X-Message-Number: 14195
From: "Brook Norton" <>
Subject: Response to Ettinger and Quantitative view puzzles
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 13:05:19 -0700

Bob Ettinger wrote (#14188)

>The Quantitative view (or one version of it) holds that it is a mistake to
think of "identity" as some abstraction, or as some all-important particular
type of commonality between different systems. All we have are different
physical systems at different locations in time or space, which are similar
to each other in certain ways and to a certain degree in each of those ways.

Sounds good so far.

>So, are duplicates the "same" people? To a degree.

This does not follow. The duplicates exist in different space, made of
different molecules, with two separate self-circuits.  To quote your first
paragraph, you have made the mistake of assigning "some all-important
particular type of commonality between different systems" to the duplicates.
The duplicates are similar but not the "same" in some identity-linking way.
The Quantitative view has no problem with duplicates.  It says they are
different entities but with similarities. No problem.

>Are successors the "same" people? To a degree-and some schools of thought
assign importance to continuity as well, but that is not a purely
Quantitative notion. Are you and a cockroach the "same"? To a (small)

Same type of response.  Successors and roaches share similarities to your
current self. They are not the "same" as you in an identity-linking way.
Successors and roaches present no identity paradox.

I see a very strong parallel between the belief in a supernatural soul and
the belief that our identity can survive over long periods of time. Both
beliefs assert that our identity, our essence, survives even as our bodies,
brains and environment change.  What's the difference between a soul and a
lasting identity?  Not much.

>What the (pure) Quantitative view does not tell us readily is how much
importance to assign to which kinds of similarity, and how much similarity
is enough to justify concern.

The Quantitative view does not try to construct a rational value system; it
does not address that issue directly. I believe that the only consideration
as to how much importance to assign to what kind of similarity is how it
affects our happiness.  We should try to maintain continuities and
similarities with other entities so as to maximize our happiness.

>As an old example, if many near-duplicates of you exist, ought you to be
concerned with their collective benefit or satisfaction? Ought "you" to be
willing to undergo torture and death in order to assure that most of the
others benefit, if that choice should somehow arise? In the case of the
roaches, the similarities are weak, but their numbers are enormous, and you
may feel that should count for something.

Since the duplicates and roaches are not "me" and do not share an "identity"
in the slightest, only sharing similarities, then their suffering and/or
death does not lessen my existence.  I should only be concerned with their
suffering and death to the degree that it causes me unhappiness.  I may
chose to help them to make me happy but not as a means of protecting my
identity.  I have no "identity" (soul) that transcends time or entities.

> There are countless other puzzles as well. I don't say these problems
can't be solved, but I don't know how to do it.

The puzzles presented here all make the false assumption that if two
entities are similar then they share identity to some degree.  But the
Quantitative view has no room for an "identity", much less a shared one.  I
still see no puzzles or paradoxes that the Quantitative view is in conflict

Brook Norton

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