Re: in turn Re: A calculus of personal identity

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2006 04:10:52 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes:
>>> If the duplicate did not feel he was the original, then he wouldn't have "all the memories
>>> and personality of the original", would he?
>> Well that's the question isn't it. Is there something besides memories and personality that
>> makes you you. Could you feel that your memories belonged to somebody else? I think that no
>> duplication is going to be perfect - it's just a question of whether the difference will be
>> detectable with reasonable effort. If one remembers having a green pencil in the first grade
>> and the other remembers having a blue one, how could anyone know which is right?
> Is the duplication process good enough to match or better the mechanisms naturally in place to
> preserve the functional integrity of the brain from moment to moment? That is the question that
> needs to be answered. It would be unreasonable to speculate that the duplicate may not be the
> same person as the original based on some test which, if applied consistently, might also cast
> doubt on whether we are still the same person from moment to moment in ordinary life. Putting it
> differently, maybe we *aren't* the same person from moment to moment: maybe we are constantly
> dying, to be replaced by a close, but necessarily imperfect copy. After all, nature will not
> evolve a system to perfectly preserve mental attributes throughout life just because such an
> arrangement is aesthetically pleasing. Preservation of the majority of memories, personality,
> other learned and instinctive behaviours, and a *belief* that we are the same person throughout
> life so that we will plan for our future well-being are the only qualities that evolution could
> act on. Since our brains are being continuously rebuilt at considerable metabolic expense, any
> subtle mental quality that has no effect on behaviour would be ruthlessly pared away by
> evolution's razor.

Well, only assuming there is some evolutionary cost to them. There might be lots of what Gould
called 'spandrels'. But what I'm wondering is whether the *belief* that we're the same person is
some wholistic property of the brain or is it just some small module. If the latter then it seems
possible the duplicate could have all the other attributes, but lack that belief. This seems
perfectly plausible, since I can have doubts about other things why not doubt I'm me?

Brent Meeker

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Received on Tue Jun 27 2006 - 07:12:03 PDT

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