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Metaphysical status of First Person Experience

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Find the error (according to Objectivism) in the following:

 

1. Everything existing in reality exists independent of any person's perception, knowledge, consciousness, experience etc.

2. Consciousness identifies existents of reality

3. A person is conscious of first person experience

4. A first person experience is an existent of reality and has identity

5. First person experiences of a particular individual are not experienced by any other person, or another animal, or a machine which is not the particular individual.  YOU and ME have identity.  YOU are not ME and what it is to be YOU is not what it is to be ME.

6. From 5, first person experience is entirely dependent upon the person experiencing the first person experience, without the person or the person's act of experiencing, there is no first person experience.

7.  From 6, something about existence utterly depends upon the experience of a person

8. From 7, NOT everything existing in reality exists independent of any person's perception, knowledge, consciousness, experience etc. (i.e. NOT 1.)

 

I may play devil's advocate in reply to your responses, but am genuinely interested in your answers as to what error gives rise to the contradiction.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical
Edited numbering

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1 is an error. If everything is independent of a person's perception, then your own knowledge is independent of your own experience, and knowledge is independent of consciousness. It would also deny consciousness at all, because identifying something through consciousness depends on consciousness. The whole point seems contradictory.

An identification here, as an existent, is only occurring because consciousness provides the means to do so.

Edited by Eiuol

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On 11/14/2018 at 11:19 AM, Eiuol said:

If everything is independent of a person's perception, then your own knowledge is independent of your own experience, and knowledge is independent of consciousness

Devil's Advocate (not the member of this forum by the same name) DA for short:

But all things perceived are not affected by a "person's perception" of them... this is true... and that is what it means for everything to be "independent of a person's perception".  Accepting this does not logically entail " your own knowledge is independent of your own experience, and knowledge is independent of consciousness"

On 11/14/2018 at 11:19 AM, Eiuol said:

 It would also deny consciousness at all, because identifying something through consciousness depends on consciousness. 

DA:  This does not deny consciousness, it agrees with what 1 states, the something which exists, exists independently from the consciousness of the person "identifying the something through consciousness".  Consciousness is the means by which the person identifies the something, it does not affect the something, it remains independent of the consciousness of the person or even whether the person is conscious of it.

On 11/14/2018 at 11:19 AM, Eiuol said:

The whole point seems contradictory.

DA: Although 1 and 8 explicitly contradict each other, you have not specifically or explicitly identified the contradiction in 1

Edited by dream_weaver

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There is an equivocation on "everything". Point 7 comes closest to stating it explicitly.

Awareness is not a tangible existent that can be pointed to, wrapped up and given away as a present, etc. The use of "everything" goes from a tangible existent sense in point 1, to to broader use that is consonant with the explanation given in chapter 6 of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, treating the concepts of consciousness synonymous with those of existence and identity.

Edited by dream_weaver

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2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

There is an equivocation on "everything". Point 7 comes closest to stating it explicitly.

Awareness is not a tangible existent that can be pointed to, wrapped up and given away as a present, etc. The use of "everything" goes from a tangible existent sense in point 1, to to broader use that is consonant with the explanation given in chapter 6 of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, treating the concepts of consciousness synonymous with those of existence and identity.

DA:  Surely, everything as in “every thing” is an existent, ie something which exists... “consciousness” is not “synonymous” with “existence” or “identity” but surely it is not supernatural, and like all things every consciousness exists and has identity.  No where is it claimed that consciousness is a physical entity or material object as such...  hence your use of “tangible” is unwarranted here.

As for chapter 6 of ITOE, “The units of the concepts “existence” and “identity” are every entity, attribute, action, event or phenomenon (including consciousness) that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist”

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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45 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

If the "first person experience" is dependent on yourself to experience it, how is it independent of the "first person's perception"?

DA:  It ... well... close, so in 1. every thing exists “independent” of any person’s experience seems to be either simply incorrect or lacking some nuance in the context where the thing actally is a “person’s experience”.  This seems like a naked contradiction... in that case.

ME:  So ... what you’ve said pretty much explicitly reveals the error is in 1.

Is there any sense in which the sentiment is true that the existence of the experience is independent of the person’s experience and if so how could it be saved with a proper expression of the idea?

or must we concede that 8 is true and 1 is simply wrong?

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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A proper expression of the following:

On 11/14/2018 at 10:20 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

1. Everything existing in reality exists independent of any person's perception, knowledge, consciousness, experience etc.

could be reworded as:

1. Everything existing in reality exists independent of every person's perception, knowledge, consciousness, experience etc.

The "first person experience" is separate enough to be identified as the "first person experience", dependent on the first person to experience, and can be projected such that it can be understood that other's must have that "first person experience" as well.

Edited by dream_weaver

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1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:

A proper expression of the following:

could be reworded as:

1. Everything existing in reality exists independent of every person's perception, knowledge, consciousness, experience etc.

The "first person experience" is separate enough to be identified as the "first person experience", dependent on the first person to experience, and can be projected such that it can be understood that other's must have that "first person experience" as well.

You (and your DA) might consider conceding that 9 is 8 . . . or what the OP slated as 8 is being misconstrued as 9, inadvertently or intentionally in subsequent posts.

I’m not sure how changing “any” to “every” makes the kind of difference you seem to think it does... can you explain?

Also what you say implies a universality of a similar or common experience which instead of being independent of people’s experience is defined by everyone’s shared experience.  The spirit of 1. is that the moon for example exists independent of anyone’s knowledge perception or experience .. eg before any of us existed or if all of humanity died.  This seems to be the opposite of what you are proposing.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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8 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I’m not sure how changing “any” to “every” makes the kind of difference you seem to think it does... can you explain?

Agreed, it isn't clear yet. I'm struggling with this.

There is something about the "first person experience" that is universal, or independently shareable—via communication—yet dependent on the one experiencing it.

 

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45 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Agreed, it isn't clear yet. I'm struggling with this.

There is something about the "first person experience" that is universal, or independently shareable—via communication—yet dependent on the one experiencing it.

 

If what you say is true, then something about it is universal, but that is still only something about it not everything about it.  

There is also that something about it which is utterly unique to the particular person...

no two people are situated in exactly the same context, no two people are exactly the same people, and no two people have lived the same lives, saw the exactly the same thingsfeom the same points of view or thought exactly the same thoughts.

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cont...

So in the very absolute sense, that existence is identity, that to be is to be something in particular, every single first person experience includes something utterly unique.

 

The nub of the problem is not so much the existence of the experience but its first person viewpoint aspect.  A specific person can report feeling happy, others can imagine what it is like for them to feel happy, and even try to imagine being that specific person while being happy, but that imagining is not (identity to the rescue) identical with actually being that other person feeling happy... first person experience REQUIRES being that person.  To us this seems paradoxical because it looks like something utterly subjective, yet existing in reality.  Surely person A's experience does not depend on the consciousness of anyone ELSE.  but can we extend this back to the person somehow?

I think possibly, but only if we are careful in tracking the subject-object of the situation.  A person for example being conscious, is conscious OF something.  A person being conscious OF an apple, is an existent independent of their being conscious of the fact of their own being conscious of the apple.... i.e. the existence of their mental state does not depend on a FURTHER mental state assessing, perceiving, etc. the mental state, in order to "make it real".  That is the spirit of 1. that separates primacy of existence from primacy of consciousness.

First person experience requires being that first person experiencing something, but the first person experience of being that person experiencing something does not depend upon that person's FURTHER experiencing of the fact that the person is having that first person experience of the something... in a sense that would be a further experience. [Linguistically I think English trips us up by having the verb "experience" for what you do, and the noun "experience" for the object of the doing, and makes things a bit more fuzzy than needed... although I might be wrong] 

Perhaps there is no way to succinctly phrase THAT thought... and perhaps it does not suffice to rescue 1.  I think it comes close.  More interestingly is the fact that first person experience is SO fundamentally unique and in that sense utterly precious in the universe, as is the life of the one.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

The nub of the problem is not so much the existence of the experience but its first person viewpoint aspect.

The question raised here (or at least, perhaps, the question it raises for me) is one that I've struggled with for a long time -- and from far before I read Rand. It's a sensitive and deep area, imo, and so I hope you'll understand if I decline to engage in "devil's advocate" style argument, etc., which is not something I care for generally, and instead try to be very earnest.

My entry to this question, and still the basis on which I often consider it, comes from Star Trek and the transporter. I'm one of those people who would not use a transporter, as represented in Trek, because I do not think it would "transport" me at all. I think it would kill me and then create a clone of me in a different location. (This sort of thing is not unique to Trek, and forms the basis for many sci-fi conventions, including being "uploaded" to a computer or robot after death, as featured in several phenomenal episodes of Black Mirror, or having "back-ups" like Altered Carbon or Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.)

And this has been the basis of many discussions I've had over the years with people who insist that this "clone" would still be "me," because, perhaps in the spirit of the OP's #1, the clone would be atom for atom, molecule for molecule, identical to me. To any outside observer (meaning: all science, and any outside observer), that clone would be indistinguishable from me. What's even more interesting, perhaps, is that the clone would have great reason to believe that it is me; it would have all of my memories and so forth, and would live its life from that moment on in a direct continuation from my own experience.

Yet I insist that it would not be me. That I would have died, and that my own, particular and unique "first person experience" would be forever gone from the universe.

I don't know what argument or conclusion to make on this basis, or how it intersects with the discussion, per se, but I wanted to contribute such as I'm able. One of the many things that Rand has taught me is that the bedrock of philosophy is reality, and so whatever our theories or arguments we must keep coming back to it. The "first person experience" is real and utterly meaningful, and it has a identity/nature (and if one day we develop some kind of "transporter" technology, or offer to "upload" people to the net, or etc., it will be important to remember this); our resultant theories, whatever they may be, must be made to accommodate the fact.

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23 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

and that is what it means for everything to be "independent of a person's perception". 

You didn't say things perceived, you said everything. A daydream for instance doesn't exist independent of your consciousness, and it is affected by your consciousness directly. It can change form based on nothing else but your thinking. There may be some constraints in terms of where the idea originates, but the daydream itself doesn't exist on its own. You could come up with a theory that a daydream exists independently of your consciousness if consciousness is merely a vessel that holds it (even if it can operate on and introspect on the daydream), but such a theory would go against Objectivist epistemology and metaphysics. 

23 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Consciousness is the means by which the person identifies the something, it does not affect the something, it remains independent of the consciousness of the person or even whether the person is conscious of it.

You're right, it doesn't have to deny consciousness. But it certainly denies that your identification is created by consciousness. You're essentially saying that the identification, in effect, already exists, even before your act of identification. Objectivism has us actively create content in our mind, especially for concept formation. You form a concept in part by creating a relationship, we can even put together relationships with no bearing on reality. You could argue that this content comes in automatically as it is, and reasoning about it can go wrong, but Rand explicitly argues against the idea that conceptual content comes in passively and unaltered by our thinking.

If that doesn't convince you, it might help to think of it this way: can there be such a thing as an unconscious concept? 

23 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

DA: Although 1 and 9 explicitly contradict each other, you have not specifically or explicitly identified the contradiction in 1

I'd say now it's only a contradiction in terms of Objectivist premises.
 

Edited by Eiuol

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3 hours ago, DonAthos said:

The question raised here (or at least, perhaps, the question it raises for me) is one that I've struggled with for a long time -- and from far before I read Rand. It's a sensitive and deep area, imo, and so I hope you'll understand if I decline to engage in "devil's advocate" style argument, etc., which is not something I care for generally, and instead try to be very earnest.

My entry to this question, and still the basis on which I often consider it, comes from Star Trek and the transporter. I'm one of those people who would not use a transporter, as represented in Trek, because I do not think it would "transport" me at all. I think it would kill me and then create a clone of me in a different location. (This sort of thing is not unique to Trek, and forms the basis for many sci-fi conventions, including being "uploaded" to a computer or robot after death, as featured in several phenomenal episodes of Black Mirror, or having "back-ups" like Altered Carbon or Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.)

And this has been the basis of many discussions I've had over the years with people who insist that this "clone" would still be "me," because, perhaps in the spirit of the OP's #1, the clone would be atom for atom, molecule for molecule, identical to me. To any outside observer (meaning: all science, and any outside observer), that clone would be indistinguishable from me. What's even more interesting, perhaps, is that the clone would have great reason to believe that it is me; it would have all of my memories and so forth, and would live its life from that moment on in a direct continuation from my own experience.

Yet I insist that it would not be me. That I would have died, and that my own, particular and unique "first person experience" would be forever gone from the universe.

I don't know what argument or conclusion to make on this basis, or how it intersects with the discussion, per se, but I wanted to contribute such as I'm able. One of the many things that Rand has taught me is that the bedrock of philosophy is reality, and so whatever our theories or arguments we must keep coming back to it. The "first person experience" is real and utterly meaningful, and it has a identity/nature (and if one day we develop some kind of "transporter" technology, or offer to "upload" people to the net, or etc., it will be important to remember this); our resultant theories, whatever they may be, must be made to accommodate the fact.

Absolutely agree.  

It is not difficult to see that creating a copy of something at a new place while simultaneously destroying it at the old place is not the same as moving the thing from the old place to the new place.  Rand’s writings on identity is the key to seeing the distinction... and no matter how much sloppy thinkers might repeat the word “identical” they do not understand its meaning.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

You didn't say things perceived, you said everything. A daydream for instance doesn't exist independent of your consciousness, and it is affected by your consciousness directly. It can change form based on nothing else but your thinking. There may be some constraints in terms of where the idea originates, but the daydream itself doesn't exist on its own. You could come up with a theory that a daydream exists independently of your consciousness if consciousness is merely a vessel that holds it (even if it can operate on and introspect on the daydream), but such a theory would go against Objectivist epistemology and metaphysics. 

You're right, it doesn't have to deny consciousness. But it certainly denies that your identification is created by consciousness. You're essentially saying that the identification, in effect, already exists, even before your act of identification. Objectivism has us actively create content in our mind, especially for concept formation. You form a concept in part by creating a relationship, we can even put together relationships with no bearing on reality. You could argue that this content comes in automatically as it is, and reasoning about it can go wrong, but Rand explicitly argues against the idea that conceptual content comes in passively and unaltered by our thinking.

If that doesn't convince you, it might help to think of it this way: can there be such a thing as an unconscious concept? 

I'd say now it's only a contradiction in terms of Objectivist premises.
 

DA:  You also have shown how 1 is in error.

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7 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Absolutely agree.  

It is not difficult to see that creating a copy of something at a new place while simultaneously destroying it at the old place is not the same as moving the thing from the old place to the new place.  Rand’s writings on identity is the key to seeing the distinction... and no matter how much sloppy thinkers might repeat the word “identical” they do not understand its meaning.

The "first person perspective/experience" has an identity. Yours has an identity, mine has an identity, and 7.4 billion other residents of this inhabited world have each their own "first person perspective/experience" along with its respective identity. Each of these units are part of the set of "first person perspective/experience", including those which were, those which are, and those which have yet to be. As units of this unique identity, there has to be a range of measurements which have been omitted, which must exist in some quantity, but may exist with any quantity (within their respective range limits.) At this point, what is being dealt with is similarity, not a state of being identical. Identity, as described, is not a state of being identical, rather it is where the spectrum of identified and yet to be identified similarities reside.

Again, it seems as if the riddle rests on different perspectives of a particular. Two different perspectives of, in this case, "first person perspective/experience".

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9 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

The "first person perspective/experience" has an identity. Yours has an identity, mine has an identity, and 7.4 billion other residents of this inhabited world have each their own "first person perspective/experience" along with its respective identity. Each of these units are part of the set of "first person perspective/experience", including those which were, those which are, and those which have yet to be. As units of this unique identity, there has to be a range of measurements which have been omitted, which must exist in some quantity, but may exist with any quantity (within their respective range limits.) At this point, what is being dealt with is similarity, not a state of being identical. Identity, as described, is not a state of being identical, rather it is where the spectrum of identified and yet to be identified similarities reside.

Again, it seems as if the riddle rests on different perspectives of a particular. Two different perspectives of, in this case, "first person perspective/experience".

I’m not sure what the point of the point of the exposition on concept formation is about.  Knowledge of or conceptualization of something is nothing like what it is to experience something. Also  knowing about remembering and imagining experience is not the same as having it.  To be clear nothing stands in the way of conceptualization of first person experience... 

As for the last bit I think it possibly literally incorrect.  A third person “perspective” of first person experience is not different by degree, it is different in kind.  Even the same individual, if presented with a scenario whereby they know they will fly for the first time. Imagine that person doing some “third person perspective” visualizations beforehand... they look at simulations of thier brain undergoing the experience, they watch videos of other people undergoing the experience, they speak to other people who describe what it was like to them to have the experience, the person even tries very hard to imagine the experience...  all of it fails to create in reality what only will exist while that person is actually in the experience of flying.

Perhaps I misunderstood your last post and/or its point.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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43 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Perhaps I misunderstood your last post and/or its point.

No, I seem to be grasping at straws here for the moment.
I'll have to be content with having explicitly revealed the error at this time.

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On ‎11‎/‎14‎/‎2018 at 10:20 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

1. Everything existing in reality exists independent of any person's perception, knowledge, consciousness, experience etc.

Here is my first attempt to correct this

1. Every thing exists independent of any consciousness awareness of any kind, OF THAT thing.

I am using "awareness" in a broad sense, since it subsumes any kind of conscious perception, conception, contemplation, directed attention etc. in respect of a particular thing.

So, even when dealing with the specific case of the THING existing being "my conscious awareness of myself", THAT thing either exists or does not exist, and does not require, i.e. is independent of, anyone's conscious awareness OF THAT THING, including my own.  I do not need to be consciously aware of "my conscious awareness of myself" in order for me to have "conscious awareness of myself". 

In fact it is impossible to require any kind of conscious awareness to be at the base of the existence of ANY thing.  It is self-refuting.  Conscious awareness of a thing presupposes existence of a thing and cannot constitute the basis for the being of the thing.

The first person perspective, although an aspect OF consciousness awareness is not created BY consciousness awareness, it simply IS.

 

I think the above is close but maybe not quite perfectly worded?

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Here is a question for those worried about the transporter:

If you go to sleep, or lose consciousness some other way, and then regain consciousness, is that the same consciousness?  Or did the previous consciousness end and a new one arise using the same wherewithal?

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37 minutes ago, Doug Morris said:

Here is a question for those worried about the transporter:

If you go to sleep, or lose consciousness some other way, and then regain consciousness, is that the same consciousness?  Or did the previous consciousness end and a new one arise using the same wherewithal?

Does our consciousness "die" when we sleep or get knocked out?  Break out the coffee...!!  Perhaps I should grieve the daily death of me and celebrate my daily resurrection?

One could quibble about the wording.. but particular mental states do come and go, are born and die.  Emotions are fleeting... you never feel exactly the same way twice.. every moment is precious and unique... that thought I had yesterday is gone...but as an entity I AM more than a single state of consciousness I happen to have at any one time. 

It is in my nature to exist over a number of different mental states... including sleep which is primarily not conscious. 

 

I'm afraid this does not seem to have much to do with the transporter as I understand them to (fictionally) work.  Maybe the transporter discussion is worth a new thread?

 

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2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I'm afraid this does not seem to have much to do with the transporter as I understand them to (fictionally) work.  Maybe the transporter discussion is worth a new thread?

Mmm, perhaps. I don't know yet. The reason why I brought up the transporter is because I think it speaks directly to the question of "the metaphysical status of First Person Experience." Whether there is anything "real" there.

Those who tend to support transporter-like technology usually accord little or no weight to the FPE: that it doesn't exist, or to the extent that it exists, it is held not to matter. Jim Kirk goes in one end of the transporter, he comes out the other end. It's the same guy, right? All scientific (i.e. "third person") tests will tell you that. Hell, if you ask him, Kirk will tell you that he's the same guy. And, unless he's come to the same conclusions I have on the subject, he will believe it.

But is he really? Is it the same person? I say that he is not. That he is a different person. Not in the Heraclitean way of the river's ever-changing waters, but in the much more profound (imo) way of: the First Person Experience that was Kirk died, literally died, upon being disassembled on the one end of the transporter, and some new First Person Experience came into being on the other end.

3 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Here is a question for those worried about the transporter:

If you go to sleep, or lose consciousness some other way, and then regain consciousness, is that the same consciousness?  Or did the previous consciousness end and a new one arise using the same wherewithal?

No, of course not -- this consciousness I have today is fundamentally the same one I had last night. Sleep is not comparable to death. (And if we apply some stringent "special science" approach to death, not even death may be comparable to death: a person revived after being technically "dead" is still the same person, too.)

But when your molecules are disassembled, you cease to be, and your first person experience -- the you that you are and always have been -- ceases to be, as well. If an identical pattern of molecules are assembled elsewhere, you will not somehow magically come back into existence. You will still be dead. The next case to consider is whether it matters if the exact same molecules are used for the "reconstruction," but I think it would not (and an argument to the contrary, I suspect, would of necessity sound somewhat mystical... though I am disposed to entertain it, still).

Does this discussion need a separate thread? Advise if so, but I think it really does get at the heart of the question of the FPE and its metaphysical status, and I suspect that peoples' various responses to the transporter problem (and also to the "sleep problem," insofar as we regard it as problematic) speaks to what we think of the FPE itself, and whether it counts as anything at all.

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24 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

Mmm, perhaps. I don't know yet. The reason why I brought up the transporter is because I think it speaks directly to the question of "the metaphysical status of First Person Experience." Whether there is anything "real" there.

Those who tend to support transporter-like technology usually accord little or no weight to the FPE: that it doesn't exist, or to the extent that it exists, it is held not to matter. Jim Kirk goes in one end of the transporter, he comes out the other end. It's the same guy, right? All scientific (i.e. "third person") tests will tell you that. Hell, if you ask him, Kirk will tell you that he's the same guy. And, unless he's come to the same conclusions I have on the subject, he will believe it.

But is he really? Is it the same person? I say that he is not. That he is a different person. Not in the Heraclitean way of the river's ever-changing waters, but in the much more profound (imo) way of: the First Person Experience that was Kirk died, literally died, upon being disassembled on the one end of the transporter, and some new First Person Experience came into being on the other end.

FPE is not the determining factor however.  FPE is crucially important and we each "have it", but plain old identity can be used to make the argument.  In fact, since FPE is not any more or less an exemplar of identity, a car or anything else, even a single electron.  It's not the same one here as the one there... it's been created/configured to be a copy ... but THIS is never THAT.

Now if we look at a DIFFERENT process, one of replacing dying cells, fixing DNA, allowing the body and brain to heal itself, and (possibly one day) achieve indefinite life (until the heat death of the universe), then we have a slow transformation which we already all undergo as we grow and as material enters our bodies and leaves our bodies... this is not the same ... why?  Because of continuity... the being was not destroyed here and rebuilt there... it never died it never stopped functioning as it normally does.

24 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

Advise if so, but I think it really does get at the heart of the question of the FPE and its metaphysical status, and I suspect that peoples' various responses to the transporter problem (and also to the "sleep problem," insofar as we regard it as problematic) speaks to what we think of the FPE itself, and whether it counts as anything at all.

I disagree that this goes to the heart of FPE's "metaphysical status". I take any claim that questions FPE counting "as anything at all" as logically incoherent on its face.  FPE exists and is undeniable.

AS for a new thread to discuss teleportation and identity I think it would be fun and better to continue the discussion there...  If you are interested Don, please make a new thread.

 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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7 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Does our consciousness "die" when we sleep or get knocked out?

For the most part, yes. You're still conscious of some things, but certainly not of the immediate reality around you.

Edited by Nicky

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