[extropy-chat] Indexical Uncertainty
lcorbin at rawbw.com
Tue Oct 31 05:15:25 UTC 2006
Let's take a step back and talk about a couple of hypothetical
cases. I assume that almost everyone here allows that we are
interested in what is *objectively* true.
Suppose that John McCain is killed in an airplane crash and the
next second a "Luckiest Man in the Universe" (cf. Max More)
occurs and a new individual comes into existence who has
99.99% of George Washington's memories and .01% of John
But the circumstances favor the invocation of John McCain's
habits and memories: the new person has (by my hypothesis)
all the short term memories of Senator McCain, and also finds
himself in the Senate chamber talking to several people who
(by my hypothesis) are visually very familiar.
Suddenly, he says to himself---"WAIT! What is all this?? I'm
George Washington and all this is strange and new, yet I know
these people and this building!" Clearly he's uncertain as to who
he is. But the *FACT* is that he's really George Washington,
and the superficial .01% memories of McCain's would be
In this case we are *allowed* to say that he REALLY IS George
Washington because of the particulars I have hypothesized. But
one easily considers other cases where he's 50% G.W. and 50%
J. Mc., or some substantial mix of memories like that.
In the latter case there simply is *not* a correct answer to who he is
(either George Washington or John McCain). Yet we have all
the facts of the matter. Here, such a person would deserve to be
uncertain as to who he is. But in my first example, there was indeed
a definite "he" there: George Washington. And if he were confused
for a moment as to who he was, it would quickly pass, as on
waking from the kind of dream discussed earlier in this thread.
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