Persistence of personal identity over time

Is the mind the same as the body? What is consciousness? Can machines have it?

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Unknown12
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Persistence of personal identity over time

Post by Unknown12 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 8:22 pm

(Physicalism is the basic assumption on this thread. Discussions about soul or other explanations for the personal identity can be followed on some new thread.)

Problem of Fission

Hemispherectomy is a surgical procedure where one cerebral hemisphere (half of the brain) is removed or disabled. Surprisingly, studies have found no significant long-term effects on memory, personality, or humor after the procedure. Thus, if you undergo this surgery, you will still see yourself as the same old person. Now suppose that both hemispheres are transplanted, each into a different empty head. Then there are two resulting persons, where each will see himself as the same old person (you). But which one of them you really are? Before the surgery, you are conscious, then you fall unconscious, but what will you see when you wake up?

I read the different common views among philosophers on this subject, in the article "Personal Identity" on Stanford Encyclopedia: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/

The Fission problem, along with some other similar problems, have led me to a disappointing view, which I couldn't find among the common views in that link. All these views have the presumption that we really do persist, but this is what I question.

First of all, I think the concept of 'identity' is merely a subjective tool, for human convenience. Almost nothing in the world is fixed, and all we can truly talk about is 'percentage of accordance'. Similarly, for every human, corresponding to his brain status, there's a person, which continuously varies over time.

So what makes a human to consider a fixed unique identity for himself? Simply because he can remember the things done before. For instance, he can remember doing things done by a person 20 years ago, so he concludes he's the same person, and then extrapolates he will be the same person 20 years later. So he has concerns and plans for that person. But, as we know, the whole substance of our body is replaced in 20 years, and even the structure has big changes. Isn't it exactly the same as if that person in 20 years ago has died? What importance does this current person has for that person, in comparison with countless 70 kg's of matter, which could have turned into the structure of his body? What does continuity have to do here?

In short, I think the idea of a fixed unique personality is just an illusion, created because of our ability of remembering, and probably supported by the evolution. What in fact happens is I'm just created with all my memories right now, and my 1 second ago self, has experienced an immediate death. This view is maybe incorrect, but I can't find any reason opposing it. Do you?

P.S. Maybe some contradictory statements can be found in this passage, which is due to inevitable use of the concept 'identity'.

Ginkgo
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Re: Persistence of personal identity over time

Post by Ginkgo » Mon Sep 09, 2013 5:40 am

Unknown12 wrote:(Physicalism is the basic assumption on this thread. Discussions about soul or other explanations for the personal identity can be followed on some new thread.)

Problem of Fission

Hemispherectomy is a surgical procedure where one cerebral hemisphere (half of the brain) is removed or disabled. Surprisingly, studies have found no significant long-term effects on memory, personality, or humor after the procedure. Thus, if you undergo this surgery, you will still see yourself as the same old person. Now suppose that both hemispheres are transplanted, each into a different empty head. Then there are two resulting persons, where each will see himself as the same old person (you). But which one of them you really are? Before the surgery, you are conscious, then you fall unconscious, but what will you see when you wake up?

I read the different common views among philosophers on this subject, in the article "Personal Identity" on Stanford Encyclopedia: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/

The Fission problem, along with some other similar problems, have led me to a disappointing view, which I couldn't find among the common views in that link. All these views have the presumption that we really do persist, but this is what I question.

First of all, I think the concept of 'identity' is merely a subjective tool, for human convenience. Almost nothing in the world is fixed, and all we can truly talk about is 'percentage of accordance'. Similarly, for every human, corresponding to his brain status, there's a person, which continuously varies over time.

So what makes a human to consider a fixed unique identity for himself? Simply because he can remember the things done before. For instance, he can remember doing things done by a person 20 years ago, so he concludes he's the same person, and then extrapolates he will be the same person 20 years later. So he has concerns and plans for that person. But, as we know, the whole substance of our body is replaced in 20 years, and even the structure has big changes. Isn't it exactly the same as if that person in 20 years ago has died? What importance does this current person has for that person, in comparison with countless 70 kg's of matter, which could have turned into the structure of his body? What does continuity have to do here?

In short, I think the idea of a fixed unique personality is just an illusion, created because of our ability of remembering, and probably supported by the evolution. What in fact happens is I'm just created with all my memories right now, and my 1 second ago self, has experienced an immediate death. This view is maybe incorrect, but I can't find any reason opposing it. Do you?

P.S. Maybe some contradictory statements can be found in this passage, which is due to inevitable use of the concept 'identity'.

Daniel Dennett approach this argument from a physicalist point of view. Basically, he says that the universe has wrongly clasified as consisting of two types of 'stuff'. Physical things and mental things. He admits that this has been a very seductive argument throughout Western philosophy for a long time. But it is wrong.

He demonstrates this point by way of a thought experiment called, "Where am I". Dennett is picked to go on a dangerous mission to the centre of earth. The problem is that the forces down there are likely to be fatal to the brain, but not the physical body. So he has an operation to remove his brain and have it placed in a vat of special liquid to keep it alive. The brain is attached to electrodes and receiver devices have been placed in his skull.

Dennett goes on his journey to the centre of the earth without his brain, but remains in radio contact. The radio contact also allows his physical body to communicate with his brain in the vat. Unfortunately, for Dennett the forces at the centre of the earth destroy the radio receiver in his skull. He starts to lose function and eventually becomes unconscious.

Back in the lab the brain in the vat realizes that something is gone wrong in terms of physical abilities. Quickly, the scientists patch in a microphone to the radio receivers attached to the brain. They tell Dennett of the problem and say they will do their best to find a new body. Eventually a body is found as one of the scientists has just died and they transplant Dennett's brain into the body of the dead scientist.

It is a bit more complicated than that but you can google the actual thought experiment.Nonetheless, the claim by Dennett is that Dennett is still Dennett. It is just that he is Dennett in a new body. In other words, Dennett is claiming that the mind IS the brain. Dennett goes on to say that it is just an illusion there is something called the enduring self that exists anywhere. The reason we think there is a 'self' is because of what Dennett called the Cartesian theatre.

The Cartesian theatre is the idea that there exists a little man (Homunculus) who is the observer of everything that goes on. The little man is actually the enduring self. When we receive all of the sense data (mind dependent objects of the word). It goes through a series of spike trains all this data is collected by the senses and is transferred to the brain. It very quickly ends up where is should end up. That is to say, it all goes to the neural centre of consciousness(Homunculus).

Dennett rightly points out that there is no neural core of consciousness, so there is no little man or us. He further claims that thinking goes on all over the brain at the same time. MIR scans Suggest this is true. MIR scans also suggest there is no neural core of consciousness. Experiments point to the likelihood that consciousness is dis unified rather than unified.

The implications of this is another story, but this is basically the physicalists explanation of consciousness.

Impenitent
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Re: Persistence of personal identity over time

Post by Impenitent » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:53 am

Unknown12 wrote:(Physicalism is the basic assumption on this thread. Discussions about soul or other explanations for the personal identity can be followed on some new thread.)

Problem of Fission

Hemispherectomy is a surgical procedure where one cerebral hemisphere (half of the brain) is removed or disabled. Surprisingly, studies have found no significant long-term effects on memory, personality, or humor after the procedure. Thus, if you undergo this surgery, you will still see yourself as the same old person. Now suppose that both hemispheres are transplanted, each into a different empty head. Then there are two resulting persons, where each will see himself as the same old person (you). But which one of them you really are? Before the surgery, you are conscious, then you fall unconscious, but what will you see when you wake up?

I read the different common views among philosophers on this subject, in the article "Personal Identity" on Stanford Encyclopedia: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/

The Fission problem, along with some other similar problems, have led me to a disappointing view, which I couldn't find among the common views in that link. All these views have the presumption that we really do persist, but this is what I question.

First of all, I think the concept of 'identity' is merely a subjective tool, for human convenience. Almost nothing in the world is fixed, and all we can truly talk about is 'percentage of accordance'. Similarly, for every human, corresponding to his brain status, there's a person, which continuously varies over time.

So what makes a human to consider a fixed unique identity for himself? Simply because he can remember the things done before. For instance, he can remember doing things done by a person 20 years ago, so he concludes he's the same person, and then extrapolates he will be the same person 20 years later. So he has concerns and plans for that person. But, as we know, the whole substance of our body is replaced in 20 years, and even the structure has big changes. Isn't it exactly the same as if that person in 20 years ago has died? What importance does this current person has for that person, in comparison with countless 70 kg's of matter, which could have turned into the structure of his body? What does continuity have to do here?

In short, I think the idea of a fixed unique personality is just an illusion, created because of our ability of remembering, and probably supported by the evolution. What in fact happens is I'm just created with all my memories right now, and my 1 second ago self, has experienced an immediate death. This view is maybe incorrect, but I can't find any reason opposing it. Do you?

P.S. Maybe some contradictory statements can be found in this passage, which is due to inevitable use of the concept 'identity'.
Hume would agree

-Imp

duszek
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Re: Persistence of personal identity over time

Post by duszek » Mon Sep 09, 2013 3:47 pm

A similar constellation might be:

a baby growing in a mother´s womb.

At first only the mother has a consciousness of being herself. Later on the little one has this consciousness too.

So it is like one consciousness becoming two of them.

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The Voice of Time
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Re: Persistence of personal identity over time

Post by The Voice of Time » Mon Sep 09, 2013 5:13 pm

Well let's presume the headless chicken case. Namely that vital pieces of human self is stored beneath the brain. Then all we know for sure, is that as long as you have vital function retained, your lower functions, sub-brain, will do the rest.

Another thing to think about is that these surgeons are trying to remove only the most essential, which means that many parts of the brain will be untouched or barely touched and it is only because non-essential pieces left that the essential parts of ones self remained.

duszek
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Re: Persistence of personal identity over time

Post by duszek » Mon Sep 09, 2013 5:24 pm

And how about the case that one tries to see oneself from a distant point of view ?

I mean I watch myself like in a film walking down the street and so on.

And how about the people suffering from a split personality ? Or schizophrenia ?
(I cannot contribute from my personal experience though.)

broken shoelace
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Re: Persistence of personal identity over time

Post by broken shoelace » Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:45 pm

Unknown12 wrote:...What in fact happens is I'm just created with all my memories right now, and my 1 second ago self, has experienced an immediate death. This view is maybe incorrect, but I can't find any reason opposing it. Do you?...
Yes, I do have a few objections to this idea.

1) You're multiplying entities needlessly. As I understand you, you're positing self X existing at time t, then self X2 existing at t+1 second, then self X3 existing at time t+2 seconds, etc.

That's a lot of selves over a lifetime of a body. I would describe that as ontological overkill.

2) You're having each of these selves being duped into believing - by way of false recollection - that each one has existed longer than 1 second.

In summary, you're positing a tremendous number of selves, sequentially popping up within a body, and all of them being duped into believing that they have existed longer than one second.

Alternatively, you could just posit one self that really does persist over many years, and who is not being duped by false recollections because its recollections are mostly true.

That's the self - when you're not being super skeptical about your existence - that seems about right.

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