|Personal Identity and Immortality|
|Source: Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction, 2009, Chapter 1|
|Paper - Abstract|
|Paper Summary||Books / Papers Citing this Paper||Notes Citing this Paper|
For the meaning of any abbreviations in what follows Click here for Note
… the rational anticipation of
… the mere metaphysical possibility of continued post-mortem experiences
… “from the inside”.
(a) without clarifying the “whisking”, how are we to know whether bodily identity is preserved?
(b) doesn’t this process make God a deceiver?
(a) The whisking and salting must be within the power of an omnipotent being, so aren’t problematical as such – though we do need to know the identity-preserving mechanisms.
(b) Allowing God to be a deceiver may simply be redefining the concept “God”. Deception may be impossible for the traditional concept of God “who cannot lie”, but maybe there are other coherent concepts of the divine that don’t require this attribute. Also, one could say that – on the traditional conception of “God” – if it’s logically necessary for God to act in a certain way to keep his promises, then he doesn’t need to point this out, and so isn’t strictly deceiving anyone, since we can work out what must be going on (if we’re as smart as Van Inwagen, or have him to enlighten us).
(a) Provide a mechanism whereby pre- and post-mortem identification is seen as rational.
(b) Is possible – ie. isn’t absurd or incoherent.
(a) A purely psychological substance, whose essence is to think (as Descartes maintained)?
(b) A substance whose psychology is separable from it?
(c) Something I have or something I am (or something else)?
(2) But we do this all the time,
(3) The Soul Criterion is false.
(a) The Body, or
… Weirob’s “Chocolate Centre” analogy.
Note - all these arguments are considered by Locke in "Locke (John) - Of Identity and Diversity" (Click here for Note).
… Weirob’s “River / River Water” analogy.
Objections to MC1
1. Butler’s 1736 Objection: Intermittent existence caused by amnesia. Click here for Note (section “Problems with Locke’s Account of Personal Identity”, item 3 (“Amnesia”), admittedly not quite covering this issue). Shoemaker has a footnote on MC1 being a sufficient but not necessary condition for personal identity. It might satisfy the metaphysical requirement for immortality if remembering a past life was sufficient for survival. But Shoemaker has higher aims.
2. Reid’s 1785 Objection: The Brave Officer. Failure of transitivity. This is a much more serious objection, as it implies a contradiction – since identity is a transitive relation. Click here for Note (section “Problems with Locke’s Account of Personal Identity”, item 4 (“Transitivity”)).
(a) Y directly remembers the thoughts and experiences of X, OR
(b) Y directly remembers the thoughts and experiences of some Z, who …Q, who … R, …, who directly remembers the thoughts and experiences of X.
… ie. the ancestral of the “remembers” relation.
Objections to MC1a
1. False memories: being deluded into thinking I remember commanding at Waterloo doesn’t make me Napoleon. But we can’t patch this up by saying that only genuine memories count, as this makes MC1a circular. Click here for Note (section “Problems with Locke’s Account of Personal Identity”, item 1 (“Priority”)).
2. Circularity: if for memories to be genuine I need identity, I cannot use memory as a criterion of identity. (David) Shoemaker claims that (Sydney) Shoemaker and Derek Parfit claim that I can have genuine memories of experiences other than my own. Scientists “copy a memory trace” into my brain. I “seem to remember”, but am not deluded because I’m in on the act and know the experience wasn’t mine. The issue is one of causality8. Delusions (of course) have some cause, but it’s not of the right sort, with no connection to the original experience. (David) Shoemaker seems to think that the transplanted9 (though he says “copied”) memory-trace example is a case of genuine memory not presupposing identity.
(a) Y seems to remember the thoughts and experiences of X, either directly of ancestrally AND
(b) Y’s seeming to remember is caused in the right way.
1. The “causal” clause is to circumvent the “delusion” objection.
2. The claim is that the “copying” of the memory trace does provide a cause of the right sort, because the actual memory trace is a record of an experience, and not a record of an experience that never happened to anyone.
Objections to MC2
1. Copying: “Copying” memory traces seems all wrong – for surely this will fall foul of reduplication objections (see later). “Transplanting”10” memory traces might have more going for it, but is the sort of thing that (because of the distributed and intertwined realisation of “memory traces”) may be either forever practically impossible or even metaphysically impossible.
2. Brains: However, it may be the case that my brain makes backup copies of its own memory traces, to provide fault-tolerance. So, we need to be careful about copying – some copyings may be of the right causal form, while others aren’t. It looks to me as though the copyings must involve the same brain, so that copyings from one brain to another are of the wrong sort. To be a memory, the memory-trace must have got into my brain (or indeed, any brain) by the right sort of causal process. This is – please note – in order to be a memory at all, not just my memory.
3. Reliable Storage Mechanisms: It seems at first sight that what we want is “any old” reliable storage mechanism. So, the thought is that we might download the memories from one body (the pre-mortem one) and upload11 them to another (the resurrection one). The fact that this is not the usual causal mechanism is not relevant if it is reliable. The trouble is, that it isn’t …
4. Reduplication: the problem with the download/upload12 proposal is that we need to stop multiple uploads13 – which Shoemaker takes to be equivalent to fission. (More on which later. Click here for Note). The reason for the reduplication problem is that identity is transitive. So if the pre-mortem person is identical to two resurrection persons, then those “two” persons have to be identical to one another. Shoemaker does briefly consider the possibility of “distributed persons” whereby the two resurrected bodies do house one person apparently living two lives, but rules that this stretches the concept of personhood too far.
5. Real-Life Reduplication: Note, however, that there are well known issues here that apply to real-life situations, not just TEs – Multiple Personality Disorder (Click here for Note) and Commissurotomy (Click here for Note).
6. Lewis: Note also that Lewis’s perdurantist (Click here for Note) approach to fission (Click here for Note) is a possible answer to the reduplication objection.
7. Quick Fix: So, to avoid the reductio of reduplication, we could make a “no competitors” stipulation …
Objections to MC3
1. Absurdity: Shoemaker’s view is that while MC3 isn’t self-contradictory, it is “deeply absurd”, which is almost as bad. It’s like the “Branch-Line” case in Teletransportation (Click here for Note); one copy is made and is you, then another copy is made and what was you is no longer you. There are questions of priority here, and a better case for non-absurdity can be made than Shoemaker attempts. But there are cases where there’s no principled choice. See the discussions under “Closest Continuer” (Click here for Note).
2. Your Experience: Shoemaker seems to assume that if we had the right sort of causality14, you would wake up in the resurrection body. And he may be right – but he also seems to assume that even without the right sort of causality15, there would still be continuity of experience, even without identity. Again, he may be right, but this takes me to my forward versus backward continuity theme (Click here for Note). While someone would wake up, this waking-up would not be something you experience, even if the waker-up would claim to be you. This has something (though I don’t know what) to do with how conscious states propagate. Resurrection to a new body is too much of a hop, though resurrection of the same body doesn’t seem so problematical (it seems analogous to resuscitation from a coma).
3. Identity and Experience: Can one imagine continuity of experience in the case of fission? It seems difficult to do so, whether or not identity is preserved. We might, for instance, say that whatever we might think, because fission involves loss of identity, whatever we might imagine we would experience, we couldn’t in fact experience. We’re just deluded by the TE. However, what if we adopt a perdurantist (Click here for Note) approach to fission, so that prior to fission there were two co-habiting individuals whose stages just happened to be spatially coincident. Then we cannot use non-identity as a knock-down proof of inconceivability, as identity is preserved for both fission products. In that case continuous (if intermittent) conscious experience out to be possible, whether we can conceive of it or not.
4. Christ: So, St. Paul’s claim that if the dead don’t rise, then Christ is not risen doesn’t quite work. As a generality the dead might not rise (if their bodies have been destroyed). But Christ may be a special case. Jesus Christ (is said to have) risen in his own body, somewhat “glorified”, but still so that there is a continuity that is lacking for the generality of mankind.
1. Maybe this is a case of survival without what matters17. Ie. the body that survives with the transplanted brain18 (F) is X, but X doesn’t have what matters19 to her in survival; she lacks the psychological factors just rehearsed.
2. But, we still need to consider the status of Y’s brain and its psychology. It continues to exist (lodged in X’s body) and (we suppose) continues to experience a first person perspective as Y (if out of context). Is it supposed to be part of X? Would the FPP really be continuous? All the usual questions.
3. Sometime I need to look through "Popper (Karl) & Eccles (John) - The Self and Its Brain" (and "Eccles (John) - Evolution of the Brain, Creation of the Self"), however wearying, in case Popper or Eccles had anything useful to say on the possibility of a particular brain being important (but not essential) to the maintenance of self.
1. For other discussions on this topic, Click here for Note (and see "Blatti (Stephan) - Animalism, Dicephalus, and Borderline Cases"). Shoemaker gives Link - which is still there, though the photo isn’t. There are multiple references on the web – eg. Link.
2. I agree with Shoemaker that there are two persons. However, I disagree that there is one body. There are two bodies that share parts. Not sure if there are “normal” examples of this – maybe plants that share a root system?
1. This is an objection to the real existence of bodies as such, and not just as a criterion of (personal) identity. Also, presumably Shoemaker’s suggestion of percentages presuppose all parts of the body are equally important, and that we can start paring away at any place we feel like.
2. There have been arguments along Sorites-lines21 against the existence of bodies (and many other things) – for instance "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings" and "Unger (Peter) - I Do Not Exist".
3. But things like organisms may have a more principled set of existence-criteria (ie. they either work or they don’t); but there are other problems. For instance, organisms on life-support are still organisms … aren’t they – Olson may deny this?
4. Can’t the same argument be fired at any criterion of identity? For instance to the PC – just how much of my psychology can I lose before I’m no longer me.
5. Maybe we just don’t have identity, but the ancestral of a similarity relation? I think this is suggested by some philosophers – but I can’t remember who.
6. Shoemaker equates identity / non-identity with life / death, but these are very different concepts. Only organisms can live or die; the concept is applied to non-organisms only by analogy.
7. The Sorites22 argument – when applied to both body and psychology – seems to apply to the process of senescence that most of us will go through, and raises the question of whether we go out of existence before we die. We don’t assume this.
8. Shoemaker seems to muddle together epistemological and metaphysical objections – he complains that the BC (in the paring-down case) would mean that we’d never know whether a person had survived or not, because (given they might be deluded) we can’t take their work for it. But, this (a) applies to all criteria and (b) doesn’t affect what is actually the case. This has come up before, and reflects the practical concerns driving this project.
9. In all, I think that objections to BC (even if not Shoemaker’s) are sound. Most current Animalists23 reject the BC.
1. It gives an answer in accord with our intuitions in the Julia case. F=Y.
2. It avoids the duplication objections (subject to my amendment below), though at the cost of making resurrection impossible.
3. It gives the right answer in the Dicephalus case.
1. Teletransportation (TT): Shoemaker gives a brief account of the “information transfer” rather than “disassembly and re-assembly” variant. His point is just that if we take TT as a fast way of travel rather than death and duplication, then we don’t accept the BBMC. True, but so what? Can we really trust our intuitions in a TE as far from our normal experience as TT?
2. Brain Rejuvenation: This is another TE, which Shoemaker recognises as a terrestrial equivalent of the “Divine Duplication” case. The situation is that you have an ailing brain, and an organic, but repaired, exact copy of your brain is manufactured and substituted for your own brain (the ailment is described as vascular, with no explicit psychological impact). According to Shoemaker, there is a dilemma: either you admit that you survive with the new brain or you don’t. If you admit to survival, you’ve given up the BBMC. But if you deny that you’ve survived, then you’ve effectively given up on the memory-based identity that motivated the BBMC in the first place. The reason is that there was an “insight” that (allegedly) moved us away from a substance-based criterion of personal identity to a relational criterion: that when you awake, you don’t need to check a substance (body or soul) to re-identify yourself – you “just know” based on your memories, and these over-ride evidence to the contrary (as in the Kafka Metamorphosis24 case). By insisting on identity of a particular brain, you’re choosing a substance, when (it is said) you already have everything you want, psychologically. Shoemaker adds a further TE to this one: your brain is supposed to have been duplicated, and your brain is removed and sat next to the clone. But then an accident happens – both brains fall on the floor and get muddled up, so no-one knows which is which. And there can never be enlightenment on the matter – whichever brain is implanted, the recipient will feel the same, though in one case (according to BBMC) identity is preserved, with genuine memories, while in the other it isn’t and the memories are delusions. This is said to be “mysterious” and to detract from the “lustre” of the BBMC.
1. Duplication: Given that the BBMC is motivated by reduplication objections, we probably need a non-branching condition as in MC3, given the well-known TE of fission by idempotent half-brain transplants25. Shoemaker doesn’t mention this possibility. Follow up under Fission (Click here for Note), and my general thoughts on Brains and Transplants.
2. Brain Rejuvenation: This doesn’t seem to take seriously the reason we posited the BBMC in the first place – which was to get round the “Divine Duplication” objection. This raises a question about the dialectic at this point in Shoemaker’s argument. He’s introduced the BBMC as a way round reduplication, but then introduced reduplication himself. The idea is presumably that the BBMC is no defence to the reduplication objections, because, he thinks, the duplicate brain, given that we hold a MC at all, would have such a strong claim to be me that we’d have to admit the dilemma that Shoemaker introduced above.
3. Resurrection: The BBMC is said to rule out resurrection – but why more so than any other form of PID? I think the issue is that resurrection can be viewed (as in the New Testament itself) as something like a change of clothes. Identity is grounded in some non-corporeal way, and that incorporeal thing “has” a body. The BBMC is no more in difficulties in this respect than the BC, but is still in trouble, as it doesn’t seem possible that the resurrection-body’s brain is identical to the pre-mortem body’s brain. So, if it’s the physical brain that grounds identity, then we don’t have it in the case of resurrection. Now, there are a couple of wheezes on offer that try to get round this issue. One is Van Inwagen’s divine body-snatching suggestion, previously remarked upon (see "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection"). Then there is "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from 'Is There a Mind-Body Problem?'" (Click here for Note). Neither of them seems promising.
4. Teletransportation: I have written extensively on this topic elsewhere (Click here for Note). Enough to say here that TT is – at least in the information transfer variant – a case of death and replication. From Shoemaker’s perspective, it just seems a more fanciful version of the Brain Rejuvenation TE, but with the deliverances of Intuition somewhat less certain.
Three conditions are assumed – not for the possibility of immortality as such, but for its rational anticipation (= RA). In what follows, HP = “Heavenly Person” and “EP” = “Earthly Person” (= me). I pass over the assumption that the home for the blessed is heaven and not (a reconstituted) Earth:-
1. Personal Identity – ie. HP = EP – is a necessary condition for RA.
2. The criterion of PID that accounts for HP = EP must be free from absurdities.
3. Suitable Mechanisms are critical for RI.
Any of these three assumptions can be denied, and Shoemaker considers doing so, though not in the order below:-
1. Identity: Can we do without it? It fails for BC, BBMC and for non-substance MC. SC fails condition 3. Are there alternatives? Shoemaker rehearses the Brain Transplant26 TE (as discussed under the head of the BC) and for the sake of the argument, assumes that F=X, ie. I don’t “go with my brain”. Even if I accept this premise, should I still go ahead with the brain transplant27 in the hypothetical circumstances envisaged? There are two variants:-
(a) You (and everyone else) are ignorant of the metaphysics. It looks like you’ve “gone with your brain”, you thought you’d “be transplanted28”, the brain recipient thinks she’s you, as does everyone else. Everyone’s happy … so what’s the problem?
(b) You know what’s going on metaphysically-speaking, and you know you don’t survive – but do you have any reason to care less for the survivor (F) than for yourself? Can we anticipate the experience of HP in the same way we anticipate our future self (with non-identity?). Shoemaker thinks this suggestion is too radical to accept until we have exhausted the alternatives (ie. the Psychological Criterion and the Biological criterion)29 in the next Chapter ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity, Rational Anticipation, and Self-Concern"). He will return to the question in Chapter 3 ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches").
2. Absurdities: Can we live with these? Shoemaker notes that MC2 & MC3, while improving on MC1 in (it is said) providing for genuine memories, are still open to the Divine Duplication objection. Shoemaker thinks that we cannot just ignore this difficulty. If we insist on condition 1 (identity) then we cannot have absurdities – two “non-identical” things supposedly identical because of the transitivity condition.
3. Mechanisms: Do we need one? Even though the SC metaphysically-speaking provides a mechanism for survival, it doesn’t provide for RA, because there’s no way we can know that we have the same soul, as we can’t track them. But we could give up this condition and adopt the SC anyway. But, Shoemaker thinks, this would involve abandoning all our usual forensic uses of identity. Because we need re-identification for pronouncements of guilt, ownership and such-like, and we can’t have re-identification on the SC account of PID, the SC is no use to us.
1. Identity: Are there any options with non-standard identity logics? Maybe - Click here for Note for a discussion of the Logic of Identity, but we need to beware that we don’t stray off topic into Exact Similarity (Click here for Note). Otherwise, we have to hold fire until completing Chapter 3 ("Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Self-Regarding Ethics - Alternative Approaches").
(a) If we’re talking about physical things (BC, BBMC), we might fall back on Perdurantism (Click here for Note) to avoid absurdity. But, for MCs, is there a perdurantist analogue? For instance, multiple co-located personalities? But, what would this mean? Just what are “personalities” – are they universals30 or particulars? If the former, are they located anywhere?
(b) Shoemaker rejects out of hand bodily resurrection as identity-preserving, but doesn’t consider the suggestions of Chisholm or Van Inwagen. Are these ideas absurd, or just silly – and so not really providing for RA? Does "Nagel (Thomas) - The Absurd" have anything to say on these distinctions?
3. Mechanisms: I think we might have RA under the SC of PID – say if God had explicitly told us this is how it works. So, while we couldn’t do the tracking, we could trust him to do it. Also, Shoemaker makes two assumptions here (it seems to me). Firstly, that Ethics is prior to Metaphysics (when it should be the other way round). If the SC is correct, then we need to adjust our ethics to suit. Secondly, maybe things aren’t that bad in any event. Maybe we can’t be sure of identity of soul – but we could make the simplifying assumption that souls don’t hop around capriciously, and act on this basis. This is what Locke does when he has to admit that by his criterion we might be inappropriately punishing the genuinely amnesiac drunk. We have to punish, lest he be dissimulating. We have to act that way as no other practice is open to us. Yet we trust God to sort out the mess in eternity (see "Locke (John) - Of Identity and Diversity" - Click here for Note, section on Amnesia).
I may be unfair to Shoemaker in alleging that he holds Ethics to be prior to Metaphysics. He seems to deny this (in his final Chapter - "Shoemaker (David) - Personal Identity and Ethics - Conclusion: Notes on Method" - though there he says that Personal Identity is prior to Ethics, which may not be quite the same thing), but doesn’t seem (to me) to stick rigidly to his own guidelines.
… "Bynum (Caroline) - Metamorphosis and Identity"
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