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Teleportation problem
Posted: 13 October 2007 11:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Yes, and this concern with personal identity through change goes way back. I’d suggest all of you to take a look at the paradox of the Ship of Theseus. It’s a great example, and very famous!

Once you’ve read it we can discuss it in this thread if you like. It’s very much the same sort of issue as with teletransportation, and another thing at the heart of Parfit’s concerns with personal identity through time.

And Brennen, in one sense this is divorced from real life (much of philosophy seems so!), but in another sense, it goes to the very heart of who we are and how we conceive of ourselves.

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Posted: 13 October 2007 01:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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mckenzievmd - 13 October 2007 12:36 AM

And George is, I think, exaclty right that we are changing all the time in exactly the sort of ways we are woolgathering about. You get a whole new liver every X months, but so what?

Well it brings into question whether we really have a past?

Does the person who appears on Europa have a past? I would say no.

Stephen

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Posted: 13 October 2007 02:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Stephen, that didn’t make sense.  :(  Either I’m not understanding what you are trying to say or I don’t know.  If we didn’t have a past, then how did history happen?

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Posted: 13 October 2007 03:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Mriana - 13 October 2007 02:51 PM

Stephen, that didn’t make sense.  :(  Either I’m not understanding what you are trying to say or I don’t know.  If we didn’t have a past, then how did history happen?

The person on Europa is a bunch of atoms put together at say 12 O’clock.

I think it is reasonable to conclude that the person on Europa did not exist before 12 O’clock.

I could be wrong but it makes sense.

As for how did history happen, it could happen without him being there.

Stephen

[ Edited: 13 October 2007 03:10 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 13 October 2007 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Mriana,

Just to expand on my last post.

I remember a nine year old boy on rollerskates. I am very very different to that boy, does it make sense to view myself now and that boy, as one and the same thing?

I don’t think so and although a time span of 36 years helps illustrate the point, I see no reason to think this doesn’t hold true over 3.6 seconds either.

Stephen

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Posted: 13 October 2007 04:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Hmmm ... if it’s not you who was a nine year old boy, then I take it they certainly weren’t your parents either. And it’s not your family. And they aren’t your toys or books or scribbles. And that boy is now dead.

And if you’re going to do this over 3.6 seconds, I take it that you’re not responsible for anything your previous selves did; none of the stuff you wear or carry with you belongs to you, it’s not your passport, they aren’t your credit cards, nor your bank accounts, nor your neighbors nor your friends. They aren’t your memories. You never did any of the things you recall.

And it wasn’t you who wrote all those other posts on this forum.

This is a reductio ad absurdum of the position you claim to hold. Indeed, I don’t believe you can hold this position consistently for more than a second or two. It’s a perfect example of starting philosophy by claiming things that you know aren’t true. And that’s a bad idea.

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Posted: 13 October 2007 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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In the interests of succinctness I’ll keep my responses short.

From Doug:

Yes, well, it’s a sort of esoteric topic.

Far more gentle and positive than my description would be. LOL

Agreed with you about the computer. But do you believe that you would survive if someone was able to read the state of your brain and program a supercomputer to simulate it? Would that really be you? Or would you die when your physical body died, and would the computer be a mere simulation?

Or again, knowing what you know, would you be willing to step into the transporter? Or would you believe doing so would amount to suicide and replacement by a twin?

1,2,4) Yes; 3,5) No.

Occam

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Posted: 13 October 2007 06:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I think it’s the idea, the plan, the blueprint that counts. I can play Chopin on a piano, or a flute, but it’ll always be Chopin. This is why it’s not a murder to abort a fetus, as it does not (yet) reflect the idea of a human. Similarly, it was legal and morally acceptable to “kill” Terri Schiavo as she (it?:-S ) no longer echoed the image of a human. I am always going to be I as long as I match (as close as possible) the idea of George. This leads me to a conclusion that the Ship of Theseus remained indeed the same ship. When does a chicken cease to be a chicken? In the oven? On your plate? In your mouth? In your stomach? In your intestines? In your blood?

[ Edited: 13 October 2007 06:46 PM by George ]
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Posted: 13 October 2007 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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In answer to your question, Stephen, yes you are still the same person- DNA wise.  Even at birth you were you even now.  Scientifically, you still have the same DNA and your history is infancy, childhood, adolesence and now adulthood.  Psychologically, you have grown too and maybe you think differently about the world depending on your life experiences, but I still stand that you are that little boy all grown up.

Even as Doug said, if you did something at the bank 3.5 seconds ago or 7 days ago, it was still you who did it and DNA can confirm that.  Same with your Europa and atoms bit too.

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Posted: 13 October 2007 07:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Yes Stephan, I agree with the consensus that your point is a little like Xeno’s Paradox and other such mind games—fascinating unless you stop to check against reality, at which point whether they are true in any sense or not really makes no difference. The sense of continuity you have and how it affects your relations with the world is real, whether your atoms re-arrange or not. SO to say you have no past isn’t meaningful, just a word game.

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Posted: 14 October 2007 04:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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mckenzievmd - 13 October 2007 07:51 PM

Yes Stephan, I agree with the consensus that your point is a little like Xeno’s Paradox and other such mind games—fascinating unless you stop to check against reality, at which point whether they are true in any sense or not really makes no difference. The sense of continuity you have and how it affects your relations with the world is real, whether your atoms re-arrange or not. SO to say you have no past isn’t meaningful, just a word game.

 

I believe if something changes in any way it becomes something different and that is the answer to the puzzle. I could definately be wrong of course and I’m going to think about it.

The trouble with other solutions in my mind is that we are just trying to find a consensus of opinion. When do we decide that something remains the same or becomes something different, when we change a part?

Well we can make up rules and agree upon them but I don’t see the point, what are we trying to achieve by this? Aren’t we then just trying to agree on what rules to make up?

The best analogy I can think of is this. For a while scientists couldn’t decide whether Pluto was a planet or not, now scientists have agreed it is (I think) So they’ve agreed on a set of rules which make Pluto a planet. They could have agreed on a set of rules which made it a non planet.

If that sought of thing is what philosophy is about it doesn’t interest me. what interests me is getting at the truth.

With the planet example there is no truth, there is just a consensus of opinion.

I think it is the same with this example except perhaps if you take the position that if something changes it becomes something different.

Stephen

[ Edited: 14 October 2007 06:28 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 14 October 2007 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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dougsmith - 13 October 2007 04:14 PM

This is a reductio ad absurdum of the position you claim to hold.

Or an accurate assessment of the situation we are in?

If we are in the same position as the person on Europa, then I would say his and our position, is as you describe.

How could he possibly be responsible for what the original on earth did 5 minutes before?

He is a bunch of atoms gathered together by a machine from his surrounding environment on Europa. What would be absurd would be to call him responsible for anything.

He has never even been to earth!


Maybe to avoid the conclusion which you believe is absurd, it needs to be the case that we are not in the same position as the copy? It’s only if we take it seriously that we are that I believe the conclusion is unavoidable.

Or if not, why assume the conclusion is absurd? Why couldn’t it simply be, the way it is?

Stephen

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Posted: 14 October 2007 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Mriana - 13 October 2007 06:20 PM

In answer to your question, Stephen, yes you are still the same person- DNA wise.  Even at birth you were you even now.  Scientifically, you still have the same DNA and your history is infancy, childhood, adolesence and now adulthood.  Psychologically, you have grown too and maybe you think differently about the world depending on your life experiences, but I still stand that you are that little boy all grown up.

Even as Doug said, if you did something at the bank 3.5 seconds ago or 7 days ago, it was still you who did it and DNA can confirm that.  Same with your Europa and atoms bit too.

what you have done here is made up a rule.

As long as an entity has the same DNA it is the same thing, or something like that.

Then you go on to show I’m wrong by referring to the rule you made up.

I suppose I’ve done the same. I’ve made up the rule, that if something changes, it is something different and can’t be the same thing.

How do we know who is right? Or indeed, if both of us are wrong?

One of many reasons I doubt your rule is because we only happen to be talking about humans.

We need something which makes sense for toasters, fridges or ships too.

Stephen

[ Edited: 14 October 2007 06:35 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 14 October 2007 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Stephan,

I guess I don’t understand what you mean by change? I mean, if the change is imperceptible to the person and everyone else, why does it matter? And if we didn’t know about the cellular changes happening in our bodies, would it make a difference. I don’t think you’ve solved the conundrum, I think you’ve created one where it doesn’t exist. The only “rule” I’m suggesting is that if there’s no way ot tell a thing is different between time A and time B, than it’s not meaningful to say it’s changed.

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Posted: 14 October 2007 11:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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First of all, Stephan, the “reductio” I was talking about was the claim that in ordinary life we do not survive more than one instant. That’s crazy talk. Now, when discussing the teletransporter to Europa, I do think there is at least some basis for saying we don’t survive it—after all, the machine has literally destroyed us at the atomic level. Arguably that would be enough to kill anything. And then, again arguably, it’s constructed a simulacrum of us somewhere else.

But that’s not at all the same thing as what happens to us every moment of our normal lives here on Earth!

The question of identity-through-change is one of the oldest in metaphysics, going back to the presocratic philosophers like Parmenides. There are many possible ways to answer these issues. If you click on the Ship of Theseus link I provided, above, you will see David Lewis’s response, which is an interesting one: namely that what we are are four-dimensional beings, extended through space and through time. (Or, better put, extended into four-dimensional spacetime). So, just like in space my foot is different from my arm, and yet they are both part of me, so too my youth is different from my old age, and yet they are both part of me.

“Change” can occur through any space, be it temporal or spatial. Just as we change through time, we also change through space.

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