Re: There's more to me than memories...

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Tue Mar 11 2008 - 08:48:20 MDT

Stuart writes

> [Lee wrote]
> > So what is it that has kept me "me"? I say it's memories.
> I'd say that memories are a necessary but not sufficient condition to
> keep you "you" If a [perhaps role-playing] guard had been a
> duplicate of one of the prisoners, their memories would have been
> virtually identical; and yet, to all extent and purposes, they are not
> the same person.

But what about different moods? Do people who are really
grouchy or really bitchy for a few hours, and then become
as nice as they can possibly be, actually go from being one
person to another? Yes, there is the phrase "you don't
seem like yourself today." But I don't think anyone is taking
that at all literally.

> But it's not so much "duplicates are different people" that I was
> looking at. I'm more arguing that if your actual life was similar to a
> duplicate experience (that nothing that you accumulated was permanent;
> that no friend can be relied on; that your crimes have little
> consequences; that stability is forever beyond your grasp)

That is a very odd sort of duplicate experiment. If your brother
got very down on his luck, or found himself struggling for survival
in a jungle somewhere, no matter how "different a person" (according
to you) that he had become, he'd snap back to normal as soon as
circumstances changed back.

>> You would *not* say to yourself, "Oh, I guess I'm not Stuart
>> anymore. I must be someone else." No. You would say
>> am I, Stuart, doing here? and why is everything blurry when I
>> look across the room? Whose body is this? It's not *mine*!"
> Of course. But how would I feel after a few days, a week, a month, a
> year? What if I woke up female? Or in jail?

You're right, I think. Now, how long would life in the Army (helping
out in some violent area of the world today where the soldiers have
to work very hard under brutal conditions) take to make you into
someone that your relatives and friends would say "This is no longer
Stuart"? To me, the answer would be years. The first few days
would be just like a vacation that had gone badly awry.

> I'm not arguing any coherent position here, just that memories are not
> the end all of who you are (just think of hormones, for example).

Hmm. Well, for now, we might be at an impasse (though let's not
give up). Drugs could induce me to behave very differently (e.g.
alcohol or PCP. But so long as no *damage* was done, I'd
always be ready to snap back. Normally we do not consider
alcoholics, for example, to be different people than they were.
Not literally.

> A lot of my memories are external to myself - stored in pictures,
> computers, environments, and relationships. Deprived of these,
> I would not think of myself as the same person.

Good arguments. I hope we hear from others. I'll have to think
about it more.

> This post had some kind of point to it, honest, before it became all meandery.

Oh, not at all :-) You brought up a lot of good stuff IMO, thanks.
I need to be criticized on this point of 99% of us being our memories.


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