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Monday, June 11, 2012


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We in London do not disagree with this.


As you noticed in your follow-up post, there is a similar problem about post-mortem, pre-resurrection souls.

However, I believe there is more to be said on all these issues. It is a long time since I read the modern literature. Was it Parfitt who constructed the thought experiment of the scanner which destroys the human body molecule by molecule, then exactly replicates it in a distant location so that people can travel at the speed of light?

The puzzle is that one day the scanner successfully replicates the body, but fails to destroy the original one. As I remember, he is setting up a moral problem. But the problem of the soul, or the 'ego' remains.

There is also Strawson, and of course Wittgenstein and the 'no ego' theory.

To the library!

Ed sez: >>I believe there is more to be said on all these issues.<<

Would it be an overstatement if I called that the understatement of the century?

I recently reviewed a book-ms. for Oxford UP. I took my payment in the form of $200 worth of OUP books. I just now ordered them. The quantity of new, high quality literature, on the topics that interest us, is, shall we say, of pelagic proportions. It's actually a bit depressing. So good luck trying to get up to speed on the recent literature.

If the matter transmitter creates an indsicernible duplicate of you, but fails to destroy the original, then we have two Eds. Since they are numerically distinct from each other, neither is numerically identical to the original. So by becoming two you ceased to exist. Roughly, that's the puzzle.


Did you see my latest post on the circularity objection? A Czech philosopher agree with me. Scroll down.

* Is the single-self condition necessary? *

I'd say Locke's two beginnings are a problem only if we assume reincarnation to pertain exclusively to "one and the same self", as in (1) and (3). This single-self condition is not, however, an obvious necessity. If two distinct selves were involved, we would still consider the event a reincarnation, just one with different properties / problems than the single-self notion of reincarnation.

The single-self condition may look reasonable at first glance. How else to balance the logical books? How else to keep selves distinct, and properly ordered, across lives? A single-self condition may seem quite necessary, but in my view it is not.

* The necessity of a transitional state *

Locke's beginning of existence is, in this context, also a beginning of subjective condition, and an ending of objective condition. It is a transition from objectivity to subjectivity; from the universal to the particular; from the not-self to the self. At the transition one cannot fairly ascribe individuating properties to the nascent, forming self. It has spatio-temporal coordinates, yes, but it lacks the individuating properties (e.g., individuating memories of personal events) that make the self "the same with itself, and no other", if I might use Locke's words.

This transitional state should be expected at some brief, certain but perhaps unknowable time, when objective matter becomes subjective matter. It should be expected as surely as the certain but unknowable time when an auto driver, en route from Canada to Chile, encounters Panama. Logically there must be such a time, yes? If roads are physically and mathematically continuous, he must encounter Panama sometime, yes? (To maintain fidelity with the spirit of the post, I exclude the case of auto transport beyond the road surface, a case which translates of course as Ed's "disembodied referent".)

* Expressing and applying the transitional state *

The transitional state is hard to express, just because language expresses subjects and objects, but not the transition between subject and object. Even so, I think we can see that the transitional state is one in which even the logical possibility of individuation - the "single" of the single self - cannot apply. And if it is not logically possible, it is not nomologically possible: i.e., it cannot apply in nature, or be applied by nature.

* Snapping a vertex *

If so, here Bill's aporetic triad must snap a vertex, for here - at beginnings and endings of existence - only those logical and nomological notions which apply beyond individuation can still pertain. And here I think two distinct selves, each momentarily subjected to the transitional condition, may conceivably be related in some atypical logical and nomological necessities akin to reincarnation.

(This is not my usual way of thinking about the topic, but out of respect for Bill and Ed, I thought I might explore the topic on, and in, their terms.)

>>Did you see my latest post on the circularity objection? A Czech philosopher agree with me. Scroll down.

I commented there, and linked to a post today, which itself links to some previous objections of mine.

The most interesting part of that dialogue, really, is the way that you consider your argument valid, and are astonished that Londoners cannot appreciate its validity, to the point of considering us in bad faith. Londoners by contrast are making (to us) careful and considered objections to its validity, and are astonished you cannot appreciate the objection, to the point of considering us in bad faith.

These things occur in real life all the time, but most people in real life do not have an acknowledged and agreed procedure for deciding validity. What is astonishing here, and of real interest, is that despite our recognised and agreed procedures, we are no nearer a solution.

The closest we got was your 11-step argument for circularity. But Londoners did reply to that, and pointed out the exact steps where it failed. The correct method of following the process would be for you to reply to those objections, showing that your steps are indeed valid.

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