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    Perhaps but what if I duplicated you in such a way you could not be sure which was the original. Suppose neither was actually the original. I ask one of you 'are you the original' and you say 'yes! Of course!'. I ask the other and she says the same. Which is the 'real' you, and which is the fake? Who has your lockean 'natural property rights'?
    Probably way off, but when "duplicating something", isn't it logically necessary that one ought to have some sort of "blueprint" or original in the first place, considering what we mean when we say duplicating. If not, then what ARE you "duplicating"? A concept of sorts? How likely is it, then, for us to duplicate something without having an original or knowing that we've had an original to duplicate in the first place?

    In any case, I never said that who you are essentially means that you HAVE to be the exact same matter as you were. I placed more of an emphasis on the changing nature of humans in response to the world they lived in, and therefore felt that a physical and mental replication of that "person" in a different world would make Person B in paradise (Initially a replica of Person A in X world) different from Person A over time. Does that kind of make sense? To me, that defeats the whole idea of resurrection which implies that you retain the same body and soul in heaven as in earth, that is unchanging.

    I cannot account for the "nature of soul" or existence of soul, but the oddest thing about our language about humans, is, that seem to presuppose that they are (more or less) unified beings(even your use of the word "person" suggests this). And although I do feel that there is more to human beings than their "material" side, (from my subjective, underminable viewpoint), I don't think you can make a clear-cut body/soul distinction. I do, however, maintain that humans are psycho-physical entities, that certainly respond to the world they live in, and therefore to me, resurrection through replication seems to be illogical.

    Feel free to undermine this, in fact it's probably incredibly weak as an argument. Just giving it my best shot with my rather limited philosophical thinking atm.
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    (Original post by Reema)
    Probably way off, but when "duplicating something", isn't it logically necessary that one ought to have some sort of "blueprint" or original in the first place, considering what we mean when we say duplicating. If not, then what ARE you "duplicating"? A concept of sorts? How likely is it, then, for us to duplicate something without having an original or knowing that we've had an original to duplicate in the first place?
    You might be getting mixed up here between practice and theory. A right reserved for thought experiments is the right not to explain the method. Sure, in practice I'd need some kind of model but there is no reason I couldn't 'metascan' you and collecting all the information I need to make duplicates but destroying the original. As each duplicate is essentially identical to the original they would be the same person (or they would think they were).

    Really interesting case for the whole mind/body thing is one I came across the other day in Oliver Sacks' The Anthropologist on Mars - the article is called the last hippy and features a patient who has suffered damage to the visual processing centres of his brain resulting in blindness. But interestingly enough because the very parts of his brain which deal with sight have been damaged his memory has no 'sight element' (our memories can in many ways be considered like computer data - to replay them we need to feed them back through the relevant parts of our brain. No olfactory faculties? No memory of smell ) so he lost not only his sight but the memory of what it was like to have sight - in essence the very concept of sight itself and as a result he was unconvinced he was blind. "I think I'd be the first one to notice if I was blind doc!"

    In any case, I never said that who you are essentially means that you HAVE to be the exact same matter as you were. I placed more of an emphasis on the changing nature of humans in response to the world they lived in, and therefore felt that a physical and mental replication of that "person" in a different world would make Person B in paradise (Initially a replica of Person A in X world) different from Person A over time. Does that kind of make sense? To me, that defeats the whole idea of resurrection which implies that you retain the same body and soul in heaven as in earth, that is unchanging.
    I leave the mechanics of 'The Kingdom of Heaven' up to theologians on the understanding that I reserve the right to tell them I think they're all a relatively-benign form of insane at regular intervals. As to the salient point you're making it certainly does make sense up to a point but that point is where do you draw the question of 'what is you'. Your duplicates will feel like they are a continuation of you - they won't notice a 'blip' where they go from being you to being them. If you commit yourself to the notion that a replica is a different person because it lacks - if this is what your saying - a certain continuity with the original you're in a difficult position of trying to say just what needs to be continuous for you to be the same and how you justify drawing the line there.

    The classic (as far as I know) thought experiment is one about the Argo - suppose Jason sets out on the Argo and is forced to mend and repair it as he goes. With each repair he's still Jason and he's still on his ship and his ship - most people would be comfortable in saying - is the Argo. But eventually he is left with a ship which while being 'the Argo' according to us has no part in common with the original (we'll ignore the difficulties in replacing a keel). Now suppose some enterprising scrap-yard merchant has followed behind Jason and constructed a boat from his discarded pieces. This new boat is made of exactly the same pieces the Argo had when it set sail - why is it not the Argo, surely it has more claim to be called such than the ship Jason is on?

    I don't really have a good answer to this one. I tend to bite a lot of bullets in metaphysics and personal identity is one of them - to my mind it's no contradiction to say that your duplicate is you because 'you' is a fairly incoherent short-hand as it is. Just as if I say 'the table' it has a convenient 'fuzzy' meaning the more technical you get the less coherent my definition of 'the table' becomes - is it these particular molecules? Is it the sub-atomic particles that comprise them? What if they take electrons in from the surroundings?

    Feel free to undermine this, in fact it's probably incredibly weak as an argument. Just giving it my best shot with my rather limited philosophical thinking atm.
    Meh - philosophy (I should say GOOD philosophy) is not about undermining arguments, it's offering ideas and suggestions and counter-examples in the hopes of making a little more sense of the concepts we use to understand the world (or that is MY understanding of it; real philosophers (read; people who get paid) may differ in their opinion). Why metaphysics is quite interesting as a branch of philosophy is usually you find that when you don't agree with someone it's not that you disagree with them but if you boil what they are saying down to the basic elements you tend to discover you understand what on earth they are talking about or how could they think this - to you - uncomprehensible thing.

    This isn't really new, it's been going on the discipline for centuries from the scholastic philosophers confidently claiming that atheists don't ACTUALLY not believe in God, they're just fooling themselves in a way into thinking they do right up to modern debates on things like free will where the idea that you can have a (fully) deterministic world view and yet still say people are 'free to choose' what they do in a very literal way seems... bizarre to me at least yet people do think it.

    I'm certainly not advocating the 'soul' theory (for reasons closely related to the above, where damage to your brain can change the very concept of your world - how can mind be in any meaningful way seperate from the body? Then what is a soul? What does it do? If it has nothing to do with my brain it has nothing to do with me.) but there is the claim that some intangible designator (person Y=person X iff person Y has the soul of person X) could be used to make 'identity' meaningful. I have about as much respect for this as I do the claim that if we assume that 'in some way' the 'soul' can influence electrons in the brain, we have free will. This just seems like cheating our way away from uncomfortable conclusions.
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    (Original post by Faboba)

    The Buddhists piss me off because the appear to me have missed the boat on what 'reincarnation' is really about. The true (or what seems to me to be the true) and original meaning of the doctrine in eastern philosophy is more to do with the idea that "I am you as you are me as they are me and we are all together" to steal from the Beatles. When I die I don't really die because my 'soul' is the same as your soul and so I just live on as you in a manner of speaking. The Buddhist (and later Hindu) view misses this rather fascinating take on spirituality by talking about people having different next lives depending on how they live in this one which while it has the same kind of religious-spankery as western religions (you do good, you get rewarded in the next life, if you do bad you get punished) it completely fails to maintain the valuable and (for me) exciting view of what a 'soul' is.
    Ok, I'm afraid I'm going to have to step in on this one, as somebody who has had 3 modules out of 5 of a Religious Studies A-level dealing with Buddhist philosophy and doctrines.

    The *crucial* and i mean absolutely central Buddhist doctrine is that of 'Paticca-samuppada' or 'dependent origination', which deals with the concept that *all* things being dependent on each other and entirely impermanent. This leads the likes of the Arhats and Bodhistattvas (those who have reached very high spiritual attainment in their respective schools of thought) to see no disctinction between themselves and other sentient beings, but also themselves and other non-sentient objects as well. In realising that nothing is permanent and that all things rely on others to maintain their existence, this "I am you as you are me as they are me and we are all together" , as you steal it, is precisely the kind of view one seeks to attain as a practicing Buddhist.

    The reason why Buddhism rejects the idea of reincarnation is exactly because of the doctrine just described. They believe that due to the inderdepenent nature of the whole of the universe, the concept of a 'soul' is fallacious and is created by the mind (which is also not permanent) in order to give it something to cling to. Therefore, one is not simply transferred into a new body, but their accumulated Karma (be it good or bad) creates a new birth, in the same way that a billiard ball hitting another one will cause it to start moving. Nothing is transferred in terms of a soul in the same way that nothing is transferred between the billiard balls. However, the good or bad karma accumulated by the person who dies will affect the rebirth that occurs in the same way that the speed and direction of the billiard ball will affect the one it hits. It's not a perfect analogy, but a useful one, I find.

    I do sound rather preachy, but I felt you did more or less get it pretty wrong in terms of Buddhist doctrines. I'll stop myself whilst I can, as I really could write an essay on it (which i'm supposed to be doing at the moment actually, but am being distracted from, go figure). Do feel free to correct me if I missed your point at all, but I *think* you were getting at the wrong idea.

    (That's why Buddhists are rubbish musicians, they got no soul)

    (EDIT - addition) Hmmm, it appears that whilst I replied immediately upon reading Faboba's post, this little rant of mine actually fits quite nicely into the ongoing conversation as well. I would have to say that it is the most coherent theory I've found so far, as it does away with problems such as Faboba's Argo thought experiment, to which I would be tempted to reply that 'Argo' is simply a term applied to a collection of pieces and that upon removal of the name, we are left with the pieces, which in turn are made up of smaller and smaller particles. In reality, there was never *really* an Argo. At any point, we can simply remove the name 'Argo' and find that we have a whole heap of atomic and subatomic particles, which will, in time, become other things as they decay, react or whatever. The same applies to human beings. (Any explanation as to why this isn't nearly as nihilistic as it sounds is available on request).
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    (Original post by Rik_Rock)
    Ok, I'm afraid I'm going to have to step in on this one, as somebody who has had 3 modules out of 5 of a Religious Studies A-level dealing with Buddhist philosophy and doctrines.

    ...

    I do sound rather preachy, but I felt you did more or less get it pretty wrong in terms of Buddhist doctrines.
    Fair enough, sounds like I am. Good - The Buddhists have their heads on straight on this matter then. My criticism only applies to Hinduism then which (again, to my sketchy, sketchy knowledge) does support the idea that we will be reborn into a different life. After this one.

    Don't the stories about the enlightening (whatever the past participle of 'to be enlightened' is) of the Buddha talk about him becoming aware of his past lives? Wouldn't that be the view I was opposing earlier?

    In reality, there was never *really* an Argo.
    Basically the view I'm arguing for. We are normally comfortable in partitioning off parts of reality as 'objects' but this proves on inspection to be a rather shaky concept. The trouble is, there are a lot of things in which the notion of identity is an important one; take punishment for example. If we accept the view that wrong deeds should be punished we accept the view that deeds done in the past should be punished at a later time. How do I know who to punish? I need some reliable account of who is the same person that committed the act and so who should be punished - should it be the person with the same pineal gland? Should it be linked somehow to physical continuity? Should it be founded upon memory - If I remember being the person that did it I should be punished, if not not?
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    I think youre a bit harsh on Wittgenstien faboba - i found PI pretty inspiring.
    Also, my memory may be fuzzy, but I dont think Neitzche is quite as meritocratic as you claim. doesnt he tend to speak of this 'aristocracy of superior will', as you put it, very much in terms of a genetic/ethnic grouping
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    (Original post by Faboba)
    The classic (as far as I know) thought experiment is one about the Argo - suppose Jason sets out on the Argo and is forced to mend and repair it as he goes. With each repair he's still Jason and he's still on his ship and his ship - most people would be comfortable in saying - is the Argo. But eventually he is left with a ship which while being 'the Argo' according to us has no part in common with the original (we'll ignore the difficulties in replacing a keel). Now suppose some enterprising scrap-yard merchant has followed behind Jason and constructed a boat from his discarded pieces. This new boat is made of exactly the same pieces the Argo had when it set sail - why is it not the Argo, surely it has more claim to be called such than the ship Jason is on?
    .
    This looks like a pretty good example of a bogus philosophical problem arrived at by a misunderstanding of language. This 'surrogational' approach assumes that words exist simply as labels for real-world objects, (presumably pre-defined by some sort of Platonic essence). The answer to this question in the real world (should it, improbably, arise), is that one would probably still say that the ship Jason is on is the Argo, and refer to the other ship as 'the mad scrap-yard merchants ship' or similar, though it is not inconcievable that the merchant himslef might boastfully speak of 'MY argo'; it is unlikely that people would get confused, at any rate, unless they speak carelessly. The idea that it can be determined, philosophically or otherwise, which ship TRULY IS 'the argo', is nonsense. There is not universally incorrect or correct name, its just an issue of context.
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    (Original post by Waldo)
    I dont think Neitzche is quite as meritocratic as you claim. doesnt he tend to speak of this 'aristocracy of superior will', as you put it, very much in terms of a genetic/ethnic grouping

    No, he specifically repudiates the idea. This misapprehension probably stems from his use of the expression 'blond beast', which was later, in Nazi revisionist ideology particularly, taken to refer to the Aryan race, or some idealized proto-German race; it of course refers to no such thing; Nietzsche uses it in reference to Europeans, Indians, the Japanese, &c. It is a metaphor, and not a signifier of ethnicity.
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    [QUOTE=Faboba]Fair enough, sounds like I am. Good - The Buddhists have their heads on straight on this matter then. My criticism only applies to Hinduism then which (again, to my sketchy, sketchy knowledge) does support the idea that we will be reborn into a different life. After this one.

    Don't the stories about the enlightening (whatever the past participle of 'to be enlightened' is) of the Buddha talk about him becoming aware of his past lives? Wouldn't that be the view I was opposing earlier?[QUOTE]

    I think most branches of Hinduism take a similar stance to the Buddhist view in terms of the actual formal philosophy of reincarnation, but the more populist forms will refer to the concept in an easier to grasp way. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna knows his past lives, in a similar way to Siddhartha does. Then again, according to the Hindus they're both avatars of God. <shrug>

    Hinduism is not an easy subject to discuss if you're tired.

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    You might be getting mixed up here between practice and theory. A right reserved for thought experiments is the right not to explain the method. Sure, in practice I'd need some kind of model but there is no reason I couldn't 'metascan' you and collecting all the information I need to make duplicates but destroying the original. As each duplicate is essentially identical to the original they would be the same person (or they would think they were).

    Thank you for explaining the difference between practice and theory. I’ll try not to make the same mistake again/ try to explain the method . Nevertheless, that you do destroy the “original”, suggests that there is something of the original that the two duplicates don’t have. In an ungraspable, linguistic sense almost! It’s as if our language (and use of words “original”, “duplicate” etc) is incapable of dealing with issues such as body/soul. Perhaps such language suggests that we have a conception of a unified being, that’s unique, that cannot easily be “duplicated”, even if, as in our thought-experiment, hypothetically it could. Nevertheless, it could just simply be that we as a human race have developed a language that effectively is just limited and reflects our own limited understanding of body/soul issues.

    I like that reference to the Anthropologist, do you have a link to the article? It suggests, at least, that it is exceptionally difficult to divide precisely between body and mind in terms of what makes a person, but again, arises the issue which really runs through the whole of the debate; at what point do we stop and say “yes, that’s the same person” and “no that’s not the same person”, when the body/mind is subjected to issues of change/continuity. Ah, the complexities of philosophy!

    I agree with you Faboba, in that I personally feel that Kingdom of Heaven theologians are a “relatively-benign form of insane”. But the discussion started off with reference to Hick and his approach to equating replication with resurrection. However logically possible *replication* may be, I simply don’t think it equates with the concept of “resurrection” as is traditionally understood by theologians. Theologians seem to have a pretty precise sense of what is "you" in religious terms; not in short-hand/incoherent terms, as you take. In any case, I don't think I have a precise answer to the whole "where do we stop" issue either. With the whole Argo experiment, at the end of the day, we're still left asking "which ship is the actual Argo?". But implicit in the whole experiment is the realisation that with both subsequent ships there is something different, just as there is something the same cf the "original" Argo. Consequently, is it possible to "replicate" the self, just as Jason replicated the "Argo", and then assert that it actually is the *same* as the original in theological terms? Which, I think, resurrection = replication (of Hick) attempts to do.

    edit - I'm away for Easter weekend, so if there are any replies, please don't think I'm ignoring them.
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    (Original post by Faboba)
    The trouble is, there are a lot of things in which the notion of identity is an important one; take punishment for example. If we accept the view that wrong deeds should be punished we accept the view that deeds done in the past should be punished at a later time. How do I know who to punish? I need some reliable account of who is the same person that committed the act and so who should be punished - should it be the person with the same pineal gland? Should it be linked somehow to physical continuity? Should it be founded upon memory - If I remember being the person that did it I should be punished, if not not?
    This is where I believe we should begin to distinguish between ultimate truth and conventional truth. Ultimate truth is a way of seeing things as they really are, in terms of interdependence and lack of inherent 'self'. On a conventional level, however, we really must apply these labels to things or we simply wouldn't accomplish *anything*. Following this convention, we can agree that a criminal is still the same person provided they are still alive (regardless of the cellular changes their body may have gone through).

    I can't claim to have thoroughly thought this through, but I'm inclined to reject the notion of memory... a serial killer receives a blow to the head escaping the police, perhaps? Does he still deserve to be punished if he forgets ever comitting a crime? I'd say yes, unless the same blow to the head were to entirely reconfigure his mind in such a way that his behavioural patterns and outlook on life are completely changed. In that case, one might agree that even conventionally, we have a different person. As a general rule, I'd say the physical continuity suggestion would seem the most plausible in terms of punishment. Let 'em off if they die before they come to justice?
    Of course, Buddhists would (I imagine) be happy in the knowledge that their karmic fruits would grow to be less than pleasant for such frightful actions.

    Ignore that as waffle, if you like, like I said, I'm just more or less plucking this out of the air. Does that make any kind of sense at all? I'm very tired...
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    Rik, the 'ultimate truth', 'conventional truth' distinction just doesnt hold. This is more philosophical language carelessness (see my post on the Argo 'problem). The usage of the word person (and thus the meaning of the word person) was never dependent on molecular continuity, nor need it be.
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    Wow, you leave the thread alone for a week or so and everyone starts replying. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned here....

    (Original post by Waldo)
    I think youre a bit harsh on Wittgenstien faboba - i found PI pretty inspiring.
    Harsh on Wittgenstein? I'd check the thread but I'm too lazy, in short; the Tractatus annoys the hell out of me, I really like Investigations, his lectures on various bits here and there (ethics, colour) when I've read them have tended to impress me but on the whole we was a very weird guy. I'd go so far as to say one of the most important philosophers since plato and one of the nuttiest too. Everyone reading this post; I order you to go off and read Ray Monk's biography! Right now!

    Investigations is very frustrating to read in its own way too. If you give it the time you think it actually deserves you get through about five pages an hour (or at least I do). The Tractatus was more flowing in a way but if you're a bit suspicious like me you find the reading to be rather awkward "The world is a totality of facts, not of things" - "is it? Am I willing to conceed that at this stage? Can I tacitly accept it and drop it later if it yeilds unsatifactory results? Would Wittgenstein allow me to tacitly accept it or is it something somehow obscurely obvious? Do I agree with this" and this is only the second line. I'm a big fan of '7' though - not since Ockham's razor has there been a quicker way to refute nonsense.

    Also, my memory may be fuzzy, but I dont think Neitzche is quite as meritocratic as you claim. doesnt he tend to speak of this 'aristocracy of superior will', as you put it, very much in terms of a genetic/ethnic grouping
    Neitzsche - When? Where?

    The idea that it can be determined, philosophically or otherwise, which ship TRULY IS 'the argo', is nonsense. There is not universally incorrect or correct name, its just an issue of context.
    It's a stance you can take but in taking it you essentially reject the institution of identity. I'm right there with you, but if you do reject identity you face a lot of questions about how far this tends to mesh with many of our identity-dependant attitudes towards each other - punishment for example; if I punish you for something you did in the past and there 'is no 'you'' then we seem to have a problem, don't we?
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    (Original post by Reema)
    In an ungraspable, linguistic sense almost! It’s as if our language (and use of words “original”, “duplicate” etc) is incapable of dealing with issues such as body/soul.
    It's an interesting point. Certainly the school of pragmatism thought that whatever appeared to be necessary beliefs in order for us to function properly in this world we should hold to be true regardless of whether or not, on inspection, they turned out to be so. A good example is free will. There is a substantial camp in the debate on free will that holds that as the idea that we have 'free will' seems so necessary to our daily interactions (for example in the institution of 'resentment' - if I resent you I am directing my dislike at you, not the circumstances which caused you) that we should say we do have it even if this seems hard to resolve with the idea of a deterministic universe. To tie this in a little with what you are saying there might be reason to think that if our language and the way we view the world seems contingent upon that world being divisible into 'identities' we should say that there is truth in the concept of 'identity' and try to resolve apparent contradictions when they arise.

    One of the main 'thought experiment' examples (I think it's David Lewis' but I'm really not sure) to do with identity is 'swamp man'. A lightning bolt hits a swamp and fortutitously arranges the organic matter in the swamp in such a way as to produce a perfect replica of me, right down to my replica having the same memories as I have. In this scenario I am clearly the original but what is the relation of the swamp thing to me? If it remembers my past misdeeds should it be punished for them? Does it have a right to my property? Does it have a right to take a hand in raising my children? Should I let it sleep with my girlfriend? A pragmatist would not be impressed with this thought experiment as the swamp man is so unlikely (almost impossible) that we probably do not need an answer to these questions. We should just keep the idea that 'I am me and no one else is' and remain blissfully unaware of contradicions which might arise with this view from thought experiments.

    I like that reference to the Anthropologist, do you have a link to the article?
    I think you mean the mention I made of Oliver Sacks. To clear things up a little;
    Oliver Sacks is a neurophysiologist/neuropsychologist. To my knowledge he became particularly well known in his field when he cured patients who had been given the drug 'El Dopa' to cure them of (epilepsy?) which had the accidental side effect of leaving them comatose. He brought them out of their slumber and wrote a book called 'Awakenings' detailing his experiences both in trying to wake them and in helping them readjust to the world when they had awoken. This book was highly successful and he has gone on two write at least three others only two of which I have read (and which two I strongly recommend): 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat' and 'The Anthropologist on Mars'. Both are collections of case studies of patients with usual neurological disorders

    My favourite articles are probably;
    From TMWMHWFAH - the titular article about a man who loses the ability to recognise objects as they are (in Wittgenstein terminology he can see but has lost the faculty of 'seeing-as') after a stroke and as such, though he can recognise the shape of a glove he cannot fathom the use of this "continuously infolded surface with five out-pouchings'. The title refers to the end of an interview when the man accidentally tried to lift his wife's head believing it to be his hat on the hatstand. 'The Disembodied Lady' about a woman who loses the little documented sense of propiroception - which tells us where our body parts are and what they are doing - in one of her legs which now feels alien to her, like a weird growth, and 'The Lost Mariner' about a man suffering from korsakov's syndrome (anterograde amnesia like the protagonist in memento) after a lifetime of heavy drinking who has lost all his memories since 1950 and the ability to form new long term memories.
    From TAOM - 'The Colourblind Painter', about an artist who suffers damage to the part of the brain which allows him to make sense of colour and with it all ability to represent colour as his memories and his perception of the world is permanently off-grayscale (very interesting if you're into aesthetics or the qualia debate). 'The Last Hippy' about a poor chap who suffers a major brain tumour causing damage to the frontal lobe and pituitary gland, anterograde memory loss and all concept of 'sight' to the extent that he is enternally blissful, placid, fat, bald, 'living in the moment' and oblivious to much of his sorroundings. The perfect modern Buddha. And finally 'Prodigies' which mainly features a discussion of Stephen Wiltshire the autistic artist who can produce freehand sketches from memory rich in architectural detail but also of autism and 'idiot savants' in general.

    Theologians seem to have a pretty precise sense of what is "you" in religious terms; not in short-hand/incoherent terms, as you take. In any case, I don't think I have a precise answer to the whole "where do we stop" issue either. With the whole Argo experiment, at the end of the day, we're still left asking "which ship is the actual Argo?". But implicit in the whole experiment is the realisation that with both subsequent ships there is something different, just as there is something the same cf the "original" Argo. Consequently, is it possible to "replicate" the self, just as Jason replicated the "Argo", and then assert that it actually is the *same* as the original in theological terms? Which, I think, resurrection = replication (of Hick) attempts to do.
    Time for a little positive assertion of my own position here maybe? The way I see it identity as we tend to use it is a fairly undefined shorthand way of dividing up the world into fairly fuzzy categories. 'The Table' is just something which has meaning to me and you and anyone else that can see the table - it is assumed I mean something tablish in the area of space which I appear to be indicating, not a specific arrangement of particles. As far as I go, my identity, the important factor to me would appear to be the continuity found within my memory. That is I am 'the same person' I was yesterday because I remember or appear to remember having those experiences. If you were to replicate me then it's not a question of me being one or other - they'd both be me. Of course, I would have to be one or the other but that doesn't mean that there isn't one which has more of a right to consider itself to be me and they will both remember having been me in the past so neither will feel like they stopped being me at any point. If when I die some freak accident recreates what I was like exactly at the time of death then for me it won't feel like I have died and so I will be quite happy in thinking I have essentially cheated death though in a very real sense I haven't.

    If I get so drunk my short term memory stops dumping recall into my long term memory then when I wake up in the morning I won't remember the evening therefore it won't really be part of my identity (unless my recall later comes back). While I will have acted broadly speaking in a me-ish way (any thoughts I expressed would have been thoughts in my head and no one elses) I won't remember doing anything I did so it will feel to me more as if someone I know did it in a 'me suit'. If I feel guilt I'll have no idea why and so it will seem in a very real sense unfounded. This makes a twisted kind of sense if we think of our personal identity being linked to our memory as memory is inherantly backward-looking - it makes sense that my memory-based personal identity is easier to track if I work backwards from what is happening to me now to what I remember in the past as being what constitutes 'me'. The complication here is that as what I remember of the past keeps changing 'me' keeps changing so any of consistency of personal identity is an illusion.

    Two final thought experiments which come up a lot and might be useful to get the brain moving;

    If I give you a collection of a million grains of sand and say 'that is a pile of sand', you would agree. And if I take away a single grain and say 'that is still a pile of sand' you would agree again. But if I continue this process until I have say three grains and claim them as a 'pile' you are going to disagree with me sooner or later. Does this mean we were wrong in our earlier claim that what we had was a pile? Is 'pile of sand' misused her - does it mean 'a collection of at least ten thousand grains of sand'? Or does is statement 'that is a pile of sand' essentially a subjective statement about the way I am viewing the world - I am saying to you 'I consider that collection to be 'a pile'. If the last, on what grounds can you disagree with my claim three grains are 'a pile'? If the middle then why do we draw the line here and not at, say 'five' or 'a million'. If the first then does this mean any statement involving the phrase 'pile of sand' is meaningless?

    There is a man who when he was a boy stole some apples, when he was an adult was wounded in battle and when he was an old man was honoured in a veterans parade. When he is an adult he remembers the apple theft and when he is an old man he remembers his wounding. But as an old man he does not remember the theft of the apples. Does that mean he is not the same person that stole the apples? Does that mean that material consistency is more important to who I am than my memory? Perhaps we need two different concepts of identity here; me-for-me and me-for-everyone-else, the former given by my memory, the latter given by my material consistency.
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    (Original post by coldfish)
    I think most branches of Hinduism take a similar stance to the Buddhist view in terms of the actual formal philosophy of reincarnation, but the more populist forms will refer to the concept in an easier to grasp way. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna knows his past lives, in a similar way to Siddhartha does. Then again, according to the Hindus they're both avatars of God. <shrug>

    Hinduism is not an easy subject to discuss if you're tired.

    alex
    Aw man! And I thought I disliked western theology!

    Let this be my last word on the subject; I have not now, nor never have had a good or even adequate knowledge of Hindu or Buddhist (or Sikh, Taoist, Shinto, Zoroastrian, Islamic, Judaic, Christian or Voodoo ) to competently critique them but the concept of reincarnation as someone else which advocates anything other than a view that we are 'in some respect' everyone at once ('I am you as you are me' etc) but that rather there is a 'dying and being reborn as' is untenable. Or seems so to me. Thankfully Oliver Sacks gave me good reason to doubt panpsychism the other day so I can disavow the whole lot as nonsense to my personal satisfaction.
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    Ignore that as waffle, if you like, like I said, I'm just more or less plucking this out of the air. Does that make any kind of sense at all? I'm very tired...
    When you start ignoring things just when they stop making sense to you, you miss out a good deal of the philosophy course I'm trying to think of a single area of the course which hasn't included at least some ideas which seem to counter-intuitive to me I couldn't make heads of tails of them at first but it's really hard to. Time, Rights, Definite Descriptions and Metaethics were probably the worst 'offenders' in that category with Philosophy of Religion, Free Will and Philosophy of Mind close runners-up.

    (Original post by Rik_Rock)
    This is where I believe we should begin to distinguish between ultimate truth and conventional truth. Ultimate truth is a way of seeing things as they really are, in terms of interdependence and lack of inherent 'self'. On a conventional level, however, we really must apply these labels to things or we simply wouldn't accomplish *anything*. Following this convention, we can agree that a criminal is still the same person provided they are still alive (regardless of the cellular changes their body may have gone through).
    It's an interesting distinction which rather chills me to the bone. If this is how you feel you might want to look into the pragmatists (William James*, Dewey, Peirce) (see above) or indeed for that matter people writing on the subject of 'truth' in general. Kant (Critique of Pure Reason) backs a position not a million miles from your own when it comes to 'necessary beliefs' and Quine appears to propound the opposite view in his 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism' that essentially anything is up for grabs. Perhaps this is not the distinction you're thinking of, I dunno.

    ((*I can't get the authors name because Amazon.com is being an ass but there was a very good article in the Cambridge Companion to William James I came across called 'James on Religion' (or words to that effect) which outlined this attitude towards truths accepted for pragmatic reasons. As a modern day example (which I'm not suggestion James held, I don't know one way or the other) there is the claim that if we do not believe in God then morality is impossible. If this is true then there would seem to be a good reason to believe in God as the truth of God's existence is supported by pragmatism given the consequences of disbelief. This line of thinking is perhaps very agreeable to someone with utilitarian leanings, if not necessarily this example )).

    Suppose we take a line slightly more palatable to me (though probably not to Hume) and say there is a distinction between epistemological truth and ontological truth or rather, empistemological knowledge and ontological knowledge. If I say 2+2=4 is necessarily true I don't actually know that it has to be true. I cannot say that 'in all possible worlds' 2+2 IS 4 therefore it's probably not an ontologically necessary truth (it might be, but how can I know?) however what I can say is that it is an epistemologically necessary truth. That is to say I cannot believe that 2+2 is not 4. I cannot imagine a world like that and for me the notion of 2+2 being something other than 4 is, while I could linguistically entertain it as a joke, not one which I can cope with psychologically therefore in a manner of speaking it is 'necessarily' true in so far as it is 'necessary for me'. I'd expand this without hesistation to the laws of logic, the laws of mathematics, certain basic assumptions such as that there is an outside world and that there is laws which govern the universe (try it out; imagine a universe without laws? Can you do it? If you think you can ask yourself 'am I imagining a universe without laws or a universe which law changes? Surely then the 'law' is the law which governs the changing of these laws? No?) and most of Kant's 'categories' and necessary beliefs which go with them. Where you and I might differ here is that I'm not necessarily willing to extend them to convenient or conventional 'truths' such as 'free will' or 'god' or 'identity' or anything like that until you can establish to my satisfaction that I cannot concieve of these things not being true, that a world for me without them cannot exist.

    I can't claim to have thoroughly thought this through, but I'm inclined to reject the notion of memory... a serial killer receives a blow to the head escaping the police, perhaps? Does he still deserve to be punished if he forgets ever comitting a crime? I'd say yes, unless the same blow to the head were to entirely reconfigure his mind in such a way that his behavioural patterns and outlook on life are completely changed. In that case, one might agree that even conventionally, we have a different person. As a general rule, I'd say the physical continuity suggestion would seem the most plausible in terms of punishment. Let 'em off if they die before they come to justice?
    Well this gets us on to the principle question of punishment; why do we punish? If we punish to take revenge on the person that did the wrong then we need to decide if a person who does not remember doing the deed is a legitimate target. If we are doing it 'for the good of society' then sure, punishing him would seem fair but can we not get a bit more of a robust justification than pandering to the mob? If we are justifiying punishment from a communicative standpoint (exp; If we are saying when we punish someone on some level we are communicating society's disapprobation and the idea that 'X deed was bad') then can we really say that someone who doesn't remember doing the deed we are communicating our disapproval of is a worthy target for communication? Isn't there a sense in which someone who has commited a crime without knowing it is the victim here? If you woke up ten years from now and found you had commited murder five years ago/from now would you be happy with being punished for this? It would seem that the person who did the murder was in some way distinct from you? If we say 'you are the kind of person who could/would do this act whether you remember it or not' are we not allowing the legitimacy of prior restraint where I can punish you because I've looked in your brain and found you to be a murderous kind of person whether you have commited murder or not? Don't a lot of these scenarios seem 'unjust' to you? (That's not to say you're wrong if they do, perhaps our concept of justice needs some work.)

    Of course, Buddhists would (I imagine) be happy in the knowledge that their karmic fruits would grow to be less than pleasant for such frightful actions.
    Well yes, but then this does ask a lot; namely a belief in a metaphysically real sense of karma (distinct from more palatable forms such as 'what goes around comes around' or 'if you do what you know to be wrong you wrong yourself') in which karma has an actual effect on how fate plays itself out. That's a very hard (perhaps not impossible) outlook to square with a determinist world-view.
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    Can I just say please, keep it coming people. I hope this is as enjoyable for you as it is for me. It certainly makes a pleasant albeit not impractical diversion from revision.

    You might want to take a look at a particular gem I found recently; Philosophy Talk, a weekly radio show run by an american broadcaster featuring two of the members of the philosophy faculty at Stanford University and a picked guest discussing a chosen philosophical topic for an hour. While not exactly the most mind bendingly academic of entertainment it can certainly be fun to listen to over breakfast. I can particularly recommend the show on consciousness which features David Chalmers as a guest.
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    Got my reading list etc from Newnham last week - it's only the one that was on the website all along! Can't remember where exactly, but I think it's somewhere on the faculty site entitled "recommended reading for philosophy applicants" or something.

    Anybody received anything more specific?

    ZarathustraX
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    I've recieved the recommended preperatory reading list, with all of the stuff that's always been recommended to us as applicants... and the syllabus for the first year, with reading lists. About ten pagesworth of books to read. :P

    *sighs*

    Though most of what they sent me was a small mountain of buereaucracy... compile that with my accommodation stuff for Edinburgh, my new bank account, my student loan and applying for a provisional driver's licence and I'm ready to murder the next person who requests I write in block capitals, preferably by stabbing them with a black ball-point pen.

    alex
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    my letter said that they'd included the reading lists, except for philosophy and 2 other subjects (forgotten what). So i looked on the website anyway... :rolleyes:
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    and I'm ready to murder the next person who requests I write in block capitals, preferably by stabbing them with a black ball-point pen.
    hehehe... i feel for you. I don't have to sort out accomodation or student loan or anything yet - that can wait till next year

    Is edinburgh your second choice then? Edinburgh is THE coolest city - especially in august- aww... gotta love edinburgh
 
 
 
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