Re: Duplicates Are Selves

From: Pete Carlton <>
Date: Sun, 3 Jul 2005 16:18:17 -0700

>> Pete:
>> I think this interpretation, using "I", has an unnecessary
>> complication to it. What I think Lee is really saying
>> (in third person terms) is, "Person A ought to terminate
>> person A's life, because person A desires the existence
>> of (person B + 5 dollars) more strongly than he desires
>> the existence of (person A)."
> Lee:
> NOT AT ALL. It is axiomatic in these discussions that the
> subject is as *selfish* as can be imagined. I don't believe
> that any "ought" has slipped in here (though thanks for the
> warning from Hume). Perhaps I *ought* to sacrifice myself
> to save 1000 Australians, but, if I am to act selfishly,
> then I *ought* not in order to maximize my own benefit.
> But my use of the word "ought" in this last sentence is not
> the moral "ought". It means what one would expect, e.g.,
> you ought to go outside if you want some sun.

I was using ought in the same sense too (rationally consistent with a
given desire). Given that person A has the desires that he does, he
ought to accept choice (1). I'm not saying whether person A ought
(in the ethical sense) to have those desires or not, but given that
he prefers (person B + 5 dollars) to (person A), and believes that by
accepting choice (1) his preference will be realized, it is rational
for him to behave by accepting choice (1).

You think that person A ought (in the ethical sense) to have a strong
desire for the future existence of person B - no less, in fact, than
for the future existence of person A. You imply this when you say
the subject is selfish. I see your point, that normally we have a
strong desire for the future existence of -- the person who will wake
up in our bed tomorrow. But I don't think it's clear whether you can
extend the common notion of "acting selfishly" into the situation
with duplicates, and whether you should or not is something the Hume
quote is relevant to. In other words, it is a fact that there are
two identical people - or, to be even clearer, two identical
organisms (A and B). Does this fact impinge on A's behavior with
respect to B, and if so, why? If A hesitates to accept death or
torture to the benefit of B, isn't that a good case for re-evaluating
A's desires for B?

(Interestingly, clones in the animal kingdom sacrifice themselves for
each other all the time - some worker bees and fire ants, for
instance. At the gene's-eye view, a gene is sacrificing some copies
of itself in order that a greater number of copies may get made down
the line. Even without clones, there is kin selection, in which
organisms behave altruistically towards close relatives, and this has
a similar gene's-eye view explanation. Genes certainly cause
behavior consistent with Lee's approach to personal identity, and it
is in a strong sense selfish behavior.)

Received on Sun Jul 03 2005 - 19:34:00 PDT

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