[extropy-chat] Indexical Uncertainty

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Tue Oct 17 03:24:24 UTC 2006

Robin writes

> Let's start with simple examples.   I might wake up and for a moment not be
> able to remember whether it is Monday, when I can sleep in, or Tuesday,
> when I need to get up early.   This is not uncertainty about the world, it is
> uncertainty about who I am, whether I am Monday-Robin or Tuesday-Robin.

I claim and I thought you also held that "Monday Robin" and "Tuesday Robin"
are the same person (differing only infinitesimally). Surely you agree that you
are the same person from day to day (differing so little as to be of no

Or is this an evil meta-joke on your part, and you're fiendishly trying to convince
me that you aren't Robin?

> I might also have amnesia, permanent or temporary.  For example, I might
> have been having a dream about my life as Lee Corbin, and so I might wake
> up and for a moment not remember if I was really Robin Hanson or Lee Corbin.

But indeed, if you have enough amnesia, then absolutely you are *not* the 
same person.  Even in popular culture, one says that to lose one's memories
is to lose one's identity.  The only thing that the two people still have in
common is the same body---so I guess I agree with Chris's statement.

> 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.

But Lee and Robin never have such dreams, unless they're out of their

I've never heard of people in dreams thinking that they were someone else.
Does this truly happen?  Yes---I know that in some dreams I do things
that are very unlike myself, and in some I don't seem to be conscious of
certain things in my past.  Therefore you are right to this extent:  we could
say that the now fully-awake Lee is burdened with someone else's memories.
It's just a mistake, I think, to suppose in this case that those are really *my*


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