[extropy-chat] Personal Identity Bis

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Wed Apr 11 13:45:28 UTC 2007

On 4/11/07, Heartland <velvethum at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Stathis:
> >> 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
> configuration.
> 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?

An observer moment, sometimes hyphenated as observer-moment or abbreviated
as OM, is the smallest possible unit of experience. I believe the term was
originated by Nick Bostrom. You can make it more concrete by talking about
observer seconds or observer days or whatever. It eliminates ambiguity in
these discussions about personal identity because we can always point to a
specific collection of matter and say, "that's the entity with
Heartland-type memories in New York at 5:15 PM on March 5 2006" and "that's
the entity with Heartland-type memories in London at 3:02 AM on April 5
2006", and then argue about whether they are "the same person" or whether
"Heartland has survived" during the intervening month. This is not to say
that there are necessarily physiological distinctions between different
OM's; the scale is arbitrary, like any scale of time or distance. However,
just thinking about the different stages of a person's life this way raises
questions about the meaning of death and continuity of identity.

Now, I must admit I am a little confused about your notion of instance and
type. If a person undergoes destructive teleportation, would you say that
the procedure creates two separate instances of the one type? I would say
that ordinary life consists of many, many instances merging seamlessly into
one type, and introducing a discontinuity such as teleportation doesn't make
any difference.

Stathis Papaioannou
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