Re: Can I kill the original?

From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Mon May 08 2000 - 01:08:23 MDT

Harvey "I bet you can't have just one" Newstrom wrote:

> "Dan Fabulich" <> killed his former self and then
> wrote:
> > Well, the answer is obvious: one consciousness stream might not be aware
> > of another similar consciousness stream, but "you" (the collective bounded
> > by the predicate "is Harvey Newstrom") are necessarily aware of all of
> > "you" simultaneously. You(1) are aware of you(1), you(2) are aware of
> > you(2), so some member of you is aware of you(1), and some member of you
> > is aware of you(2). So "you" are aware of all of you, even on the
> > "adjective" view.
> This is where it becomes completely UNobvious to me. You can define
> the self anyway you like, but my definition is the self-aware
> consciousness who says "I think, therefore I am".

Yes, I see that you want full access to all parts of your consciousness,
and that one consciousness stream does not have full access to the other.

The problem here is that you're not quite playing my game. Under my
definition, you DO have access to every part of yourself, and you DO think
to yourself that "I think therefore I am." "You," under my definition, DO
have access to every consciousness stream that is you, DESPITE the fact
that some of your parts aren't aware of the others, because "you" are the
set containing ALL of the consciousness streams.

> Any thoughts being generated which are not accessible by me are not my
> thoughts and are not coming from me.

True. But is it true under my definition that the thoughts of some
consciousness streams are not accessible by "you?"

> > If you can't feel your hand, does that mean the hand isn't part of you?
> The hand is not part of my consciousness. It indeed can be deleted without
> killing me. It is my consiousness that I do not want deleted.

Actually, I had something else in mind, but it's not a very good point, so
I'll cede this one to you. ;)

> > Ahem. You have it as a goal to preserve your "self," but you have chosen
> > to define "self" as consciousness stream. I'm arguing that this was a
> > mistake, that you'd be better served with another definition.
> No. I do not choose to preserve my self no matter what that self
> turns out to be. I choose to preserve my current consciousness
> stream. I think you believe that I am trying to preserve my "self"
> but have a mistaken belief of what that is. My goal is to continue my
> current consciousness stream. Even if evolution, growth or other
> events define it to no longer be "me", that is what I choose to
> preserve. I would even prefer to have my memory wiped and my
> consciousness continue rather than delete this consciousness and
> create a new one with all my memories. I would like to preserve my
> memories, but my definition of life is not based on the past. It is
> based on the future.

Oookaaay. Allow me to try again.

You're right. You're not too keen on preserving "self" as such. My
error. Instead, you're interested in avoiding your own "death," whatever
THAT turns out to be. My argument can be fully restated in terms of you
being mistaken about what "death" is rather than being mistaken about the

A quickie to see what that argument would be like. You're interested in
preserving your consciousness stream because that's what you think
"avoiding death" is. But there's no experiment that would show us whether
you're right that "death" is characterized by a stunted consciousness
stream, or whether it's when happens when your copy set from turns out
empty, or what. So WE, as rational thinkers participating in language,
have to decide what "avoiding death" is. With that being said, we should
do our defining with all of our goals in mind, and it's pretty clear to me
that if your goal is to "avoid death" but not (intrinsically) to avoid
stunting consciousness streams, you'll be better served defining "death"
as an empty copy set, rather than as a stunting of your current
consciousness stream.

Now, you might nonetheless insist that you DO take it as an intrinsic goal
that you should avoid stunting consciousness streams. If so, I really
can't convince you. But I doubt that you do hold the view quite that way.
I suspect that you instead hold the view that you ought to avoid death,
and you also hold the view that if your current consciousness stream ends,
you die, and that you should THEREFORE avoid ending the consciousness
stream. Thus, preserving your consciousness stream is probably extrinsic,
at least in the respect that you could decide to discard it if you had a
different view on what death is. Moreover, I argue, I bet it's compatible
with all of the intrinsic goals you actually have to define death

> Genetics have little value to me. I think people are too carried away in
> trying to preserve their DNA. If I could be uploaded into a robot without
> DNA, that would be great. My decision to die for my brother would be based
> on life-long familiarity with him. I am familiar with my friends and my
> current consciousness stream as well. I would not be as likely to die for a
> brother I never knew existed or a clone I had never previously met or a copy
> who wanted to replace me.

<blink blink> Are you going to try to argue with me that you would have
little familiarity with an *exact copy of yourself*??? I can understand
why you might think that at first. "Hey, who's this guy, he looks like
me, but other than that, I don't really know him." But talk to him for a
few minutes and you'd quickly find that you know him quite well, as well
as you know yourself. (Which, poetic considerations aside, is quite well
indeed.) Really, imagine having a conversation like this, and you might
see what I mean. Imagine somebody who's literally lived your own life,
shares all of your beliefs, asks all the same questions, loves all the
same music; this guy, who knows you as well as all of your friends and
your loved ones, remembers your first kiss (as well as you do, anyway). He
remembers your biggest successes and your worst failures as if he was
actually there, along with every other important defining event in your
entire life. Are you going to tell me that you would have NO familiarity
with this man? Or little more than a stranger? I think you'd know him
BETTER than you know your twin.

As for not being willing to die for a copy who WANTED to *replace* you, if
my "copy" turned out like that, I'd be quite skeptical that it was really
a copy after all. Don't forget that your copy would have all the same
motivations as you, and all the concern for you that you would have for
him. (Yes, that includes not being willing to die for you if you wouldn't
be willing to die for him.)

> Some people would require a perfect memory from their previous body, or they
> would consider themselves dead. Some people would require the same body, or
> they would consider themselves dead. Some people would require physical
> sensations and/or qualia or they would consider themselves dead. Some
> people would require a continued consciousness stream.

Why did you decide to make an ending consciousness stream death? I
understand why you want to avoid death. By why did you decide to make
THAT death? More to the point, why not make it "having an empty copy set"


      -unless you love someone-
    -nothing else makes any sense-
           e.e. cummings

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