X-Message-Number: 14237
Date: Thu, 03 Aug 2000 19:55:12 -0500
From: david pizer <>
Subject: If you can't tell the difference, is there a difference?

If I understand him correctly, Brett seems to be saying - .... if we can't
tell the difference, there may not be a difference.

Philosophers, since they first started to think and speak, have argued
whether empirical knowledge versus rational knowledge (or some combination
of both) are ever enough to really know anything.  Just because we don't
know the difference now, can that mean there is not a difference?

Brett said: 

>From: "Brett Bellmore" <>


1.	>Ok, let's set up a test case. At time "A" you've got a collection of atoms
>which looks like Dave Pizer, plausibly claims to think it is Dave Pizer, and
>which succeeds in convincing Dave's friends that it is Dave Pizer.  

2.	>Events
>occur, and at time "B", we've got  a collection of atoms which looks like
>Dave Pizer, plausibly claims to think it is Dave Pizer, and which succeeds
>in convincing Dave's friends that it is Dave Pizer.  

3.	>Furthermore, no test we
>have at our disposal permits us to prove that this isn't Dave Pizer.  

>it may be that we haven't got a duck on our hands, just something which is
>utterly and completely indistinguishable from a duck. But from an objective,
>scientific standpoint, does such a claim even make sense?

In our discussion we are not trying to identify a species (or general
class) of ducks or people.  We are trying to find out what constitutes
survival of a particular individual of that species.  There would be no
argument that both Pizer A and Pizer B are both people, just as two things
that are like ducks are probably both ducks: But two different ducks. 

"Like a duck" is not saying "The same identical duck."

If you have a pet duck at home, Quacky, and you walk in the park and see
another duck and you say to your companion.

See that animal.  It walks like a duck.  It quacks like a duck. It has
feathers like a duck.  It is a duck. 

But by this observation, all you can assert is that it is a duck.  You can
not assert that it is the same duck as your pet, Quacky, that is at home at
this time.

>I submit to you that if there is no test which can distinguish between "A"
>and "B", then "A" IS "B", and to claim otherwise is basically a religious
>claim: "Well, sure, he looks the same and acts the same,.....  snip

Continual observation and record keeping could tell who was the orignal and
who was the duplicate.  

More to the point: Just because people don't know the answer to a question,
does not mean there is not an answer.  Although we may not be able to tell
which one is which, we can tell that there are two separate ones if in fact
we can see two separate ones. If we do not allow that, then we must say
that we can never know anything.  If we take this position, (and some
philosophers do) than we might as well give up.  We don't want to do that.
So in order to function, we must have some things as starting points.  I
would say that observation (of two different, similar-looking people) is a
legitimate starting point.

Just because observers cannot tell the difference between two different
people who seem similar does not mean they are not two separate people.  If
you saw me and my clone (or duplicate) standing side by side, you would
know there were two, not one, people there.  

By Empirical method  if you were able to observe from the time of only one
Pizer through the duplication period to the time of two Pizer's  you could
know the difference.

By Rational method, you would at least know that one was the original and
one was the duplicate, even if you could not tell them apart.  

> but now he's
>souless!" After all, in exactly the same sense, we don't know that our
>selves aren't instantly extinguished on any occasion on which we lose
>consciousness for even an instant, to be replaced by new identities which
>only think they are the same person. 

The above implied definition requires that a person be conscious (or awake)
at all times.  We know that is not what people are.  To avoid that very
problem I use in my definition of a person "continuing process" (a Unique,
Self Aware, Continuing Process).  A continuing process stays the same
process through bouts of sleeping, loss of consciousness, and being frozen
(and then reanimated); as long as it is the original process, it is the
same person.

In Conclusion, I think we all will agree on these starting points:

1.	Even though some observers may not be able to tell the difference
between two separate people does not mean there isn't a difference.  

2.	If we know there was a time when there was only one original person and
then we know, later, there was a duplicate made, we know there are two
separate persons, even if we can't tell them apart.

3.	If we see two separate persons, not sharing the same self-awareness, we
know there are two different persons.

4.	Thinking the same thoughts does not mean the thinkers are the same
person.  At any moment, there may be two people thinking the exact same
thoughts, or feeling the same memories, (two people watching the same movie
or reading the same book, or reading this babble at the same time), but
doing that in two separate brains, with separate self-awarenesses.  During
the brief moments these two (or more) people are thinking the same thoughts
we would not say they were the same one person.

Dave Pizer

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