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

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sat Mar 15 2008 - 12:25:39 MDT

Randall writes

> On Mar 15, 2008, at 1:38 AM, Lee Corbin wrote:
>> Time for a pithy example. Suppose that your best friend
>> rather suddenly acquired all of my memories (due to some
>> fiendish test for world domination that I'm trying out).
>> You do start noticing startling and sudden personality
>> changes.
> So it's both memories *and* personality traits that are
> being changed? That seems like begging the question,
> to me.

I readily confess to having changed my mind back and forth
over the years about this. At one time I'd write about memories
*and* dispositions, behavior, etc., and then later re-think the
whole thing and decide it was better to go with just memories
(for *precisely* the kinds of reasons involving memory
swapping being discussed between Heartland and me).

Hmm. What do we really have here? We have a very complicated
human organism, which we might suppose the human component
of which is entirely located in the brain. (I'll gladly argue against
Damasio on that point, for example.) Due to our primitive understanding
we often break the mentality or neural behavior into "emotional" vs.
"rational", "memories" vs. "behavior", etc., to pick some not very
good examples.

I would argue that changing all one's memories for someone else
would induce immediate and noticeable behavioral changes.
Perhaps not while telling the world's most well-known joke,
but certainly for explaining why the U.S. went into Iraq. In
one case the memories could well give rise to different behavior
mediated by the emotions involved.

Okay---I've substituted "behavior" for "personality change".
I take the hit. To a very *large* degree one's personality
might not be affected much by swapping memories with
someone. I don't really know.

But here is the *crucial* part that may even rescue my
claim about "personality changes", or at least minor ones:

Heartland would very soon notice apparent changes in
behavior of his friend, if for no reason that "I"---that is,
Lee in Heartland's friend's body---would not know
Heartland personally, and my facial expressions would
not match those that his friend had acquired while he
and Heartland got to know each other. Heartland could
immediately surmise, perhaps incorrectly, that his friend's
personality traits had undergone a change.


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