[extropy-chat] Personal Identity Bis

Heartland velvethum at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 11 12:36:26 UTC 2007

>>> You think of "you" as a type while I think of "you" as an instance,
>>> that's all.

>> Well, I partly agree with you. I consider that ordinary life
>> (without the interfering aliens) is exactly equivalent to dying not
>> just every second, but every moment. The Stathis-type persists while
>> the Stathis-instance lives only transiently: the observer moments.
>> (Bernard Williams' "token" as discussed in Derek Parfit's "Reasons
>> and Persons" is roughly equivalent to what you are calling an
>> instance.) Each instance is defined by a particular collection of
>> matter in space-time, the next instance in sequence having at least
>> different space-time coordinates and usually different matter in a
>> different configuration.

I would say that each instance refers to a process; a spatiotemporal energy 

I'm not sure what you mean by "observer moments" here or why you think instances 
could be delineated from moment to moment and that they occur in sequences. While 
each instance has a beginning and end, there's no limit on how long it should last, 
is there?

>> Two instances are related insofar as they
>> are close to each other in spacetime coordinates and configuration,
>> but they cannot by definition be the *same* instance, unless they
>> are one and the same.


>> The further apart two instances are in time,
>> the less similar they are, even though they might still have enough
>> in common to count as the same type; however, there can be no strict
>> rule for defining what is the same type, whereas instances can be
>> defined completely unambiguously.

Which is one of the advantages of "life is an instance" vs. "life is a type" view. 
As you say, there can be no consistent rule specifying what is the same type as 
people will always disagree as to the degree of similarity between two things that 
warrants assigning the same type to these things. Any debate about such a degree is 
pointless (unless degree=100%) because different positions (<100%) are influenced 
by nothing more than people's tastes, not logic.

>> I think what you are calling an instance is really a set of
>> instances, which would qualify as a type. You are suggesting that
>> even though none of the matter in my brain today is the same matter
>> as a year ago, nor in the same configuration, and certainly not
>> sharing the same space-time coordinates, nevertheless I am "the
>> same" person, whereas if I were disintegrated and recreated a
>> nanosecond later out of the same atoms, in the same configuration, I
>> would not be "the same" person.

All this is correct except I argue that you yesterday and you today are probably 
the same *single* instance of the mind process. It is actually the type that 
changes from moment to moment as your mind pattern a minute ago is not exactly the 
same as the your mind pattern now.

>> Stathis:
>>>> Neither you nor anyone who knows you
>>>> noticed anything unusual happening yesterday, and today you feel
>>>> just the same as you have always felt. For all you know, the
>>>> aliens might still be at it, and they might have been at it for
>>>> thousands of years with every living creature on the planet. What
>>>> is the point in calling it murder if it can't make any possible
>>>> difference?

>>> Just because nobody could prove murder happened doesn't imply murder
>>> didn't happen.
>>> It happened. It's just that we can't prove it.
>>> The difference is huge. Heartland1-Heartland86400 have all lost the
>>> ability to
>>> experience life. They're as dead as, say, John Lennon.

>> They are also as dead and gone as your yesterday self. True, you
>> possess some of his matter in a configuration similar enough that
>> you have his memories and sense of identity, but you have already
>> said that isn't enough for survival.

It's not about matter but about a process. Different rules apply. *This* instance 
that typed these words is probably the same as the one that wrote other posts 
yesterday. Why? Because each process is necessarily defined over a time interval > 
0 and an instance of this process lasts as long as it generates output and I'm 
pretty sure (but can't be certain) I have not experienced absence of brain activity 
since yesterday.


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