[ExI] Wrestling with Embodiment

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Tue Jan 31 10:45:32 UTC 2012

On 31 January 2012 02:55, Mike Dougherty <msd001 at gmail.com> wrote:

> What is essential to me may not be essential to you.
> This could be very tricky to resolve.

No, this is the key which resolves the conundrum of essentialist
approaches, as I have been maintaining in a number of writings by saying
the identity is not an ontological, but a sociological issue.

In fact, nobody doubts of that if we are speaking of, eg, national or
cultural identities, but when we consider the identity of the "society of
the mind", even many perfectly secular people go all mystical.

In fact, one is perfectly free to consider blue eyes the essential part of
what defines her identity, but the truth is that almost everybody
"recognises" Mr. Jones, including, say, in a Turing test, or after a period
long enough for his atoms to have been entirely replaced, after a major
amputation, or as a voice whispering during a spiritualist séance ("is that
Mr. Jones speaking?", says the medium) , *on the basis of a sufficient
similarity to previous experiences of Mr. Jones's informational pattern*.

So, the fact that, eg, Mr. Jones corpse is not Mr. Jones in spite of
keeping his blue eyes, while a computer behaving closely enough to the
precedently experienced Mr.s Joneses is likely to be simply considered as
Mr. Jones, is not something requiring a theoretical investigation or
justification, is simply a conclusion dictated by what "identity"
linguistically means to most of us.

And we should note that the similarity level required to establish identity
is pretty low. Just consider how different a person may become with time,
or after a major turn or trauma in life. Yet, the protests "you are not the
same person that I married" are pretty rhetorical in nature, since no
matter what bodily modifications may have taken place, one does not really
consider the modified Mr. Jones as a *really* different person, as long as
some basic memories and/or  behavioural patterns are maintained.

Stefano Vaj
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