[ExI] Continuity of experience.

Spencer Campbell lacertilian at gmail.com
Thu Feb 25 20:18:09 UTC 2010

John Clark <jonkc at bellsouth.net>:
>Spencer Campbell wrote:
>> General anesthetics do not cause total cessation of activity in the brain.
> There is always something going on in the brain, even beheading or a bullet to the brain won't stop chemical reactions continuing there, but the brain is not important, the mind is, and general anesthesia will totally stop the mind. But who cares, it'll start up again.

I'm not sure why you're so convinced that general anaesthesia totally
stops the mind. Beheading DOES eventually result in a brain that
doesn't operate in any way like a brain, and cannot be considered to
instantiate anything resembling a mind, even if you have to wait a
week or two.

John Clark <jonkc at bellsouth.net>:
> I don't understand all this worry about continuity; if objectively your mind stops for a century or two, subjectively it will seem like it never stopped at all but the rest of the world made a discontinuous jump, and after all subjectivity is the only thing that's important.

First I'll note, again, that it's an inherently irrational subject. It
bears repeating. Logic is only going to help here insofar as it makes
the argument more viscerally convincing; we don't really have any
axioms to start with.

Anyway: yes, that's all true. However, you're making the assumption
that your mind does start up again, which in turn makes the
assumptions that (a) a mind is starting up and (b) it is your mind.

There is no scientific way to determine that a mind is your mind,
which indicates that it is a fundamentally incoherent concept to begin
with to think of any mind as being your mind. Nevertheless, I think I
have a mind. I would like to continue having a mind, because I am
genetically programmed to. This makes me extremely uneasy when I
consider completely terminating all of the brain functions giving rise
to my mind, for any period of time, even if I have a guarantee that a
perfect functional duplicate of my brain will be running sooner or

It doesn't matter whether it lasts a hundred years or a hundred
seconds. Absolute brain death is *scary*.

John Clark <jonkc at bellsouth.net>:
> It's only puzzling if you think of "I" as a fixed unchanging thing. The you of yesterday and the you of today are not identical but they are both Spencer Campbell.

I think of it this way: I am a fixed, unchanging, immaterial subject.
I posses a variety of loose, transient, material objects, including
among them all the subatomic parts making up what I call "my body". I
also possess some immaterial objects which are nevertheless still
loose and transient, and I group all of them together under the
general header "my mind".

Realistically, this is as enlightened as I can get right now. I could
make myself sound a lot better if I used more philosophical froo-froo
language to show that I generally understand what the great thinkers
think about the topic, but I don't see anything to gain by doing that.
Better to articulate exactly what I really believe, as simply and
precisely as I can, so that others have the best possible chance to
find an internal inconsistency that I myself was blind to.

John Clark <jonkc at bellsouth.net>:
> I can't see how the rate of change could have any bearing, and after all even the reconfiguration given to you by a stick of dynamite would seem quite slow and plodding by some time scales.

Maybe my soul is attached to my mind by some kind of ethereal rubber
band, and if you pull too fast or too hard the connection will snap!
Ever think of that? Hmm?

(Disclaimer: the preceding paragraph was entirely silly. You can tell
because I used the term "my soul". Nevertheless, it is an
embarrassingly passable metaphor for my gut impression of the

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