Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hip Hop and Personal Identity

As we transition from personal identity to freedom, I want to share some tracks from some MN hip hop artists that express their thoughts on their own personal identity

Here is a link to a Brother Ali song where he describes his personal identity and how it relates to other people: "I am what I am doctor and you ain't gotta love me."

Here rapper P.O.S. describes his own personal identity.

Free Will Pt. II: Incompatibalism and Fatalism

Peter van Inwagen defines free will as an ability to make decisions between two options when at least sometimes I could possibly choose the other option. In other words, to have free will requires that I can actively choose a number of different actions.  van Inwagen thinks that someone lacks free will if he or she never has the ability to choose alternative actions.  Sam is free to perform an action if and only if Sam could have done something else other than this action.  For example, I am free to take notes in lecture if and only if I could have done something else other than take notes in lecture.  Because I could have stayed home in bed, I did freely choose to come to lecture and take notes.  van Inwagen is what we call an incompatibalist, which means that he thinks that determinism is true and that the truth of determinism entails the impossibility of free will.

Causal determinism is the view that a state of affairs in the world determines, or directly causes, the following state of affairs.  In other words, what happens in the world is a direct result of what has happened previously.  Laws about the physical world such as the laws of physics and chemistry control what happens in the world.  The idea is that if we were able to perfectly understand the physical state of the world and we applied physical laws to the current state then we would be able to perfectly predict what the future will be like.

The Determinist Argument against Free Will:
1. If your action is determined by prior causes, then you couldn't have done otherwise (the act is not free).
2. If your action is not determined by prior causes, then it is a chance event (the act is not free).
3. Either your action is determined by prior causes or not.
4.  Therefore, you don't act freely.

A.J Ayer on Premise 2: Either my actions are accidents or not.  It is either a matter of chance or not how I act.  If my action is only done by chance, then clearly I cannot be held responsible for my action.  But if my action is not by chance but because I chose to do so, then there seems to be a causal explanation for my choice, in which case we also end up with an action that is the result of a deterministic world.

There are four basic positions in the free will debate.

Compatibalism is the view that determinism is compatible with free will.
Incompatibalism is the view that determinism is incompatible with free will.  If determinism is true, then we cannot be held responsible for our actions.
Hard Determinism is the view that free will is incompatible with free will and that determinism is true, so we lack free will and we lack responsibility.
Libertarianism is the view that determinism is incompatible with free will and that we have free will, so determinism is false.

Causal Determinism vs. Fatalism.  Fatalism is the view that whatever happens happens because it has to.  Whatever will be has to be.  Fatalism results in the necessary view that free will is impossible since every action is done because it is necessary (not because it is chosen).  In other words, fatalists think that human action has no influence on events in the world and that freedom is merely an illusion.  Determinism is not necessarily committed to the view that free will is impossible.  Some determinists think that free will is possible but no fatalists think that free will is possible.

Aristotle's Sea Battle Argument for Fatalism.  Aristotle makes use of the law of the excluded middle (LEM), which states that for any statement, it must either be true or false (it cannot be both true and false).
1. It is necessary that it is either true or false that the sea battle will happen tomorrow.
2. If it is true that the battle will happen tomorrow, then it is necessarily true that there will be a sea battle tomorrow.
3. If it is false that the battle will happen tomorrow, then it is necessarily false that there will be a sea battle tomorrow.
4. If is now either necessary that the battle will happen or it is necessary that the battle will not happen.

Aristotle wants to reject fatalism, so he denies the first premise. In short, he denies that LEM applies to statements about what may or may not happen in the future.

Another Argument for Fatalism:
1. Either you will be killed by a bomb or you will not be killed by a bomb.
2. If you are going to be killed by a bomb, then any precautions you take are useless.
3. If you are not going to be killed by a bomb, then any precautions are useless.
4. It is pointless to take precautions.

Premise 3 is unrealistic.  It seems that someone might avoid being killed by a bomb exactly because he or she took precautions!  For premise 3 to be true, the following must be true: "If you had not taken precautions then you would still not have been killed".  But this does not follow from the truth of "you are not going to be killed".  Just because someone is not killed does not mean that he or she would not have been  killed even if he or she had taken no precautions.

Ayer thinks that he has a thought experiment that makes the view of fatalism appealing.  Imagine you found a book that perfectly describes every detail about your life.  In fact, it describes not only your past life but also your future life.  Ayer wonders if such an occasion would be a good reason to accept fatalism.  Sven thinks that this is a bad argument for fatalism.  Just because someone knows what you will do does not entail that you lack control over what you will do.

Peter van Inwagen is a perfect example of an incompatibalist.  He thinks that we cannot control the laws of nature or past events.  Because of this, the consequences of past events and the laws of nature are not in our control.

van Inwagen's Argument for Incompatibalism:
1. If determinism is true, then past events make my current action of raising my hand necessary.
2. If I could have avoided raising my hand now then it would not be true that I now raise my hand.
3. If I could make it false that I raise my hand now, then because past events entail me presently raising my hand, then I also make  all past events false.
4. There is no way to make all past events false.
5. If I could make all past events false, then I could make all laws of nature false.
6. There is no way to make all laws of nature false.
7. Therefore, if determinism is true, then there was no choice but to raise your hand in the present.

Free Will Pt. I: An Introduction

What is free will?  Free will is just the ability to act according to your own desires and wishes.  In other words, having free will requires that you do things because you have a will (or desire) to do so.  Contrast this with a puppet that is controlled by a puppet master or a person whose body is controlled by an

We should distinguish between freedom of will and freedom of action.  Locke has us imagine a scenario where a person is locked in a room without realizing that he or she has been locked into a room.  Now, perhaps this person wants to stay in the room.  This person has freedom of will but does not have freedom of action.  He or she is doing exactly as he or she wants but he or she does not have the freedom to leave.  This paper is not concerned with freedom of action but only freedom of will.

Why is freedom of the will important?  It seems that in order to be responsible for our actions, we have to be free.  In order to be worthy of praise or blame, someone must have performed his or her actions freely.  For example, if Natalie Portman only acted in Black Swan because she had an alien in her brain controlling her actions, then it seems like she does not deserve to be rewarded with an Oscar.   Another example would be that Osama Bin Laden isn't responsible for the terrorist acts that he performs if he is only doing them because someone is controlling his actions with a remote control.  A less sci-fi example would be something like if some frat brothers drug a pledge and when the pledge passes out, they put his naked body in the middle of campus.  Because the pledge did not freely choose to strip naked and go to campus, the pledge is not responsible for this action.

Arthur Schopenhauer thinks that we have reasons to think that free will is only an illusion.  He thinks that we imagine that we have lots of options for action when in fact we do not.  He thinks that even though a man thinks that he freely chooses to stay at home with his wife, this is just like a drop of water fooling itself into thinking that it has a number of choices (it can freeze, boil or make waves) when in reality the water droplet is controlled by physical forces in the world.  The drop of water has no choice about what it does.  Schopenhauer thinks that humans lack free will in a similar way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Swinburne Pt. II: Complications for the Simple View

This post is all about objections to Swinburne's theory of personal identity.

"Miracle" Objection to Swinburne’s Simple View: It seems that the criteria of bodily continuity and psychological continuity work for most cases where we think about personal identity.  Our evidence about psychological criteria for personal identity is a reliable way to find out if personal identity has been kept or lost.  Swinburne is silly to think that it’s just a simple coincidence that our evidence for the criteria of bodily continuation and psychological continuation is usually right!  In other words, Swinburne must think that it is a miracle that there is another criterion for personal identity when we already have perfectly good evidence that works most the time!

Swinburne’s Argument for the Independence Thesis:
1. Fission cases show that neither psychological nor bodily continuity are sufficient for personal identity.
2. It’s conceivable that a person could acquire a new body.
3. It’s conceivable that a person could exist without a body.
4. It’s conceivable that a person could exist without any memory of his or her past life.
5. It’s conceivable that a person gets a new body and have no memories of his or her former life.
6. If (2), (3), (4) and (5) are true, then it is possible that a person undergoes exactly this kind of change.
7. If it is possible that a person undergoes (2)-(5) and if (1) is true, then the independence thesis is true.
8. Therefore, the independence thesis is true.  Neither bodily nor psychological continuity are necessary for personal identity.

Let’s examine these premises.

Premise 2: Getting a New Body.  Swinburne basically says, hey,  I can imagine that I can have a new body.  It’s not contradictory to think that in such a case, I could still be the same person that I was before (that I could still see, feel and act like I did before).  This is a notion that is supported by Eastern notions of reincarnation and Western notions about resurrection.

Premise 3: Disembodied Existence.  It’s coherent to think that a person could control different bodies or perhaps incorporable inhabit a region of space.  Again, there's no contradiction here.  People can ditch their bodies.

Premise 4: Existing without Memories.  Swinburne thinks that cases of amnesia are clear examples where a person continues to exist without his or her memories.

Premise 5: Existing without Memories and with a New Body.  Swinburne notes that world religions believe in stories of a person’s soul losing all of his or her memories and then being reincarnated in a new body.  He thinks this is a good reason to believe this premise.

Sven notes that aside from issues of soundness (truth) of the premises, a philosophically interesting part of the argument is premise (6).  Swinburne thinks that both possibility and conceivability only require that there be no logical contradiction.  But Sven says that even though we don’t make a logical contradiction when we say “It is conceivable that there be 6 pink elephants in the room”, this does not entail that it is possible that there could be 6 pink elephants in the room.  Sven notes that many think that a lack of contradiction is necessary for possibility but that lack of contradiction is not sufficient for possibility.  This is why Swinburne is wrong to make the move he does in premise 6.

Bertrand Russel also disagrees with the independence thesis.  Russel admits that sure, reincarnation might be possible.  He says that if it were possible to be reincarnated, then our memories and habits would have to be exhibited in our new bodies.  But Russel thinks that this is very unlikely because our memories and habits depends on our bodies (specifically our brains).  Russel admits that reincarnation might be possible but he says that it is entirely unlikely to be a case where a person keeps his or her identity.

Russel thinks that Swinburne’s view is appealing because (1) people are afraid of death so they want to believe in life after death and (2) people admire human beings so much that they think that it would be too terrible if a person just ended when his or her body died.  Basically, Russel thinks that there are emotional reasons for accepting Swinburne's dualism but there are not good philosophical reasons to do so.

Swinburne’s dualism is much like Descartes’ dualism.  According to both views, a person is made up of two kinds of things: physical substance and a non-physical substance.  Descartes calls this mind and Swinburne calls it a soul.  Where Swinburne differs from Cartesian dualism is that Swinburne says that memories are physical stuff whereas Descartes would think that memories are part of mind.

Reconstruction of Swinburne’s Argument for the Existence of Souls:
1. Having a soul is necessary for me to survive without my body. (If P, then Q)
2. It is possible that I can exist without my physical body. (P is possible)
3. Therefore, I have a soul. (Therefore Q)

An argument with a similar structure is this:
1. It is necessary that if someone is a bachelor then he is unmarried. (If P, then Q)
2. It is possible that Obama is a bachelor. (P is possible)
3.  Therefore, Obama is unmarried. (Therefore, Q)

Can we say "reductio-ed"?

Swinburne Pt. I: The Simple View

Today we turn to Swinburne, who puts forward two theses.  The first thesis is the independence thesis, also known as the simple view.  The independence thesis is that personal identity can occur without bodily continuity, memory connections or other psychological connections.  In other words, neither bodies (including brains) nor memories are necessary for personal identity.  The second thesis supports dualism.  Swinburne thinks that a person is made up of a physical body and a non-physical soul.  He thinks that the soul is essential to being a (specific) person.  Swinburne says that the body is not necessary to be a person.  In other words, the body is accidentally part of a person whereas the soul is essential to the person.  Swinburne’s view can be summed up in what he calls the soul criterion: A person is only identical to himself or herself at a later time if he or she has the same soul.

Swinburne starts his paper by dividing the problem of personal identity into two questions: First, what are the criteria of personal identity?  Second, what is the evidence we have to think that there actually is personal identity?  Swinburne thinks that these two questions have been treated as a single question, which is just confusing and wrong.  He says that we can have true beliefs that are not supported by evidence.  In other words, Swinburne thinks that we can have true beliefs that are not justified.  This is why Swinburne thinks that we should not think that the evidence we have about personal identity points to the right criteria for personal identity.

Specifically, Swinburne thinks that the evidence we have may support the view that personal identity is made up of psychological continuity, so we tend to think that psychological continuity is the criterion for personal identity.  Swinburne thinks that the evidence we have, however, is misleading and fallible.   This is why Swinburne thinks that we cannot use this evidence as proof that the criterion for personal identity is a psychological connection.  Swinburne thinks that a soul is the real criterion for personal identity.

Now remember that scamp Thomas Reid who had all those objections to Locke’s theory of personal identity?  Well, it turns out that he made these same kinds of objections to Locke as Swinburne is making against Parfit.  I wonder if Swinburne had his paper vetted on  JK.

The upshot is that Swinburne thinks that theories like Locke’s and Parfit’s are verificationist.  Parfit and Locke are called verificationist because they think that things must be verifiable in order to be true.  In other words, verificationists think that only statements or beliefs that are empirically provable can be true.  Sven notes that being a verificationist means that you don’t think statements like “I love him” or “the sun will rise tomorrow” can be true because they cannot be verified.  Although verificationism was popular once in philosophical literature, now people largely think that verificationism is too exclusive of a theory about truth because there are times where something is true but not verifiable.

Personal Identity So Far

Here is a quick review of personal identity so far.

John Locke thinks that personal identity requires that there be continuity of memory.  In other words, in order for you to be the same person now as you were when you were a child, you must have autobiographical memory of your childhood.  Reid objects to this by providing us with the brave officer example, which is a case where Locke’s theory of personal identity violates the transitivity of identity.  Sven thinks that what the takeaway from this case is that direct memory connections are not necessary for personal identity.  There can be other kinds of psychological continuity such as indirect memory connections.

However, a problem with using other kinds of psychological continuity as a requirement, or criterion, for personal identity is that in cases of fission, where one person is split into two identical versions of himself of herself, we end up with two distinct people who also satisfy conditions of identity.  In other words, they are both the same and distinct, which also violates the transitivity of identity.

Parfit tries to defend the use of psychological criteria for personal identity.  Parfit claims that the above problem is only the case if when we say personal identity that we mean survival.  Parfit notes that we only worry about violating the transitivity of identity when we use “identity” as a technical term.  Parfit thinks that survival, not identity, is really the important concern.

Nozick steps in to the debate to say that he can improve on Parfit’s view, which he calls a no-rival theory.  Nozick calls Parfit’s view a no-rival theory because Parfit does not allow for multiple rival candidates for identity.  Nozick accounts for rival candidates by saying that the candidate with the strongest connection is the one who “survives” as the original individual.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Parfit's Critics: Survival of the Closest?

Parfit thinks that survival (not identity) is important to people.  Peter Unger has questioned rather survival is really the important thing.  He comes up with a counterexample to Parfit’s theory of survival.  Imagine that you have a wife, husband or other special friend.  Now, you have a choice.  Either you can keep your same wife, husband or special friend or this person is transported to another world and you are given a duplicate of your partner.  To spice things up, you get a cash reward if you choose the duplicate.  Unger thinks that clearly we will want to keep our same partner or friend.  Unger notes that we care about individual particular people, not just bundles of properties and personalities.  Because of this, Unger concludes that we care about identity, not survival.

Robert Nozick characterizes Parfit’s theory of personal identity as a no-rival theory.  This is because Nozik does not allow for fission cases because when one person turns into two people, there are two equally good rival candidates who can possibly carry on the identity of the original person.  In other words, he excludes possibilities where there are rival candidates for identity.  Xander can only be identical to Yunker if there is not an equally good candidate, Zorro who is just as psychologically continuous with Xander and Yunker.  Nozick thinks that Xander and Yunker can be identical even if there is a rival candidate Zorro who has the same amount of psychological continuity to Xander and Yunker as Xander and Yunker have to one another.  Nozick provides what he thinks is a better alternative than a no-rival theory.

Robert Nozick’s Closest Continuer Theory.  Imagine that Larry is a copy of (identical to) Moe.  A day or two later, Curly is also made as a copy of Moe.  Nozick thinks that Curly can be identical to Moe, too, if Curly’s connection to Moe is the same or better than Larry’s connection to Moe.  Nozick’s theory does not specify that the connection between Larry and Moe must be psychological.

Nozick uses some cases to test this theory.

#1.  Imagine that you are perfectly cloned.  There are two individuals exactly like you.  The question is: which one is you?  Nozick says that you are still you because the clone is not the closest continuer.  The connection that you have to yourself is stronger than the connection that the clone has to you.  After all, you are you and your clone is just your clone.

#2. Imagine that you are perfectly cloned and then you slowly die.  Nozicks says that when you die, you become your clone.  Your clone is your closest continuer once your original body and mind are gone.   Someone might be inclined to say that this is silly, since original me is living simultaneously with the clone, I am me, not the clone.  While I am still alive, the clone is not the closest continuer, so how can it be that the clone is the closest continuer at a later time?  Nozick thinks that the closest continuer may be a different individual at different times.    Nozick says that ultimately, you choose whether you become the clone or not.  This will depend on whether you consider a very long time span or only a short time span.

Parfit Part 2: Identity vs. Survival

Parfit thinks that the whole philosophical discussion about personal identity has been confused because people are using a technical term, identity, to talk about something other than strict numerical identity.

Parfit’s negative thesis is that the reason why personal identity is so important to people is because we want to survive, not because we want to remain identical to ourselves.  We call this a negative thesis because he is making a claim against traditional philosophy.  Parfit’s positive thesis is that our interest in personal identity comes from our interest in survival.  We call this a positive thesis because it’s the claim that he thinks is correct.

Survival is a lot like identity but not as strict.  It involves that there is some connection between an original person and his or her successor.

Parfit on Identity vs. Survival.  Both identity and survival are states of continuity.  Identity requires a one-to-one correspondence.   Both fission and fusion are ruled out by identity because both fission and fusion violate the transitivity of identity.  Survival does not require a one-to-one correspondence.  Survival allows for both fusion and fission.  Identity is an all-or nothing deal.  Things are either identical or not identical.  Survival can vary in degrees.  Also, the two views differ on the “Only X and Y Principle”

Only X and Y Principle: If we want to determine if X is identical to Y, we must only consider the relation between X and Y.  Identity must reject this principle in order to reject fission cases.  Once we reject the principle, then we can say that X and Y can only be identical if they are the same to one another and there is no other candidate for identity.  Survival does not reject the “Only X and Y Principle”.  Indeed, it willingly accepts the notion that X and Y may also be the same as Z.  This is because survival can happen in many different people.

Parfit in Response to Locke's Theory of Personal Identity

Last lecture we talked about John Locke’s memory theory of personal identity, which is a version of a psychological approach to solving the problem of personal identity (POPI).  The main intuition, or idea, that motivates a psychological approach to POPI is called the transplant intuition.  The transplant intuition is just this: Imagine that Johnny Depp’s  mind (brain, soul, whatever) is taken out of his own body and is transplanted into the body of another person.  Many philosophers think that the proper response to a scenario like this is to say that the body that has Johnny Depp’s brain is Johnny Depp.  Parfit thinks that instances of fission are problematic for psychological approaches such as John Locke's.

My version of the Parfit fission example: Brian’s Brain.  Imagine Brian’s brain has been cut into two parts.  By some fete of magic or neuroscientific wonder, the two halves of the brain are exactly the same; each one functions as Brian’s brain.  One half is given to Jay and the other to Bob.  Both Jay and Bob can remember Brian’s life in an experiential way.  In other words, they have the same autobiographical memory.  We call this a fission scenario (we can contrast this with a fusion scenario, where two minds are joined into one body).

Fission cases are a problem for a Lockean theory of personal identity.  In a fission scenario, both Jay and Bob have the same quality of autobiographical memory.  According to Locke’s theory of personal identity, Jay and Bob are both identical to Brian.  By the law of transitivity (if A=B and B=C, then A=C), Jay and Bob are identical.  But this seems obviously false!  Jay and Bob are two distinct people!  Parfit thinks there are three ways to react to this kind of problem for Locke caused by the transitivity of identity.

Solution 1: Neither Jay nor Bob is identical to Brian.  Brian’s identity is lost.  Response: But each of those halves of the brain is really Brian’s brain!  Just one of those halves is enough to be Brian! Whatever happens to the other half is irrelevant.

Solution 2: Brian is either Bob or Brian is Jay.  Response: It is silly to say that it is either one or the other because there is no way to discriminate, or tell the difference, between the two beforehand.  To choose one or the other as the bearer of identity would be silly since they are both equally good candidates beforehand.

Solution 3: Brian is both Bob and Jay.  Response: But this consequence is ridiculous.  By transitivity of identity, Bob and Jay are both identical to Brian and each other, but we know that Bob and Jay are actually distinct, so we must deny transitivity of identity, which is a silly law to reject.

Parfit thinks that this third option is the most feasible, but he wants to draw a distinction between survival and identity.  Hey says that Brian is not identical to Bob or Jay.  However, Brian does survive as both Bob and Jay.  Parfit thinks that much of the confusion in the discussion about POPI comes from mixing up the words “survival” and “identity”.  Parfit says that only academic philosophers worry about identity.  Most people only worry about survival.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reid's Objections to Locke's Theory of Personal Identity

Reid has lots of objections to Locke's view that personal identity is just made up of how far our conscious memory, or autobiographical memory, can extend.

First Objection: Reid thinks that when we say consciousness, we usually mean memory.  But in philosophical discussions, we should distinguish between the two.  Specifically, consciousness is always in the present and memory is of the past.  Locke responds: one can remember something without having consciousness of that memory.  We require that one does have conscious awareness of the memories that define one’s personal identity.  Personal identity requires this experiential memory, which is just remembering things from a first-person perspective in a way that preserves the qualitative character of our experiences.  We call this autobiographical memory.

Second Objection: Identity requires that something stays the same over time.  Consciousness is in constant flux.  Therefore, if our personal identity is the same as our consciousness, then our personal identity would go in and out of existence all the time.  This seems silly.  Locke responds: First, consciousness is not in total flux.  We are still conscious when we sleep, perhaps.  Second, personal identity is not limited by actual consciousness but our ability to be conscious of past memories.  We do not need to be actively conscious of our memories in order to be the same person as who we were when we first experienced those memories.

Fourth Objection: Violation of the Transitivity of Identity.  Imagine a brave officer.  As a boy in school, he was beaten.  He was successful in his first battle and later in life was a general.  As an officer during his successful battle, he remembered the flogging.  But as a general, he could remember being successful in his first battle but cannot remember being flogged as a boy.  According to Locke, the old general would not be identical to the boy who was flogged.  But this violates the transitivity of identity ( A = B, B = C so A = C).    Response: Perhaps not just memory but also character traits constitute personal identity.  Maybe not just memory but also personality can make someone numerically identical with himself or herself.  Also, perhaps this indirect connection that is described in the case is sufficient for personal identity.  In other words, the connections can be transitive.

Michael Jackson version of the brave officer: When Michael Jackson (MJ) released Thriller, he remembered being a member of the Jackson 5.  Imagine that when he was on his deathbed, he could not remember being in the Jackson 5.  According to Locke's theory, Thriller MJ is identical to Jackson 5 MJ.  Also according to Locke's theory, Thriller MJ is identical to almost dead MJ.  By the transitivity of identity, this means that Jackson 5 MJ is the same as almost dead MJ.  However, according to Locke's theory, almost dead MJ cannot be identical to Jackson 5 MJ because almost dead MJ does not remember being in the Jackson 5.  This violation of the transitivity of identity is a problem for Locke's theory

Some Solutions to the Problem of Personal Identity

 One approach is to say that the changes that a person undergoes are very gradual.  As long as a certain proportion of a person stays the same, then identity is maintained.  For example, if only five percent of a person’s mental and physical properties change, then personal numerical identity is maintained.  This sort of notion conflicts with the transitive view of identity.  Consider the following formulas that express identity, or equivalence:

Transitive Identity: if A = B and B = C, then A = C
Symmetry: if A = B then B= A
Reflexivity: A = A

Now, consider that we say that an organism can change just 5% in order to maintain numerical identity.  A changes 5% to turn into B.  So A = B.  Say that this organism continues to change another 5%, from B to C.  By the transitive identity equation, A = C.  However, this violates our original condition that an organism can only change a net 5% in order to maintain numerical identity.  Because identity is transitive, we cannot limit the amount of change that an organism can undergo in order to maintain personal identity.

Other Proposed Solutions to the Problem of Personal Identity.

The Body Criterion: Sammy the 5 year old and Sam the adult are the same person if and only if Sammy’s child body is the same as Sam’s adult body.  There are obvious problems with this, given that our bodies change so much throughout our lives.  Without going into detail, Sven indicates that philosophers are able to give us more complex versions of this that do not seem so silly.  A benefit to this view is that we often do actually judge someone to be identical to himself or herself based on his or her body.

The Biological Criterion.  Katie the infant is the same person as Katherine the adult if and only if the infant Katie has a biological organism that is continuous with the biological organism of Katherine the adult.

Narrative Identity Criterion.  What makes an experience a person’s ( a part of that person’s identity) is that it is incorporated into the person’s self-told story of his or her life.  For example, Max’s drunken rampage where he vandalized a police station is only part of his identity if he actually remembers it and it is part of the narrative that he tells about his own life.

Psychological Criterion.  Ruthie the baby is the same person as Ruth the Supreme Court Justice is and only if Ruthie the baby is uniquely psychologically continuous with Ruth the Supreme Court Justice.

Memory Criterion.  Toddler Stefani is the same person as Lady Gaga if and only if (a) Lady Gaga remembers being toddler Stefani, (b) Lady Gaga’s ability to remember that is based on actual recollection (not fabrication of memories) and (c), no other being satisfies conditions (a) and (b).  This is a more refined version of the psychological criterion.  Simply put, I am the same as myself ten years ago because I can remember myself ten years ago.   An advantage to the memory criterion is that memories can withstand physical changes.  Also, it seems to be how we identify ourselves.

Transplant Intuition.  Locke imagines that the mind of a prince is put into the body of a cobbler when the cobbler dies.  Locke says that the organism that is the cobbler’s body and the prince’s soul is the same person (is numerically identical to) the prince.   This so-called “transplant intuition” is the main motivation behind the psychological approach to personal identity.  Pop culture examples include the TV show Dollhouse or the movies Total Recall and Freaky Friday.

John Locke thinks that we identify ourselves as our consciousness.  Because our consciousness can extend back in time, or because it is in principle possible that we can remember things that happened a long time ago, we can rightfully say that we are identical to our past selves.  In other words, he thinks that the limits of our conscious memories are the limits of our personal identity.  A result of this view is that things that we cannot, in principle, remember are not parts of our personal identity.

In short, in order for you to be the same person as you were on the weekend, you must remember in an autobiographical way what happened to you then.  To remember something autobiographically is to remember not just what happened but also what context you were in when things happened.  For example, it isn’t’ enough that I remember that I watched the Superbowl on Sunday in order for me to be the same person as I was on Sunday.  Rather, I also have to remember where I was, what I did and what my experiences were like.

The Problem of Personal Identity

We change and evolve throughout our lives, physically and mentally.  We grow larger and then wrinkly.  We grow smarter and then lose some of our intelligence in old age.  In spite of all these changes, how is it that we still can talk about the life of a single person?  How is it that someone maintains personal identity over many different kinds of changes?

First, let’s clarify what we mean when we say “identity”.  On the one hand, someone might use the term to talk about qualitative identity, meaning that two things share all the same properties or qualities.   For example, two newly minted coins may have the same weight, color and designs.   On the other hand, someone might use this term to talk about numerical identity, which means that two things really are just one in the same thing.  In qualitative identity, we can have several individual objects that share the same properties.  Numerical identity, however, requires that there is only one actual thing.  For example, Batman is numerically identical with Bruce Wayne.  Clark Kent is numerically identical to Superman. Lady Gaga is numerically identical to Stefani Germanotta.

Numerical identity is the kind of identity that we talk about when we discuss personal identity.  When discussing numerical identity (also known as strict identity), we can talk about something being identical to itself either at the same time (synchronically) or across time (diachronically).  For example, we can talk about me being the same person as myself right now and we can also talk about me being the same person as who I was when I was six years old in Minnesota.

The problem of personal identity is the question of what criteria someone has to share across time in order to stay the same person.  In other words, what must stay the same about a person in order for him or her to be numerically identical with his or her former self?  In fancy philosopher talk: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of diachronic personal identity?

Monday, February 7, 2011

First Paper Comments

Hello!   Overall, I was pleased with the papers.  However, there were a couple of common paper mistakes.

The most common was the mischaracterization of skepticism.  Specifically, many mischaracterized the kind of skepticism that is an appropriate response to the problem of the criterion.  The skepticism which is an appropriate response to the problem of the criterion is second-order skepticism, which is the view that we cannot have a theory of knowledge or knowledge about knowledge!  This type of skepticism does not entail skepticism about all knowledge.

Another common mistake was in discussing the no-false premise solution as a response to the Gettier problem.  This is the view that that the real problem in the Gettier cases is that the justified and true beliefs are being based on false premises.  They say that we can only get knowledge when we reason through true premises.    There are two reasons to reject the no-false premise solution: First, it does not eliminate all Gettier cases.  Second, it excludes some cases of actual knowledge.  In short, the view is both too restrictive and too lenient.  

Also, I don't want everyone to think that Empricism like John Locke's is the only kind of methodism.  There are other views that first determine a method for finding knowledge before determining the criteria for knowledge.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Arguments against Functionalism: Block, Jackson and Lewis

Qualia seem to pose a problem for functionalism.  Qualia are just “what it’s like” to have a mental state.  Some examples of qualia are feeling sleepy or a sensation of pain.  Qualia are not necessarily expressed by behaviors.  Our experiences are rich with qualia, though.  While sitting in class, my coffee smells a certain way, my back is a little sore from rock climbing last night and my feet feel comfy in my boots.  These are all qualia that are not manifested in my behaviors and these qualia seem to be irreducible.  In other words, we can only explain these feelings and sensations as feelings and sensations; to explain them in terms of behaviors or neuronal activity misses out on the feeling or the sensation itself.

Jackson thinks that there can be two qualia that give rise to the same functional state.  Functionalism is the view that there is a 1-1 correspondence between mental states and functional states.  If there were two mental states (2 different qualia) that have the same functional state, then this is a counterexample to the functionalist view.   e.g. when a mosquito bites my arm it feels differently from when a horsefly bites my arm.  But these two different mental states have the same functional state: I slap the bug where it is biting me.

4 Features of Qualia: Ineffable, intrinsic, private and directly and infallibly knowable.  Ineffable: unable to be described in words.  They cannot be explained by our words and concepts completely.  Intrinsic: they are inside the subject or the person experiencing.  Private: other people do not have access to my qualia.  Other people cannot observe my qualia like I can.  Directly and Infallibly Knowable: I can never be wrong about how things seem to me.  How something feels is just how it feels to me, which is something that I know just by virtue of experiencing it.

Ned Block’s Absent Qualia Argument Against Functionalism:  Imagine a robot that acts just like humans.  It has all the same behaviors as humans.  However, this machine does not have feelings or qualia.  Block thinks that we cannot say that this robot has mental states or a mind.

Block Argument Formalized:

1. We can imagine a functional system that has all the same functions as me but it is not conscious. It has no qualia.
2. Qualia are mental states.
3. Therefore, some mental states are not functional states.  Functionalism is false.

Jackson’s Red Fred.  Imagine someone who can see more shades of red than the average person (these people exist, they are called tetrachromats).  Jackson says there is no amount of physical information that can explain to us how this person sees the color red.  Knowing all the physical information about Fred is not enough to know what Fred’s experiences of red are!  Mental states are not just functional states that can be described in physical terms!

Jackson’s Color Scientist.  Imagine Mary, a brilliant color scientist.  She only lives in a black and white room.  She is never exposed to colors.  But she reads books about color and spends her whole life learning about color.  She knows everything about color science and color vision.  However, we still can’t say that she knows what it is like to experience colors.  Having all of the scientific physical information about colors is not the same as having a mental experience of colors.   When Mary is finally able to experience color, she learns something new about color: what it is like to experience color! Hence there must be more to color than just the physical information.  Functionalism is false!

Color Scientist Argument Formalized:

1. While in her colorless room, Mary knows all physical facts about color.
2. When she leaves the room, she gets new knowledge about the experience of color.
3. So while in the room, there were facts about color that Mary did not know.
4. Therefore, not all facts about color are physical facts.  Functionalism is false.

Lewis thinks that the third premise of this argument is problematic.  He does admit that the experience of color is different than having physical knowledge of color.  However, he thinks that having an experience of color is NOT getting new knowledge or new facts about color.  Mary may have new know-how, or skill to see color but she does not learn new facts.  Lewis’s response to this objection hinges on the difference between know-how and know-that.  Know-how is something like having a skill.  Know-that is knowing a fact, or a statement is true.  Lewis claims that because premise 3 in the above argument is false, the argument fails.