[ExI] The Napoleon problem

Spencer Campbell lacertilian at gmail.com
Thu Feb 11 01:52:41 UTC 2010

Suppose you are a doctor in an insane asylum.

It's your typical insane asylum, all things considered, hailing from
an era before anyone thought to call such things "mental health
facilities". Electroshock treatment is the golden standard. You've
helped a good number of patients that way. One, however, has proved

This is a man who, for at least as long as he has been capable of
speech, has firmly believed that he is Napoleon Bonaparte. He claims
to have traveled to the future during the battle of Waterloo, leaving
a time-double in his place. Naturally the time-double is a
philosophical zombie, he explains, but that is neither here nor there.

There has never been a time when the man did not believe he was
Napoleon, and today he died from complications during a drastic (and
unsuccessful) treatment.

He looked nothing like Napoleon, and hardly spoke a word of French.
When informed of these facts, he consistently shrugged them off as
absurd. He had memorized every known detail of Napoleon's life, to the
point where he might have been a better authority on the subject than
Napoleon himself ever was. His delusional belief has never wavered to
the slightest degree, and now we know for certain that it never will.

Having declared time of death, you're left with one niggling question
in the back of your mind:

Was this man Napoleon?

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