[extropy-chat] Personal Identity Bis

Heartland velvethum at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 10 21:26:55 UTC 2007

> Heartland writes
>> Example: A single brain houses person A's memories and beliefs. If we wanted we
>> could rewire that brain so that person A's beliefs and memories would be 
>> replaced
>> by person B's memories and beliefs. Result? Personal identity has definitely
>> changed but not the fact that the brain has not died.
>> If personal identity and staying alive were one and the same, then a change in
>> personal identity would have to cause brain death.
> Well, we did hash that out at length, and it seems to me that you and I
> just cannot be reconciled on this. To me (and a number of others here)
> brain death per se has nothing whatsoever to do with death or loss of
> personal survival, because we are functionalists and quasi-functionalists
> and you are not. To me, my brain could be anniliated, so long as there
> was a stack of punched cards somewhere that retained the information
> of how it was glued together, and plans were in place to write a program
> that would have my same approximate intelligence and have all my
> memories:  I would not consider this ANYTHING LIKE DEATH.
> The program would, for me, be me quite adequately.

> (Where I went on to disagree with *most* of the people here, and always
> have, is whether this new program that "remembers being me" is fully me
> if --- just as in the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus --- the "real"
> me, i.e., the original brain, is then revealed to not have been destroyed at all,
> but sequestered in a nearby hotel room.)
> Lee

There are two extreme views regarding survival being represented on this list. 
There is my "life is an instance" view and Jef Albright's "agency" view which is 
nothing more than "life is a type" view extrapolated to its logical conclusion. 
IMO, only these two positions are logically consistent, yet mutually exclusive and 
impossible to reconcile. It's quite apparent that you fall somewhere in between, 
meaning that, to some extent, you've adopted both positions. Even though you 
acknowledge that a copy containing your memories would be you, you still see a 
problem with this if the original brain was "revealed to not have been destroyed at 
all." Either there can be at most one "the same" person or many "same" persons. 
Either life is essentially an instance or a type. Either life is a process or just 
data. One excludes the other and you can't have it both ways. Unless you commit to 
either Jef's view or mine, you are guaranteed to be puzzled by certain scenarios 
about personal identity. From what I've seen you're probably much closer to my 
position then you realize.


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