X-Message-Number: 25351
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004 08:28:39 -0800
Subject: Of Patterns and Processes, to Mike
From: <>

Dear Mike:

I previously wrote:

"We are not talking about the survival of a particular physical 
system, but of a set of properties of a physical system. The 
properties may survive, even while the system changes, as long as 
the system changes in ways consistent with those properties."

To which you responded:

"It strikes me that *may* is the operative word here. Yes, I agree 
properties *may* survive' (emphasis added). The main point I was 
trying to make is that it is not self-evident they *do* survive,"

On the contrary, my claim is that it *is* self-evident. The 
properties in question here are those of a qualia experiencer, 
which is defined as a thing capable of experiencing qualia. We can 
know for a fact that the changes that happen to my brain on a daily 
basis do not affect the survival of the qualia experiencer, because 
at all times I retain the ability to experience qualia (even if 
sleeping, if you wake me up, my experience returns to me instantly).

So 'may' is not a strong enough word. We can look at the brain and 
tell if the changes that occur to it interfere with its ability to 
experience qualia, at least at a gross level (gross because we do 
not know precisely what is required of a physical system in order 
to create subjective experience). In the case of daily survival, it 
is evident that the 'set of properties of a qualia experiencer' do 
survive. Not may, mind you, but DO. Survival cannot be questioned.

Unless, like Thomas, you imagine the neural circuits forming the 
qualia experiencer spontaneously destruct (causing massive release 
of heat energy) and reform---while you sleep, without leaving a 


"Your decision to allow that the original person survives in this 
special case of duplication (in which, as it happens, the original 
physical object is destroyed in the process), represents a choice 
as to what you consider important. You have no real, scientific 
demonstration that the soul, the subjective inner life or essence 
of the original, is *really* transferred this way, and not simply 
left behind and lost, to be replaced by another."

I don't believe there is any such *existing* thing as a subjective 
inner-life, nor do I believe in a transfering of this 'existing 
thing' between 'hosts'. I regard such talk as metaphysical. 

I believe in a brain, and this brain has certain properties X, 
which collectively permit the brain to experience qualia. As long 
as the brain remains able to experience, it is possible for my 
subjective inner-life to happen. But when the brain loses this 
ability, then it is no longer possible for my subjective inner-life 
to happen. 

My subjective inner-life is a set of changes that happens to a 
particular physical system; if you alter the system in such a way 
that those changes are still possible, my subjective inner-life can 
still happen, but if you alter the system in such a way that those 
changes are not possible anymore, then I can no longer happen.

Constructing a new physical system won't do me any good, since 'I' 
was the changes that happen to the old physical system, not to the 
new (or any other) one.


You wrote:

"I will also say that I think certain scientific theories support 
the view that atoms aren't as 'real' as some would have it."

Atoms are not hard little balls, but that doesn't mean they don't 
exist.  They may exist as vibrating 11th-dimensional strings, in 
which case, the strings exist. Or they may exist in some other form 
entirely. But no one doubts that atoms are real, and have a factual 

Numbers, processes, patterns, and such, do not exist (except as 
concepts in human minds). Trying to prove they exist is rather like 
proving Santa Claus exists. It can't be done.

So this divides people into those who must have proof to accept the 
existence of something, and those who merely accept the existence 
of non-physical things without proof.

Are you so sure you want to be in the latter category???


Best Regards,

Richard B. R.

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