Reference class (was dualism and the DA)

From: Jonathan Colvin <>
Date: Mon, 20 Jun 2005 12:52:23 -0700

Russell Standish wrote:
> > > >(JC) If you want to insist that "What would it be like
> to be a bat"
> > > >is equivalent to the question "What would the universe be like
> > > if I had
> > > > been a bat rather than me?", it is very hard to see what the
> > > > answer could be. Suppose you
> > > > *had* been a bat rather than you (Russell Standish).
> How would the
> > > > universe be any different than it is now? If you can
> answer that
> > > > question, (which is the key question, to my mind), then
> I'll grant
> > > > that the question is meaningful.
> >
> > >
> > > No different in the 3rd person, very obviously different
> in the 1st
> > > person
> >
> > I don't really know what that means. The only way I can
> make sense of
> > the question is something like, "If I was a bat instead of me
> > (Jonathan Colvin), then the universe would consist of a bat
> asking the
> > question I'm asking now." That's a counterfactual, a way in
> which the
> > universe would be objectively different.
> It wouldn't be counterfactual, because by assumption bats ask
> this question of themselves anyway. Hence there is no
> difference in the 3rd person. The 1st person experience is
> very different though. There are only 1st person counterfactuals.

That's quite an assumption. *Do* all conscious things ask this question of
themselves? Babies don't. Senile old people don't. I'm not sure that
medieval peasants ever thought to ask this question, or pre-literate

> I definitely acknowledge the distinction between 1st and 3rd
> person. This is not the same as duality, which posits a 3rd
> person entity (the immaterial soul).
> >
> > This is, I think, the crux of the reference class issue
> with the DA.
> > My (and
> > your) reference class can not be merely "conscious
> observers" or "all
> > humans", but must be something much closer to "someone (or thing)
> > discussing or aware of the DA).
> I don't think this is a meaningful reference class. I can
> still ask the question "why am I me, and not someone else"
> without being aware of the DA. All it takes is self-awareness IMHO.

You *could* certainly. Perhaps it is important as to whether you actually
*do* ask that question (and perhaps it should be in the context of the DA).

> > I note that this reference class is certainly appropriate
> for you and
> > me, and likely for anyone else reading this. This reference class
> > certainly also invalidates the DA (although immaterial souls would
> > rescue it).
> >
> > But at this point, I am, like Nick Bostrom, tempted to
> throw my hands
> > up and declare the reference class issue pretty much intractable.
> >
> > Jonathan Colvin
> Incidently, I think I may have an answer to my "Why am I not Chinese"
> criticism, and the corresponding correction to "Why am I not an ant"
> seems to give the same answer as I originally proposed.

I'd be interested to hear it. Here's something else you could look
at...calculate the median annual income for all humans alive today (I
believe it is around $4,000 /year), compare it to your own, and see if you
are anyway near the median. I predict that the answer for you (and for
anyone else reading this), is far from the median. This result is obviously
related to the "why you are not Chinese" criticism, and is, I believe, the
reason the DA goes astray.

Jonathan Colvin
Received on Mon Jun 20 2005 - 16:06:01 PDT

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