X-Message-Number: 25050
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 2004 22:50:13 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: More on Souls

I'm responding piecemeal, as time permits, to some of the interesting 
issues Richard R has raised on the soul. (At least we see they are relevant 
to cryonics!)

He writes:
>I have defined the soul as the part of you that experiences qualia.

This much seems reasonable to me, but leaves a lot of things unspecified. 
In what sense is "part of you" to be understood for instance? Richard's own 
viewpoint is further indicated here:

>the soul is a hardware thing that
>experiences qualia.

So now the soul is not just "part of you" but "a hardware thing", a 
specific material object or physical artifact. To me this is something 
additional, and I have to raise the issue whether we are compelled to 
assume the soul is best regarded as a material/physical artifact. As soon 
as you grant this, most of the objections to duplications, uploading and 
such gain force and seem well-nigh unassailable. But must we take this 
view? (I am, of course, interested in alternate views, if rationally 
justifiable, because in various ways it makes the outlook on life more 
positive, including some important consequences for cryonics.) An alternate 
view, for instance, might be to regard the soul as a process (physical, not 
anything mystical) that takes place in a material artifact. To play a bit 
of devil's advocate here, I'll again offer the day-person hypothesis (DPH). 
Let's say that this process--the soul--is whatever is going on when the 
subject is conscious. It starts only when the subject becomes conscious, 
and terminates when consciousness ends, even temporarily. Then the subject 
is gone forever. If consciousness resumes, maybe it *thinks* it's the same 
soul, but it isn't, only (normally) something similar, but different all 
the same. Sleep (at least dreamless sleep) is just as bad as cremation, as 
far as "your" survival is concerned.

I don't subscribe to this view, of course, but am only offering it to make 
the point that it is at least logically coherent and can be said to fit the 
facts of our world and our experience as far as we are able to detect. I 
think on this basis (though certainly not in all respects) it has the same 
claim to validity as the viewpoints many take more seriously, including the 
variant of mind-brain identity (MBI) theory that it appears Richard 
subscribes to.

In his case there is really a "process" too, not just a fixed artifact, 
since the hardware that constitutes the soul is allowed to change over 
time. The changes, however, must always be consistent with what can be 
called a "soul" being present. If we change the artifact too much, break it 
into tiny pieces for example, we cannot restore the same soul even if the 
changes are completely reversed. (This, by the way, begs the question of 
what really are the allowable states the artifact can be in and still be 
classed as a "soul." What is the general principle? Does it have to be 
capable of functioning as a universal computer in the Turing sense, and is 
that sufficient?) Anyway, so there is an obvious parallel with my 
day-person hypothesis, where consciousness is analogous to "constituting a 
soul" in a hardware sense.

A point I tried to make in an earlier posting is that both the DPH and the 
MBI are unprovable conjectures, like other theories of the soul. This means 
that we can maintain scientific objectivity yet exercise freedom of choice 
as to which of the theories we will subscribe to (if any). Which one should 
we pick? I should admit that I am favorable to the uploading idea, though I 
also advocate respecting wishes of the patient when it comes to cryonics 
policies (always "within reasonable limits"). I am a functionalist rather 
than an MBI advocate. The soul, I think, can in effect be regarded as an 
equivalence class rather than a single artifact or localized process, and 
information does matter and even has intrinsic meaning--not all 
"interpreters" are on an equal footing--but more of that another time.

best wishes to all,
Mike Perry

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