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Abstract: Derek Parfit's combined-spectrum argument seems to conflict with epistemicism, a viable theory of vagueness. While Parfit argues for the indeterminacy of personhood, epistemicism denies indeterminacy. But, we argue, the linguistically based determinacy that epistemicism supports lacks the sort of normative or ontological significance that concerns Parfit. Thus, we reformulate his argument to make it consistent with epistemicism. We also dispute Roy Sorensen's suggestion that Parfit's argument relies on an assumption that fuels resistance to epistemicism, namely, that 'the magnitude of a modification must be proportional to its effect.'
Abstract: In reaching his narrative view of the self in Oneself as Another, Paul Ricoeur argues that, while literature offers revealing insights into the nature of the self, the sort of fictions involving brain transplants, fission, and so on, that philosophers often take seriously do not (and cannot). My paper is a response to Ricoeur's charge, contending that the arguments Ricoeur rejects are not flawed in the way he suggests, and that his own arguments are sometimes guilty of the very charges he lays at the door of his opponents
Abstract: Marya Schechtman's The Constitution of Selves presented an impressive attempt to persuade those working on personal identity to give up mainstream positions and take on a narrative view instead. More recently, she has presented new arguments with a closely related aim. She attempts to convince us to give up the view of identity as a matter of psychological continuity, using Derek Parfit's story of the “Nineteenth Century Russian” as a central example in making the case against Parfit's own view, and offers a form of narrative theory as a way out of the problem. In this paper I consider this new case, and argue that we should not be persuaded towards the narrative
Abstract: Martha Nussbaum has argued in support of the view (supposedly that of Aristotle) that we can, through thought-experiments involving personal identity, find an objective foundation for moral thought without having to appeal to any authority independent of morality. I compare the thought-experiment from Plato’s Philebus that she presents as an example to other thought-experiments involving identity in the literature and argue that this reveals a tension between the sources of authority which Nussbaum invokes for her thought-experiment. I also argue that each of her sources of authority presents further difficulties for her project. Finally, I argue that it is not clear that her thought-experiment is one that actually involves identity in any crucial way. As a result, the case she offers does not offer any satisfactory support for her view on the relation between identity, morality and thought-experiments, but we do gain some insights into what that relation really is along the way.
Abstract: What happens when machines become more intelligent than humans? One view is that this event will be followed by an explosion to ever-greater levels of intelligence, as each generation of machines creates more intelligent machines in turn. This intelligence explosion is now often known as the “singularity”. The basic argument here was set out by the statistician I.J. Good in his 1965 article “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine”: Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion”, and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make. The key idea is that a machine that is more intelligent than humans will be better than humans at designing machines. So it will be capable of designing a machine more intelligent than the most intelligent machine that humans can design. So if it is itself designed by humans, it will be capable of designing a machine more intelligent than itself. By similar reasoning, this next machine will also be capable of designing a machine more intelligent than itself. If every machine in turn does what it is capable of, we should expect a sequence of ever more intelligent machines. This intelligence explosion is sometimes combined with another idea, which we might call the “speed explosion”. The argument for a speed explosion starts from the familiar observation that computer processing speed doubles at regular intervals. Suppose that speed doubles every two years and will do so indefinitely. Now suppose that we have human-level artificial intelligence 1 designing new processors. Then faster processing will lead to faster designers and an ever-faster design cycle, leading to a limit point soon afterwards. The argument for a speed explosion was set out by the artificial intelligence researcher Ray Solomonoff in his 1985 article “The Time Scale of Artificial Intelligence”.1 Eliezer Yudkowsky gives a succinct version of the argument in his 1996 article “Staring at the Singularity”: “Computing speed doubles every two subjective years of work..
Abstract: The words quoted above distill the common secular conception of death. If we decline the traditional religious reassurances of an afterlife, or their fuzzy new age equivalents, and instead take the hard-boiled and thoroughly modern materialist view of death, then we likely end up with Gonzalez-Cruzzi. Rejecting visions of reunions with loved ones or of crossing over into the light, we anticipate the opposite: darkness, silence, an engulfing emptiness. But we would be wrong
Abstract: I am John's brain. In the flesh, I am just a rather undistinguished looking grey/white mass of cells. My surface is heavily convoluted and I am possessed of a fairly differentiated internal structure. John and I are on rather close and intimate terms; indeed, sometimes it is hard to tell us apart. But at times, John takes this intimacy a little too far. When that happens, he gets very confused about my role and functioning. He imagines that I organize and process information in ways which echo his own perspective on the world. In short, he thinks that his thoughts are, in a rather direct sense, my thoughts. There is some truth to this of course. But things are really rather more complicated than John suspects, as I shall try to show
Abstract: Through careful analysis of a speciﬁc example, Parﬁt’s ‘ﬁssion argument’ for the unimportance of personal identity, I argue that our judgements concerning imaginary scenarios are likely to be unreliable when the scenarios involve disruptions of certain contingent correlations. Parﬁt’s argument depends on our hypothesizing away a number of facts which play a central role in our understanding and employment of the very concept under investigation; as a result, it fails to establish what Parﬁt claims, namely, that identity is not what matters. I argue that Parﬁt’s conclusion can be blocked without denying that he has presented an imaginary case where prudential concern would be rational in the absence of identity. My analysis depends on the recognition that the features that explain or justify a relation may be distinct from the features that underpin it as necessary conditions
Abstract: Scott Campbell has recently defended the psychological approach to personal identity over time by arguing that a person is literally a series of mental events. Rejecting four-dimensionalism about the persistence of physical objects, Campbell regards constitutionalism as the main rival version of the psychological approach. He argues that his "series view" has two clear advantages over constitutionalism: it avoids the "two thinkers" objection and it allows a person to change bodies. In addition, Campbell suggests a reply to the objection, often raised against views such as his, that thoughts must be distinct from their thinker. In this paper, I argue that Campbell's responses to the "two thinkers" and the "thoughts/thinker" objections are unsuccessful. Furthermore, his reply to the latter leads to four-dimensionalism of the kind he wanted to avoid – and this view too allows a person to change bodies. Moreover, I argue that it speaks against the series view that generalised versions of it fare much more poorly than do generalised versions of constitutionalism and four-dimensionalism
Abstract: Personal identity deals with questions about ourselves qua people (or persons). Many of these questions are familiar ones that occur to everyone at some time: What am I? When did I begin? What will happen to me when I die? Discussions of personal identity go right back to the origins of Western philosophy, and most major figures have had something to say about it. (There is also a rich literature on personal identity in Eastern philosophy, which I am not competent to discuss. Collins 1982 is a good source.)
Abstract: This paper is about the neglected question of what sort of things we are metaphysically speaking. It is different from the mind-body problem and from familiar questions of personal identity. After explaining what the question means and how it differs from others, the paper tries to show how difficult it is to give a satisfying answer
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to derive a perfectly general criterion of identity through time from Locke’s Principle, which says that two things of the same kind cannot occupy the same space at the same time. In this way, the paper pursues a suggestion made by Peter F. Strawson almost thirty years ago in an article called ‘Entity and Identity’. The reason why the potential of this suggestion has so far remained unrealized is twofold: firstly, the suggestion was never properly developed by Strawson, and secondly, it seemed vulnerable to an objection that he himself raised against it. Consequently, the paper’s aim is to further develop Strawson’s suggestion, and to show that the result is not vulnerable to the objection that seemed fatal to its underdeveloped predecessor. In addition, the paper aims to defend Locke’s Principle against alleged counterexamples such as those produced by Leibniz, Fine and Hughes.
Abstract: In this quite modestly ambitious essay, I'll generally just assume that, for the most part, our "scientifically informed" commonsense view of the world is true. Just as it is with such unthinking things as planets, plates and, I suppose, plants, too, so it also is with all earthly thinking beings, from people to pigs and pigeons; each occupies a region of space, however large or small, in which all are spatially related to each other. Or, at least, so it is with the bodies of these beings. And, even as each of these _ordinary entities_ extends through some space, so, also, each endures through some time. In line with that, each ordinary entity is at least very largely, and is perhaps entirely, an _enduring physical_ entity (which allows that many might have certain properties that aren't purely physical properties.) Further, each ordinary enduring entity is a _physically complex_ entity: Not only is each composed of parts, but many of these parts, whether or not absolutely all of them, are themselves enduring physical entities, and many of _them_ also are such physically complex continuing entities