X-Message-Number: 14243
From: "Brett Bellmore" <>
Subject: Re: Personal identity
Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2000 17:35:44 -0400

James Swayze says, "Mere lack of a test proves nothing. Except perhaps our
current lack of imagination."

I'd respond that in the usual philosophy of science, lack of a test is not
"mere", it's central to determining whether a claim actually has some
meaning. If you've got no way of telling the old "Pizer" from the new, what
basis have you got for claiming they're different?

James continues, "Here's an experiment for you. We put you in the
disintigration chamber and flip the switch. Something happens and instead of
instant disintigration and copy generation you get to watch the creation of
your copy. Oops! Cries a technician and comes over to you apologetically.
I'm very sorry, the system glitched. We'll get right to destroying YOU now.
So, do YOU sit there and trust that the copy over there looking back at YOU
already having divergent experiences from YOURS is actually YOU and will be
YOU, so YOU take it like a man? I sure the hell don't! It seems to me just
as religous to have faith that because our atoms turn over every so many
years that this is the same or can justify the copy paradox we've been
mulling over this last week or so. For me, no copy of me will ever BE me,
just a very close brother."

Actually, James, I think I already covered that one; Causality, so far as we
know, proceeds in only one direction in time. In the copy "paradox", you
have generated two individuals, both of whom have a claim to "being" the
earlier you. But they are NOT causal decendents of each other, so of course
neither of them will be consoled by the fact that the other will continue,
if they get killed. This, in fact, is central to why I advocate abandoning
the use of the term "personal identity"; Because personal "identity" does
not obey the law of identity, that if A=B, and C=B, then A=C! Rather,
personal "identity" admits the posiblity of two or more people existing, who
all "are" a previous person, but aren't each other.


Yvan Bozzonetti says, "Tortoises have a slow metabolism, so they can have a
long life with no trick to overcome senility. It is quite another matter for
mammals such whales. One of the longevity determinant is the repair capacity
of mitochondrias, if this is what give whales their longevity, we could use
them in a cloned man."

Yvan, whales have slow metabolisms, too. If they didn't, they'd basicaly
explode; Cube vs square law, you know. The larger an organism gets, the
slower it's metabolism must run, because it's volume is increasing as the
cube of it's size, while the surface area it rejects heat from increases
only as the square. Whales get a bit of help from living in frigid water
instead of air, but not that much.

Now, it's been a while since I studied this, and most of my books on the
subject are packed up in a box, but I do recall a log-log chart somebody
constructed, showing the lifespans and weights of various organisms. It was
pretty much a straight line, excluding the animals which hibernated. (And so
spent a good deal of their lives in a slow metabolic state.) Well, there
were one or two exceptions; It turns out that HUMANS have anomolously long
lifespans for our mass! Seems that we're unlikely to find the key to long
life outside ourselves...


Fred, thanks for your kind remarks. I personally don't think I've broken any
new ground here. I just spent a long while lurking, while I boiled down my


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

That's a fair summation of my response to you; Not that if we can't tell the
difference there certainly isn't a difference. Our  capabilities to tell
differences are rather limited at the moment. But if we can't tell the
difference, we've got no BASIS for claiming that there's a difference! This
may change, with improved technology. Then again, if the "duplication" or
"splitting" technology is sufficiently advanced, it may not change.

David, I don't think that we're as far apart as may appear. I'm specifically
not asserting that if you make an identical copy of someone, they are both
the same person. See my remarks to James Swazye above; What I'm saying is
that personal "identity" doesn't work like logical identity, that there
could be in the future two people with valid claims to being David Pizer,
but who are NOT each other. Personal "identity", in the sense of causal
continuity, is not a case of being David Pizer, it's more a case of having
been David Pizer at time T-x.

And let's face it, we can all picture scenarios where you end up with two
David Pizers, and even if you followed the whole process from start to
finish in atomic detail, you'd have no basis for deciding which was the
"copy", and which the "original".

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