The Relationship Between Math and Physics


(Antoine Suarez) #121

Are you sure?

On November 2018 you posted this:

It looks like if you are claiming you are today the same person as when you were in your “mid twenties”. Changes in beliefs and cells do not seem to entail change in the personal identity of Rumraket. Otherwise your claim in the quotation is nonsensical.

(Neil Rickert) #122


“Same person” in the first quote is not the same as “same person” in the last. Language is subtle and sensitive to context.

(Mikkel R.) #123


The person I am today still has the experience of “being me”. But that “me” has undergone many both mental and physical, though often subtle changes. The “me” of today is not identical to the “me” of yesterday. They’re very similar, but not exactly.

(Antoine Suarez) #124

Nonetheless you claim:

  1. “I ’m an atheist.”

  2. “I was some sort of christian up until my mid twenties,”

  3. “though in all honesty I never took it very seriously and always had serious doubts about the whole thing.”

In all these 3 Statements you are always using the same personal pronoun ‘I’ .

This proves that you are not referring to three different persons, otherwise you should use the pronoun ‘he’ in the sentences 2 and 3.

In other words, the three statements above reveal your conviction that you are describing the history of one and the same person. You are not a succession of existence pixels popping out from nothing.

Mental and physical changes may enhance your capabilities but do not change your personal identity. This is crucial for defining coherently property rights: So for instance, if today you were no longer the son of your parents, you would not be entitled to be their heir.

This statement brings to light another important hidden assumption you make:

In fact, you don’t yet have a name, you are struggling to make a name for yourself. With your decisions you are defining who you will be forever.

The important question in life is not “to be, or not to be”, but “to be someone or to be none”.

(Antoine Suarez) #125

True enough!

I am only interested in a truth that allow us to establish sound social conventions and thereby ensures that I can defend my rights in any situation.

(Neil Rickert) #126

As I see it, social conventions are established on a pragmatic basis. Truth is not involved. Many of our pragmatic social conventions are prior to truth.

(Herculean Skeptic) #127

It seems here (as often is the case) that there is an issue over the definition of a key word. In this case, it is “identity.” Is it appropriate and clear enough for this topic to understand “identity” as one’s agreement that they identify with the person named on their passport or driver’s license each and every morning? Or must “identity” be understood as one who is 100% identical to the person he went to sleep as last night? Because, using the second definition, one would literally not be the same person from second to second assuming the loss of cells and particles, right?

(Mikkel R.) #128

No, it doesn’t actually prove that. Presumably even if my personality radically shifted in the interim, whoever I (or "that person) felt like I/it was, Iit would still call my/itself “I”.

And in any case, even in so far as my personality did undergo some radical change, there are still perfectly sensible physical reason to speak of a persistent sense of self rooted in the continued existence of certain physiological brain-and-body structures and activities, which have not been altered substantially enough to have destroyed this sense of identity.

Presumably even if those structures were fundamentally altered, they would still speak of themselves as “I”.

In other words, the three statements above reveal your conviction that you are describing the history of one and the same person .

Yes and I’m giving a physical explanation for that fact. The persistence of certain physical brain and body structures and processes.

You are not a succession of existence pixels popping out from nothing.

I don’t see why I would need to be.

Mental and physical changes may enhance your capabilities but do not change your personal identity.

What does that even mean? What would a changed personal identity even be like? Would that person not still identify as itself?

This is crucial for defining coherently property rights: So for instance, if today you were no longer the son of your parents, you would not be entitled to be their heir.

Being the son of my parents has nothing to do with my sense of self. There are historical and biological ways to demonstrate that connection regardless of what person I might feel like I am. It is noteworthy that personal identity isn’t actually settled by what people say they feel like, but by what they can show with physical evidence. Historical records, DNA tests, documents of identification and so on.

I know that Hollywood has made something of a dollarcow out of movies that speculate on things like exchanged identity, with different people switching their “minds” to different bodies. But they’re fiction, it doesn’t actually happen in reality.

"You honor I just don’t feel like that child’s father, so I just can’t be responsible for paying child support. "

(Mikkel R.) #129

I agree with this. I don’t think we can really make progress in this discussion until we agree on some way of defining identity. What is it, exactly, we are seeking to explain the existence and persistence of?

My computer reports a CPU serial number reliably and unaltered every time I turn it on. This is despite the fact that it’s slowly getting older, and that physical changes happen to it. There are probably countless microscopic changes having happened to it’s internal circuitry, and yet it still reports this unaltered “identity”. Does my computer have a CPU serial number soul? It seems to me we can explain it’s continued ability to report the same serial number as a consequence of the persistence of the essential physical attributes that allow this.

(Herculean Skeptic) #130

I especially appreciate this, because it is okay, if only for this discussion, that we agree on a simple definition of identity. If any insist on identity being not even a molecular change, there can be no discussion.


For philosophers, this is the problem of personal identity. What makes a person persist in time? What changes can a person undergo without ceasing to exist?

Some ideas on what personal identity arises from:

  • a soul
  • psychological continuity in the right way; that is a causally linked chain of memories, beliefs, desires, character traits, etc.
  • body continuity in the right way;
  • there is no personal identity, although there are persons

They all have issues because of philosophical thought experiments (which all figure in SF plots):

  • memory implants by evil scientists challenge psychological continuity (“Total Recall”)
  • cloning with brain transfer to cloned body challenges body continuity
  • Star Trek teleporters challenge several approaches
  • brain swaps between bodies challenge intuitions about psychological versus body being the essence of personal identity
  • brain uploads which serve as backup in case a body dies challenge psychological continuity
  • fissioning of one person into two copies challenges body and psychological(plot element in several Star Trek)

(Antoine Suarez) #132

Truth without pragmatic basis is useless.

I would rather say that truth is concomitant of “pragmatic social conventions”.

Truth arises in the context of moral and legal responsibility at the beginning of humanity, at the time when the concept of “right and wrong”, “good and bad” is coined. Significantly, the first vestiges of writings reproduce contracts and property rights. Scientific knowledge is in fact part of a larger story about what is good and what is bad.

(Antoine Suarez) #133

Thanks for this Michael!

Indeed, as you very well suggest:

“it is appropriate and clear enough …to understand “identity” as one’s agreement that they identify with the person named on their passport or driver’s license each and every morning”.

And you could also add to your definition: the person named on their bank account!

The understanding you propose is appropriate NOT ONLY for this topic! The idea of personal identity is so fundamental that we could not even have this debate if we were not assuming it all the time while reading and answering each other’s comments.

So “the second definition” you refer to is useless and, in my view, even nonsensical.

Human knowledge, and in particular science, arises from the very need and will for assigning rights and duties coherently on a public recognizable basis. Interestingly, the first cuneiform writings are pieces of accountancy establishing property rights: This is the beginning of mathematics, the basis of science! Experimental science itself, especially quantum physics, is accountancy to a large extent. So science is part of a larger story about what is just and unjust, right and wrong, good and bad.

This has an important implication:

We establish personal identity on the basis of the observable continuity in bodily development: You are the same person as the blastocyst’s ICM (Inner Cell Mass), all your present cells are derived from through cell cleavage and metabolic exchange.

Now my point is the following:

Since space-time is discrete or pixelated there is no real material continuous ensuring that you are the same person from second to second.

So if we keep to the conservation of personal identity (without which any legal and social order would break down) we have to acknowledge some non-material support. This is the reason why I said that the “conservation of the personal identity of Dr.@Patrick Trischitta" requires a personal support coming from outside space-time. And since this support cannot be Dr. Trischitta himself, as he is not aware of his identity while he is sleeping, we are led to acknowledge another person who is conscious all the time and ensures that Dr. Tischitta is the same person from second to second.

(John Harshman) #134

Still a non sequitur, just like every argument you have made so far.

(Neil Rickert) #135

Doesn’t this vary between cultures?

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #136

If you send me a check for $1000, I will send you back a notarized letter saying that I was conscious when I signed the letter. I will also include a vial of my saliva so that you can have my DNA sequenced and compared with my children’s. If you want a stool sample, that would be an extra charge.

(Antoine Suarez) #137

Certainly. But the basic sign of civilization is writing. And the motivation for writing is to set contracts, keep registers, enact laws, that is actions revealing sense of public responsibility.

For this reason, I propose to consider writing as defining the very beginning of humanity.

We can learn from Richard Dawkins two important things:

  1. It is impossible to establish at which moment humanity begins by biological means alone. “Imagine pulling out your family genealogy. Now snap a photo of each ancestor going back 185 million generations. What would it show?
    First off, your very distant grandfather was a fish. Secondly, you can never put your finger on the very first human being, a proverbial Adam and Eve. 185,000,000 snapshots can never capture that one moment.”

  2. “We should not live by Darwinian principles […] one of the reasons for learning about Darwinian evolution is as an object lesson in how not to set up our values and social lives… [We should] despise Darwinian natural selection as a motto for how we should live.”

This means that to define humanity “non-Darwinian principles” are required , which come from beyond the mere biological realm. There is no imperative in biology to introduce the category of “species”. The concept of “human species” is mainly motivated by the desire of assigning rights coherently.

One can speak about humanity only when there is a community called to behave according mutual respect (“Golden Rule”) and the rule of law. This very call defines humanity as a biological species too: The human body becomes the observable basis for assigning rights, especially the right not to be murdered; by contrast, non-human bodies define animal species that humans can use, especially as food.

And all this fits amazingly well to Genesis 1:26-27; 2:19-20; 5:1-3; 9:5-6.

(John Harshman) #138

I am amazed at your ability to construct non sequitur arguments. The lesson of your first Dawkins quote is that there is no point at which we can objectively define the beginning of humanity, not that we need some non-biological principle. The lesson of your second quote is that natural selection is not a moral principle, not that we need a non-Darwinian principle to define humanity. So “This means” nothing of the sort.

Even writing developed gradually, so that it’s hard to define a particular point at which it begins.

Finally, using writing as the definition of humanity would seem to argue that non-literate populations aren’t human. Why would you do that? Nothing in that post makes the least sense.

(Neil Rickert) #139

Doesn’t that lead to the conclusion that cultures where writing was never developed were not human?

It is also impossible to establish at which moment a new species began. We divide the world into categories, but our categories do not have sharp enough edges to settle such questions.

We are not limited to Darwinian principles (if there are such things). We make those kinds of decisions on a pragmatic basis. And our ability to make pragmatic decisions depends very much on our biology.

We do not live in a world of Platonic essences.

(Timothy Horton) #140

You may want to rethink that claim. The Incas of South America who built one of the world’s earliest large civilizations had no written language. They kept numerical records on knotted cords called khipu but there is no indication they had any written word communication.