[extropy-chat] Indexical Uncertainty

Chris Hibbert hibbert at mydruthers.com
Tue Oct 17 18:37:26 UTC 2006

>> But indeed, if you have enough amnesia, then absolutely you are 
>> *not* the same person. Even in popular culture, one says that to 
>> lose one's memories is to lose one's identity. ... But Lee and
>> Robin never have such dreams, unless they're out of their minds.
> We are the sort of creatures who usually are not very uncertain about
> who we are.   Nevertheless, we are not completely certain either, and
> so we often have at least small degrees of indexical uncertainty.
> So once you accept the basic concept, then the question is when and
> where it is reasonable to apply the concept.

A somewhat plausible example of uncertainty of identity: a standard 
nightmare supposedly has people waking up thinking that the final exam 
is today and they haven't studied.  That's a Monday-me vs. Tuesday-me 
distinction that can matter intensely.  (Or so I've heard.)

Anyway, back to the uncertainty.  Unless someone is verging on amnesia, 
the only kind of waking confusion that makes sense is momentary 
confusion about what history-of-behavior you have.  Given modern 
technologies, we wouldn't distinguish mind from body in associating them 
with behavioral histories.  (They always travel together in our 
experience.)  So it would surprise me if a friend reported, after a 
dream about living someone else's life, that he woke up secure in his 
identity, but unsure about which body he should expect to be in.  He'd 
have to have been confused about both mind (habits, experience, tastes) 
and body for the story to make any sense.

Currently reading: Marc Bekoff, The Cognitive Animal;
    Vernor Vinge: Rainbow's End; Umberto Eco, Foucault's
    Pendulum; Edward O. Wilson, On Human Nature

Chris Hibbert
hibbert at mydruthers.com
Prediction Market Software:  http://zocalo.sourceforge.net

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