[extropy-chat] Type vs. instance with respect to identity across time (a reply to Jeffrey)

Heartland velvethum at hotmail.com
Sun Apr 29 13:35:32 UTC 2007

A B:
> Hi Heartland,
> It's nice to be debating this again with you.

Hi Jeffrey. It's nice to hear from you again.

A B:
> You say that it is a unique trajectory through space
> and time that specifies an identity. (Correct me if
> that is not a fair or correct representation).On the
> face of it, I actually don't disagree with you.
> Another way to describe that is that two different
> trajectories are different precisely because they are
> separated both in space and time (which are both
> intertwined entities as far as I know). But this, in
> addition to other "factors" is why I believe it is
> appropriate to believe that no "self" continues
> through time, and that we are in fact "dieing"
> continuously (and it's not a big deal). With every
> passing moment, I am separated temporally with my
> "previous self" (if I wasn't, I'd be "frozen in
> time"), and by extension, I must also be separated
> spatially. Doesn't that meet your definition of a
> different trajectory? And therefore a "new" person
> with every passing moment?

I think we had talked about it before and I remember giving you some half-baked 
explanations at the time. Since then, I had thought about it a lot (a typical 
reaction after reading your posts:)) and I think I found the right answer and it 
has to do with the basic nature of process. A year ago, during one of our debates 
on this list about identity, I wrote a post addressing this issue. I didn't sent it 
because, frankly, I didn't think people would understand it or be interested enough 
to read it. But since you asked for my opinion, here it is.

Ian Goddard in response to John K Clark:
"Notice that the logical identity analyses I posted
may run into trouble with respect to any person over
time. Today I have properties I lacked yesterday, does
that mean I'm not that Ian? Personal identity may call
upon a dynamic intensional model of identity, rather
than the static one I proposed."

Right. Suppose we reduce a person to a string of bits (that is, "person=pattern of 
bits"). Tomorrow or even a second later that person-representing string will get 
longer or shorter (as new memories are being created and old ones evaporate) while 
the bits that make up the string change also so that the pattern of bits is almost 
certainly different at different times. If so, then each of these strings at 
different times must be assigned different identity according to Leibniz's law and 
if we still assume that persons are nothing but strings, we are forced to conclude 
that people die constantly.

However, we are more like minds and processes rather than brains and patterns. I 
claim that "person=instance of process" is the only model that can accurately 
reflect the dynamic nature of our minds in contrast to static patterns.

So how does this "person=instance of process" model performs with respect to 
identity across time? Unlike patterns, processes are undefined in time intervals 
equal to 0. It simply does not make sense to say that there is such a thing as 
process-at-t3 and process-at-t789. Instead, any process is necessarily defined 
across *all* ts in the interval equal to the duration of an instance of that 
process. Because processes are defined across time, it is impossible to find a 
single property y of an instance of the process at any t1 in the interval with a 
value that is going to be different from a value of property y of this instance at 
t2 (because these values will refer to the same exact instance).

Leibniz's law applied to "person=instance of process" model suggests that I'm still 
the same person (instance of process) I was yesterday.

Even though the above analysis was done with respect to time, the same analysis 
also applies to space as processes are necessarily defined across space. This is 
why I still claim we don't die as we glide through time and space.


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