Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Is Physical Possibility Relevant?

I'm often annoyed by these wild scenarios we talk about in class. At first, I will be interested. With more thought, I will become confused. And with more thought, I will just decide that the answer doesn't matter because the scenario we're discussing is not physically/biologically possible.
Does it matter if we're not talking about realistically (physically) possible scenarios?


Blogger Matt said...

I find myself thinking the same thing, however I think the point of these scenarios is more to get you thinking about your identity. For example what defines you as you and at what point do you stop being you. Just because they are not possible doesnt mean that they don't help you define who you are. I hope this makes sense.....

October 10, 2004 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I agree that that's their point. But my feeling is about what "identity" is. Is it something physical? Am I physically identical to myself? This point is hard to make clear. I think of the world as existing by itself, with or without me. There seem to be rules to this world. When I think about identity, I think "Is the world aware that these two individuals are identical?" I think of identity in the same way as I think of objects falling to the ground. Is there some physical (biological, supernatural) law governing who I am? Or is identity merely a concept, a byproduct of our consciousness perhaps? Am I conceptually identical to myself? In other words, am I, whatever I may be, an object or a person, in the eyes of the world at large?
In the first case, I would dare say that what matters as far as identity goes is that our conception of identity closely matched the physical nature of identity. In that case, only physically/biologically possible scenarios should ever enter our consideration. In the second case, I don't think we have anything to worry about. If identity is merely a concept which we have invented, then we can define "identity" in any way we want.
This is rather long..... I'll let you reply before I go any further.

October 11, 2004 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger dscheffe said...

I think it does matter that these scenarios are not physically possible. Just because they are not possible in the present doesn't mean they can't be impossible sometime in the future. For example, someday it could become possible for a brain in a vat to have a smart enough computer that it really could make the brain function as a normal human brain would. To raise questions about what this would entail enlightens humans in general. With thought about metaphysical issues, we aren't limited to just what we can take in with our five senses, but rather open to almost any possiblity imaginable.

October 22, 2004 at 11:01 AM  

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