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

2.3 – Personal Identity

Alright, you appear to have dodged the question by asking a more interesting one. And that’s not a complaint.

I believe the question is this: what is it that endures/perdures?

You brought up the idea of character as something that is made up of how others think of us and as something that defines us. I believe you changed your mind from saying that it is a defining part of us, but not in the way that I think makes the most sense. If what others thought of us defined us and all a particular someone thought of you was nasty things then those nasty things things would define us, and I think that would be a bummer, but something being a bummer isn’t a valid counter-argument.

To illustrate my point I’ll use my 80 year old self again, this time with no siblings. If I come across a picture of my mother holding me in her arms shortly after giving birth to me, I would say that she was very much holding me. But at that point in time, there are very few people who have made an opinion of me at all. My parents sure, and perhaps the doctors, but 80 years later, they’ve all passed away, God rest their hypothetical souls. Yet I’m still me.

Put another way, imagine that everyone you’ve ever known, loved, made eye contact with, accidentally called on the phone or interacted with in any way whatsoever suddenly vanished. You don’t stop being you. Life as you know it would certainly change, but you’re still you.

On to locale. I believe your definition of locale as a definer of identity acts as a sort of recursive function, meaning that what you are at any given moment is dependent on where you were the moment prior. That’s a fancy way of say that you need a smooth 4D snake.  Suppose you could teleport, there is a frog that can teleport, and you both have very good timing and cooperation skills. Now suppose that at the same instant, you and the frog teleported to each other’s locations. Have you now become the frog? And the frog you? If you say no, then there must be something else that makes you you.

Now, suppose in your tale of woe about the twins raised in a lab, that one day the scientists came to each of the twins and informed them of their twin, but told them that one of them had to die, and that they had to choose which one would be killed. If the twins were truly the same, this choice wouldn’t even make sense. Killing either of them would be killing both of them. But they aren’t the same person. Choosing the other twin to die would be an act of self-preservation, and choosing themselves would be an act of self-sacrifice, because they each have an independent self. Their themness is the defining factor between them.

So if it’s not location, character, physical bits nor genetics, that endures/perdures then what is it?

I say personality. Personality is what I’m defining to be the part of you that makes you do any given thing in any given situation. If, at any given moment, there was something that resembled you, then it would be you if and only if it would do the same things you would do and it wouldn’t be you if wouldn’t do the same things. This even applies to normal progression through time whether you’re a endurantist or perdurantist. You are you from a moment ago because you’re doing the same things you would a moment ago if you from a moment ago were at this moment now.

I’ll add a slight caveat just to be safe. You require active subjective experience in addition to your personality. To see what I mean, imagine that perfect atom-for-atom clone of you were created. This clone would do the same things you would do, so in a sense you would be the same person, but if put in the same afore-imagined position as the twins where you and the clone had to pick which of you were to be killed, you would see that you don’t view the clone as the same person as you. I stated earlier that between the twins, “Their themness is the defining factor between them,” but I didn’t really define what themness was. Themness is active subjective experience. If I have a clone, then I’m still me, and the clone’s not me because I am actively subjectively experiencing myself, and not the clone. I’m seeing out of my own eyes and thinking my own thoughts, and my clone is seeing out of his eyes and thinking his own thoughts, so we have our own distinct themness.

So to answer your question, we do not remain the same, but we do remain ourselves, and from moment to moment what endures/perdures is our personality and our active subjective experience.

But perhaps you have your doubts.

 

Awaiting your response,

Onix

1.3 – Presentism vs Eternalism

Nailed it with the presentism, close on eternalism.

Eternalism as “The idea that all moments exist simultaneously” is correct, but “This means that the past, present, and future all occupy the same point of space-time, and are all occurring at once,” is incorrect. The past, present, and future all occupy all points in space-time.

I think I know what you mean though. To exist outside of time is to hardly exist at all from our view. There is no movement, no thought. No life nor death. One could not observe the space-time continuum from outside it because one could not do anything at all outside of it. If you were to exist outside of time, it would be as if you occupied a single instant. A single, unmoving point, entirely frozen. And that’s a bit how space-time works. It’s static, and it doesn’t change, but unlike something outside of time, space-time contains time. Space-time is the flow of time even though it doesn’t flow itself. I suppose it’s like how rivers don’t actually flow themselves, but rather it’s the water that’s in them that flows.

Hopefully that makes sense. Thanks for asking for clarification.

 

Awaiting your response,

Onix

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

 

2.1 – Personal Identity

The question is this: who am I metaphysically?

The question of “Who am I?” is a fascinating one with many different types of answers which we may discuss at length in the future. The type of answer that I care about today is the metaphysical one.

Suppose I have an identical twin, and we have lived a good, long life, staying close to each other throughout our lives and we are now 80 years old. We are looking through old photos surprised at how far we’ve come. In many of the photos, it is difficult to tell us apart, and even now, sometimes our grandchildren mistake us for each other. In many ways, my old self is more similar to my old twin than my old self is to my young self, and my young self is more similar to my young twin than my young self is to my old self. Despite this, it is very obvious that my young self is me. My young twin and I share memories, interests, a childly form and more that I don’t share with my younger self, and yet it seems ridiculous to consider that my young twin is me even close to the extent that I, my older self, am me, my younger self. Why is this? What ties me to my younger self?

This example shows that genetics isn’t the tie. My identical twin and I share the same genetics, and he is not me. It isn’t physical similarity either. You may have heard of the Ship of Theseus thought experiment. Suppose there is a ship, that slowly has its pieces replaced until all of its pieces are eventually different from when it was first built. Is it still the same ship? You may have also heard of the idea that all of the atoms in our body are replaced over some time (about a year, even though some cells like brain cells last a lifetime). So we are like the Ship of Theseus. You could say that you, I and the Ship of Theseus are made of fungible parts.

Fungibility is generally used as an economic term, but I’m adopting it for this conversation. It means that something is totally interchangeable. Any ordinary $5 bill has the same value as any other ordinary $5 bill and two $5 bills have the same value as a $10 bill. This means that bills are fungible. In the same way, atoms and ship parts are fungible. Swapping them around doesn’t have an effect, so even if you are a lot different in a year, you won’t literally be a different person.

Alright, so we’ve established some intuition about this matter, but now it’s time to get into some grittier stuff. Namely, why is a figurative Ship of Theseus still itself after any amount of time at all? Does it perdure or endure? Perdurantism is the idea that physical objects have temporal parts. A perdurantist would suppose that <you> are a sort of four-dimensional “snake” that has one end at the moment you come into being, the other end at the moment you no longer are, and a thickness of the shape of you. Endurantism is the idea that you exist wholly in the present at every moment, but the identity of you “endures” from moment to moment.

Again I will leave you, Jonah, with this introduction and the statement that I agree with the idea of perdurantism as opposed to endurantism.

 

Awaiting your response,

Onix

1.1 – Presentism vs Eternalism

The question is this: do the past and the future exist?

Philosophical presentism is the view that neither the future nor the past exist–only the present. Eternalism says that they all exist, even if the former two are inaccessible.

The problem is that is can’t be resolved empirically. There is nothing that says that any moment is now except that it is the moment that we are currently experiencing. Now is entirely subjective to our experience, so if one were to visit the past or the future, it would become now to the observer, and it would exist. The question is whether it exists before it was traveled to.

Since this discussion revolves heavily around the idea of time, it will be helpful to imagine that one could move freely through it. This is of course, time travel. Jonah and I will be discussing many of the different aspects of time and the consequences of traveling though it. We’ll mostly focus on metaphysics and philosophical ideas, but I’m sure we’ll broach the physics as well.

I’ll start off the discussion by siding with eternalism–that the future and past do exist, and we’ll go from there.

 

Awaiting your response,

Onix