Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
From Leonard: From JOHO, here's a series of thought experiments to…
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2002 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
From JOHO, here's a series of thought experiments to help ferret out to which theory of personal identity one hews. Few surprises for me, as I already knew I was a psychological reductionist; I waffled a bit on the answer to #1, but either answer is compatible with PR.
The thing that disturbs me is that apparently 1/3 of the test-takers have an internally inconsistent idea of personal identity. I can only hold out hope that most of those were people trying different responses to questions to see what would happen.
Waaah, I'm one of the one-third. Here's my beef with the test (SPOILERS AHEAD!): only at the last question did I find out that, hypothetically, I have a "soul" that only lives whilst my body lives, and that upon my death is reborn in some new body, and that dies with no hope of rebirth if I'm cryogenically frozen. (Whew!) This would have changed my answer to the previous questions (e.g., "shall we destroy your body and recreate it elsewhere or shall we transport your body physically?"), since I had been operating on the there-is-no-soul assumption. It's completely consistent for me to change my beliefs when I receive new information! I've been assessed unfairly!