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Consciousness thought experiment

dylancatlow
Posts: 12,242
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2/18/2013 12:54:32 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Imagine I could delete a person's atoms completely and then put them back together instantly 5 seconds later. Would that person experience it as nothing happening? Would their consciousness carry over?
bossyburrito
Posts: 14,075
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2/18/2013 1:03:17 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I believe that the exact mental state one is in is the result of the arrangement of atoms in the body and surrounding world. Therefore, if one was to keep everything the same, nothing would change.
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dylancatlow
Posts: 12,242
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2/18/2013 1:05:46 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 1:03:17 AM, bossyburrito wrote:
I believe that the exact mental state one is in is the result of the arrangement of atoms in the body and surrounding world. Therefore, if one was to keep everything the same, nothing would change.

I'd agree.
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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2/18/2013 1:07:51 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Consciousness never "carries over" in the first place, from one second to the next.

The self is an idea and doesn't constitute anything literal.

See Hume's "bundle theory" of self.
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FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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2/18/2013 1:55:50 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 1:09:12 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
It's weird to think of one's conscious in that way.

Take psychedelic drugs and you'll understand it better. There's nothing more eye-opening than experiencing while simultaneously reconciling that with the evident realization that you don't exist.
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fnord
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,242
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2/18/2013 2:04:00 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 1:55:50 AM, FREEDO wrote:
At 2/18/2013 1:09:12 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
It's weird to think of one's conscious in that way.

Take psychedelic drugs and you'll understand it better. There's nothing more eye-opening than experiencing while simultaneously reconciling that with the evident realization that you don't exist.

I'm a pantheist, so I think conscious is a little deeper than that.
philochristos
Posts: 2,614
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2/18/2013 1:13:49 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 12:54:32 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
Imagine I could delete a person's atoms completely and then put them back together instantly 5 seconds later. Would that person experience it as nothing happening? Would their consciousness carry over?

Assuming that all we are is the sum of our physical parts, our entire mental life is the product of our brain states (including he exact structure and all of the processes). If you destroyed the brain, the person would cease to exist. But if you put it back together again, I don't think the same person would come back in to existence. However, I think a person exactly like the original would come back into existence. He would have all the exact same mental states, including his thoughts, beliefs, emotions, personality, memories, etc. He would not be able to tell that he was a mere replica. It would seem to him as if he were the same person.

Here's another thought experiment to illustrate that point. Suppose that after destroying the original brain, you recreate two brains that have identical structures. In that case, both brains would produce identical mental states. So both of them would have the same thoughts, beliefs, emotions, personality, and memories. They would both feel like they were the original person. But obviously two people can't be in two different places at the same time. Besides that, from that moment forward, they would live distinct lives. So these would obviously be two distinct persons. One of them would necessarily be a replica, and if the other was made in exactly the same way, it would be a replica as well. They'd both be replicas.

Or consider another thought experiment. Suppose a super computer is able to record everything about your body and brain exhaustively, including the exact location of every neuron and synapse, including it's structure down to the atom. And suppose that said computer was able to use that information to build another body and brain exactly like yours down to the atom, and it could do it without any damage to you. You wouldn't have to be destroyed. Well, obviously, you would keep being you, and this other person would be a replica, even though it has all the exact same mental states as you. Well, that replica would actually BE you just because the computer waited until after you were dead to create it. If it's a replica before you are destroyed, then it would be a replica after you were destroyed as well.

I think what follows from these thought experiments is that it's not possible for a person to cease to exist, then to come back into existence. If somebody ceases to exist, they're gone forever. Anything else that comes into existence, regardless of how perfectly it resembles the person who ceased to exist, could only be a replica.

That's the problem with Christians like Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists who deny the existence of a soul capable of disembodied existence and think that we cease to exist when we die and come back into existence at the resurrection. It's also the problem with people who think Star Trek transporter technology will some day be achievable.

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"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

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TolerantSpirit
Posts: 37
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2/18/2013 4:43:17 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 12:54:32 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
Imagine I could delete a person's atoms completely and then put them back together instantly 5 seconds later. Would that person experience it as nothing happening? Would their consciousness carry over?

Only they can know.
Think before you talk.
KeytarHero
Posts: 612
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2/18/2013 5:38:58 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 1:13:49 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 2/18/2013 12:54:32 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
Imagine I could delete a person's atoms completely and then put them back together instantly 5 seconds later. Would that person experience it as nothing happening? Would their consciousness carry over?

Assuming that all we are is the sum of our physical parts, our entire mental life is the product of our brain states (including he exact structure and all of the processes). If you destroyed the brain, the person would cease to exist. But if you put it back together again, I don't think the same person would come back in to existence. However, I think a person exactly like the original would come back into existence. He would have all the exact same mental states, including his thoughts, beliefs, emotions, personality, memories, etc. He would not be able to tell that he was a mere replica. It would seem to him as if he were the same person.

Here's another thought experiment to illustrate that point. Suppose that after destroying the original brain, you recreate two brains that have identical structures. In that case, both brains would produce identical mental states. So both of them would have the same thoughts, beliefs, emotions, personality, and memories. They would both feel like they were the original person. But obviously two people can't be in two different places at the same time. Besides that, from that moment forward, they would live distinct lives. So these would obviously be two distinct persons. One of them would necessarily be a replica, and if the other was made in exactly the same way, it would be a replica as well. They'd both be replicas.

Or consider another thought experiment. Suppose a super computer is able to record everything about your body and brain exhaustively, including the exact location of every neuron and synapse, including it's structure down to the atom. And suppose that said computer was able to use that information to build another body and brain exactly like yours down to the atom, and it could do it without any damage to you. You wouldn't have to be destroyed. Well, obviously, you would keep being you, and this other person would be a replica, even though it has all the exact same mental states as you. Well, that replica would actually BE you just because the computer waited until after you were dead to create it. If it's a replica before you are destroyed, then it would be a replica after you were destroyed as well.

I think what follows from these thought experiments is that it's not possible for a person to cease to exist, then to come back into existence. If somebody ceases to exist, they're gone forever. Anything else that comes into existence, regardless of how perfectly it resembles the person who ceased to exist, could only be a replica.

That's the problem with Christians like Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists who deny the existence of a soul capable of disembodied existence and think that we cease to exist when we die and come back into existence at the resurrection. It's also the problem with people who think Star Trek transporter technology will some day be achievable.

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That's one reason I would never step in a transporter if that technology were ever developed.
Kinesis
Posts: 3,667
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2/18/2013 5:50:30 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I'm fairly sure that all the atoms composing our body are replaced by other atoms at varying time intervals. So, some variation of this happens all the time.
Stephen_Hawkins
Posts: 5,316
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2/18/2013 6:30:48 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 1:13:49 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 2/18/2013 12:54:32 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
Imagine I could delete a person's atoms completely and then put them back together instantly 5 seconds later. Would that person experience it as nothing happening? Would their consciousness carry over?

Assuming that all we are is the sum of our physical parts, our entire mental life is the product of our brain states (including he exact structure and all of the processes). If you destroyed the brain, the person would cease to exist. But if you put it back together again, I don't think the same person would come back in to existence. However, I think a person exactly like the original would come back into existence. He would have all the exact same mental states, including his thoughts, beliefs, emotions, personality, memories, etc. He would not be able to tell that he was a mere replica. It would seem to him as if he were the same person.

Here's another thought experiment to illustrate that point. Suppose that after destroying the original brain, you recreate two brains that have identical structures. In that case, both brains would produce identical mental states. So both of them would have the same thoughts, beliefs, emotions, personality, and memories. They would both feel like they were the original person. But obviously two people can't be in two different places at the same time. Besides that, from that moment forward, they would live distinct lives. So these would obviously be two distinct persons. One of them would necessarily be a replica, and if the other was made in exactly the same way, it would be a replica as well. They'd both be replicas.

Or consider another thought experiment. Suppose a super computer is able to record everything about your body and brain exhaustively, including the exact location of every neuron and synapse, including it's structure down to the atom. And suppose that said computer was able to use that information to build another body and brain exactly like yours down to the atom, and it could do it without any damage to you. You wouldn't have to be destroyed. Well, obviously, you would keep being you, and this other person would be a replica, even though it has all the exact same mental states as you. Well, that replica would actually BE you just because the computer waited until after you were dead to create it. If it's a replica before you are destroyed, then it would be a replica after you were destroyed as well.

I think what follows from these thought experiments is that it's not possible for a person to cease to exist, then to come back into existence. If somebody ceases to exist, they're gone forever. Anything else that comes into existence, regardless of how perfectly it resembles the person who ceased to exist, could only be a replica.

That's the problem with Christians like Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists who deny the existence of a soul capable of disembodied existence and think that we cease to exist when we die and come back into existence at the resurrection. It's also the problem with people who think Star Trek transporter technology will some day be achievable.

To me, that just shows how weird and nonsensical transporters and stuff is when we look at it through a dualist perspective. I mean, if I got an apple, then made another apple as a clone, we wouldn't go "WTF Mindfreak", or even claim that the apples aren't identical apart from current location. So why would bodies be different?
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muzebreak
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2/18/2013 6:41:42 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 12:54:32 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
Imagine I could delete a person's atoms completely and then put them back together instantly 5 seconds later. Would that person experience it as nothing happening? Would their consciousness carry over?

I have contemplated this question for a long time. It is the only reason that I feel I could not go through with any form of teleportation. I could never, even after I did it, know whether whatever consciousness came out on the other side was the me of now. I sometimes feel scared to go to sleep for that exact reason. Is who wakes up in my body the one who went to sleep in it?
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philochristos
Posts: 2,614
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2/18/2013 6:52:44 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 6:30:48 PM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
To me, that just shows how weird and nonsensical transporters and stuff is when we look at it through a dualist perspective.

It's actually materialism that causes the problem, not dualism. If all we are is the sum of our physical parts, then if our bodies are disintegrated, we cease to exist, and anything that comes into existence later can only be a replica. But if we have a soul capable of disembodied existence, then the body can be disintegrated and put back together, and as long as the same soul that animated the original body reanimates the new body, personal identity will remain in tact. You'll be the same person on the other side of the transporter.

Of course that raises the further difficulty of how we can transport a soul and make sure that one soul reanimates the new body rather than a different soul. But at least under substance dualism transporters are logically possible. They're not even logically possible under materialism.

I mean, if I got an apple, then made another apple as a clone, we wouldn't go "WTF Mindfreak", or even claim that the apples aren't identical apart from current location. So why would bodies be different?

Bodies are not different than apples, and I'm not claiming there's anything strange about creating replicas. What I'm saying is that a replica cannot be the same thing as the original. If we created an apple clone, no matter how many properties they had in common, they would still be two different apples. Likewise, if we created a human who was just like you physically and mentally, it would still be a different person.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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2/19/2013 3:11:42 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/18/2013 2:04:00 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 2/18/2013 1:55:50 AM, FREEDO wrote:
At 2/18/2013 1:09:12 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
It's weird to think of one's conscious in that way.

Take psychedelic drugs and you'll understand it better. There's nothing more eye-opening than experiencing while simultaneously reconciling that with the evident realization that you don't exist.

I'm a pantheist, so I think conscious is a little deeper than that.

Nothing contradictory about that. See the Primacy of Consciousness theory.
GRAND POOBAH OF DDO

fnord