X-Message-Number: 14294
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 09:44:00 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: A Different View of Personhood

Dave Pizer, #14290, says
>If Thomas and David are feeling different memories in two different brains
>(two different areas of awareness in space), we would agree they are two
>different persons.

No disagreement here.

>If Thomas and David are feeling the same memories in two different brains,
>we would still agree they are two different persons.  (In fact there
>probably are times when two different people are thinking the same thing.)

This is where I differ. Two constructs having the same experiences (if we
assume this is possible, and I don't limit it just to "memories") in effect
constitute one personality with two instantiations, at least temporarily,
that is, until their experiences again diverge. I allow that a person may
incorporate "subpersons" which are less than the whole person and
temporarily active only. A subperson of you could conceivably be having the
same experience as a subperson of me, in which case I consider them united
into one, though this condition may persist only briefly, or may happen
under special conditions, such as when neither of us is more than barely
conscious. (In a sense, then, any two persons are united in their subpersons
when both are unconscious, though that case is not very interesting.) But
the more general case of union of subpersons, covering extended periods of
time, should be possible in principle, if quantum mechanics holds. This is
all included in my principle of Interchangeability, a variant of the
identity of indiscernibles, which is discussed at length in my book. True,
if pressed hard enough it may seem to require absurd arguments to defend.
But the same is true (and I think even more so) about other theories of
personhood, including those that seek to identify persons with specific
matter or specific processes. I think my theory, which I also call
pattern-survival (i.e. the pattern or information is what is important for
survival rather than a material artifact or specific, ongoing process) can
be made to fit the facts, and has other desirable properties that make it
better than its alternatives. 

>Therefore, it seems to me, what constitutes the difference in these two
>persons is where they feel the memories (each separate brain with each
>separate awareness), not the memories themselves.
Again, that is not how I see it. If the multiverse idea (my principle of
Unboundedness) is correct, one would expect, at any given time, infinitely
many instantiations of oneself in different universes (with some instances
of more than one instantiation in the same universe) all having the same
experience and thus, by Interchangeability, all united into one person, or
subperson at any rate. On the other hand someone might object that, even
assuming this multiplicity idea is correct, still you are just one of these,
not all the rest (though you have no way of knowing which). Either way, your
theory can be made to fit the facts of existence as you perceive it. So I
feel free to choose the version that I think has the best other properties,
and again, I choose Interchangeability or pattern-survival. As for what
these "other properties" are, that too is discussed in my book, and I think
they are very good properties, but I'll quit for now.

Mike Perry

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