inflicting decision is taken
before, by Angier. Borden had less choice, and it is as he got the
full secret that nobody really can both remember and stay alive.
(Here I am inconsistent or really near inconsistency, as "the

With comp, selfishness is not a problem. It is selfishness +
ignorance: this mix can generate suffering.


(*) Stathis wrote (2009/2/27):

> This shows a potential problem the psychological criterion for
> personal identity. If I am facing death it is little consolation to me
> if a backup was made an hour ago, since I (the presently speaking I)
> will not be able to anticipate any future experiences. Only if there
> exists some copy who will have a memory of my present experiences
> would I not object to dying, and this would require a backup updated
> every moment. In that case, I should also object to an hour of memory
> loss, due to a medication like midazolam. But I don't think that
> taking midazolam is tantamount to dying. Inconsistency! Either I have
> to agree that taking midazolam is like dying, or I have to agree that
> dying while leaving an old (how old?) backup behind does not matter.
> If I agree to the latter, then I give up worrying about the thing I
> don't like about dying, which is the fact that I won't be able to
> anticipate any future experiences. And if I give up worrying about
> that, then there isn't anything else that worries me about dying. So
> if I think that taking midazolam is no big deal (which I do), to be
> consistent I should also think that death is no big deal.

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Received on Sun Mar 01 2009 - 12:48:14 PST

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