A Physically Based Approach To Our Survival
Unger (Peter)
Source: Unger - Identity, Consciousness and Value, Chapter 5
Paper - Abstract

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Extract from Overview1

  1. As our intuitions regarding myriad cases attest, this physical approach provides an answer that's better than the others currently on offer. Yet, as we notice in chapter 5, even when well-endowed with constraints against unwanted cases of branching, it is not quite good enough. Perhaps there are two troubles. A small trouble is that distinctive psychology never counts. More plausibly, a tiny loss in the core might be offset by physically good furtherance of loads of distinctive psychology. So, in moving toward the physically based approach, first we allow for such trade-offs.
  2. The big trouble concerns assimilation, the main focus of the fifth chapter. Toward your seeing this trouble, I'll actually present you with a couple of cases.
    • First case: Suppose that four non-overlapping quarters of my brain are, in sequence, replaced by their respective "duplicates2," each replacement starting five minutes after the previous one was completed. Taking about one minute to occur, each replacement may itself be very gradual; only one percent of it's done during each successive half-second. Hence, in the original body, there's always at least 99.75% of a whole healthy brain. For good measure, assume that every step in the process is part of a "statistical miracle," uncaused by any (relevant) event. As part of this miracle, anything replaced is trashed. (By the miracle's end, all the brain matter in the skull is new stuff.) Finally, between replacements, an emerging person will think and act quite normally for about four minutes. Now, in this situation, there is a great deal of physically continuous realization even of all my psychology. Yet, as most intuitively respond, by the end of these minutes, I do not exist. Why is that?
    • A second case suggests an answer: Suppose that the period between quarterly replacements is a full year; between replacements, an emerging person always will engage in much normal thought and action. As we respond to this case, I will survive.
    So, what's the difference between the two cases? Roughly, it's this: In the first case, further new realizing parts enter well before previous newcomers have done enough in my life. In the second case, well before I take on yet another of them, the earlier central additions have been assimilated into me.
  1. Might Distinctive Psychology Be a Factor in Survival? – 140
  2. Can One Survive Without a Capacity for Consciousness? – 143
  3. Survival and Assimilation – 147
  4. Some Differences in Assimilation for Some Different Kinds of Ordinary Individuals – 153
  5. Assimilation and Disassimilation – 155
  6. Might We Survive Brain Replacements and even Brain Exchanges? – 156
  7. Disassimilation and Double Bisection – 159
  8. Some Strange Doings with Ships – 162
  9. Extrinsicness, Time and Identity – 164
  10. From Strange Ships to Puzzling People: The Hobbesian Personal Case – 166

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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