Re: The role of consciousness

From: Jeff L Jones (
Date: Tue Apr 08 2008 - 23:41:09 MDT

On Tue, Apr 8, 2008 at 5:13 PM, Lee Corbin <> wrote:
> above. But if you are so inclined to argue, then I guess that I
> must simply be grateful that you don't wreck yourself by denying
> that two temperatures, or two pressures, or a single particular
> book at two different times, are the same.

If by "book" you mean the information contained in a book, then it's a
meaningless question whether two books are the same (for example, two
copies of the same book stored online) since information can only
exist or not exist... it can't exist in multiplicity. Same goes for
temperatures and pressures which are simply numbers... there is no
such thing as the "number of 58 degreeses" that exist in the world.
If on the other hand, by book, you mean the matter making up the book,
that's analogous to asking about my body, not about me. Actually,
neither of them are exactly analogous, but I wouldn't agree that any
of them are meaningful distinctions.

> We know all the facts. A river is "defined" (if you must) by its
> past and its future.

But people are not rivers, they are more like trees. In fact, when a
river *does* split into two rivers, we almost always call the separate
branches different rivers. In a multiverse where every person is
constantly splitting into a zillion other people, the analogy of a
single river for someone's timeline is simply not accurate. All of
the leaves of the tree are different. Some of them *very* different.
It makes little more sense to call different branches of a person the
same person than it does to call identical twins the same person. It
makes even less sense to call two copies made in the same universe the
same person... since that would make it very awkward for them to
interact and soon become an impossible charade to maintain.

Even though I have strong opinions on what the best way is to talk
about this, I must admit that I find the whole subject of personal
identity *incredibly* boring, as it has nothing to do with the real
world and is--as I've mentioned--simply a language convention. I had
hoped such discussions would die down after the previous thread was
sniped and moved to another list (presumably for people who have
deluded themselves into thinking it's an interesting question). The
bottom line is, you've chosen a poor convention, and I've chosen a
much better one. There's really not much more I can say about it.


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