[ExI] The Anticipation Dilemma (Personal Identity Paradox)

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Thu Jul 19 11:13:26 UTC 2007

On 19/07/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:

> > (e) Therefore, maybe death is not bad if someone with some of my past
> > experiences is left behind.
> Doctors who apply midazolam to their patients probably do not
> look upon their intoxicated patients (as you sort of called them)
> as though these people were going to perish. And to speak of
> just plain old hypothetical memory erasure makes the arguments
> crisper. A wife who loves her husband but realizes that her
> husband is to lose all of today's memories is probably far less
> concerned than she would be if he were to break an arm.
> She can't help but think that "he'll be just fine" tomorrow,
> and that he'll be the same person as today. We could *suppose*
> that she is correct. But all this is rife with circular argumentation,
> I'm aware.
> Here in (e) of course you're using a meaning of "death" that is
> at odds with the one I use. But from your point of view, yes,
> I guess I can't argue with your logic.

I could have been more precise by using a term like quasi-death for
the death of an instance, or for the death experienced through memory
loss, the point being to work out whether it was this quasi-death that
I feared all along when I feared death, or something else. The problem
arises because it *was* this aspect of death or quasi-death
(specifically, any process which would lead to my present instance
anticipating no future experiences) which I was worried about. So if
this fear is now seen as inconsistent, my main reason for worrying
about death is gone.

> > (f) But to change my original view to the above seems hardly easier
> > than deciding that death with no copies left behind is not bad.
> Well, *everyone* is alarmed at the thought of the patient, or
> the husband, or the subject himself  not being around any long.
> I guess the whole question is still, "Should one be alarmed or
> at all worried if some memory of the past few minutes or past
> few hours is going to be erased."
> > You see, there are several consistent positions possible, and which
> > one I choose depends on psychological factors, not on science or
> > logic.
> I suppose so, since I can't fault your logic.  It still seems to me that
> there is a kind of scientific, detached, analytical, third-person view
> that strongly suggests that the ensemble of physical Lee Corbin's
> who could awake in my bed tomorrow and still be me is very
> large. A zillion things, from the gravitational attraction of passing
> trucks to whether an old friend rings me up on the telephone
> tonight all vastly change the physical state of the person who
> awakes in my bed tomorrow.   But within a very large range,
> we consider them all to be me.  But here I am saying nothing more,
> I suppose, than that this detached physical viewpoint is the
> "similarity" viewpoint.

It is also in keeping with the "anticipation" viewpoint, since I can't
anticipate the experiences of someone sufficiently dissimilar from me.

> > (Well, he was strictly speaking changing from moment to
> > moment, but he *felt* he was the same person, and that's
> > what matters in this context.)
> But then there is the case of the crackpot who believes he
> is Napoleon.   But if you mean by "*felt*" that he really
> did have the same thoughts, memories, and emotions that
> Napoleon had, then naturally it would be isomorphic to
> the Francis Bacon case.

Even in the similarity criterion for identity, the important thing is
that you continue feeling you are the same person. It is a necessary
side-effect of having a sufficiently similar mind (memories etc.) that
you will also feel you are the same person. Even mentally ill people
who claim to be someone else (usually someone famous) generally
remember their past, remember thinking they used to be someone else,
but have a rationalisation for the factual discrepancies. Their crazy
persona is continuous with their normal persona. If this were not so,
then they truly *would* be a different person, and the original would
be dead.

Stathis Papaioannou

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