3.1 – Sourcing Information

After watching a rerun of Star Trek: Voyager, I came across a particularly interesting moral dilemma. In the episode, medical procedures that had been discovered by unethical experimentation on sentient creatures were used to save a crewmember after an alien parasite had attached itself to the crewmember. This presented an ethical problem for the crew, as the medical technique used to save the individual was developed by a doctor who, in the course of his experimentation, killed thousands of people. His methods included infecting people with a virus and observing them die, opening patients abdominal cavities and expose their organs to radiation, and many other attrocities. His results, however, led to success. He learned enough to create vaccines to the viruses he infected his patients with, to significantly advance the medical profession, and ultimately, to save the life of the crewmember of the Star Fleet vessel. 

This presents an interesting delima. Does the source of information matter? Is there a morality component to the use of information? Can information be used without the ethics of its discovery affecting the morality of its use, or is the source of infomation relevant to its use? 


1.4 – Presentism vs Eternalism

I think I must side on the idea of presentism. I am also unsure why this topic is important. Perhaps I need a little prodding, but I do not see a need to really differentiate between the two. Why is it important that one be true and the other not? 

– Jonah

2.4 – Personal Identity

My intentions are to find a deeper, more clarified question which, when answered, will answer the question first posed. 

I think you misunderstood my idea of someone only knowing you by nasty thoughts. I did not mean this this idea of you was invalid. My assumption is that no one is really worthy of being know by only nasty thoughts, which means anyone who only knows you by those things would have an incomplete picture of who you are. 

You bring up the idea of losing everyone you have ever known, and thus losing all sense of who you are, but this cannot be the case. Imagine I were to write something on a piece of paper, then light it on fire. The paper burns, and the record of the thing was destroyed, but that doesn’t mean the writing was never created, nor does if change what was written in the first place. 

On to your frog. It is not the idea that at any point in time you are only a srep from your previous position that comprises locale, but the idea that you are trackable. I do not mean that you need to be a continuous function across your lifespan, but instead, a piecewise function will do. You and the frog teleporing does not mean that you become the frog, it only means you were in one location a moment before, and we’re tracked to a new location very far away rather quickly. And I don’t believe this makes you a 4D snake, can you explain why there is a connection in your mind? 
I believe your active subjective experience is the same idea as my locale. The idea is that you remain the same because you keep the same consciousness from moment. The difference between our ideas is that your view takes the person’s experience as the key, where as I take the outside observer to be the one creating the definition. There is a slight problem then, with how we are trying to define things. You take the ideas of internal experience as acceptable terms for definition, but I do not. These are not directly observiable to an outide party, and therefore cannot define a person. If they could do so, we might as well say “I am me, because … well … I just am.”

Could you elaborate on two things: personality, and themness. 

And yes, I do have my doubts. 

– Jonah

2.2 – Personal Identity

We are looking at the idea that ‘you’ remain ‘you’ throughout your life, that you do not become a different person in your old age than you were in your youth.

We have several ideas of what it means to be ourselves, and most can be reduced to a few basic factors that define who we are, as distinct from every other person:

  • Body.
    • We see ourselves as distinct from every other human because we have a unique genetic structure. This has its exceptions, like twins, but holds true for the most part.
  • Mind.
    • We each have a unique and distinct set of memories, which define our personalities. These memories are the baseline from which we draw our conclusions about the world, and thus, make the decisions we make.
  • Spirit.
    • While the previous two are vast, we could define in exquisite detail every aspect put forth. We could create a simulation of a biological structure, and calculate the firing of every neuron in a person’s brain. What we can’t define, and what a lot of cultures and religions use to explain personal identity is the soul. The soul is a non-corporeal aspect of our existence that contains our identity, in the event that our bodies and minds need repair, ‘we’ remain intact.

For the purpose of this argument, let us exclude the body aspect from our definition of the self. I would like to do so because, as is well known in medicine, the cells of your body deteriorate, die, and are eventually replaced. This happens regularly, and at such a rate that you are considered to have been completely replaced by new cells in between 7 and 10 years. If we base our definition of self on the body, then, we are no longer ourselves after 10 years. We do not consider this to be reasonable as a society. So that leaves us with our mind, and a new concept I will put forth which I like to label character, but we will get to that later.

If we only define ourselves by our mind, that is to say, our memories and personality, then we must admit that we are not static over time. We change as time passes, as our learning increases. We are not the same person we were when we were young. In fact, according to all major religions, our spirit grows as we grow, meaning that none of the three aspects of self remain the same as time goes along. If we consider ourselves to be the Ship of Theseus, all three of our ‘parts’ have been replaced. Therefore, if we are all replaced, we must be different people. To make us unique and constant, then, I need to introduce a concept that I believe to be static, and thus the definitive explanation of who we are.

So now, I need to introduce a new aspect of self, one which I think helps to solve the problem a bit.

  • Character.
    • This aspect of self needs a bit of explanation. I propose that we are not fully ourselves, unless we have other people in our lives. Our metaphysical existence is dependent on the ideas other people have about us. We literally are what others think of us. This would mean that we can only be fully defined if we take into account the names we are given, the ideas we are in the minds of other people.

We now have a more solid idea of why we remain the same. There is, floating through time and space, a creature whose name remains Jonah to all who know him, no matter where on the space time continuum you find him. This, I believe, may be a viable definition for why we remain the same person throughout our lives. But even this has its flaws. Suppose you were to meet someone, briefly, and engage immediately in an angry discourse. If their entire perceptions of you are reliant on that event, would you not then, be known, or rather, defined, by anger and frustration? Perhaps this means there must be a threshold of interactions before a person is allowed to define you.

Better yet, let’s use a concept from math to help out here. In numerical analysis, a branch of math dedicated to looking at numerical answers rather than a general analytical solutions to math problems, we come across a concept of iteration. This concept helps to solve problems that cannot be solved any other way. There are various methods for solving these problems, but the idea of iteration is that you choose a number randomly and use that number in an equation. Next, you make the number that you got out of your equation your new starting value, and you try the equation again. Each time you do this, your answer changes, until the change from the previous answer to the next answer is almost nonexistent. At this point, you have found what is known as a numerical approximation of the solution to that math problem. In the same way, let us consider that our first encounter with a person forms in our minds a rough outline of that person. Subsequent interactions with that person will then slightly alter the definition of them in your mind, until one day you no longer change what you believe about them by interacting with them.

I think, however, the previous idea bring up the best definition for who a person is, thus why they remain the same person. I will define it as a new trait of self, but first, I need to create a thought experiment.

Suppose you have a pair of identical twins conceived in a lab and grown in a tank. These twins were placed in separate, identical rooms at birth, strapped to identical chairs, and given identical educational videos at the same time. The two rooms were attended by people who were placed in an elevator and taken to one of the two rooms, without knowing which room they were entering. Both of the twins were known by the same name. Baring all side effects of the horrible mistreatment of these children, what difference is there between them. They are known by their attendants as the same individual, they have the same biological factors, and the same experiences. What is the only difference between them? Their location is the only defining factor between them.

  • Locale.
    • This seems a bit odd at first, but when we consider it, it may be our best solution. If you are to be approximated as a spherical mass moving through time and space, and slowly diffusing matter in and out of your boundaries, the best definition of who you are is the path you took. At any point from the beginning of you to the end of you, there was a space that you occupied. Moving from place to place altered where in space-time you were stored, but the fact that space-time was occupied by you, and in the next moment that occupied space moved means that you moved with it.

This may sound like I agree with you in your assertion of perdurantism, but not so. I am not saying that you are the path you took. I am saying that the space you occupied is you, and that space moved as a function of time.

So tell me this, are you sure ‘you’ remain ‘you’ even though all the other factors of your existence change? We want to know why you do not take on a new identity as you age, but I believe this is a loaded question. Before we try to ascertain whether we “snake” through time or simply endure the passing of time, I believe we should look at whether or not we do remain the same.



– Jonah

1.2 – Presentism vs Eternalism

Thanks Onix, great topic.

I first want to get a bit of clarification. In discussing topics as complicated as this, I always attemt to reduce the ideas to a clean, simple definition or explaination of the problem. I am going to attempt to explain each of the two options as I currently see them. If you find a flaw, or have a better way of putting something, please correct me.

  • Presentism.
    • The idea that the only moments that exist are those we currently percieve. This means that the future does not exist, but will come to exist eventually. Likewise, the past does not exist. The past once did exist, but has since ceased to exist.
  • Eternalism.
    • The idea that all moments exist simultaneously. This means that the past, present, and future all occupy the same point of space-time, and are all occuring at once. The only reason time is linear to us is that we are only capable of percieving one moment at a time, thus we only percieve the flow of time, rather than it actually flowing.

Have my assumptions been correct, or can you offer any clarifying points that may help clearly define the subject?

– Jonah



This is the first post in a long series of conversations between myself and Onix. I’m Jonah, by the way, glad you’re reading along. The first set of conversations we plan to start cover topics ranging from time travel to the nature of self, and beyond. I’m not much for long introductions, so go check out my about page if you really want to know more about me.

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