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Pseudo-Book (Heap of Papers!) to hold a subset my printouts / photocopies of papers related - inter alia - to my Thesis on the topic of Personal Identity. Those I'm currently reading (allegedly).



"Awad (Edmond), Etc. - The Moral Machine experiment"

Source: Nature volume 563, pages 59–64 (1st November 2018)


Authors' Abstract
  1. With the rapid development of artificial intelligence have come concerns about how machines will make moral decisions, and the major challenge of quantifying societal expectations about the ethical principles that should guide machine behaviour.
  2. To address this challenge, we deployed the Moral Machine, an online experimental platform designed to explore the moral dilemmas faced by autonomous vehicles. This platform gathered 40 million decisions in ten languages from millions of people in 233 countries and territories.
  3. Here we describe the results of this experiment.
    1. First, we summarize global moral preferences.
    2. Second, we document individual variations in preferences, based on respondents’ demographics.
    3. Third, we report cross-cultural ethical variation, and uncover three major clusters of countries.
    4. Fourth, we show that these differences correlate with modern institutions and deep cultural traits.
  4. We discuss how these preferences can contribute to developing global, socially acceptable principles for machine ethics.
  5. All data used in this article are publicly available.


COMMENT:



"Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry with Dr Sophie Botros"

Source: YouTube Video, prepared by Bloomsbury Academic Publishing


Full Transcript1
    Introduction
        The past is very important to us. It is where we find the origins of our culture as well as our own roots. There is a whole industry involved in finding out about the past. Bookshops are full of history books. Universities all have history departments. But we can never go back. We shall never know how the flowers smelled in the garden of Epicurus. Everything past is no more; it has fallen into the dark backward and abysm of time. How then do we know anything about it at all? How do we know whether a particular event has even happened? Philosopher Sophie Botros addresses these complex issues in her new book - "Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: A Philosophical Enquiry". As she considers these matters, she finds herself forced to wonder whether the past exists at all.
  1. Truth
    • Once we begin to think about it we may be struck by what a queer idea the apparently ordinary idea of the past existing actually is. It’s an idea played on in Orwell’s 1984 when O’Brien2 – an Inner Party member – tries to persuade the hapless everyman3 – Winston – that the past isn’t set in stone but is infinitely manipulable by present interests4. O’Brien asks “Do you really think there exists somewhere or other a place – a world of solid objects – where the past is still happening5?” This disorienting feeling that the past may be a non-entity can even affect our sense of the present. Consider that eerie feeling sometimes elicited by the sound of a ticking clock at the dead of night. Everything is in flux – a relentless succession of present moments endlessly processing toward annihilation6.
    • In the first two parts of my book I argue that the past – at least as an independent entity – does not exist7 – that there is only the present.
        The past does not exist independently of the present”.
    • To start, I will use a simple thought experiment – I call it the “moving platform” …
        Imagine yourself sitting in a room when your friend enters from your left, passes in front of you, and ends up on your right. From a fixed position in space, it seems8 you can track her movements smoothly, continuously from left to right. It is possible to observe a moving object while not oneself being in motion. If we consider time, however, the situation is quite different. There is no analogous freedom in time to remain stationary yourself while your friend moves. The clock continues to tick for all of us. It is as if, when it comes to time, all observers are constrained to remain on a moving platform which is the present – the now. There seems to be a discontinuity here that does not assail space.
    • If we object that I can obviously remember how she looked just a moment ago – how she moved her arms and such-like – but these are present memories, and however direct they may seem, are subject to time and change just like any other evidence9. They cannot assure us that past events have stayed unchanged10 while time flows on.
    • Realists11 would anyway themselves object to this way of using memory to shore up the past. But they would say it gets things the wrong way round. For them it is past events themselves – by their existence12 – that guarantee(s) the genuineness of our memories, not vice-versa.
      • Sceptics might – for the sake of argument – agree with us realists13 that with a present-tensed statement such as “there is a violent rainstorm today” – its truth-conditions – the sheets of rain driving diagonally across the sky, the splashing and thudding of water-drops on the bird-bath – which for us the statement is about – which make it true – are just what we would point to if anyone asked for its meaning.
          There is a violent rainstorm today. Truth conditions: Rain-lashed street. Dark whirling clouds. Raindrops in the birdbath …
      • But take the past-tensed statement “there was a violent rainstorm yesterday”. Here, sceptics will point out, that it is the puddles lying in the street today – our memories today – of yesterday’s rainstorm that we would recognise as supporting the truth of the statement. But realists will protest that they are merely evidence from which we infer yesterday’s rainstorm. They are not what makes it true – that can only be yesterday’s rainstorm. But yesterday’s rainstorm is no longer there for us to point to. It cannot drench us14 – it has vanished for ever.
          There was a violent rainstorm yesterday. Puddles today. Today’s memories of yesterday. Damp coat in the hall today …
    • In order to save the notions of truth and meaning – the sceptic demands that we take the puddles and memories to be themselves15 what the statement is about, what makes it true, what gives it meaning. And we would be indignant16. Sceptics have apparently robbed us of the dark whirling clouds, of the raindrops falling in the birdbath … and substituted a pale concoction of present evidence.
        Sceptics demand: That today’s puddles are what the statement “there was a rainstorm yesterday” is about.
        Sceptics claim ‘There was a rainstorm yesterday” is not about yesterday’s storms … it is about today’s evidence of storms.
    • There is one last stand for realists. We can, they will insist, have a conception of truth conditions independently of any evidence we might have – or even if we have no direct contact with the conditions. The secret – they would say – lies in the truth-value link, a principle of enormous intuitive power that anyone would deny at their peril. Today I am making this video and I know with absolute certainty that “I was making this video a year ago today” will be true in a year’s time. It will be true whatever the conflicting evidence states then17.
    • It is just conceivable that – suppose some catastrophe – that all our memories had been wiped out, including my own, and that the video was destroyed on completion. The sceptics who are confined to evidence existing then will have therefore to deny this obvious truth18.
        Sceptics would have to concede: ‘No memories … no video … mean that Sophie was not making a video a year ago’
    • But the sceptic will reply that you have merely used a rule – the transformation of a present-tensed statement made now into a past-tensed statement envisaged as being made in the future. What makes you suppose that this gives you ingress into the past? Your representing of the past19 isn’t the past at all. It’s the present; it’s me, making this video, now. You can’t assume that the transformation sanctioned by the truth-value link will hold in the future20 when we actually arrive there, and so give us access to a past such as it will reveal itself then. The debate is inconclusive. It depends on how we weigh the truth-value link against moving platform considerations which, as we have seen, suggest very strongly that we cannot view other times from some timeless viewpoint other than the present. So we cannot vindicate the truth-value link claim that our true present-tense statement may also serve as a true statement about the past when made in the future.
    • In my view, the belief that the past has some independent existence must – in the end – be given up. You might find this a little frightening, but I hope that I’ve persuaded you that trying to keep it gives us – gives philosophers – some problems and in fact getting rid of it solves some outstanding problems21.
  2. Time
    • So long as we believe in the past as existent we’re unable to resolve a paradox inherent in the almost banal idea of things persisting through change. Consider a green leaf turning brown in autumn. You will agree that it has to be the same leaf that was green that is now brown. If it was a different leaf – a brown leaf – it could not be said to have lost its greenness. But the great philosopher Leibniz22 stipulates – surely incontrovertibly – that a thing cannot be itself and yet have divergent properties. So it seems that the leaf must be the same leaf in order to lose its greenness; but, in order to be the same leaf it must retain its greenness, which is a paradox. Some people will say “well, this is just philosophers’ problems”. Of course things persist within limits, depending on the kind of thing they are. But to this, it will be replied, are you suggesting that it requires less than identity23 to persist?
    • These are deep and difficult questions. All I will say here is that in my view identity is an atemporal relation. It cannot accommodate the unidirectionallity of time’s arrow. After much argument, I conclude in my book that the paradox can only be resolved if the leaf’s having been green is accorded less reality than the leaf’s being green now. This leads me finally to demote the past and to conclude that only present things exist.
    • But how does this help with the contradiction?
      1. On one version of presentism, presently existing entities such as the leaf are bearers of past-tensed properties – such as “having been green” – and present-tensed properties – such as “being brown”. The contradiction is apparently resolved because – for presentists – “having been green” is no more like “being green” than “not being green”. But this is difficult to comprehend.
      2. On another version of presentism, past times are thought of as existing in the present as stories, but this is metaphysically cumbersome.
  3. History
    • My proposal – which accords a crucial role to historians – affirms realism as regards presently-existing objects, including historical texts – the tomes you see lying on bookshelves – but suspends it as regards the non-existent past, which is their subject matter.
        A Realist Present and a Coherentist Past”.
    • I’m influenced here by the celebrated philosophers of history – who are also historians in their own right – R. G. Collingwood and Michael Oakeshott – who – being idealists – thought of truth24 as a function of interpretation, not of what actually existed in the past.
        A treatment of fictional truth may illuminate. For example, the answer to the question “how can a proposition ‘Romeo loves Juliet’ be true since neither person exists?” It is plausibly replied “because it is actually about Shakespeare’s play, and that does exist.” This reply satisfies the realist demand for an existent truth-maker for the fictional statement, but refuses to follow realists in breaking down the statement into its component parts: subject “Romeo”, object “Juliet”, relation “loves”. Seeking truth-makers for all of them would just be a misunderstanding of literary discourse.
    • This is analogous to how I approach a historical text. From one viewpoint it can function as a truth-maker, acceptable to presentists for the claims it contains. For example, “Henry V was the victor of Agincourt” is in my view about the historical text in which it figures. It would be a misunderstanding of historical discourse to insist on breaking this claim down and seeking truth-makers for its component elements. Its content, I suggest, is governed by coherentist principles.
        Historical Texts as Truthmakers”.
    • When realists protest “‘Henry V was the victor of Agincourt’ is about a real historical personage and a real battle and that history isn’t fiction or otherwise historians could make up whatever they liked”, I reply “that is not so; historians are held to extremely rigorous standards25 in interpreting their evidence.” And in any case, how can it possibly help to refer to that shadowy realm that O’Brien mocked, which no historian has ever been able to access, in order to check a single of his conclusions?
    • My proposal asks you to respect the text in and for itself, not to look through it. It asks you to assess the coherence of the interpretations – to observe how compendious descriptions such as “The Hundred Years’ War” anticipate their outcome. To note the narrative art that is used in shaping and pacing events, bringing to the past its depth and resonance.
    • Historians, I suggest, by both their narrative techniques and their intellectual powers play a crucial role in the creation and construction of the historical past, and perhaps the past more generally.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry with Dr Sophie Botros")

Footnote 1:
  • This Transcript was arrived at by (repeatedly) listening to (a downloaded copy of) the video. It is hopefully fully accurate.
  • Passages uttered by the narrator are indented.
  • I’ve made my own decision as to how the text spoken by Sophie Botros should be segmented into paragraphs, though this is usually obvious from the video.
  • The transcript cannot recreate the full audio-visual effect. The video is professionally done, and very helpful as regards understanding the import of the book – "Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: A Philosophical Enquiry" – as a whole.
  • Occasionally clarificatory text appears on-screen in the video. I’ve added this to the transcript – within quotation marks and in italics – where it doesn’t simply repeat what’s been said in the audio.
  • The reason I’ve made this transcript is twofold:-
    1. To check that the audio can be fully heard and understood – which it can be! Occasionally, I couldn’t catch a word or phrase, but managed to iron out all these difficulties with a bit of repeat listening.
    2. To provide a convenient way of commenting on and criticising the exposition and argument within the video. Of course, serious discussion of the argument must address the text of the book, but this is at least a start in that direction.
  • My comments appear as footnotes, and are in general directed towards Sophie rather than the general reader.
Footnote 2:
  • Isn’t O’Brien something of a monster in 1984? A member of the thought police. See Wikipedia: 1984 - O'Brien.
  • Isn’t it certain, therefore, that Orwell disagrees with what O’Brien has to say about history. Indeed, Winston Smith (Wikipedia: 1984 - Winston Smith) works in the Ministry of Truth rewriting history to bring it into conformity with the Party’s propaganda message.
  • So, is it wise to quote O’Brien and this whole process in support of your case?
  • Of course, it is an ad hominem fallacy to object to what is said merely on the basis of who said it, but in this case Orwell seems to suggest that the very idea that “the past … is infinitely manipulable by present interests” be viewed with horror.
  • I thought there was an interesting parallel in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Therein, Macbeth makes the famous and demoralising speech on hearing of the suicide of Lady Macbeth …
      She should have died hereafter;
      There would have been a time for such a word.
      — To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
      Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
      To the last syllable of recorded time;
      And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
      The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
      Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
      That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
      And then is heard no more. It is a tale
      Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
      Signifying nothing.
    → Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)
  • Are we supposed to go along with this? Is the fact that it is said by a monster about to get his comeuppance supposed to make us view it as sour grapes, or might this really be Shakespeare’s view, placed in the mouth of a monster for fear of the Jacobean thought police? It is wonderfully expressed, of course, and there are a lot of tropes that resonate with your book.
Footnote 3:
  • You make Winston Smith sound like Norman Wisdom out of character in a tragedy.
  • He’s only a “hapless everyman” in the sense that Lucky Jim is. He’s not a Prole, but is a member of the Outer Party, and is not of “paralysing stupidity” like his neighbour and colleague Tom Parsons.
  • “Everyman” is an interesting term. I think it’s restricted by context – to the ideal readership of the novel (other old Etonians, maybe; or at least those of Orwell’s social and intellectual set; not that Orwell used the term, I don’t think – it’s applied by critics).
  • Anyway, I didn’t like the epithet “hapless everyman”, as it seemed to manipulate the viewer into accepting O’Brien’s take on the past.
Footnote 4:
  • “History” is indeed infinitely manipulable by those unconcerned about what actually happened. But “the past” – what actually happened – is just that, whatever happened.
Footnote 5:
  • Isn’t this a travesty of what eternalists think is the case?
  • Isn’t it rather like a video-recording? Videos (or their contemporary equivalents) aren’t always playing, but could be played by someone with the equipment to do so?
  • Now admittedly, this is beyond the powers of human beings in general – and historians in particular. But traditionally past events have been thought to be written in a book – the recording technology of the time – in which everyone’s deeds were recorded, and which God could call to mind … or not … depending on his mercy.
  • Have you read "Lebens (Samuel) & Goldschmidt (Tyron) - The Promise of a New Past"? The paper is on-line, available from the link on my page. The credits thank Hud Hudson and Dean Zimmerman for helpful discussions. There’s also a critique of Dummett’s foray into criticism of the Mishnah (actually a rather vague allusion to “Jewish theology”) – which he thinks claims that “it is logically impossible to alter the past, so to utter a retrospective prayer is to mock God by asking Him to perform a logical impossibility”) in his "Dummett (Michael) - Bringing About the Past".
  • I came across Sam Lebens when we were research students at Birkbeck. A fellow research student was delivering a paper critical of "Wegner (Daniel) - The Illusion of Conscious Will", and Sam thought the book so obviously wrong it wasn’t worth reviewing. Not that he’d read it; it just disagreed with Sam’s theology.
Footnote 6:
  • I have to say I’ve not felt this, and initially misunderstood what you were saying. It’s the “ticks” or moments that go to oblivion.
  • It sounded more like a worry about the inevitability of future doom – and reminiscent of Macbeth’s speech cited above.
  • How you feel in the dead of night no doubt reflects your beliefs and preoccupations, rather than being a guide to them.
Footnote 7:
  • Even if we deny that the past exists, this doesn’t imply that what and who existed in the past is identical to the best current evidence for these events and entities.
  • Metaphysics is separate from epistemology. More on this later.
Footnote 8:
  • Well, it might seem that you can, but the present – if that’s all that exists – doesn’t allow you to track your friend without relying on memory. Still, almost everyone is agreed that you can stop still in space – at least relative to other objects moving with the same velocity – and take a look around, while the same isn’t true of time – you can’t look at different temporal parts of an object without waiting for time to tick on.
  • Of course, you can look back in time and see things across the cosmos as they were billions of years ago; things that will have faded into non-existence during the time it’s taken for light to get from them to us.
  • Physicists seem to be agreed that – given special and general relativity – there’s no such thing as a universal present. If you and I are looking at one another, given the finiteness of the speed of light – let alone the sluggishness of our mental processes – what we each see is the image of someone who no-longer exists, if only the present exists. My present is your past, and vice versa.
  • Have you read anything by Carlo Rovelli? He’s a bit of a pop star amongst the physicists – the Italian equivalent of Brian Cox. His technical stuff is – like all mathematical physics – inaccessible to non-specialists, and his popular stuff is rather loosely put together philosophically-speaking, but what he believes to be the case with respect to time is summarised in Chapter 13 of "Rovelli (Carlo) - The Order of Time".
Footnote 9:
  • Agreed; but all this says is that our knowledge of the past – such as it is – is always subject to revision, and becomes less and less secure the more remote in time the past events are.
Footnote 10:
  • I agree that nothing can “assure us” that the past is as we remember it or as the current evidence suggests – because – as you rightly say – we can’t go back to check. But the fixedness of the past is one of our strongest intuitions – probably based on the nexus of cause and effect; you can’t tinker with anything without it having a ripple effect; so, if the past had changed, so would the present. Also, what could cause the past to change, if it doesn’t exist?
Footnote 11:
  • Realists about the past. Not the same as “us realists” later on.
  • It may be worth remembering that terms like “realist” and “idealist” are technical terms within philosophy, and risk being misunderstood by lay watchers of your video, should there be any.
Footnote 12:
  • Is this so? It’s the past events that caused our memories – even though these memories may now be incorrect; other past and present events affect our memories of particular past events. But do these past events need to still exist to ground this causal chain. Isn’t this just inference to the best explanation?
Footnote 13:
  • Realists about the present, that is.
  • It doesn’t seem like much of a claim to be a realist about the present, but it might not even be a coherent notion. Just what do you mean by it? Which segment of time is “the present”? Today? The present instant?
Footnote 14:
  • This reminds me of discussions of computer simulations. A simulation of the weather “cannot drench us”, but can a simulation of the mind think?
  • I see a vague parallel here. Yesterday’s weather did drench people. Today’s evidence cannot.
Footnote 15: You make three claims for the statement “There was a violent rainstorm yesterday” vis-à-vis today’s evidence: intentionality (“aboutness”), truth and meaning.
  • Intentionality: Our statement is about yesterday’s rainstorm. It’s just not about today’s puddles. Metaphysics just has to make way for this fact, even though we can’t quite make out how it works if the past doesn’t exist – or we might just have to admit that the aboutness must imply that the past must exist somehow. Similarly, Euclid’s thoughts about the equality of the base angles of an equilateral triangle were about that general triangle – an abstract object, not one drawn in the sand.
  • Truth: no doubt it depends on your theory of truth. A minimalist theory would just say that the proposition (or statement) that “There was a violent rainstorm yesterday” is true just if there was a violent rainstorm yesterday. This says nothing about puddles, though our rational belief in (the truth of) this statement might do so.
  • Meaning: I really don’t buy this. “Rainstorm” means “rainstorm” whenever that rainstorm was. It doesn’t mean “puddle”.
Footnote 16:
  • Well, “we” would be – but presumably “you” wouldn’t be?
Footnote 17:
  • But, you don’t believe this if you deny the fixity of the past and think that the past “just is” the then current evidence for it.
  • Of course, this video is expository, and you say various things to lead the viewer on that you subsequently deny.
Footnote 18:
  • You are one of these sceptics, of course, so the truth is presumably not “obvious”.
Footnote 19:
  • What “representing” is going on here?
  • The evidence for what happened in the past is only accessible in the present. But what has happened has happened – and is immutable.
Footnote 20:
  • I agree that this is an assumption, but the fixity of the past is one of the most firmly embedded and will take a lot of argument to dislodge.
  • The usual complain it that it would involve backward causation, but this is not a worry in your case, since the past doesn’t exist.
Footnote 21:
  • Maybe it does, but like Lewis’s modal realism, maybe the cost is too great to bear.
Footnote 22:
  • I don’t think it’s been proved that Leibniz ever stated his Law (the indiscernibility of identicals), but this doesn’t matter because it’s not accepted on his authority when it is.
  • It is a very useful principle of synchronic identity and motivates all the discussions about constitution – the statue can’t be identical to its constituting clay because the clay has different modal (and maybe actual) properties to the statue – which can’t survive squashing, though the clay can. All very controversial, of course, and it depends on a belief that some things sometimes persist through time.
  • Have you read "Kurtz (Roxanne) - Introduction to Persistence: What’s the Problem?", the introduction to "Haslanger (Sally) & Kurtz (Roxanne), Eds. - Persistence : Contemporary Readings"? It’s available on-line (Kurtz: Introduction to Persistence: What’s the Problem?) and I’ve summarised it and commented on it extensively here.
  • In her Introduction, Roxanne Kurtz summarises the debate on Persistence by claiming that there are three non-negotiable theses: Non-contradiction, Change and Persistence which are in tension, especially when supplemented by three further “negotiable theses”: Alteration, Survival and Atemporal Instantiation.
  • She does mention philosophers who deny one or other of the non-negotiable theses, but treats them as outside the main debate. I think (agreeing with Kurtz) that denying that some things persist though change does such violence to our common-sense and practical view of the world that giving it up has to be the very last option.
  • She also thinks that the various options for the metaphysics of time are orthogonal to issues of persistence, though I wasn’t convinced.
Footnote 23:
  • Well, Derek Parfit notoriously said the “identity is not what matters in survival”.
  • I noted that you have no reference to Parfit either in the text or the Bibliography of your book.
Footnote 24:
  • Historical truth only, or all truth?
Footnote 25:
  • I think this is the weakest part of your argument.
  • While it’s true that at certain times and places historians have followed the evidence, this is a contingent fact when it is one.
  • What people are worried about is when this rosy view is misplaced. You’ve quoted 1984 where Winston Smith’s job is to falsify history by adulterating back copies of The Times.
  • I quote an extract where Winston worries about the falsification of history:-
    • The frightening thing, he reflected for the ten thousandth time ... was that it might all be true. If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened - that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?
    • The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed - if all records told the same tale - then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control', they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink'.
      → Winston Smith, Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Annotated Edition, Penguin Classics, 2013, p. 40.
  • And again,
    • Comrade Ogilvy, who had never existed in the present, now existed in the past, and when once the act of forgery was forgotten he would exist just as authentically, and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.
      → Winston Smith, ibid, p. 55.
  • And again,
    • Do you realise that the past, starting from yesterday, has been actually abolished? If it survives anywhere, it's in a few solid objects with no words attached to them, like that lump of glass there. Already we know almost literally nothing about the Revolution and the years before the Revolution. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been re-written, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been re-named, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. I know, of course, that the past is falsified, but it would never be possible for me to prove it, even when I did the falsification myself. After the thing is done, no evidence ever remains. The only evidence is inside my own mind, and I don't know with any certainty that any other human being shares my memories. Just in that one instance, in my whole life, I did possess actual concrete evidence after the event - years after it.
      → Winston Smith to Julia, ibid, p. 178.
  • And again,
    • The mutability of the past is the central tenet of Ingsoc. Past events, it is argued, have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon. And since the Party is in full control of all records, and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it. It also follows that though the past is alterable, it never has been altered in any specific instance. For when it has been recreated in whatever shape is needed at the moment, then this new version is the past, and no different past can ever have existed. This holds good even when, as often happens, the same event has to be altered out of recognition several times in the course of a year. At all times the Party is in possession of absolute truth, and clearly the absolute can never have been different from what it is now. It will be seen that the control of the past depends above all on the training of memory. To make sure that all written records agree with the orthodoxy of the moment is merely a mechanical act. But it is also necessary to remember that events happened in the desired manner. And if it is necessary to re-arrange one's memories or to tamper with written records, then it is necessary to forget that one has done so. The trick of doing this can be learned like any other mental technique. It is learned by the majority of Party members, and certainly by all who are intelligent as well as orthodox. In Oldspeak it is called, quite frankly, 'reality control'. In Newspeak it is called doublethink, though doublethink comprises much else as well.
      → Emmanuel Goldstein, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, Chapter 1 “Ignorance is Strength”, ibid, pp. 243-4



"Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry with Dr Sophie Botros (Shortened Version)"

Source: Amazon Video, prepared by Bloomsbury Academic Publishing


Full Transcript1
    Introduction
        The past is very important to us. It is where we find the origins of our culture as well as our own roots. There is a whole industry involved in finding out about the past. Bookshops are full of history books. Universities all have history departments. But we can never go back. We shall never know how the flowers smelled in the garden of Epicurus. Everything past is no more; it has fallen into the dark backward and abysm of time. How then do we know anything about it at all? How do we know whether a particular event has even happened? Philosopher Sophie Botros addresses these complex issues in her new book - "Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: A Philosophical Enquiry". As she considers these matters, she finds herself forced to wonder whether the past exists at all.
  1. Truth
    • Once we begin to think about it we may be struck by what a queer idea the apparently ordinary idea of the past existing actually is. It’s an idea played on in Orwell’s 1984 when O’Brien – an inner Party member – tries to persuade the hapless everyman – Winston – that the past isn’t set in stone but is infinitely manipulable by present interests. O’Brien asks “Do you really think there exists somewhere or other a place – a world of solid objects – where the past is still happening?”
    • Today I am making this video and I know with absolute certainty that “I was making this video a year ago today” will be true in a year’s time. It will be true whatever the conflicting evidence states then.
    • It is just conceivable that – suppose some catastrophe – that all our memories had been wiped out, including my own, and that the video was destroyed on completion. The sceptics who are confined to evidence existing then will have therefore to deny this obvious truth. The debate is inconclusive. It depends on how we weigh the truth-value link against moving platform considerations which, as we have seen, suggest very strongly that we cannot view other times from some timeless viewpoint other than the present. So we cannot vindicate the truth-value link claim that our true present-tense statement may also serve as a true statement about the past when made in the future.
    • In my view, the belief that the past has some independent existence must – in the end – be given up. You might find this a little frightening, but I hope that I’ve persuaded you that trying to keep it gives us – gives philosophers – some problems and in fact getting rid of it solves some outstanding problems.
  2. Time
    • So long as we believe in the past as existent we’re unable to resolve a paradox inherent in the almost banal idea of things persisting through change. Consider a green leaf turning brown in autumn. You will agree that it has to be the same leaf that was green that is now brown. If it was a different leaf – a brown leaf – it could not be said to have lost its greenness. But the great philosopher Leibniz stipulates – surely incontrovertibly – that a thing cannot be itself and yet have divergent properties. So it seems that the leaf must be the same leaf in order to lose its greenness; but, in order to be the same leaf it must retain its greenness, which is a paradox. Some people will say “well, this is just philosophers’ problems”. Of course things persist within limits, depending on the kind of thing they are. But to this, it will be replied, are you suggesting that it requires less than identity to persist?
  3. History
    • My proposal – which accords a crucial role to historians – affirms realism as regards presently-existing objects, including historical texts – the tomes you see lying on bookshelves – but suspends it as regards the non-existent past, which is their subject matter.
        A treatment of fictional truth may illuminate. For example, the answer to the question “how can a proposition ‘Romeo loves Juliet’ be true since neither person exists?” It is plausibly replied “because it is actually about Shakespeare’s play, and that does exist.”
    • This is analogous to how I approach a historical text. From one viewpoint it can function as a truth-maker, acceptable to presentists for the claims it contains. For example, “Henry V was the victor of Agincourt” is in my view about the historical text in which it figures. It would be a misunderstanding of historical discourse to insist on breaking this claim down and seeking truth-makers for its component elements. Its content, I suggest, is governed by coherentist principles.
    • When realists protest “‘Henry V was the victor of Agincourt’ is about a real historical personage and a real battle and that history isn’t fiction or otherwise historians could make up whatever they liked”, I reply “that is not so; historians are held to extremely rigorous standards in interpreting their evidence.” And in any case, how can it possibly help to refer to that shadowy realm that O’Brien mocked, which no historian has ever been able to access, in order to check a single of his conclusions?
    • My proposal asks you to respect the text in and for itself, not to look through it. It asks you to assess the coherence of the interpretations – to observe how compendious descriptions such as “The Hundred Years’ War” anticipate their outcome. To note the narrative art that is used in shaping and pacing events, bringing to the past its depth and resonance.
    • Historians, I suggest, by both their narrative techniques and their intellectual powers play a crucial role in the creation and construction of the historical past, and perhaps the past more generally.
    • A Realist Present and a Coherentist Past”.


COMMENT: For the video, see Amazon: Sophie Botros Author Page.




In-Page Footnotes ("Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry with Dr Sophie Botros (Shortened Version)")

Footnote 1:
  • This is the Transcript of the shortened version of "Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry with Dr Sophie Botros" which has been placed on Sophie’s Amazon Author’s page (Amazon: Sophie Botros Author Page).
  • Passages uttered by the narrator are indented.
  • I’ve made my own decision as to how the text spoken by Sophie should be segmented into paragraphs, though this is usually obvious from the video.
  • The transcript cannot recreate the full audio-visual effect. The video is very professionally done, and very helpful as regards understanding the import of the book – "Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: A Philosophical Enquiry" – as a whole.
  • Occasionally clarificatory text appears on-screen in the video. I’ve added this to the transcript – within quotation marks and in italics – where it doesn’t simply repeat what’s been said in the audio.
  • The reason I’ve made this transcript differs from that for the full version: it is just to check that the video hangs together given the absence of the excised material.



"Broome (John) - Indefiniteness in Identity"

Source: Analysis, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Jan., 1984), pp. 6-12


Author’s Introduction
  1. A club is constituted by its rules and society's conventions, and these may not be enough to determine everything about it. The rules and conventions, for instance, may not specify the procedure for removing a dishonest treasurer. And they may not determine precisely what counts as the club's demise. Consequently, circumstances can arise that make it unclear whether or not a club started at some date is the same as a club that exists at some later date. (Suppose, for example, that the club has no meetings for a long time and then some people, including perhaps a few of the original members, start to meet again under the same name.) The indefinite- ness here is not merely epistemological. Even if we knew everything there is to be known about the case we might still not know whether the clubs are the same or different. The question of identity has no answer; the facts do not determine one. The club's constitution leaves this particular question unsettled.
  2. This account of the matter - that it is indeterminate whether or not the club existing earlier is the same as the one existing later - seems perfectly transparent; nothing about it is hard to understand. But an alternative account is possible. We could say that the act of creating an object, such as a club, is incomplete unless the object is defined in enough detail to settle all questions of identity; unless its constitution has this much precision no club has been created. This account, though, is obscure. Few actual clubs can have such precise constitutions, so according to this account most people who think they belong to a club must actually not do so. Indeed they must not belong to anything, not even an uncompleted club, because the same unsettled questions of identity will arise about uncompleted clubs as arise about clubs. It is hard, then, to understand what exactly is supposed to be the condition of these people who think they belong to a club.
  3. A third possible account insists that if this matter of identity appears to be indeterminate then the clubs must in fact be definitely different, or perhaps definitely the same. This too is obscure. For we can describe cases that plainly amount to the continued existence - or the revival - of the same club, and we can describe cases that plainly amount to the dying of one club and the creation of another, and by varying the conditions gradually we can arrive at cases that are intermediate between these two. It is hard to under- stand what could make a sharp division between them, as this account insists there must be.
  4. So we have, at least, a good prima facie example of indefinite identity.



"Conolly (Oliver) & Haydar (Bashar) - The Good, the Bad and the Funny"

Source: The Monist, Vol. 88, No. 1, Humor (January 2005), pp. 121-134


Authors’ Introduction1
  • Funniness, a property the nature of which is both seemingly obvious and yet resistant to analysis, has been the object of intermittent attention in philosophy since Plato. Sometimes this attention has taken the form of an investigation into the nature of laughter and the humorous. Sometimes it has taken comic art-forms as its object, though tragedy has received a good deal more attention from philosophers. And sometimes it has focused on jokes and put-downs in their considerable variety, and ethical questions associated with them. All these inquiries are, of course, interlinked. In this paper, we focus on the ethics of jokes, but will then draw connections between that issue and the question of the ethical dimension of humor in put-downs (a distinct category, we argue) and in art. Our inquiry is thus part of a larger investigation in aesthetics on the relation between artistic and moral value generally.
  • […]
  • We define our position on the ethics of jokes with reference to two antithetical positions on the question: ethicism and immoralism.
    1. The ethicist about jokes holds that the immorality of a joke always counts against its funniness but does not necessarily extinguish it since a joke may be funny in virtue of non-moral qualities, such as inventiveness and the capacity to surprise.
    2. This distinguishes ethicism from moralism, the view that if a joke manifests ethically bad attitudes, it is therefore unfunny, and hence fails as a joke.
    3. The immoralist about jokes holds that sometimes, but not always, the immorality of a joke enhances its funniness.
    4. We will argue for amoralism, the view that jokes are neither moral nor immoral.




In-Page Footnotes ("Conolly (Oliver) & Haydar (Bashar) - The Good, the Bad and the Funny")

Footnote 1:
  • Extracts; copious footnotes omitted.



"Dennett (Daniel) - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul: Introduction"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Full Text
  1. You see the moon rise in the east. You see the moon rise in the west. You watch two moons moving toward each other across the cold black sky, one soon to pass behind the other as they continue on their way. You are on Mars, millions of miles from home, protected from the killing frostless cold of the red Martian desert by fragile membranes of terrestrial technology. Protected but stranded, for your spaceship has broken down beyond repair. You will never again return to Earth, to the friends and family and places you left behind.
  2. But perhaps there is hope in the communication compartment of the disabled craft you find a Teleclone Mark IV teleporter and instructions for its use. If you turn the teleporter on, tunes its beam to the Telecone receiver on Earth, and then step into the sending chamber, the teleporter will swiftly and painlessly dismantle your body, producing a molecule-by-molecule blueprint to be beamed to Earth, where the receiver, its reservoirs well stocked with the requisite atoms, will almost instantaneously produce, from the beamed instructions – you! Whisked back to Earth at the speed of light, into the arms of your loved ones, who will soon be listening with rapt attention to your tales of adventures on Mars.
  3. One last survey of the damaged spaceship convinces you that the Teleclone is your only hope. With nothing to lose, you set the transmitter up, flip the right switches, and step into the chamber. 5 4, 3, 2, 1, FLASH! You open the door in front of you and step out of the Teleclone receiver chamber into the sunny, familiar atmosphere of Earth. You’ve come home, none the worse for wear after your long-distance Telecone fall from Mars. Your narrow escape from a terrible fate on the red planet calls for a celebration, and as your family and friends gather around, you notice how everyone as changed since you last saw them. It has been almost three years, after all, and you’ve all grown older. Look at Sarah, your daughter, who must now be eight and a half. You find yourself thinking “Can this be the little girl who used to sit on my lap?” Of course it is, you reflect, even though you must admit that you do not so much recognize her as extrapolate from memory and deduce her identity, She is so much taller, looks so much older, and knows so much more. In fact, most of the cells in her body were not there when last you cast eyes on her. But in spite of growth and change, in spite of replacement cells, she’s still the same little person you kissed goodbye three years ago.
  4. Then it hits you: “Am I, really, the same person who kissed this little girl goodbye three years ago? Am I this eight year old child’s mother or am I, actually a brand-new human being, only several hours old, in spite of my memories – or apparent memories – of days and years before that? Did this child’s mother recently die on Mars, dismantled and destroyed in the chamber of a Teleclone Mark IV?
  5. Did I die on Mars? No, certainly I did not die on Mars, since I am alive on Earth. Perhaps, though, someone died on Mars – Sarah’s mother. Then I am not Sarah’s mother. But I must be” The whole point of getting into the Teleclone was to return home to my family! But I keep forgetting; maybe I never got into that Teleclone on Mars. Maybe that was someone else – if it ever happened at all. Is that infernal machine a tele-porter – a mode of transportation – or, as the brand name suggests, a sort of murdering twinmaker? Did Sarah’s mother survive the experience with the Teleclone or not? She thought she was going to. She entered the chamber with hope and anticipation, not suicidal resignation. Her act was altruistic, to be sure – she was taking steps to provide Sarah with a loved one to protect her – but also selfish – she was getting herself out of a jam into something pleasant. Or so it seemed. How do I know that’s how it seemed? Because I was there; I was Sarah’s mother thinking those thoughts; I am Sarah’s mother. Or so it seems.
  6. In the days that follow, your spirits soar and plummet, the moments of relief and joy balanced by gnawing doubts and soul searching. Soul searching. Perhaps, you think, it isn’t right to go along with Sarah’s joyous assumption that her mother’s come home. You feel a little bit like an imposter and wonder what Sarah will think when some day she figures out what really happened on Mars. Remember when she figured out about Santa Claus and seemed so confused and hurt? How could her own mother have deceived her all those years?
  7. So, now it’s with more than idle intellectual curiosity that you pick up this copy of The Mind’s I and begin to read it, for it promises to lead you on a voyage of discovery of the self and the soul. You will learn, it says, something about what and who you are.
  8. You think to yourself. Here I am reading page 5 of this book; I see my hands holding this book. I have hands. How do I know they’re my hands? Silly question: they’re fastened to my arms, to my body. How do I know this is my body? I control it. Do I own it? In a sense I do. It’s mine to do with it as I like, so long as I don’ harm others. It’s even a sort of legal possession, for while I may not legally sell it to anyone so long as I am alive, I can legally transfer ownership of my body, to, say a medical school once it is dead.
  9. If I have this body, then I guess I’m something other than this body. When I say “I own my body” I don’t mean “This body owns itself” - probably a meaningless claim. Or does everything that no one else owns own itself? Does the moon belong to everyone, to no one, or to itself? What can be an owner of anything? I can, and my body is just one of the things I own. In any case, I and my body seem both intimately connected and yet distinct. I am the controller, it is the controlled. Most of the time. Then The Mind’s I asks you if in that case you might exchange your body for another, a stronger or more beautiful or more controllable body. You think that this is impossible. But, the book insists, it is perfectly imaginable, and hence possible in principle.
  10. You wonder whether the book has in mind reincarnation of the transmigration of souls, but, anticipating the wonder, the book acknowledges that while reincarnation is one interesting idea, the details of how this might happen are always left in the dark, and there are other more interesting ways it might happen. What if your brain were to be transplanted into a new body, which it could then control? Wouldn’t you think of that as switching bodies? There would be vast technical problems, of course, but, given our purposes, we can ignore them.
  11. It does seem hen (doesn’t it?) that if your brain were transplanted into another body, you would go with it. But, are you a brain? Try on two sentences, and see which one sounds more like the truth to you:
    → I have a brain.
    → I am a brain.
    Sometimes we talk about smart people being brains, but we don’t mean it literally. We mean they have good brains. You have a good brain, but who or what, then, is the you that has the brain? Once again, if you have a brain, could you trade it in for another? How could anyone detach you from your brain in a brain switch, if you are always go with your brain in a body switch? Impossible? Maybe not, as we shall see. After all, if you have recently returned from Mars, you left your old brain behind, didn’t you? So suppose we agree that you have a brain. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself how you know you have a brain? You’ve never seen it, have you? You can’t see it, even in a mirror, and you can’t feel it. But of course you do know you have a brain. You know it because you know that you’re a human being and all human beings have brains. You’ve read it in books and been told it by people you trust. All people have livers too, and strangely enough what you know about your own brain is rather like what you know about your own liver. You trust what you’ve read in books. For many centuries people didn’t know what their livers were for. It took science to discover the answer. People haven’t always known what their brains were for either. Aristotle is said to have thought that the brain was an organ for cooling the blood – and of course it does cool your blood quite efficiently in the course of its operations. Suppose our livers had been in our skulls and our brains were snuggled into our ribcages. As we looked out at the world and listened, do you think we might have found it plausible that we thought with our livers? Your thinking seems to happen behind your eyes and between your ears – but that is because that’s where your brain is, or is that because you locate yourself, roughly, at the place you see from? Isn’t it in fact just as mind boggling to try to imagine how we could think with our brains – those soft grayish cauliflower shaped things – as to imagine how we could think with our livers – those soft reddish brown liver shaped things?
  12. The idea that what you are is not simply a living body (or a living brain) but also a soul or spirit seems to many people to be unscientific, in spite of its ancient tradition. “Souls,” they might want to say, “have no place in science and could never fit into the scientific world view. Science teaches us that there are no such things as souls. We don’t believe in leprechauns and ghosts any more, thanks to science, and the suspect idea of a soul inhabiting a body – the ‘ghost in the machine’ – will itself soon give up the ghost.” But not all versions of the idea that you are something distinct from your purely physical body are so vulnerable to ridicule and refutation. Some versions, as we shall see, actually flourish in the garden of science.
  13. Our world is filled with things that are neither mysterious and ghostly nor simply constructed out of the building blocks of physics. Do you believe in voices? How about haircuts? Are there such things? What are they? What, in the language of the physicist, is a hole – not an exotic black hole, but just a hole in a piece of cheese, for instance? Is it a physical thing? What is a symphony? Where in space and time does “The Star Spangled banner” exist? Is it nothing but some ink trails on some paper in the Library of Congress? Destroy that paper and the anthem would still exist. Latin still exists, but it is no longer a living language. The language of the cave people of France no longer exists at all. The game of bridge is less than a hundred years old. What sort of thing is it? It is not animal, vegetable or mineral.
  14. These things are not physical objects with mass, or a chemical composition, but are not purely abstract objects either – objects like the number π, which is immutable and cannot be located in space and time. These things have birthplaces and histories. They can change and things can happen to them. They can move about – much the same way a species, a disease, or an epidemic can. We must not suppose that science teaches us that everything anyone would ever want to take seriously is identifiable as a collection of particles moving about in space and time. Some people may think it is just common sense (or just good scientific thinking) to suppose you are nothing but a particular living, physical organism – a moving around of atoms – but in fact this idea exhibits a lack of scientific imagination, not hard-headed sophistication. One doesn’t have to believe in ghosts to believe in selves that have an identity that transcends any particular living body.
  15. You are Sarah’s mother, after all. But is Sarah’s mother you? Did she die on Mars, or was she moved back to Earth? It seems to you she returned to Earth – and of course it seemed to her before she stepped into the teleporter that she would return to Earth. Was she right? Maybe, but what would you say about the results of using the new, improved Teleclone Mark V? Thanks to the miracles of non-invasive CAT-scanning techniques, it obtains its blueprint without destroying the original. Sarah’s mother stil might decide to push the button and step into the chamber -- for Sarah’s sake, and in order to get the full story of her tragedy back to earth in the words of an eloquent spokeswoman – but she would also expect to step out of the chamber and find herself still on Mars. Could someone – some one – literally be in two places at once? Not for long, in any case, but soon the two would accumulate different memories, and different lives. They would be as distinct as any two people could be.

  16. Private Lives: What makes you you, and what are your boundaries? Part of the answer seems obvious – you are a centre of consciousness. But what in the world is consciousness? Consciousness is both the most obvious and the most mysterious feature of our minds. On the one hand, what could be more certain or manifest to each of us that that he or she is a subject of experience, an enjoyer of perceptions and sensations, a sufferer of pain, and entertainer of ideas, and a conscious deliberator? On the other hand, what in the world can consciousness be? How can living physical bodies in the physical world produce such a phenomenon? Science has revealed the secrets of many initially mysterious natural phenomena – magnetism, or photosynthesis or digestion are in principle equally accessible to any observer with the right apparatus, but any particular case of consciousness seems to have a favored or privileged observer, whose access of any others – no matter what apparatus they may have. For his reason and others, so far there is no good theory of consciousness. There is not even agreement about what a theory of consciousness would be like. Some have gone so far as to deny that there is any real thing for the term “consciousness” to name.
  17. The mere fact that such a familiar feature of our lives has resisted for so long all attempts to characterize it suggests that our conception of it is at fault. What is needed is not just more evidence, more experimental and clinical data, but a careful rethinking of the assumptions that lead us to suppose there is a single and familiar phenomenon, consciousness, answering to all the descriptions licensed by our everyday sense of the term. Consider the baffling questions that are inevitably raised whenever one turns one’s attention to consciousness. Are other animals conscious? Are they conscious in the same way we are? Could a computer or a robot be conscious? Can a person have unconscious thoughts? Unconscious pains or sensations or perceptions? Is a baby conscious at or before birth? Are we conscious when we dream? Might a human being harbour more than one conscious subject or ego or agent within one brain? Good answers to these questions certainly will depend heavily on empirical discoveries about the behavioural capacities and internal circumstances of the various problematic candidates for consciousness, but about every such empirical finding we can ask: what is its bearing on the question of consciousness and why? These are not directly empirical questions but rather conceptual ones, which we may be able to answer with the help of thought experiments.
  18. Our ordinary concept of consciousness seems to be anchored to two separable sets of considerations that can be captured roughly by the phrases “from the inside” and “from the outside.” From the inside, our own consciousness seems obvious and pervasive, we know that much goes on around us and even inside our bodies of which we are entirely unaware or unconscious, but nothing could be more intimately know to us than those things of which we are, individually, conscious. Those things of which I am conscious, and the ways in which I am conscious of them, determine what it is like to be me. I know in a way no other could know what it is like to be me. From the inside, consciousness seems to be an all-or-nothing phenomenon – an inner light that is either on or off. We grant that we are sometimes drowsy or inattentive, or asleep, and on occasion we even enjoy abnormally heightened consciousness, but when we are conscious, that we are conscious is not a fact that admits of degrees. There is a perspective, then, from which consciousness seems to be a feature that sunders the universe into two strikingly different kinds of things, those that have it and those that don’t. Those that have it are subjects, beings to whom things can be one way or another, beings it is like something to be. It is not like anything at all to be a brick or a pocket calculator or an apple. These things have insides, but not the right sort of insides – no inner life, no point of view. It is certainly like something to be me (Something I know “from the inside”) and almost certainly like something to be you (for you have told me, most convincingly, that it is the same with you), and probably like something to be a dog or a dolphin (if only they could tell us!) and maybe even like something to be a spider.

  19. Other Minds: When one considers these others (other folk and other creatures), one considers them perforce from the outside, and then various of their observable features strike us as relevant to the question of their consciousness. Creatures react appropriately to events within the scope of their senses; they recognize things, avoid painful experiences, learn, plan, and solve problems. They exhibit intelligence. But putting matter this way might be held to prejudge the issue. Talking of their “senses” or of “painful” circumstances, for instance suggests that we have already settled the issue of consciousness -- for note that had we described a robot in those terms, the polemical intent of the choice of words would have been obvious (and resisted by many). How do creatures differ from robots, real or imagined? By being organically and biologically similar to us – and we are the paradigmatic conscious creatures. This similarity admits of degrees, of course, and one’s intuitions about what sorts of similarity count are probably untrustworthy. Dolphins’ fishiness subtracts from our conviction that they are conscious like us, but no doubt should not. Were chimpanzees as dull as sea-slugs, their facial similarity to us would no doubt nevertheless favour their inclusion in the charmed circle. If houseflies were about our size, or warm-blooded, we’d be much more confident that when we plucked off their wings they felt pain (our sort of pain, the kind that matters). What makes us think that some such considerations ought to count and not others?
  20. The obvious answer is that the various “outside” indicators are more or less reliable signs or symptoms of the presence of that whatever-it-is each conscious subject knows from the inside. But how could this be confirmed? This is the notorious “problem of other minds.” In one’s own case, it seems, one can directly observer the coincidence of one’s inner life with one’s outwardly observable behaviour. But if each of us is to advance rigorously beyond solipsism, we must be able to do something apparently impossible: confirm the coincidence of inner and outer in others. Their telling us of the coincidence in their own cases will not do, officially, for that gives us just more coincidence of outer with outer; the demonstrable capacities for perception and intelligent action normally go hand-in-hand with the capacity to talk, and particularly to make “introspective” reports. If a cleverly designed robot could (seem to) tell us of its inner life, (could utter all the appropriate noises in the appropriate contexts), would we be right to admit it to the charmed circle? We might be, but how could we ever tell we were not being fooled? Here the question seems to be; is that special inner light really turned on, or is there nothing but darkness inside? And this question looks unanswerable. So perhaps we have taken a misstep already.
  21. My use of “we” and “our” in the last few paragraphs, and your unworried acceptance of it, reveals that we don’t take the problem of other minds seriously – at least for ourselves and the human beings with whom we normally associate. It is tempting to conclude that insofar as there is a serious question yet to be answered about the imagined robot (or about some problematic creature) it must turn out to be answerable by straightforward observation. Some theorists think that once we have better theories of the organization of our brains and their role in controlling our behaviour, we will be able to use those theories to distinguish conscious entities from nonconscious entities. This is to suppose that somehow or other the facts we get individually “from the inside” reduce to facts publicly obtainable from the outside. Enough of the right sort of outside facts will settle the question of whether or not some creature is conscious. For instance, consider neurophysiologist E.R. John’s recent attempt to define consciousness in objective terms.
      .. a process in which information about multiple individual modalities of sensation and perception is combined into a unified multidimensional representation of the state of the system and its environment, and integrated with information about memories and the needs of the organism, generating emotional reactions and programs of behaviour to adjust the organism to its environment.
  22. Determining that this hypothetical internal process occurs in a particular organism is presumably a difficult but empirical task in the province of a new science of neural information processing. Suppose that with regard to some creature it were completed successfully; the creature is by this account, conscious. If we have understood the proposal correctly, we will not find any room to wonder further. Reserving judgment here would be like being shown in detail the operations of an automobile engine, and then asking, “But is it really an internal combustion engine? Might we not be deluded in thinking it was?
  23. Any proper scientific account of the phenomenon of consciousness must inevitably take this somewhat doctrinaire step of demanding that the phenomenon be viewed as objectively as accessible, but one may still wonder if, once the step is taken, the truly mysterious phenomenon will be left behind. Before dismissing this skeptical hunch as the fancy of romantics, it would be wise to consider a striking revolution in the recent history of thinking about the mind, a revolution with unsettling consequences.

  24. Freud’s Crutch: For John Locke and many subsequent thinkers, nothing was more essential to the mind than consciousness, and more particularly self-consciousness. The mind in all its activities and processes was viewed as transparent to itself; nothing was hidden from its inner view. To discern what went on in one’s mind one just “looked” – one “introspected” – and the limits of what one thereby found were the very boundaries of the mind. The notion of unconscious thinking or perceiving was not entertained, or if it was, it was dismissed as incoherent, self-contradictory nonsense.
  25. For Locke, indeed, there was a serious problem of how to describe all one’s memories as being continuously in one’s mind when yet they were not continuously “present to consciousness.” The influence of this view has been so great that when Freud initially hypothesized the existence of unconscious mental processes, his proposal met widely with stark denial and incomprehension. It was not just an outrage to common sense, it was even self-contradictory to assert that there could be unconscious beliefs and desires, unconscious feelings of hatred, unconscious schemes of self-defense and retaliation. But Freud won converts. This “conceptual impossibility” became respectably thinkable by theorists once they saw that it permitted them to explain otherwise inexplicable patterns of psychopathology.
  26. The new way of thinking was supported by a crutch, one could cling to at least a pale version of the Lockean creed by imagining that these “unconscious” thoughts, desires, and schemes belonged to other selves within the psyche. Just as I can keep my schemes secret from you, my id can keep secrets from my ego. By splitting the subject into many subjects, one could preserve the axiom that every mental state must be someone’s conscious mental state and explain the inaccessibility of some of these states to their putative owners by postulating other interior owners for them. This move was usefully obscured in the mists of jargon so that the weird question of whether it was like anything to be a superego, for instance, could be kept at bay.
  27. Freud’s expansion of the bounds of the thinkable revolutionized clinical psychology. It also paved the way for the more recent development of “cognitive” experimental psychology. We have come to accept without the slightest twinge of incomprehension a host of claims to the effect that sophisticated hypothesis testing, memory searching, inference – in short, information processing – occurs within us though it is entirely inaccessible to introspection . It is not repressed unconscious activity of the sort Freud uncovered, activity driven out of the sight of consciousness, but just mental activity that is somehow beneath or beyond the ken of consciousness altogether. Freud claimed that his theories and clinical observations gave him the authority to overrule the sincere denials of his patients about what was going on in their minds. Similarly the cognitive psychologist marshals experimental evidence, models, and theories to show that people are engaged in surprisingly sophisticated reasoning processes of which they can give no introspective account at all. Not only are minds accessible to outsiders, some mental activities are more accessible to outsiders than to the very “owners” of those minds. In the new theorizing, however, the crutch has been thrown away.
  28. Although the new theories abound with metaphors – subsystems like little people in the brain sending messages back and forth, asking for help, obeying and volunteering -- the actual subsystems, are deemed to be unproblematic nonconscious bits of organic machinery, as utterly lacking in a point of view or inner life as a kidney or kneecap. (Certainly the advent of “mindless” but “intelligent” computers played a major role in this further dissolution of the Lockean view.)
  29. But now Locke’s extremism has been turned on its head, if before the very idea of unconscious mentality seemed incomprehensible, now we are losing our grip on the very idea of conscious mentality. What is consciousness but, if perfectly unconscious, indeed subjectless, information processing is in principle capable of achieving all the ends for which conscious minds were supposed to exist? If theories of cognitive psychology can be true of us, they could also be true of zombies, or robots and the theories seem to have no way of distinguishing us. How could any amount of mere subjectless information processing (of the sort we have recently discovered to go on in us) add up to that special feature with which it is so vividly contrasted? For the contrast has not disappeared. The psychologist Karl Lashley once suggested provocatively that “no activity of the mind is ever conscious,” by which he meant to draw our attention to the inaccessibility of the processing that we know must go on when we think. He gave an example: If asked to think a thought in dactylic hexameter, those who knew which rhythm that is can readily oblige. For instance: How in the world did this case of dactylic hexameter come to me? How we do it, what goes on in us to produce such a thought, is something quite inaccessible to us. Lashley’s remark might seem at first to herald the demise of consciousness as a phenomenon for psychological study, but its true effect is just the opposite. It draws our attention unmistakably to the difference between all the unconscious information processing – without which, no doubt, there could be no conscious experience – and the conscious thought itself, which is somehow directly accessible. Accessible to what or to whom? To say that it is accessible to some subsystem of the brain is not yet to distinguish it from the unconscious activities and events, which are also accessible to various subsystems of the brain. If some particular special subsystem is so constituted that that its traffic with the rest of the system somehow makes it the case that there is one more self in the world, one more “”thing it is like something to be,” this is far from obvious.
  30. Strangely, enough, this problem is the old chestnut, the problem of other minds, resurrected as a serious problem now that cognitive science has begun to analyze the human mind into its functional components. This comes out most graphically in the famous split-brain cases. (See “Further Reading” for details and references.) There is nothing very problematic in granting that the people who have undergone severing of the corpus callosum have two somewhat independent minds, one associated with the dominant brain hemisphere, and another associated with the non-dominant brain hemisphere. This is not problematic, for we have grown used to thinking of a person’s mind as an organization of communicating subminds. Here the lines of communication have simply been cut, revealing the independent character of each part particularly vividly. But what remains problematic is whether both subminds “have an inner life.” One view is that there is no reason to grant consciousness to the non-dominant hemisphere, since all that has been shown is that that hemisphere, like many unconscious cognitive subsystems, can process a lot of information and intelligently control some behaviour. But then we may ask what reason there is to grant consciousness to the dominant hemisphere, or even to the whole, intact system in a normal person. We had this thought this question frivolous and not worth discussing, but this avenue forces us to take it seriously again. If on the other hand we grant full “inner life” consciousness to the non-dominant hemisphere (or more properly to the newly discovered person whose brain is the non-dominant hemisphere), what will be said about all the other information-processing subsystems posited by current theory? Is the Freudian crutch to be taken away again at the expense of populating our heads, quite literally, with hosts of subjects of experience?
  31. Consider, for example, the striking discovery by the psycholinguists James Lackner and Merril Garrett (see “Further Reading”) of what might be called an unconscious channel of sentence comprehension. In dichotic listening tests, subjects listen through earphones to two different channels and are instructed to attend to just one channel. Typically they can paraphrase or report with accuracy what they have heard through the attended channel but usually they can say little about what was going on concomitantly in the unattended channel. Thus, if the unattended channel carries a spoken sentence, the subjects typically can report they heard a voice, or even a male or female voice. Perhaps they even have a conviction about whether the voice was speaking in their native tongue, but they cannot report what was said. In Lackney and Garrett’s experiments subjects heard ambiguous sentences in the attended channel, such as “He put out the lantern to signal the attack.” Simultaneously, in the unattended channel one group of subjects received a sentence that suggested the interpretation of the sentence in the attended channel (e.g. “He extinguished the lantern), while another group had a neutral or irrelevant sentence as input. The former group could not report what was presented through the unattended channel, but they favoured the suggested reading of the ambiguous sentences significantly more than the control group did. The influence of the unattended channel on the interpretation of the attended signal is processed all the way to a semantic level – that is, the unattended signal is comprehended – but this is apparently unconscious sentence comprehension! Or should we say it is evidence of the presence in the subject of at least two different and only partially communicating consciousnesses? If we ask the subjects what it was like to comprehend the unattended cannel, they will reply, sincerely, that it was not like anything to them – they were quite unaware of that sentence. But perhaps, as is often suggested about the split brain patients, there is in effect someone else to whom our question ought to be addressed – the subject who consciously comprehended the sentence and relayed a hint of its meaning to the subject who answers our questions.
  32. Which should we say, and why? We seem to be back to our unanswerable question, which suggests we should find different ways of looking at the situation. A view of consciousness that does justice to the variety of complications will almost certainly demand a revolution in our habits of thought. Breaking bad habits is not that easy. The fantasies and thought experiments collected here are games and exercises designed to help.

  33. Plan
    • In Part I the exploration begins with some swift forays into the territory, noting a few striking landmarks but mounting no campaigns.
    • In Part II our target, The Mind’s I, is surveyed from the outside. What is it that reveals the presence of other minds, other souls to the searcher?
    • Part III examines the physical foundation – in biology -- of the mind, and then from this foundation moves up several levels of complexity to the level of internal representations. The mind begins to emerge as a self-designing system of representations, physically embodied in the brain. Here we encounter our first roadblock – “The Story of a Brain.” We suggest some paths around it, and
    • in Part IV we explore the implications of the emerging views of the mind as software or program – as an abstract sort of thing whose identity is independent of any particular physical embodiment. This opens up delightful prospects, such as various technologies for the transmigration of souls, and Fountains of Youth, but it also opens a Pandora’s box of traditional metaphysical problems in untraditional costumes,
    • which are confronted in Part V. Reality itself is challenged by various rivals: dreams, fictions, simulations, illusions. Free will, something no self-respecting mind would be caught without, is put under an unusual spotlight. In “Minds, Brains, and Programs” we encounter our second roadblock, but learn from it
    • how to press on, in Part VI, past our third roadblock, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” into the inner sanctum, where our mind’s-eye view affords us the most intimate perspectives on our target, and allows us to relocate our selves in the metaphysical and physical world. A guide to further expeditions is provided in the last section.

→ D.C.D.


COMMENT: |..||.|See Dennett - The Mind's I - Introduction for the full text. |.|(Soon to be) annotated printout filed in "Various - Papers on Desktop".



"Everett (Daniel) - Did Homo erectus speak?"

Source: Aeon, 28 February, 2018


Author’s Introduction
  1. What is the greatest human technological innovation? Fire? The wheel? Penicillin? Clothes? Google? None of these come close. As you read this, you are using the winning technology. The greatest tool in the world is language. Without it there would be no culture, no literature, no science, no history, no commercial enterprise or industry. The genus Homo rules the Earth because it possesses language.
  2. But how and when did we build this kingdom of speech? And who is ‘we’? After all, Homo sapiens is just one of several species of humans that have walked the Earth. Does ‘we’ refer to our genus, Homo, or to our species, sapiens?


COMMENT:



"Hawley (Katherine) - Almost Identical, Almost Innocent"

Source: Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements, Volume 82 (Metaphysics) - July 2018, pp. 249-263


Author’s Abstract
  1. In his book "Lewis (David) - Parts of Classes" (1991), David Lewis discusses the idea that composition is identity, alongside the idea that mereological overlap is a form of partial identity1. But this notion of partial identity2 does nothing to help Lewis achieve his goals in that book. So why does he mention it?
  2. I explore and resolve this puzzle, by comparing Parts of Classes with Lewis’s invocation of partial identity3 in his 1993 paper "Lewis (David) - Many, But Almost One", where he uses it to address Peter Unger’s problem of the many4.
  3. I raise some concerns about this way of thinking of partial identity5, but conclude that, for Lewis, it is an important defence against accusations of ontological profligacy.


COMMENT: (To be) annotated hard copy filed in "Various - Papers on Desktop".



"Hawley (Katherine) - Persistence and Determination"

Source: Philosophy 83 supplement 62 (2008), 197-212 (special issue on Being: Developments in Contemporary Metaphysics)


Author’s Introduction
  1. Roughly speaking, perdurantism is the view that ordinary objects persist through time by having temporal parts, whilst endurantism1 is the view that they persist by being wholly present at different times. (Speaking less roughly will be important later.) It is often thought that perdurantists have an advantage over endurantists2 when dealing with objects which appear to coincide temporarily: lumps, statues3, cats, tail-complements, bisected brains, repaired ships, and the like. Some cases – personal fission, for example – seem to involve temporary coincidence between objects of the same kind. Other cases – a cat and its flesh, a statue4 and its lump – seem to involve objects of different kinds.
  2. When two objects temporarily coincide, they are indiscernible in many basic, temporary respects, but they are discernible in respect of their future careers or past histories. How can this be? How can indiscernibility in all sorts of immediate, ordinary respects fail to guarantee indiscernibility in every respect? This is the ‘temporal grounding problem’.
  3. According to perdurantists, temporary coincidence is mere sharing of (temporal) parts. Whilst the objects coincide, they share temporal parts, but when they diverge they do not. The spatial analogy is familiar: these chunks of tarmac right here are parts of both High Street and the Great North Road, those chunks of tarmac over there are parts of the Great North Road but not of High Street. Moreover, we do not expect High Street and the Great North Road to be indiscernible merely because they share a few parts: there is no ‘spatial grounding problem’. The partial-overlap account of temporary coincidence is commonly taken to solve the temporal grounding problem, and thereby to secure some advantage for perdurance theory over endurance theory.
  4. This advantage is not conclusive: perdurantism and endurantism5 compete on various fronts, and if endurantists6 triumph elsewhere, they may simply accept that some differences between temporary coincidents are ungrounded, or else argue that temporary coincidence never occurs. Moreover, the perdurantist story about partial overlap does not apply where objects appear to coincide permanently: here perdurantists and endurantists7 have similar resources available. Nevertheless, a straightforward account of temporary coincidence is a valuable prize, not least because it provides the ontological resources for an epistemicist or a semantic-indecision account of vagueness in persistence: such accounts standardly require hordes of almost-indiscriminable temporarily-coincident objects.
  5. Ryan Wasserman has challenged the idea that perdurantists have any advantage in accounting for temporary coincidence (Matthew McGrath makes a similar point, to which I will return below; see also "Lowe (E.J.) - Material Coincidence and the Cinematographic Fallacy: A Response to Olson" (2002)). "Wasserman (Ryan) - The Standard Objection to the Standard Account" (2002) argues that, insofar as perdurantists may invoke the fact that temporarily coincident objects differ mereologically at other times, endurantists8 may invoke a similar fact. Temporarily coincident enduring objects differ in their spatial parts at times when they do not coincide; trivially so if one of them goes out of existence. If other-time differences in temporal parts can ground differences between temporarily-coincident perduring objects, then surely other-time differences in spatial parts can do the same job for temporarily-coincident enduring objects. There is, Wasserman suggests, nothing exclusively perdurantist about grounding present differences in other-time mereological differences. What makes these coincident objects distinct? Why, the fact that they will have different parts in the future!
  6. It is of course true that, if two enduring objects coincide temporarily, then they differ in what parts they have at some other time, and that this is a mereological difference between the two. Why then did anyone ever think that endurantists9 had a special difficulty with the temporal grounding problem? And exactly how was the perdurantists’ invocation of mereological difference between temporary coincidents supposed to solve the problem? To recover the advantage for perdurantists, we need to examine questions of grounding or determination. If we could describe the world without commitment to facts about persistence or identity, endurantists10 and perdurantists would agree on that description: if they disagreed about this, we could hope to rule out one of them empirically. The temporal grounding problem concerns determination or dependence, not just correlation or supervenience11 (so does the analogous modal12 problem, as "Bennett (Karen) - Global Supervenience and Dependence" (2004) and "Shagrir (Oron) - Global Supervenience, Coincident Entities and Anti-Individualism" (2002) have shown); it challenges us to identify a qualitative ground for differences between the temporarily coincident objects in question.
  7. So if there is a special difficulty for endurantists13 here, it is because endurantists14 have a special reason to think that facts about number, identity or sort must be determined by temporally intrinsic facts, a reason which does not apply to perdurantists. And indeed a special reason does seem to present itself. An enduring object is wholly present whenever it exists. The notion of ‘being wholly present at’ a region has resisted uncontroversial clarification, but must involve localness somehow: if an object is wholly present at a region, then important facts about it are determined by what’s going on within that region. In contrast, if an object is only partially present at a region, then we do not expect the central facts about it to be exhausted by what’s going on in that region.
  8. The main goal of this paper is to substantiate the thought that endurantists15 and perdurantists should differ about what determines what, that they should disagree about temporal intrinsicness.
    • First, I will clarify the temporal grounding problem, distinguishing two versions of it (section 2).
    • Then, I will examine the differences between endurantism16 and perdurantism (section 3), and
    • Show how perdurantism is better placed with respect to the temporal grounding problem (sections 4 and 5).
    • Finally, and briefly, I will make some connections between the temporal grounding problem and ‘metaontological’ scepticism about the distinction between perdurantism and endurantism17 (section 6).

Sections
  1. Introduction
  2. Two Temporal Grounding Problems
  3. Temporal Extent and Temporal Parts
  4. The Region-Focused Temporal Grounding Problem
  5. Object-Focused Temporal Grounding Problems
  6. Distinguishing Endurantism18 and Perdurantism


COMMENT: See Link, St. Andrews' Website



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid - A Metaphorical Fugue on Minds and Machines in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll"

Source: Hofstadter - Godel, Esher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid - A Metaphorical Fugue on Minds and Machines in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll

COMMENT: (Soon to be) annotated printout of the Contents analysis filed in "Various - Papers on Desktop".



"Kingma (Elselijn) - Lady Parts: The Metaphysics of Pregnancy"

Source: Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements, Volume 82 (Metaphysics) - July 2018, pp. 165-187


Author’s Abstract
  1. What is the metaphysical relationship between the fetus / embryo and the pregnant organism? In this paper I apply a substance metaphysics view developed by "Smith (Barry) & Brogaard (Berit) - Sixteen Days" to argue, on the basis of topological connectedness, that Foetuses / embryos are Lady-Parts: part of the maternal organism up until birth.
  2. This leaves two options.
    1. Either mammalian organisms begin at birth, or
    2. we revise our conception of organisms such that mammalian organisms can be part of other mammals.
  3. The first option has some advantages: it is numerically neat; aligns with an intuitive picture of organisms as physically distinct individuals; and ties ‘coming into existence’ to a suitably recognisable and important event: birth. But it denies that the fetus survives birth, or that human organisms existed prior to their birth.
  4. The second option allows us to recognise that human organisms exist prior to and survive their birth, but at a cost: it leaves the question of when an organism comes into existence unanswered, and demands potentially far-reaching conceptual revision across a range of domains.


COMMENT: (To be) annotated hard copy filed in "Various - Papers on Desktop".



"Lebens (Samuel) & Goldschmidt (Tyron) - The Promise of a New Past"

Source: Philosophers' Imprint, Vol. 17, No. 18, August 2017, pp. 1-25


Author’s Abstract
  1. If God found this paper offensive, would it now be too late for him to make it such that it was never written? Can God change the past? If he could, would he?
  2. Our treatment of these questions is based upon two Jewish traditions.
    1. On some ways of working them out, God will one day change the past by eliminating evil from it. This makes for a new kind of response to the problem of evil: the Divine Proofreader Theory.
    2. On other ways of working the traditions out, the past evil isn’t eliminated, but personal responsibility for certain sins is removed from the sinner. This makes for a new theory of atonement: the Agent Substitution Theory.
  3. Plan1:-
    • In §1, we outline the two traditions.
      • UF (Ultimate Forgiveness): God will one day erase from history the sins of the penitent, making it such that they never occurred.
      • NME (No More Evil): God will remove absolutely all traces of evil from the past — moral evil and natural evil. It will one day be the case that nothing bad will ever have happened.
    • In §§2–5, we explore theories of time in order to accommodate the traditions.
      • In §2, we explore the notion of hypertime.
      • In §3, we present Hud Hudson’s view. He allows God to change the past but, on his view, there is a sort of evil that God can’t change — the evils of the hyper-past. We move beyond this limitation by appealing to an infinite hierarchy of timelines.
      • However, in §4, we set out a more streamlined metaphysics of a “moving spotlight” theory of time.
      • This allows us, in §5, to explain, without the metaphysics of hypertime, how God could change the past, leaving no trace of evil whatsoever.
    • In §6, we respond to a number of objections.
    • In §7, we draw a distinction that helps us address why God might want to change the past.
    • In §8 we use that distinction to frame the Agent Substitution Theory.
    • In §9 we present the Divine Proofreader Theory. Our metaphysics of time makes the case that God can change the past, while our Divine Proofreader and Agent Substitution Theories explain why God might want to.
    • In §10, we respond to some objections.

Sections
  1. Two Views
  2. Hypertime
  3. Relegating Evil to the Hyper-Past
    → 3.1 Heavenly Super Tasks
  4. The Moving Spotlight and Hyper-Presentism
  5. Scene Changes in the Dark
  6. Objections to the Metaphysics
    → Objection 1
    → Objection 2
    → Objection 3
  7. Deletion and Amputation
  8. The Agent Substitution Theory of Atonement
  9. The Divine Proofreader
  10. Objections and Replies
    → Objection 1
    → Objection 2
    → Objection 3
  11. Conclusion

References2
  1. "Belot (Gordon) - Dust, Time and Symmetry", Belot
  2. "Dummett (Michael) - Bringing About the Past", Dummett
  3. Hud Hudson, The Fall and Hypertime
  4. "Markosian (Ned) - How Fast Does Time Pass?", Markosian
  5. "Plantinga (Alvin) - The Nature of Necessity", Plantinga
  6. "Skow (Bradford) - Objective Becoming", Skow
  7. "Smart (J.C.C.) - The River of Time", Smart
  8. "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings", van Inwagen
  9. "Williams (Donald C.) - The Myth of Passage", Williams
  10. "Williamson (Timothy) - Existence and Contingency", Williamson
  11. "Zimmerman (Dean) - The Privileged Present: Defending an 'A-Theory' of Time", Zimmerman


COMMENT: The paper can be obtained from: Lebens+Goldschmidt: The Promise of a New Past.




In-Page Footnotes ("Lebens (Samuel) & Goldschmidt (Tyron) - The Promise of a New Past")

Footnote 1:
  • Taken from the Introduction and §1.
Footnote 2:
  • I’ve ignored the majority of these references – mostly Rabbinic – that I will never seek to possess.
  • For those that I may buy in the future I’ve linked to the author’s works I do possess.



"MacIntosh (J.J.) - Reincarnation and Relativized Identity"

Source: Religious Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Jun., 1989), pp. 153-165


Author’s Introduction
  1. There are five main claims that may be made about life after death:
    1. We are reincarnated in the self-same body we had in life.
    2. We are reincarnated in another body. (For my purposes in this paper it is a matter of indifference whether this is thought of as reincarnation in another world, or as reincarnation in this world: the arguments I shall be examining apply equally to either case. Throughout the paper the term 'reincarnation' used without qualification should be taken to mean 'reincarnation in a different body'.)
    3. We are revived, or continue to live (or to have conscious existence) in a disembodied form.
    4. We are not exactly reincarnated, because this life is a kind of dream which we are having, and a future life, whether a bodily life or not, will involve waking up (as it were) from this dream or dream analogue.
    5. There is no life after death.
  2. It is not difficult to find subscribers, present and past, to each view. Picking more or less at random, for
    1. we have, for example, St Paul (on some readings, at least), St Thomas, Peter Geach, and a number of other modern writers;
    2. we have Pythagoras, Plato sometimes, John Hick, and apparently1 a very large number of Eastern thinkers;
    3. we have Plato in another mood (or perhaps Socrates), Descartes, and - at least for the logical possibility - Peter Strawson;
    4. we have, primarily, Kant2;
    5. we have Lucretius, Spinoza, Voltaire, and a wide variety of contemporary thinkers: perhaps most practising philosophers in the western tradition.
  3. Identity requires a continuant, and there are a number of well-known arguments in the literature which show that the incorporeal soul is not acceptable in this role.
    • Thus option (c) above is not a live option.
    • Given that, I shall argue that option (b) is also untenable.
    • Writers who eschew (c), such as John Hick, Terence Penelhum, Langtry, and an earlier version of myself, cannot consistently opt for (b), even as a logical possibility.
    • If (c) is untenable, it will follow that (b) is as well3.
    • We will thus be left with the orthodoxy of (a), the implausibility4 of (d), or the truth (as I believe) of (e).
  4. Can we tell a coherent, non-question-begging story in which reincarnation in a different body occurs?
    1. At first glance it seems clearly possible.
    2. Do a little digging, add some elementary identity theory, and it seems impossible.
    3. Dig a little more, relativize identity, and we see that retaining the impossibility seems to require an assumption - that human beings have essential properties - that not all philosophers are prepared to make.
    4. Finally, we shall see that this seeming requirement is indeed merely a semblance, and that relativizing identity does not, in fact, save reincarnation as a logical possibility.


COMMENT: See "Noonan (Harold) - The Possibility of Reincarnation" for a reply.




In-Page Footnotes ("MacIntosh (J.J.) - Reincarnation and Relativized Identity")

Footnote 1:
  • I say 'apparently', for in his interesting article "Perrett (Roy W.) - Rebirth" (Religious Studies XXIII (1987), 41-57) Roy W. Perrett argues persuasively that in Indian religions the type of rebirth that is invoked does not (and could not) involve personal identity.
Footnote 2:
  • Kant offers this possibility in the first Critique (A778=B806 – A780=B808).
  • He emphasizes that it is merely a possibility, one which cannot be known to be true : but it seems likely that it represents his belief about the matter.
  • See "MacIntosh (J.J.) - The Impossibility of Kantian Immortality", 1976.
Footnote 3: Footnote 4:
  • In 'The Impossibility of Kantian Immortality', op. cit., I have argued that Kant's version of this story is not only implausible but impossible, but my argument there does not touch the general case.
  • (Indeed, I do not think that there is a sound argument available that defeats the general case.)



"Nielsen (Lasse) - Reconstructing Thought Experiments in Personal Identity"

Source: Philosophia: Czech and Slovak Journal of Humanities, 2018


Author’s Abstract
  1. Thought experiments are abundant in the topic of personal identity theory as well as in metaphysics in general. While many of them serve to illustrate and guide us through complicated theories and explain difficult to grasp terms, others are irrelevant and muddle the very discussion they aim to clarify.
  2. By building upon the work of John D. Norton and Kathleen Wilkes, this paper sets out to establish a formula for a good thought experiment.
  3. The paper outlines Norton’s theory that all thought experiments can be reconstructed into arguments. His work in this subject refers mainly to thought experiments in science, but the aim of this paper will be to apply his theory of reconstruction to thought experiments in metaphysics.
  4. Along with Norton, the work of Kathleen V. Wilkes and her critique of fission thought experiments will likewise be taken into consideration.
  5. The paper concludes that for a thought experiment to be successful it must make sense as an argument, after the impossibilities have been eliminated.


COMMENT:



"Noonan (Harold) - Noonan - Bibliography"

Source: Nottingham University Website


Harold Noonan's "complete works", as obtained from Harold Noonan: University of Nottingham.



"Noonan (Harold) - The Possibility of Reincarnation"

Source: Religious Studies, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Dec., 1990), pp. 483-491


Author’s Introduction
  1. Man has always hoped to survive his bodily death, and it is a central tenet of many religions that such survival is a reality. It has been supposed by many that one form such survival might take is reincarnation in another body. Subscribers to this view include Pythagoras, Plato sometimes, and a large number of Eastern thinkers. Other thinkers have, of course, disputed that reincarnation is a fact, and some have even denied that it is a possibility. But seldom has it been claimed by its opponents that reincarnation is a logical impossibility.
  2. This, however, is the central contention of a recent article - "MacIntosh (J.J.) - Reincarnation and Relativized Identity". Reincarnation, Macintosh maintains, is a logical impossibility because '[g]iven only two very simple necessary truths about identity, plus elementary first-order modal logic1, we can show that reincarnation is impossible'. Anyone who denies this 'must reject one of the following:
  3. The particular logical truth with which, Macintosh claims, the possibility of reincarnation is in conflict is the principle of the necessity of identity, that if a = b then necessarily, a = b. Proofs of this principle are familiar to philosophers and logicians and Macintosh gives one in his article. I shall not be disputing the necessity of identity in what follows.
  4. However, I shall be disputing Macintosh's claim that the necessity of identity rules out the possibility of reincarnation. As we shall see, there are broadly two lines of thought to follow for one who wishes to maintain, consistently with the necessity of identity, the possibility of reincarnation:
    1. One line is to develop a theory of personal identity in terms of psychological continuity5 and/or connectedness which takes a 'best candidate6' form and to reject a principle I shall refer to as 'the Only x and y7 principle'.
    2. The other line is to accept the Only x and y8 principle, but still to maintain that psychological continuity9 provides a sufficient ground for identity. A proponent of this second line must endorse what I shall refer to as 'the multiple occupancy view' of certain situations described in the philosophical literature on personal identity.
  5. Both of these lines of thought have been well-developed in the philosophical literature on personal identity and each has eminent defenders.
    1. The first line of thought is defended by10, for example, Sydney Shoemaker, Derek Parfit and Robert Nozick, whilst
    2. The second is defended by11 David Lewis and John Perry.
  6. Each line has certain implausibilities attaching to it, but neither line requires its proponents to reject the necessity of identity. Macintosh's argument is thus mistaken.

Notes

COMMENT: Reply to "MacIntosh (J.J.) - Reincarnation and Relativized Identity".




In-Page Footnotes ("Noonan (Harold) - The Possibility of Reincarnation")

Footnote 10: CitationsFootnote 11: Citations



"Noonan (Harold) - Vague Identity Yet Again"

Source: Analysis, Vol. 50, No. 3 (Jun., 1990), pp. 157-162


Author’s Abstract
  1. Gareth Evans’s article on vague identity has been the subject of many criticisms. Despite these criticisms, however, I believe that fundamentally Evans's attack on the notion of indefinite identity is sound.
  2. In what follows I first present what seems to me the most powerful version of Evans's argument and then respond to the recent criticisms of Over, Garrett and Johnsen.
  3. In doing so I attempt to make it clear that there is, in essence, only one reply to Evans available to the defender of indefinite identity, and that a most uninviting one, namely the defence of indefinite identity as a kind of relative identity1 (which I call 'mere indistinguishability in non-delta properties') and the rejection of a principle I shall refer to as 'the principle of the Diversity of the Definitely Dissimilar'.



"Ross (Don) - Consciousness, language, and the possibility of non-human personhood: Reflections on elephants"

Source: Forthcoming (as of 16 January 2019) in Journal of Consciousness Studies


Author’s Abstract
  1. I investigate the extent to which there might be, now or in the future, non-human animals that partake in the kind of fully human-style consciousness (FHSC) that has been taken by many philosophers to be the basis of normative personhood.
  2. I first sketch a conceptual framework for considering the question, based on a range of philosophical literature on relationships between consciousness, language and personhood.
  3. I then review the standard basis for largely a priori skepticism about the possibility that any non-human animal could experience FHSC and be a person to any extent, and indicate empirically motivated grounds for rejecting such skepticism, at least with respect to a select group of hypersocial candidate species with communication systems we do not currently know are not languages: corvids, parrots, elephants, and toothed whales. Relevant facts about elephants are reviewed in some detail, as a mini case study.
  4. While it is suggested that elephants might partake in the sort of consciousness characteristic of personhood to some extent, grounds are given for expecting that this extent is sharply limited by comparison with normal humans. As these grounds are mainly aspects of elephants’ external niche, however, rather than known limitations in their inboard cognitive or representational capacities, the surprising conclusion emerges that elephants might acquire FHSC, and thereby become persons, if they can be brought into conversation with humans, a possibility opened by considerations canvassed in the paper.



"Rovelli (Carlo) - The Order of Time"

Source: Rovelli (Carlo) - The Order of Time


I’ve reproduced Chapter 13 in full as it’s a good summary of the book as a whole – though it’s not possible to understand the claims – or evaluate them – without reading the book (if then).

Chapter 13 (“The Sources of Time”) Full Text
  1. We started out with the image of time that is familiar to us; something that flows uniformly and equally throughout the universe, in the course of which all things happen. With the idea that there exists throughout the cosmos a present, a 'now', that constitutes reality. The past for everyone is fixed, is gone, having already happened. The future is open, yet to be determined. Reality flows from the past, through the present, towards the future — and the evolution of things between past and future is intrinsically asymmetrical. This, we thought, is the basic structure of the world.
  2. This familiar picture has fallen apart, has shown itself to be only an approximation of a much more complex reality.
  3. A present that is common throughout the whole universe does not exist (Chapter 31). Events are not ordered in pasts, presents and futures; they are only 'partially' ordered. There is a present that is near to us, but nothing that is 'present' in a far-off galaxy. The present is a localized rather than a global phenomenon.
  4. The difference between past and future does not exist in the elementary equations that govern events in the world (Chapter 22). It issues only from the fact that, in the past, the world found itself subject to a state that, with our blurred take on things, appears particular to us.
  5. Locally, time passes at different speeds according to where we are and at what speed we ourselves are moving. The closer we are to a mass (Chapter 13), or the faster we move (Chapter 34=1), the more time slows down: there is no single duration between two events; there are many possible ones.
  6. The rhythms at which time flows are determined by the gravitational field, a real entity with its own dynamic that is described in the equations of Einstein. If we overlook quantum effects, time and space are aspects of a great jelly in which we are immersed (Chapter 45).
  7. But the world is a quantum one, and gelatinous spacetime is also an approximation. In the elementary' grammar of the world, there is neither space nor time - only processes that transform physical quantities from one to another, from which it is possible to calculate probabilities and relations (Chapter 56). At the most fundamental level that we currently know of, therefore, there is little that resembles time as we experience it. There is no special variable 'time', there is no difference between past and future, there is no spacetime (Part Two). We still know how to write equations that describe the world. In those equations, the variables evolve with respect to each other (Chapter 87). It is not a 'static' world, or a 'block universe' where all change is illusory (Chapter 78): on the contrary, ours is a world of events rather than of things (Chapter 69).
  8. This was the outward leg of the journey, towards a universe without time.
  9. The return journey has been the attempt to understand how, from this world without time, it is possible for our perception of time to emerge (Chapter 910). The surprise has been that, in the emergence of familiar aspects of time, we ourselves have had a role to play. From our perspective - the perspective of creatures who make up a small part of the world - we see that world flowing in time. Our interaction with the world is partial, which is why we see it in a blurred way. To this blurring is added quantum indeterminacy. The ignorance that follows from this determines the existence of a particular variable - thermal time (Chapter 911=10) - and of an entropy that quantifies our uncertainty.
  10. Perhaps we belong to a particular subset of the world that interacts with the rest of it in such a way that this entropy is lower in one direction of our thermal time. The directionality of time is therefore real but perspectival (Chapter 1012): the entropy of the world in relation to us increases with our thermal time. We see the occurrence of things ordered in this variable, which we simply call 'time', and the growth of entropy distinguishes the past from the future for us and leads to the unfolding of the cosmos. It determines the existence of traces, residues and memories of the past (Chapter 1113). We human beings are an effect of this great history of the increase of entropy, held together by the memory that is enabled by these traces. Each one of us is a unified being because we reflect the world, because we have formed an image of a unified entity by interacting with our kind, and because it is a perspective on the world unified by memory (Chapter 1214). From this comes what we call the 'flowing' of time. This is what we are listening to when we listen to the passing of time.
  11. The variable 'time' is one of many variables which describe the world. It is one of the variables of the gravitational field (Chapter 415=5): at our scale, we do not register quantum fluctuations (Chapter 516=6), hence it is possible to think of spacetime as determined, as Einstein's great mollusc; at our scale, the movements of the mollusc are small and can be overlooked. Hence we can think of spacetime as being as rigid as a table. This table has dimensions: the one that we call space, and the one along which entropy grows, called time. In our everyday life we move at low speeds in relation to the speed of light and so we do not perceive the discrepancies between the different proper times of different clocks, and the differences in speed at which time passes at different distances from a mass are too small for us to distinguish.
  12. In the end, therefore, instead of many possible times we can speak only of a single time: the time of our experience: uniform, universal and ordered. This is the approximation of an approximation of an approximation of a description of the world made from our particular perspective as human beings who are dependent on the growth of entropy, anchored to the flowing of time. We for whom, as Ecclesiastes has it, there is a time to be born and a time to die.
  13. This is time for us: a multilayered, complex concept with multiple, distinct properties deriving from various different approximations. Many discussions of the concept of time are confused because they simply do not recognize its complex and multilayered aspect. They make the mistake of not seeing that the different layers are independent.
  14. This is the physical structure of time as I understand it, after a lifetime of revolving around it.
  15. Many parts of this story are solid, others plausible, others still are guesses hazarded in an attempt at understanding the whole.
  16. Practically all the things recounted in the first part of the book have been ascertained from innumerable experiments:
    1. the slowing down of time according to altitude and speed;
    2. the non-existence of the present;
    3. the relation between time and the gravitational field;
    4. the fact that the relations between different times are dynamic, that elementary equations do not recognize the direction of time;
    5. the relation between entropy and blurring.
    All this has been well ascertained.
  17. That the gravitational field has quantum properties is a shared conviction, albeit one currently supported only by theoretical arguments rather than by experimental evidence.
  18. The absence of the time variable from the fundamental equations, as discussed in Part Two, is plausible — but on the form of these equations debate still rages. The origin of time pertaining to quantum noncommutativity, of thermal time, and the fact that the increase in entropy which we observe depends on our interaction with the universe are ideas that I find fascinating but are far from being confirmed or widely accepted.
  19. What is entirely credible, in any case, is the general fact that the temporal structure of the world is different from the naive image that we have of it. This naive image is suitable for our daily life, but it's not suitable for understanding the world in its minute folds or in its vastness. In all likelihood, it is not even sufficient for understanding our own nature, because the mystery of time intersects with the mystery of our personal identity, with the mystery of consciousness.
  20. The mystery of time has always troubled us, stirring deep emotions — so deep as to have nourished philosophies and religions.
  21. I believe, as Hans Reichenbach suggests in one of the most lucid books on the nature of time. The Direction of Time, that it was in order to escape from the anxiety time causes us that Parmenides wanted to deny its existence, that Plato imagined a world of ideas that exist outside of it, and that Hegel speaks of the moment in which the Spirit transcends temporality and knows itself in its plenitude. It is in order to escape this anxiety that we have imagined the existence of ‘eternity’, a strange world outside of time that we would like to be inhabited by gods, by a God or by immortal souls17. Our deeply emotional attitude towards time has contributed more to the construction of cathedrals of philosophy than has logic or reason. The opposite emotional attitude, the veneration of time — by a Heraclitus or a Bergson - has given rise to just as many philosophies, without getting us any nearer to understanding what time is.
  22. Physics helps us to penetrate layers of the mystery. It shows how the temporal structure of the world is different from our perception of it. It gives us the hope of being able to study the nature of time free from the fog caused by our emotions.
  23. But in our search for time, advancing increasingly away from ourselves, we have ended up by discovering something about ourselves, perhaps - just as Copernicus, by studying the movements of the heavens, ended up by understanding how the Earth moved beneath his feet. Perhaps, ultimately, the emotional dimension of time is not the film of mist that prevents us from apprehending the nature of time objectively.
  24. Perhaps the emotion of time is precisely what time is for us.
  25. I don't think there is much more than this to be understood. We may ask further questions, but we should be careful with questions that it is not possible to formulate properly. When we have found all the aspects of time that can be spoken of, then we have found time. We may gesture clumsily towards an immediate sense of time beyond what we can articulate ('Fine, but why does it "pass?"'), but I believe that at this point we are merely confusing matters, attempting illegitimately to transform approximate words into things. When we cannot formulate a problem with precision, it is often not because the problem is profound: it's because the problem is false.
  26. Will we be able to understand things better in the future? I think so. Our understanding of nature has increased vertiginously over the course of centuries, and we are continuing to learn. We are glimpsing something about the mystery of time. We can see the world without time: we can perceive with the mind's eye the profound structure of the world where time as we know it no longer exists — like the Fool on the Hill who sees the Earth turn when he sees the setting sun. And we begin to see that we are time. We are this space, this clearing opened by the traces of memory inside the connections between our neurons. We are memory. We are nostalgia. We are longing for a future that will not come. The clearing that is opened up in this way, by memory and by anticipation, is time: a source of anguish sometimes, but in the end a tremendous gift.
  27. A precious miracle that the infinite play of combinations has unlocked for us, allowing us to exist. We may smile now. We can go back to serenely immersing ourselves in time — in our finite time — to savouring the clear intensity of every fleeting and cherished moment of the brief circle of our existence.


COMMENT: (Soon to be) annotated copy of Chapter 13 filed in "Various - Papers on Desktop".




In-Page Footnotes ("Rovelli (Carlo) - The Order of Time")

Footnotes 1, 4: Chapter 3: The End of the Present.

Footnote 2: Chapter 2: Loss of Direction.

Footnote 3: Chapter 1: Loss of Unity.

Footnotes 5, 15: Chapter 4: Loss of Independence.

Footnotes 6, 16: Chapter 5: Quanta of Time.

Footnote 7: Chapter 8: Dynamics as Relation.

Footnote 8: Chapter 7: The Inadequacy of Grammar.

Footnote 9: Chapter 6: The World is Made of Events, not Things.

Footnotes 10, 11: Chapter 9: Time is Ignorance.

Footnote 12: Chapter 10: Perspective.

Footnote 13: Chapter 11: What Emerges from a Particularity.

Footnote 14: Chapter 12: The Scent of the Madeleine.

Footnote 17:
  • There is something extremely interesting about the fact that this observation by Reichenbach, in a fundamental text for the treatment of time by analytical philosophy, sounds so close to ideas from which Heidegger's reflection stems. The subsequent divergence is enormous: Reichenbach searches in physics for that which we know about time in the world of which we are part, while Heidegger concerns himself with what time is in the existential experience of human beings. The two resultant images of time are completely different from each other. Are they necessarily incompatible? Why should they be? They explore two different problems: on the one hand, the effective temporal structures of the world that reveal themselves to be progressively more threadbare as we widen our gaze; on the other, the foundational aspect that the structure of time has for us, for our concrete sense of ‘being in the world’.



"Various - Papers on Desktop"

Source: Various - Papers on Desktop



"Wiggins (David) - Identity, Individuation, and Substance"

Source: Wiggins (David) - Continuants: Their Activity, Their Being, and Their Identity


Author’s Introduction
  • My subject is identity and individuation. By identity I mean being the same as. By individuation I mean something done by a thinker. Among acts of individuation I include
    1. Singling out something which is a g (a donkey, say) as a g;
    2. Distinguishing that g from other gs;
    3. Singling something out when coming upon it again and recognizing it as that g, the same g again1.
    It will appear in due course how I take identity and individuation to be connected. By a substance I intend, with tradition, something singular or individual, a single particular object or individual thing. Unlike a universal / type / sort / kind / clone / character, a substance does not have specimens or instances. Nothing falls under it, exemplifies it or instantiates it2.
  • The approach I shall commend to questions of identity and individuation will be a sortalist one, claiming among other things that the identity of x and y is to be determined by reference to some fundamental kind f that x and y each exemplify. This approach is prefigured in Aristotle's question, definitive of his category of substance, ti esti or what is it? Contrast the question, definitive of his category of quality, what is it like? It is no longer wise to assume, however, as I once was apt to do, that everyone with a serious interest in the metaphysics of identity will know Aristotle's distinction or be eager to read such texts as Categories, Chapters 1-5. Nor can the other Aristotelian resonances by which I once set such store be relied upon any longer to enlighten or remind. If they have any effect, it is rather to cast doubt on my claim to have arrived at a general account — an account not at odds with anything that modern science reveals to us — of the identity and individuation of objects which are extended in space and persist through time.
  • So putting to one side the insights of Aristotle — who will enter now only at the point where the argument simply forces our attention onto him — we shall proceed here more simply and single-mindedly, starting from the bare logic of the identity relation and setting the still underestimated requirements of that logic in authority over the judgements of same and other into which we are constrained by the effort to make sense of the world of perpetual alteration in which we have to find our way.


COMMENT:
  • Originally, European Journal of Philosophy, 20, 2012, pp. 1-25.
  • This version is much revised.
  • (Soon to be) annotated copy filed in "Various - Papers on Desktop".




In-Page Footnotes ("Wiggins (David) - Identity, Individuation, and Substance")

Footnote 1:
  • Some of the acts included in this list, like others I might adjoin, go beyond the dictionary definition of 'individuate'. No matter. The word itself does no distinctive philosophical work here beyond suggesting some of the questions to be pursued and answers to be proposed.
  • In due course the adjective 'individuative' will appear as qualifying thoughts or notions or terms, connoting various relations that such things can have to the business of individuation by a thinker confronting the world of substances. Such a thinker is finding his way in the world, needless to say, not creating it.
Footnote 2:
  • It can of course be copied, but that is different.



"Williams (Christopher) - Death and Other Difficulties"

Source: Williams (Christopher) - Being, Identity, and Truth, Chapter 2


Analytical TOC1
  1. Predicating Existence of People: There are many examples of sentences which make sense and which seem to involve predicating existence of individuals.
  2. Existence in Fiction: Where 'exists' means 'exists in fact rather than in fiction', the proposition which contains it is about a word rather than about what the word names.
  3. Continued and Contingent Existence: The analysis of propositions of the form 'a might never have existed' or 'a still exists' does not reveal embedded propositions of the form 'a exists'.
  4. Differences Between the Counter-Examples: Unlike the counter-examples considered in (§ 2) the propositions ascribing contingent or continued existence do predicate something of the persons or things named by the names which occur in them.
  5. God and Creation: Some things that are said in the Bible involve the use of '— exist' as a first-level predicable. It is no more difficult to suppose that biblical authors were confused about the use of language than that they were mistaken about matters of scientific fact. The concept of creation can be analysed without recourse to a first-level concept of existence.
  6. Existence as Being the Same as Something: The suggestion that '— exists' as applied to individuals means '— is the same as something' will not help to deal with the problems arising from existence in fiction, from continued and contingent existence and from creation.
  7. Conclusion: None of the difficulties examined in this chapter force us to abandon the claim that whatever can be said with the use of 'exist' can be said with the use of 'some'. We need to examine the notion of existential generalization.


COMMENT: (To be) annotated hard copy filed in "Various - Papers on Desktop".




In-Page Footnotes ("Williams (Christopher) - Death and Other Difficulties")

Footnote 1:

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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