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

gts gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 21 15:58:46 UTC 2007

On 21/06/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:

> I admit that there is irony in the situation of a person or
> program trying to destroy instances that are identical to
> itself, even though it has been programmed to safeguard
> "its own existence".  

Not only is it ironic, Lee, but it is in my estimation patently absurd. If  
the instances are at each other's throats, and one kills the other, then  
is it suicide or is it murder? It's murder, I say! :)

On this subject of irony and identity theory...

The philosopher Henri Bergson saw a similarity between the absurd and  
often ironic logic of dreams and the similarly absurd logic inherent in  
much of what we call comedy. As an example of comedy that contains this  
peculiar sort of ironic dream logic, (an example of comedy which happens  
also to be very relevant to this thread), Bergson quotes this amusing  
dialogue in which Mark Twain answers a reporter's questions:

QUESTION. Isn’t that a brother of yours?

ANSWER. Oh! yes, yes, yes!  Now you remind me of it, that WAS a brother of  
mine. That’s William--BILL we called him. Poor old Bill!

Q. Why? Is he dead, then?

A. Ah! well, I suppose so. We never could tell. There was a great mystery  
about it.

Q. That is sad, very sad. He disappeared, then?

A. Well, yes, in a sort of general way. We buried him.

Q. BURIED him! BURIED him, without knowing whether he was dead or not?

A. Oh no! Not that. He was dead enough.

Q. Well, I confess that I can’t understand this. If you buried him, and  
you knew he was dead—

A. No! no! We only thought he was.

Q. Oh, I see! He came to life again?

A. I bet he didn’t.

Q. Well, I never heard anything like this. SOMEBODY was dead.  SOMEBODY  
was buried. Now, where was the mystery?

A. Ah! that’s just it! That’s it exactly. You see, we were twins,--defunct  
and I,--and we got mixed in the bath-tub when we were only two weeks old,  
and one of us was drowned. But we didn’t know which. Some think it was  
Bill. Some think it was me.

Q. Well, that is remarkable. What do YOU think?

A. Goodness knows! I would give whole worlds to know. This solemn, awful  
tragedy has cast a gloom over my whole life.

Bergson adds this commentary:

"A close examination will show us that the absurdity of this dialogue is  
by no means an absurdity of an ordinary type. It would disappear were not  
the speaker himself one of the twins in the story. It results entirely  
 from the fact that Mark Twain asserts he is one of these twins, whilst all  
the time he talks as though he were a third person who tells the tale. In  
many of our dreams we adopt exactly the same method."[1]

I wonder, Lee, if Bergson would say that your theory of identity is not  
only ironic, but also dream-like and humorous!


1. Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic by Henri Bergson

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