Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Little Death

Philosophy time. This is something that's been worrying me for a few weeks now... and I don't know if I should even be worried about it or happy about it.

It all started through a bunch of discussions we had at work, talking about whether if you magically created an atomically identical clone of yourself, and destroyed your original body at the same time (as happens in most realistic ideas of teleportation), would that clone really be you? Sure, the clone would feel that it was you, but would you (whatever that means) still experience living on as the clone? The usual response was that no, because that clone had no continuity of experience with you. It wasn't the same person because at some point, it had not had the experience of being you. But you had that experience, and so you were the same person.

The thing is, every single discussion I've ever heard on this topic hinges on the fact that I am me because I've always been me, and I have a continuous unbroken chain of continuity between the first me that I remember and me now.

I don't think that's the case. I think we're taking for granted something that we have assumed but never really shown; that just because usually, moment to moment, our experience of this world is continuous, that we have some magical property of continuity of experience. And that we, being people, are somehow special because of it.

When you go under general anaesthetic, it's not dark or fuzzy. It's not black. It's nothing. You don't exist and then as you come out from under it, *bam*. Suddenly you are awake and sensing and perceiving and it feels like it never left off... but it did. There's a gap in there, hours long, where you were a not-person. "You" didn't exist.

Every time you are truly, properly unconscious, you die. When your body recovers and starts processing information again, you are reborn. Is it really you? It's the same types of atoms in the same configuration, but then again so is the teleported clone in the first example. You can never cross the same river twice. In the same way, maybe we die and are reborn every once in a while... or every day, or every instant.

Something to think about.

No comments:

Post a Comment