[ExI] Next moment, everything around you will probably change

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Wed Jun 20 01:45:22 UTC 2007

Jef writes

>> What others think isn't important if one believes there to be a
>> truth to the matter of whether "one is still the same person that
>> one was".  As in Damien's (quite good) novel Post Mortal Syndrome
>> http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/fiction/online/serials/post_mortal_syndrome/cover>
>> we usually regard a single biological human being as capable of
>> hosting distinct personalities.  Just because a few people, or the
>> law, doesn't happen to recognize this truth  doesn't change it. Although
>> personality tests do confirm our hunch about the reality, it would be
>> strange indeed if you deny the possibility of multiple personalities.
> How strange that your response is so disjointed from what I wrote.
> You create a false dichotomy and accuse me of denying what I would
> support.

SORRY!   I meant no *accusation*!   If I have created a dichotomy
with which you disagree, please don't take it personally.

> I say there is no actual first person observer,
> but only what appears to be first person observation. I'm offering you
> a more unifying and extensible model, where personal identity is in
> **all** cases dependent on an observer, and where you (the
> Lee-biological agent) have the **closest** interactions with the
> Lee-abstract entity, but no intrinsically **privileged** interactions.

You may *offer* this, but do understand that I'm not really
under any obligation to accept it!  :-)   It looks to me as though
you are saying here that there is no truth to the matter of 
personal identity.  (And really really really SORRY if I am
getting you wrong---it's NOT intentional!  Trying NOT to
think of me as having set up a straw man here!!)

Since your model seems peculiar to me, let me ask some
questions.  My first question is inspired by relativity theory.
Einstein debunked the notion of an absolute velocity. A
critic might have challenged "So you are saying that there
exists *some* so-called frame of reference from which
an object would appear to have any particular pre-assigned
velocity?"  and "This viewpoint, which say assigned a velocity
near c to the Earth would be just as legitimate a point of view
as any other?"  and Einstein would have replied "yes" to both. 

So, Jef, could there be some observer who saw me and George
Washington as having the same personality, and this viewpoint
would be just as legitimate as any other? 

> You say "...we usually regard a single biological human being as
> capable of hosting distinct personalities.  Just because a few people,
> or the law, doesn't happen to recognize this truth  doesn't change
> it."  Again I'll remind you that I am offering a unifying model of
> personal identity that works from **any** point of view.  I would be
> the last to support the straw-man position you attempt to ascribe to
> me.  To add some clarity to this minor subtopic of "multiple
> personalities", let's recognize that this psychological condition is
> now more properly referred to as Disassociative Identity Disorder,


> reflecting the understanding that the biological organism doesn't
> actually "host multiple personalities" but **manifests** different
> personalities. We can see this as the behavior of a single complex
> chaotic system being pulled toward different attractors at different
> times.  This directly supports my thesis: That any observer, included
> the biological organism itself, will recognize personal identity on
> the basis of agency (what abstract entity are you working for?) rather
> than any metric of physical/functional similarity.
> <snipping some more straw-man rhetoric>

So very SORRY!

>> So as a practical matter, the similarity
>> criterion works for me.  It's hard to believe that it doesn't work
>> for you despite your claim about agency.
> Another rhetorical straw-man.

Good grief.  It's really too bad that these discussions are so
painful to you.  I guess I won't blame you if you just give up.

> Lee, I've said many times that your
> similarity view works just fine as a practical matter of everyday life
> (and it even works for your duplication thought-experiments at t = 0.)

What about at t = 0.0001 seconds?  What difference could one
ten-thousandth of a second make?  (Please try to interpret this
question charitably, as though I were not attempting to make a
straw man of your position and as though I were not attempting
to ridicule your position.  I mean the question quite sincerely.)

>> You suggest that
>> it would be inappropriate to [say] that they're still the same
>> person.  Well, if personality tests and people who knew them
>> affirmed that they were still the same person, I would simply
>> conclude that the two instances of that person were not
>> capable of seeing this truth (or chose to deny it), and were
>> not capable of acting on this truth.
> Like another person on this list, one who is fixated on proving the
> vital importance of a continuous physical trajectory to matters of
> personal identity, you appear to be fixated on the importance of
> similarity,

That's probably true!   I go with similarity on many, many other
things.  Leibniz even elevated to a principle "Identity of Indiscernables"
in a somewhat related context.  Hot days are like other hot days,
dependent on similarity of structure (along one dimension). Two 
rabbits are considered to be of the same species not because their
DNA is exactly equivalent, but because of close similarity.  In such
ways we categorize almost *everything*, so similarity is pretty
universal and powerful (judging by the success of Darwinian creatures
who employ it, e.g., a gazelle that lumps all lions into a single deadly

> which seems to you self-evident, and profound because it
> is a step beyond the thinking of most people in everyday life.
> I'm not denying the essence of your view, as I said, it works as a
> special case, which happens to be the most common case today.

Hmm.  Okay, so what is an example of where it doesn't work?
Is there a concrete A/B decision scenario in which my criterion
doesn't seem to you to give the correct answer?  Or at least
gives a different answer than you'd act on?  The best scenarios,
incidentally, are those that ask a "what would you choose" type
of question.
> It's like another disagreement of ours:  You've claimed that personal
> survival is the ultimate determinant of personal choice,

Now I suppose that if my initials were JA then I'd really launch here!
I'd have a great cow accusing you of misstating my views, setting up
straw men, and so on.   I have *never* said---for your information
---that personal survival is the ultimate determinate of personal
choice.  In fact, I spent a long time in the "suicide bomber" thread
going on and on about how and why some people will quite
understandably hold some things more dear than their own lives. 

> and that pleasure is the ultimate determinant of "the good."

Actually, I haven't ever supposed that either.  I try to avoid ideas
like "the good".  For example, in considering the benefit accruing
to a certain individual, it would be important to take the value 
system of that person into account.  E.g., for Socrates, a little
more knowledge at the expense of a little more pleasure would
probably be desired.

> I offer a more coherent and extensible view, applicable to our world as
> well as to a world not yet arrived, 

You almost sound like you work for an advertising agency, the way
you keep repeating the virtues of your position!  :-)

> and you contest it interminably.

Well, maybe I should just fib and say I agree with you.  If you are
going to complain that people keep contesting certain things you
say, you're going to do a lot of complaining!

> I offered you a simple scenario showing an internal contradiction
> resulting from your view, and you have yet to respond directly,

Was that the one where I was a greedy bastard?  (No offense
taken---I'm just not sure what scenario you are referring to.)
If you would be so kind as to cut and paste it, and ask for a
"yes", "no", "right", "wrong", be assured that I will directly
answer.  Please accept that my dodging of the issue was
unintentional, and not due to any personality defect.   I hate
it when people won't answer directly, and I will be very 
happy to opine in a completely unambiguous way!

> I'll say this: It's apparent that you are infatuated with the idea
> of personal identity only to the extent that it offers you relief
> from the fear of death.

Oh, preserve me from your psychoanalysis.  You really don't
know what you're talking about.  I have very good reasons
for supposing that I fear death less than most people, and
a *lot* less than do many other cryonicists.

But let's talk about ideas!  and try to stay away from personal
aspersions, speculations of motive, and psychological estimations
of each other, okay?   :-)


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