What makes us US.

What makes us US.
Timber
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Posted Aug 24, 2010 - 9:10 AM:
Subject: What makes us US.
My own theory is that our own personal identity is defined by our consciousness (or mind). Its persistence seems to be what makes us who we are and what essentially defines us. This is also how I essentially define my own self.

As we change throughout their lives, adopting new personalities and physical changes, we all experience it through our consciousness which persists throughout. If we limit our identity to the consciousness, then it can help avoid problems such as cloning or switching memories with another person,as our own experiences are exclusive to our own mind.

The difficulty to even imagine "switching consciousness with another persons' " (appears confusing to me) may even further support how exclusive our minds are to us. I can imagine the exchange of personalities or physical properties between two people, but when it comes to the exchange of minds themselves I cannot imagine a scenario.

It appears as though our consciousness acts as the base for these changes that occur to ourselves (to our personality or to our bodies) and is the essence of every person.

When we die, our consciousness fades. This is my own view of becoming nonexistent, when we are no longer conscious and our mind no longer exists. As long as they exist or persist, we are still alive.
jamalrob
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Posted Aug 24, 2010 - 10:12 AM:

How can you tell that your consciousness has persisted? Memory perhaps? What if you lost your memory and somebody replaced it (somehow) with a whole new set of memories? Go one step further and imagine that this new set of memories exactly matched those of somebody else. Who is the person inhabiting your body?

This is a prosaic version of Bernard Williams' response to Locke's Prince and the cobbler thought experiment.

But what do I think? I don't know. Who am "I" anyway?

The difficulty to even imagine "switching consciousness with another persons' " (appears confusing to me) may even further support how exclusive our minds are to us. I can imagine the exchange of personalities or physical properties between two people, but when it comes to the exchange of minds themselves I cannot imagine a scenario.


There seems to be a confusion here (unless it's me who's confused). If your personal identity is your consciousness or mind, then what can it mean to say that your mind is exclusive to you? Or do you have trouble with the idea that your mind could be implanted into another body and persist in its identity? If so, then you appear to be hedging between identity as mind, and identity as mind + body.

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Posted Aug 24, 2010 - 10:48 AM:

jamalrob wrote:
How can you tell that your consciousness has persisted?


If we were to accept the opposite, then you must admit that we exist as point instants in time, apparently with every consciousness coming and disappearing. Apparently, then, the mind that is writing this response is not the one that read your sentence confused.

jamalrob wrote:
What if you lost your memory and somebody replaced it (somehow) with a whole new set of memories? Go one step further and imagine that this new set of memories exactly matched those of somebody else. Who is the person inhabiting your body?


If we define identity in terms of minds, then it is the same mind throughout, which is what I said before. It may just be like adopting a new personality, which is not that new or suprising. Perhaps our minds are shells for these memories to build on, which allows for drastic changes to occur.

jamalrob wrote:
There seems to be a confusion here (unless it's me who's confused). If your personal identity is your consciousness or mind, then what can it mean to say that your mind is exclusive to you? Or do you have trouble with the idea that your mind could be implanted into another body and persist in its identity? If so, then you appear to be hedging between identity as mind, and identity as mind + body.


A mind can be implanted with a replacement body just as much as it can be implanted with memories and whatnot. I don't know if I am misreading your question, but your mind is what makes you. It seems odd to say that a person has more than one mind or consciousness if we define identity to be in something other than the mind.

Would you say that you still exist if your body and your memories remain intact even after your consciousness has been assimilated (perhaps like what I said above in the beginning)? Going even further, what if another mind were to take over?

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Posted Aug 24, 2010 - 10:58 AM:

If we define identity in terms of minds, then it is the same mind throughout, which is what I said before. It may just be like adopting a new personality, which is not that new or suprising. Perhaps our minds are shells for these memories to build on, which allows for drastic changes to occur.


...and...

A mind can be implanted with a replacement body just as much as it can be implanted with memories and whatnot. I don't know if I am misreading your question, but your mind is what makes you. It seems odd to say that a person has more than one mind or consciousness if we define identity to be in something other than the mind.


The problem here is that if we accept that personal identity consists in the persistence of consciousness, and that that persistence consists in memories, then these two cases are the same. That is, implanting memories into a body is just the same thing as putting another mind into that body.
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Posted Aug 24, 2010 - 11:10 AM:

How can we tell that our consciousness and/or identity is continuous? If the mind resides in and is a product of the brain, and if the identity of the person is a function of a specific mind and body, and if (as far as we know) nothing significant has happened to our brain (like having a bullet pass through the middle of our brain at supersonic speed, or having the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy), then our mind and identity should be more or less intact. There is another mechanism, the feedback of everybody else's more or less intact minds and identities. In isolation, were we to find ourselves living on earth completely alone, we would probably begin to lose our identity, and our mind. Given enough time, we would probably stop thriving and die.

Other people, and other animals, for that matter, help keep our identities and minds stable. My dog helps me stay who I am, and visa versa. Experience and observation has shown us that neither identity nor mind is immutably stable - we can experience change and even loss of both, but in general we experience continuity. As time passes we change -- we learn, we take on new roles, stop supporting old roles, we forget. What we maintain is the continuity of a mind and identity that we know has changed. When we lose a life-long partner, our identity changes, we have to take on new roles, but what we become is "the self that is largely the same as what it used to be, but with significant changes."

If injury or disease intervene, we may experience discontinuity of identity that are like, "I don't know who I am" and "I don't know who these people are [who seem to know me]." And, possibly, we could experience an intermediate state of "I used to be somebody else, but I can't remember."

"What makes us US" isn't some identity center in the brain (we don't have a read-only chip set that tells us who we are every time we wake up). Its a "sum-total' emergent process that depends on a certain level of stability and continuity in our life to function. (Just guessing. Does this sound reasonable, Timber?)
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Posted Aug 24, 2010 - 11:19 AM:

What makes this potato this potato? Probably not the continuity of its consciousness so much as the continuity of its starches and skin and so on.
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Posted Aug 24, 2010 - 11:24 AM:

Timber, I understand that you do not literally mean transplanting a mind to another body, or 'implanting' memories (apart from sensory input), but I don't think that strategy helps. We have enough difficulty trying to grasp the meaning of our existence within the framework of what we are familiar with.

That said, it would seem to me that if the Borg, or some equally clever species, were to switch our brains around from this body to that, then our identities would change as well since our brains, bodies, minds, and identities are all of a piece. With a different body I would suddenly experience the world much differently. Suppose a brain, mind, and identity was transferred from a blind, deaf, unsexual and scrawny body to one that had very sharp vision, excellent hearing, great muscular development, terrific sexual capacity, and so forth (or visa versa). How could the mind and identity remain the same? I don't think it could.

BUT we only experience dramatic changes without switching bodies. Our bodies change, and we have difficulty grasping what that means.
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Posted Aug 24, 2010 - 12:51 PM:

I just want to say thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it.

Jamalrob:

I didn't say that persistence consists in memories. They can change just as much as a person can change her personality so I don't think what you have said thus follows.

I agree that memories can give the idea of persistence. I understand that, but if we accept that our consciousness does not persist for any more than an instant, then it can create rather odd scenarios that I have outlined in my previous post. But even then, I may still say that my existence is short and that I exist through the time in which I am conscious.


Bittercrank:

I still hold that a person changes, but I am only saying that there is one persisting consciousness that experiences this. We go through life having the same window in which we view the world and we notice constant changes in our bodies and our own disposition. Again, perhaps the consciousness can be the base in which everything forms, but though the bas is unchanging, the contents within are not as permanent and can be subject to change.

Does this sound right?

Unenlightened:

I am not trying to apply this idea to all items.I am trying to look to defining ourselves and where we are in the world, which is the topic of this thread.
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Posted Aug 24, 2010 - 1:11 PM:

Timber wrote:

Jamalrob:

I didn't say that persistence consists in memories.


I didn't say that you did. I brought up memory in my first reply because it has been common to identify memories with persistent consciousness. Anyway, this question - about what is personal identity - is the crux of the biscuit, isn't it?
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Posted Aug 24, 2010 - 1:26 PM:

jamalrob wrote:


I didn't say that you did. I brought up memory in my first reply because it has been common to identify memories with persistent consciousness. Anyway, this question - about what is personal identity - is the crux of the biscuit, isn't it?


Well, I thought that I distinguished between memories in my OP, but I apologize for any lack of clarity (english is a second language and clarity is not much my strong point).

In answer to you question, yes, that is the topic of the thread. I believe that it consists in our consciousness/mind because I believe that it is the most appropiate persisting object for a person's identity.
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