Re: A calculus of personal identity

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 10:06:55 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Bruno Marchal writes (quoting SP):
> > > Of course, it is not possible for a third person observer to be
> > > certain about first person mental states, and this would apply to our
> > > teleportee: he may feel as if he is the same person as he was prior to
> > > the procedure, but he might be wrong.
> >
> > If he is a zombie, by definition he feels nothing.
> I am assuming here he is not a zombie, that he has a memory of what he
> felt like pre-teleportation, but that he may be wrong about this. When
> we remember our past, we are doing something analogous to what we do
> when we look at someone else's account of their first person experience
> and try to imagine what it must have been like to have that experience.
> Memories of our past are generally more vivid and hold more information
> than writing, film etc., but there may come a time when people directly
> share memories with each other as easily as they now share mp3 files.
> > > The flaw in this argument is that the same considerations hold if he
> > > had travelled by train: he may look and feel like the same person,
> > > have all the appropriate memories, and so on, but how does he know
> > > that the original didn't die during the journey, to be replaced by a
> > > copy as would have happened had he teleported?
> >
> > Here I agree and see what you mean. That is why those saying "yes" to
> > the doctor eventually should understand we do die at each instant. Like
> > we do "split" or differentiate at each instant without any means to
> > know that directly.
> >
> > > If there is some sense in which a person's identity might be lost
> > > despite his physical and mental attributes being apparently preserved
> > > (and I'm not sure the idea is even coherent), there is no reason for
> > > nature to waste effort evolving and maintaining such an
> > > identity-conservation system, because it cannot make any difference to
> > > behaviour.
> >
> > I would agree if I was believing in Nature. As a scientist I am neutral
> > about the existence of nature, but assuming comp "Nature", like
> > "matter" should not be reified.
> Can you think of any findings in evolutionary biology which count as
> evidence either for or against the existence of a material world? Of
> course, most scientists, like most people, assume there is a material
> world out there, but this is not a premiss on the basis of which
> scientific theories stand or fall.
> > >> Comp itself cannot be proved but what can be proved is that IF comp is
> > >> correct then comp cannot be proved, necessarily. So we have, somehow,
> > >> to be open to non-comp beliefs.
> > >>
> > >> Put in another way: if you survive when saying YES to the doctor, you
> > >> have to respect those who say NO to the doctor (unless you have bad
> > >> intentions of course or are ignorant).
> > >
> > > The falseness of comp (or functionalism) does not necessarily mean
> > > duplication would be a death sentence.
> >
> >
> > You are right but the reverse is true: if duplication (at any level) is
> > a death sentence, then comp is wrong.
> > But you a right, for example we could survive duplication because God
> > is so good and so clever as being able to duplicate our non-comp-soul
> > and link it to the genuine digital brain copies ....
> I don't understand why you say
> "if duplication (at any level) is a death sentence, then comp is wrong".
> There must be a *minimal* level of duplication fidelity below which
> consciousness/intelligence is not preserved, no? Or are you using
> "duplication" to mean perfect duplication, in which case how can we have
> different levels of perfection?

I we actually tried duplication, then as in all communication technologies, there would be errors
and the duplication would not be perfect. But then the question arises, could the duplicate have
all the memories and personality of the original but still not "feel" that he was the same person?
In other words he would be a perfect duplicate from the 3rd person viewpoint, except that he would
say he was not.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Mon Jun 26 2006 - 13:07:58 PDT

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