X-Message-Number: 2693
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 1994 21:39:15 -0500 (CDT)
From: Heather Johnson Fac-Royle <>

I'm new to this list- consequently, I have been diligently searching some 
of the postings of the past in order to get a feel for the issues 
surrounding cryonics. What I have not found so far, is a discussion of 
the philosophical (as distinct from religious) aspects of this 

I am curious about the thoughts of those of you who are obviously more 
seasoned in thinking about this technology than am I. More specifically, 
what are your attitudes toward issues of personal identity, existence of 
the person during the period of suspension, metaphysical status of the 
"consciousness." Some thoughts-

_Personal Identity_
Identity is a tough issue even in the most quantified circumstances, to 
say nothing of human life. In mathematics identity is ambiguous- one can 
say 2=2 or 1/2=4/8, the former implying something closer to identity, the 
latter something more like equality. I make the distinction because 
identity, it seems to me, involves sameness to the extent of even a shared 
spatial property, (which implies that the things you are orginally trying to 
establish as identical are, in reality, the same entity) while 
equality suggests that there exist _two_distinct_entities_ (i.e., they do
not share the spatial property) which are intimately related. Thus, it would
seem that for an individual to die and be revived as an _identical_ person,
she would not merely have to meet the criteria of possessing the same 
remembered experiences as her former self, but must possess every 
property which is essential to her personhood.

Here's the rub- what exactly are those "essential" properties? I get the 
impression that some of you are identifying memory as the only 
essential property. But insofar as memory is the determining factor, it 
is also indisposable, thus, if this were true we would have to look at those 
aspects of 
our childhood which are known to us only through another's telling as 
experiences belonging to another person. That is, they are not 
contained in our memory- that essential component of our personhood.

If perhaps the next most likely candidate, conciousness, is a factor 
then how do we ensure its preservation? Is consciouness a materially 
governed phenomenon or is it something we would have trouble 
capturing? If any of you have read Penrose's book, 
_The_Emperor's_New_Mind_, he makes a tentative argument for the 
problem of quantifying consciousness in an attack against strong AI. 
Basically, his objection is routed in what constitutes a measurement 
in quantum mechanics. If all of the universe is explainable in terms 
of subatomic particles and fields, then we too must be explained in 
these terms. What is it about our act of measurement that imposes 
probability and why does nature not permit precise measurement of both 
position and momentum? The distinguishing factor, Penrose seems to imply, 
is conciousness. 


What is the status of the person during the interim? Does the person exit 
being only to be brought into being at a later time or is the act of 
being constant throughout? 

First to get a handle on what "being" could mean: Parmenides said that 
thought and being are fully _identical_ in the sense described above. That 
is, there is, "No thought to whose being does not belong,- no being that 
is not thought: thought and being are the same." This is somewhat like 
Descartes more familiar phrase, "I think, therefore am" except that 
Parmenides statement is an argument for identity whereas Dec. is an 
implication suggesting the existence of both thought and being as 
distinct concepts.

What does all of this mean? Basically it leaves us with a disjunction: 
either thought is present during the interim, in which case the person 
(as distinct from the body) IS, _or_ there is no thought and the person 
does not exist. Obviously which conclusion you prefer has influence on 
other legal and ethical questions. Of course, all of this is based on the 
words of a couple of philosophers... What are your thoughts? Anyone?

-Heather Johnson

[ Heather, thanks for your questions.  It's been quite a while since
  those issues have arisen on this mailing list.  FYI: The 76 KByte
  message #0022 covers a lot of these issues in great detail.  That
  message is Chapter 4 of an early 1993 version of Max More's Ph.D.
  dissertation: "The Diachronic Self: Identity, Continuity, Transformation".
  To find shorter treatments on these issues, I did a quick scan of
  some of my favorite messages (those written by K.Q.Brown!) and found
  the following that you may find interesting:
    30 there must be a catch
    72 fate of individual survival
       (followups in messages 75 - 81)
    You may even want to try message #16 on "downloaders".
  Other people currently on this list have written excellent articles on
  identity-related issues in cryonics.  (Those articles usually have been
  in paper publications, though.)   This is an opportunity for them
  to recycle, and perhaps refresh, their old writings, too. - KQB ]
[ Messages 603 605 606 607 608 609 610 concern identity issues, too. - KQB ]

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