RE: Many Pasts? Not according to QM...

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Wed, 08 Jun 2005 00:55:23 +1000

Lee Corbin wrote:

[quoting Stathis]
> > > I got here this way: to be consistent,
> > > I must use all my knowledge
> > > to arrive at a class of events and
> > > processes that I approve of, and
> > > classes that I disapprove of. I
> > > decided that it was bad for me to
> > > suffer. Then since by physics, I
> > > seem to be any sufficiently similar
> > > physical process, it is bad for
> > > any of them to suffer. (That one of
> > > me ends up being prejudiced as regards
> > > his own special skin seems to be an
> > > unfortunate legacy of evolution, but
> > > one that doesn't support much consistency.)
> >
> > You're looking for sense and consistency where there
> > isn't any. My moment of enlightenment was when I
> > realised the whole thing is a crazy mess. But I can
> > no more ignore the effects of the crazy mess on
> > my psychological processes than I can command my body
> > to grow an extra head.
> > But come the future, I don't really care what happens
> > to my duplicates, because I can only be one person at
> > once (that isn't really consistent, but I can't shake
> > that feeling either).
>Well, you probably still *feel* that the Earth is flat
>as you walk around on it; but you *know* better.
>You *could* adopt the point of view I espouse in my
>first paragraph, above, and then it wouldn't be an
>inconsistent mess, would it?
> > [It's] a matter of definition. What if tomorrow
> > all my memories are replaced with different memories,
> > perhaps those of a made up person?
>Well, it would *definitely* be someone else, not you!
>It simply definitely true that if your body woke
>tomorrow with all Bush's memories, and yours were
>expunged from the Earth, then you'd be dead (here).
> > of the bricks have been replaced. Is it
> > the same building or a different
> > one? Philosophers could scratch their
> > heads and write papers in the learned
> > journals for years to come debating this.
>Yes, the good old Ship of Theseus. IN the ship case
>we know all the facts; the problem is which one we
>want to call the "real" Ship of Theseus. As for me,
>both are the Ship of Theseus in this way or that.
> > We are getting to the heart of the disagreement
> > here. There is *no* correct answer! You could
> > probably come up with a definition to cover all
> > eventualities, but even if it actually did this
> > consistently (which I think would be very, very
> > difficult), in the final analysis, it would have
> > to be an arbitrary one.
>Well, yes, it would be arbitrary to say whether
>or not you are the same person you were ten years
>ago. Or at age 10. But there *are* important
>FACTS OF THE MATTER, in my opinion. One fact of
>the matter is that you are the same person you
>were yesterday, and will be tomorrow. It's perfectly
>clear that what is up for grabs is the *degree* to
>which one is an earlier or a later version.
>From the viewpoint of physics, your duplicate across
>the room created a moment ago much more vastly
>resembles you than the "you" of a month ago. Since
>you are the same person that you were a month ago,
>then it follows that you are the same person as
>your duplicate across the room. That it doesn't
>*seem* that you are the same person is just one of
>those things (like MWI itself) that physics is
>trying to tell us and that we have to just get used to.
> > > Well, I take as more inescapable the assertion
> > > that I am the same person I was yesterday, and
> > > will be the same person tomorrow. Further,
> > > physics seems to grab me by the throat and FORCE
> > > me to accept that my duplicate across the room
> > > and I don't differ significantly.
> >
> > Do you mean duplicate as in identical twin?
>Not quite! It turns out that everyone who knows them
>regards identical twins as different persons. And so
>regards them, I am pretty certain as different people
>in a way that they were *NOT* so regard you and your
>duplicate. You and your duplicate---created yesterday,
>say---would be SO SIMILAR I claim, that people would
>regard you as the same person. It seems that identical
>twins always do have slightly different personalities,
>and that a lot of the differences they exhibit were
>created during the nine months before birth.
> > > Of course, if you can't affect it,
> > > that's a reason for non-concern.
> > > But if you could, then, I contend,
> > > one intervenes to prevent one's
> > > duplicate from suffering for
> > > entirely *selfish* reasons.

It seems that we are just defining the term "me" differently. My definition
is that if you stick a pin in a person and I feel it, then that person is
me. If you stick a pin in the guy across the room who looks, talks, behaves
etc. like me, *I* don't feel anything. Isn't this a rather basic,
scientifically verifiable difference?

You may also have something different in mind to me when using the term
"selfish". In evolutionary biology, animals sometimes engage in apparently
self-sacrificing behaviour to help their kin, but in reality the behaviour
is "selfish", because in so acting the animal is propagating its own genes
(which is basically all nature cares about). In this sense, you could argue
that we should behave altruistically towards those who share our genes, and
call this "selfish". I don't accept this, generally, as an argument: just
because it is nature's way doesn't mean it is right. But even if i did
accept it, it *still* isn't the same when my copy gets stuck with a pin as
when I get stuck with a pin. I might feel guilty about it, but I would
prefer that he get stuck ten times rather than that I get stuck once.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Tue Jun 07 2005 - 11:08:39 PDT

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