X-Message-Number: 14831
Date: Thu, 02 Nov 2000 22:54:28 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Memories and Personhood

Dave Pizer, #14822:

> I am saying a person is NOT mainly memories, although they
play a role in the make up of a person.  A person is a mind that feels

This is part of a long, ongoing discussion on memories and personhood. The
particular issue referred to here, which I see as a crucial one, I would
resolve as follows. In the first place I would like to be clear about what
is meant by "memories." I think many people think in terms of episodic
memories that record specific events in their past, but I would like to
broaden the notion to include other forms of information that affect the
person's conscious states later. Or, if you like, simply drop the term
memories, and consider personal information, which, we will assume, exerts
an effect on the later conscious states, or some of them. If that is done,
then I think we have two issues here, what can be called the *conservation*
of identity and what instead is the *expression* of identity.

In my view, complete personal information is both necessary and sufficient
for the conservation of identity. (And I realize some will flatly disagree,
and there are also certain issues like forgetting that must be addressed so
I am simplyfying a bit--but I hope you can bear with that.) But personal
information is what we are trying to preserve through cryonics, something
that is otherwise lost through deterioration of the remains after death. If
you have that, you can get the person back. This, however, will not
guarantee the expression of identity--for that you actually have to *get*
the person back, in active, conscious form! I should amend that to "in
*some* active, conscious form." Thus to my thinking, the material substrate
is not critical. Similar but different atoms would do, if suitably placed.
So conservation and expression are different things, but without
conservation, without the information, you can't have expression, whereas
the converse does not follow: Without expression you can still have
conservation, as with a well-frozen patient, we think, or more certainly,
with dreamless sleep or reversible coma. So conservation--"memories" in a

generalized sense, i.e. personal information--is the more important of the two.

An issue is sometimes raised, that you can be awake but not thinking of any
memories. Isn't this too an expression of identity? To my thinking it
is--but only partially, and it doesn't preclude forms of personal
information other than episodic memories having an effect. And really, for a
past version of the self contained in one's personal information to be fully
expressed is something that probably will take considerable time. It is also
reasonable that the present version of the self will involve information
beyond what is already present in (older) personal information--in general
you will be adding to the archive as you go through life.

Mike Perry

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