[extropy-chat] Indexical Uncertainty

Robin Hanson rhanson at gmu.edu
Tue Oct 17 10:20:01 UTC 2006

At 11:24 PM 10/16/2006, Lee Corbin wrote:
> > 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

I am not very different from day to day it is true, but I am a little 
different, and
that little difference is enough to use this as an example of 
indexical uncertainty.

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

We are the sort of creatures who usually are not very uncertain about who we
are.   Nevertheless, we are not completely certain either, and so we often have
at least small degrees of indexical uncertainty.   So once you accept the basic
concept, then the question is when and where it is reasonable to apply the
concept.   Even if large degrees of indexical uncertainty are 
unusual, if they are
coherent concepts, then we can think about them as possibilities, and use those
examples to help us understand other things.

Surely we have talked about many things on this list that are not in 
our immediate
experience, but are plausible projections of our immediate experience 
into larger

Robin Hanson  rhanson at gmu.edu  http://hanson.gmu.edu
Associate Professor of Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326  FAX: 703-993-2323 

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