X-Message-Number: 2699
From:  (Ben Best)
Date: 	Sun, 24 Apr 1994 02:31:00 -0400

  I'm a bit surprised that only Robert Ettinger chose to answer
Heather Johnson Fac-Royle concerning philosophical questions of
cryonics. I'd like to begin with the caveat that I sometimes suspect
that "philosophy" deals with problems about which there can be no
empirical investigation (by definition). And when confronted with
problems about which we can ONLY think, it is often dubious whether
a solution can be found (mathematics notwithstanding, insofar as
mathematics can produce testable theories).

  Nonetheless, I'm a lover of philosophy. And concerning "philosophy
of mind" I am inspired by the book NEUROPHILOSOPHY by Patricia
Churchland. Patricia, in turn, was inspired by the Harvard philosopher
W.V.O. Quine, who said that "philosophy of mind" and epistemology can
be rooted in empirical science (neurophysiology). I myself am
struggling with neurophysiology to get a grasp on the nature of WHAT
cryonics must preserve to preserve personal identity.

  To address Heather's specific questions:


    The "identity" of mathematics and the "identity" of personhood
are little more than a semantic coincidence, I believe. "Selfhood"
is what I seek to preserve, in particular MY selfhood, and the selfhood
of other cryonicists. And what are the essential properties of selfhood?
It may well be that this is an empirical question for which science
does not currently have the answer -- but which cannot be solved by
"philosophical" means. I am actively following a trail of scientific
clues in my series "The Anatomical Basis of Mind" in CANADIAN CRYONICS

    I did mention one "philosophical" question in this connection,
however, in a CryoNet posting a couple of months ago. Namely, if an
attempt is made to transfer Heather's identity to a computer, how do
we verify that her identity was transferred? How do we distinguish
between "Heather-in-a-computer" and a "Heather-simulating-machine"?
The machine may have all of Heather's memories, but not be Heather.
The machine may even answer "I am Heather" as a mistake, rather than
a lie. The same problem applies to reconstructed biological forms. If
it were possible to identify the anatomical basis of identity, this
problem might be solvable. But by what characteristics do we identify
the biological structures of identity?


   I believe that consciousness is a "materially governed phenomenon" --
as do most cryonicists. In fact, I believe that mind is produced by the
brain in an analogous manner to the production of heartbeats by the
heart. Drugs in the brain and lesions to the brain have specific effects
on consciousness.

   I don't think quantum theory has any more to do with the nature of
mind than it has to do with any other biological phenomenon.
Specifically, I think Penrose is wrong concerning his speculations about
consciousness in THE EMPEROR'S NEW MIND. He takes the scientific fact
that a dark-adapted frog retina can respond to a single photon and
extrapolates to the idea that "somewhere deep in the brain, cells are
to be found of single quantum sensitivity". Actually, in producing
a conformational change in the rhodopsin protein, photons act more
like high energy particles than like objects of "quantum weirdness".
I have doubts about the "uncertainty principle" of the Copenhagen
Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, but I'm quite sure that it has
nothing to do with the material basis of consciousness.


  You raise "philosophical" questions about the relationship between
thought and "being" -- asking if a non-thinking, frozen person can be
said to exist. I could also ask if a sleeping person can be said to
exist. Or an unconscious person (including a victim of barbiturate
poisoning with a flat EEG). A frozen person has the potential of being
a thinking, animate person (with the caveat that the freezing process
may not work). Assuming that cryonics does work, however, the ethical
consequences of destroying a frozen person are no different from those
of destroying an unconscious or sleeping person.

              -- Ben Best (ben.best%)

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