[extropy-chat] Indexical Uncertainty

Chris Hibbert hibbert at mydruthers.com
Mon Oct 16 21:42:41 UTC 2006

> When I ask "Am I Robin?" the "I" in this sentence cannot be by
> definition equal to Robin, as then the claim would be true by
> definition.  If I am able to be uncertain about this, it must be that
> "I" refers to something other than "Robin," so that it can be only a
> contingent fact about the world that "I" am "Robin."
> If Lee could also have had a dream that confused him about whether he
> was Lee or Robin, then when he asks "Am I Robin?" the "I" in his
> question must refer to something different than the "I" when I ask
> the question.   So if we are to be able to represent the uncertainty
> in both of these questions, I can't see how to escape having things
> like "Soul #29230041608" in our language.

This seems like a confusing way to think about it, but maybe I'm 
misunderstanding the referents.  As a third party, describing the two 
situations, I would have said that the question was about which BODY was 
Robin Hanson, not which SOUL was.

In the first paragraph I quoted above, the third party would tie the 
word "I" to a particular body which was recently observed to have woken 
up in Fairfax County, and to note that the body was wondering whether or 
not it was a particular person currently employed at GMU.  From our 
external point of view, we already know that the answer is yes, but 
we're not sure how long it will take for the body and brain to figure 
that out.

In the second paragraph, we have a hypothetical question about a 
different body, presumably situated in Santa Clara County.  In the 
hypothetical, the Santa Clara body has recently woken up and is 
wondering something similar.  Once again, the question is about the 
identity of a particular body.

Was your use of "Soul #2923..." metaphorical?  Or is the question deeper 
than it looks to me?  Have you already assumed that consciousnesses 
might be transplanted or something?

Currently reading: Marc Bekoff, The Cognitive Animal; Umberto
    Eco, Foucault's Pendulum; Edward O. Wilson, On Human Nature

Chris Hibbert
hibbert at mydruthers.com
Blog:   http://pancrit.org

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