Re: Dualism and the DA

From: Pete Carlton <>
Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2005 12:21:38 -0700

On Jun 20, 2005, at 10:44 AM, Hal Finney wrote:

> Pete Carlton writes:
>> <snip>-- we don't need to posit any
>> kind of dualism to paper over it, we just have to revise our concept
>> of "I".

Hal Finney wrote:
> Copies seem a little more problematic. We're pretty cavalier about
> creating and destroying them in our thought experiments, but the
> social
> implications of copies are enormous and I suspect that people's views
> about the nature of copying would not be as simple as we sometimes
> assume.

> I doubt that many people would be indifferent between the choice of
> having a 50-50 chance of being teleported to Moscow or Washington, vs
> having copies made which wake up in both cities. The practical
> effects
> would be enormously different. And as I wrote before, I suspect that
> these practical differences are not to be swept under the rug, but
> point
> to fundamental metaphysical differences between the two situations.

I think the practical differences are large, as you say, but I
disagree that it points to a fundamental metaphysical difference. I
think what appears to be a metaphysical difference is just the
breakdown of our folk concept of "I". Imagine a primitive person who
didn't understand the physics of fire, seeing two candles lit from a
single one, then the first one extinguished - they may be tempted to
conclude that the first flame has now become two flames. Well, this
is no problem because flames never say things like "I would like to
keep burning" or "I wonder what my next experience would be". We,
however, do say these things. But does this bit of behavior
(including the neural activity that causes it) make us different in a
relevant way? And if so, how?

This breakdown of "I" is very interesting. Since there's lots of
talk about torture here, let's take this extremely simple example:
Smith is going to torture someone, one hour from now. You may try to
take steps to prevent it. How much effort you are willing to put in
depends, among other things, on the identity of the person Smith is
going to torture. In particular, you will be very highly motivated
if that person is you; or rather, the person you will be one hour
from now. The reason for the high motivation is that you have strong
desires for that person to continue their life unabated, and those
desires hinge on the outcome of the torture. But my point is that
your strong desires for your own survival are just a special case of
desires for a given person's survival - in other words, you are
already taking a third-person point of view to your (future) self.
You know that if the person is killed during torture, they will not
continue their life; if they survive it, their life will still be
negatively impacted, and your desires for the person's future are

Now, if you introduce copies to this scenario, it does not seem to me
that anything changes fundamentally. Your choice on what kind of
scenario to accept will still hinge on your desires for the future of
any persons involved. The desires themselves may be very
complicated, and in fact will depend on lots of hitherto unspecified
details such as the legal status, ownership rights, etc., of copies.
Of course one copy will say "I pushed the button and then I got
tortured", and the other copy will say "I pushed the button and woke
up on the beach" - which is exactly what we would expect these two
people to say. And they're both right, insofar as they're giving an
accurate report of their memories. What is the metaphysical issue here?
Received on Tue Jun 21 2005 - 15:28:06 PDT

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