The Physical Approach To Our Survival
Unger (Peter)
Source: Unger - Identity, Consciousness and Value, Chapter 4
Paper - Abstract

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Extract from Overview1

  1. Then, some good news: In chapter 4 I come upon the basis for a good answer, the physical approach, whose two key ideas are these:
    • (1) For your survival, the causal furtherance of your distinctive psychology is of no importance: Against the psychological approach, we may ignore your personal memories, your constellation of intentions, your peculiar character traits, and so on. All that counts is the causal furtherance of your core psychology: Consisting only of things like your capacity for conscious experience and your capacity for very simple reasoning, your psychological core is exactly like that of even the dullest amnesiac moron.
    • (2) For your survival, the way the core is causally furthered is all-important: For you to exist at some particular future time, there must be the sufficiently continuous physical realization of a core psychology between the physical realizer of your core now (your brain) and the physical realizer (whether brain or not) of someone's core psychology at that future time.
  2. What is meant by this continuous physical realization? Mainly, I tell you in three ways: First, and right from page one, I exhibit scads of helpful examples; both lots of positive cases and many negative ones. Second, in section 5 of this fourth chapter, I tell you about very high standards for, and about lower standards for, the attribution of psychological capacities to people. Unlike almost everywhere else in our context-sensitive discourse, here it is the everyday standards that are the higher ones, and the theoretical standards that are the lower. On high (everyday) standards, we say people in "irreversible" coma no longer have even their basic mental capacities; on the lower standards more appropriate to philosophizing, we attribute many mental capacities to these unfortunates. Third, in sections 7 to 11, I discuss four of the aspects of physical continuity2: gradualness of material replacement, constitutional cohesion, systemic energy, and physical complementarity. Rather than just explaining one technical idea by means of several others, these aspects are used to organize still further examples. In these three ways, you get quite a serviceable idea of physically continuous realization. As this idea fits well with a contextually sensitive semantics3, as shown in section 3, it is true to say that, for you to survive, there can't be any interruption in the physical realization of the central psychology that you now have.
  1. Two Formulations of the Physical Approach – 103
  2. A Better Formulation – 106
  3. Wide Physical Continuity4 and Contextual Flexibility – 110
  4. The Derivative but Great Importance of Physical Continuity5 – 113
  5. Survival and the Realization of Psychological Capacities – 117
  6. How Important for My Survival Is My Capacity for Life? – 120
  7. Physical Continuity6 and the Gradual Replacement of Matter – 123
  8. Physical Continuity7 and Constitutional Cohesion – 125
  9. Physical Continuity8 and Systemic Energy – 129
  10. Thinking Beings and Unthinking Entities: A Contrast Concerning Survival – 131
  11. Physical Continuity9 and Physical Complementarity – 134

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Taken from "Unger (Peter) - Precis of 'Identity, Consciousness and Value'".

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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