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The Munchaussen trilemma and the personal identity problem
 Posted: 16 February 2014 07:44 AM [ Ignore ]
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What is the Munchaussen trilemma?

The Münchhausen trilemma (after Baron Münchhausen, who allegedly pulled himself and the horse on which he was sitting out of a swamp by his own hair), also called Agrippa’s trilemma (after Agrippa the Skeptic), is a philosophical term coined to stress the purported impossibility to prove any truth even in the fields of logic and mathematics.

Trilemma

If we ask of any knowledge: “How do I know that it’s true?”, we may provide proof; yet that same question can be asked of the proof, and any subsequent proof. The Münchhausen trilemma is that we have only three options when providing proof in this situation:

*  The circular argument, in which theory and proof support each other (i.e. we repeat ourselves at some point)
*  The regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum (i.e. we just keep giving proofs, presumably forever)

*  The axiomatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts (i.e. we reach some bedrock assumption or certainty)

The first two methods of reasoning are fundamentally weak, and because the Greek skeptics advocated deep questioning of all accepted values they refused to accept proofs of the third sort. The trilemma, then, is the decision among the three equally unsatisfying options.

As such, what is pragmatic?

The failure of proving exactly any truth as expressed by the Münchhausen trilemma does not have to lead to dismissal of objectivity, as with relativism. One example of an alternative is the fallibilism of Karl Popper and Hans Albert, accepting that certainty is impossible, but that it’s best to get as close as we can to truth, while remembering our uncertainty.

The personal identity problem

For instance, when we say I, what is the I we are referring to and how can we prove it exists and be approximately true?

In philosophy, the issue of personal identity concerns several loosely related issues, in particular persistence, change, sameness, and time. Personal identity is the distinct personality of an individual and is concerned with the persisting entity particular to a given individual. The personal identity structure appears to preserve itself from the previous version in time when it is modified. It is the individual characteristics arising from personality by which a person is recognized or known.

Apparently, it is not as simple as it seems:

Generally, it is the unique numerical identity of persons through time. That is to say, the necessary and sufficient conditions under which a person at one time and a person at another time can be said to be the same person, persisting through time. In the modern philosophy of mind, this concept of personal identity is sometimes referred to as the diachronic problem of personal identity. The synchronic problem is grounded in the question of what features or traits characterize a given person at one time.

With such problems, how about the no-self theory?

This is because the no-self theory rejects all theories of the self, even the bundle theory. On Giles’ reading, Hume is actually a no-self theorist and it is a mistake to attribute to him a reductionist view like the bundle theory. Hume’s assertion that personal identity is a fiction supports this reading, according to Giles.

The Buddhist view of personal identity is also a no-self theory rather than a reductionist theory, because the Buddha rejects attempts to reconstructions in terms of consciousness, feelings, or the body in notions of an eternal, unchanging Self.

According to this line of criticism, the sense of self is an evolutionary artifact, which saves time in the circumstances it evolved for. But sense of self breaks down when considering some events such as memory loss, split personality disorder, brain damage, brainwashing, and various thought experiments. When presented with imperfections in the intuitive sense of self and the consequences to this concept which rely on the strict concept of self, a tendency to mend the concept occurs, possibly because of cognitive dissonance.

If the self does not exist, what is the I we are referring to when we say I and how can we prove something which does not exist to be either true or false?

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 Posted: 16 February 2014 08:02 AM [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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kkwan - 16 February 2014 07:44 AM

According to this line of criticism, the sense of self is an evolutionary artifact,

And since when do artifacts not exist? They may not have attributes they seem to have, e.g. independent existence, or being eternal and unchanging, but does that mean artifacts do not exist? If I say ‘I’ I refer to the entity that has written this sentence, whatever that may be, however it exist, dependently or independently.

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 Posted: 16 February 2014 07:01 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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GdB - 16 February 2014 08:02 AM

And since when do artifacts not exist? They may not have attributes they seem to have, e.g. independent existence, or being eternal and unchanging, but does that mean artifacts do not exist? If I say ‘I’ I refer to the entity that has written this sentence, whatever that may be, however it exist, dependently or independently.

What exactly, is an “evolutionary artifact” and does it exist as an object in the real world or is it only a concept?

If you say I, wrt the entity “that has written this sentence”,  what is the entity?

It is circularity. Please explain why it is not so.

And does the entity I, perdure or endure?

Perdurantism or perdurance theory is a philosophical theory of persistence and identity. The perdurantist view is that an individual has distinct temporal parts throughout its existence. Perdurantism is usually presented as the antipode to endurantism, the view that an individual is wholly present at every moment of its existence.

So, what is I or the entity that “exist” if we cannot prove it exist or what it is?

Without a definite object (as the subject) to speak of:

I am, therefore I think becomes (whatever it is) am, therefore (whatever it is) think?

Descartes will turn in his grave!

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 Posted: 17 February 2014 12:38 AM [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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kkwan - 16 February 2014 07:01 PM

Descartes will turn in his grave!

I could not care less…

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 Posted: 17 February 2014 01:05 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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GdB - 17 February 2014 12:38 AM
kkwan - 16 February 2014 07:01 PM

Descartes will turn in his grave!

I could not care less…

Thanks for using the correct phrase. Hardly anyone these days says “I could NOT care less”, so they completely negate the meaning.

Lois

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 Posted: 18 February 2014 01:10 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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GdB - 17 February 2014 12:38 AM

I could not care less…

How could I (whatever it is) care at all?

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 Posted: 18 February 2014 02:29 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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kkwan - 18 February 2014 01:10 PM
GdB - 17 February 2014 12:38 AM

I could not care less…

How could I (whatever it is) care at all?

If you do not care at all, you could not care less. You’re already at the lowest limit of your ability to care. There is no place you can go.

Lois

[ Edited: 18 February 2014 08:49 PM by Lois ]
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 Posted: 18 February 2014 04:22 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It’s a colloquialism folks and nothing to quibble over, actually I culdn’t care less about this argument I just wanted to post that an Artifact is an object made by man, e.g. A spear point or a cup. I suppose you could call a spear point an evolutionary artifact within a certain context. We have evolved away from using them as hunting weapons, the same with philosophy; a papyrus roll or a fire clay tablet some Egyptian or Sumian used to record his thoughts could be consider an artifact.

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 Posted: 18 February 2014 11:45 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Words, words, words…

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/artifact:

1. An object made or shaped by human hand.
2.(archaeology) An object, such as a tool, weapon or ornament, of archaeological or historical interest, especially such an object found at an archaeological excavation.
3. Something viewed as a product of human conception or agency rather than an inherent element.
4. A structure or finding in an experiment or investigation that is not a true feature of the object under observation, but is a result of external action, the test arrangement, or an experimental error.
5. An object made or shaped by some agent or intelligence, not necessarily of direct human origin.
6. (computing) A perceptible distortion that appears in a digital image, audio or video file as a result of applying a lossy compression algorithm.

kkwan’s meaning of ‘artifact’ is somewhere between 3 and 4.

But I could care… could not care less…

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 Posted: 19 February 2014 11:47 AM [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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There is a more technical name for the fallacy, but kkwan seems to be committing the “it’s just” fallacy. i.e. “It’s just an evolutionary artifact”, so how do we prove it exists? These kinds of questions give philosophy a bad name. They have been dealt with. Bringing them up doesn’t add any value to any conversation. If you have something to add, get on with it. If you are using the trilemma to make a statement about some particular thing, don’t, you accomplish nothing.

We all live in a dream, dreamt by Elvis. Prove we don’t. End of discussion.

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 Posted: 19 February 2014 05:33 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Lois - 18 February 2014 02:29 PM

If you do not care at all, you could not care less. You’re already at the lowest limit of your ability to care. There is no place you can go.

If we don’t know what I is, how can I (whatever it is) care at all?

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 Posted: 19 February 2014 06:16 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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GdB - 18 February 2014 11:45 PM

Words, words, words…

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/artifact:

1. An object made or shaped by human hand.
2.(archaeology) An object, such as a tool, weapon or ornament, of archaeological or historical interest, especially such an object found at an archaeological excavation.
3. Something viewed as a product of human conception or agency rather than an inherent element.
4. A structure or finding in an experiment or investigation that is not a true feature of the object under observation, but is a result of external action, the test arrangement, or an experimental error.
5. An object made or shaped by some agent or intelligence, not necessarily of direct human origin.
6. (computing) A perceptible distortion that appears in a digital image, audio or video file as a result of applying a lossy compression algorithm.

kkwan’s meaning of ‘artifact’ is somewhere between 3 and 4.

But I could care… could not care less…

It could be 5 or 6 as well.

So, what is an “evolutionary artifact” (EA)? Is the self an EA and how do we prove it exists and is true or false?

ar·ti·fact
noun \ˈär-ti-ˌfakt\

: a simple object (such as a tool or weapon) that was made by people in the past

: an accidental effect that causes incorrect results

Full Definition of ARTIFACT

1 a :  something created by humans usually for a practical purpose; especially :  an object remaining from a particular period
<caves containing prehistoric artifacts>
b :  something characteristic of or resulting from a particular human institution, period, trend, or individual
<self-consciousness … turns out   to be an artifact of our education system — Times Literary Supplement>
2   : a product of artificial character (as in a scientific test) due usually to extraneous (as human) agency

We still don’t know what is an artifact, in the context of an EA.

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 Posted: 19 February 2014 06:31 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Lausten - 19 February 2014 11:47 AM

There is a more technical name for the fallacy, but kkwan seems to be committing the “it’s just” fallacy. i.e. “It’s just an evolutionary artifact”, so how do we prove it exists? These kinds of questions give philosophy a bad name. They have been dealt with. Bringing them up doesn’t add any value to any conversation. If you have something to add, get on with it. If you are using the trilemma to make a statement about some particular thing, don’t, you accomplish nothing.

We all live in a dream, dreamt by Elvis. Prove we don’t. End of discussion.

GdB misquoted me. I did not assert that the self is “just an evolutionary artifact”.

Please refer to the context of my first post whereby the assertion of the self as an “evolutionary artifact” was a quotation from the wiki on personal identity wrt the no-self theory.

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 Posted: 19 February 2014 09:47 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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kkwan - 19 February 2014 06:31 PM

GdB misquoted me. I did not assert that the self is “just an evolutionary artifact”.

Did I?

And naming the self ‘just an evolutionary artifact’ is not in line with my first posting.

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 Posted: 19 February 2014 11:47 PM [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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GdB - 19 February 2014 09:47 PM
kkwan - 19 February 2014 06:31 PM

GdB misquoted me. I did not assert that the self is “just an evolutionary artifact”.

Did I?

And naming the self ‘just an evolutionary artifact’ is not in line with my first posting.

This was what you wrote in post 1:

GdB - 16 February 2014 08:02 AM
kkwan - 16 February 2014 07:44 AM

According to this line of criticism, the sense of self is an evolutionary artifact,

I did not write the above. It was from a quotation from the wiki on personal identity which I cited in my first post from which you extracted and assigned authorship to me.

Read my first post carefully, GdB.

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 Posted: 20 February 2014 03:27 AM [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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kkwan,

I agree with Lausten that in commenting on your citation you interpret ‘an evolutionary artifact’ as ‘just an evolutionary artifact’. That gives you the possibility to criticise it (with a rather lousy rhetorical question (‘If the self does not exist, what is the I we are referring to when we say I and how can we prove something which does not exist to be either true or false?’.))

My comment wanted to show that that is not a correct interpretation. ‘Not existing independently’, or ‘existing unchanging’ do not mean ‘not existing’.

This is an error many people here make (see the free will discussions; I even assume that your thread here is derived from the idea that the capability of reasoning is evolutionary advantageous): that explaining a higher order phenomenon with lower order processes means that it is explained away, and that the higher order phenomenon therefore does not exist. It does exist: only not independently.

[ Edited: 20 February 2014 06:44 AM by GdB ]
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