Intelligent Design Mind Psychology

Michael Egnor skewers claim that there is no continuity of the human self

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Professor of psychology Susan Blackmore argues that there is no continuity between our present selves and our past selves:

Blackmore seems unaware of the history of this ancient metaphysical problem, called the problem of change. It was the central problem tackled by the pre-Socratic philosophers. How do we explain change? It would seem that everything is change because everything in nature changes with every moment in some respect.

But then it would make more sense to say that the old thing disappeared and the new thing appeared. But in that case, the only way that a thing can come to exist is by coming from that which didn’t exist. And from nothing, nothing can come. That implies that change is an illusion. Either everything is change or nothing is change.

Consider a classic metaphysical paradox: the ship of Theseus. Periodically, a ship undergoes repairs. Parts are gradually replaced until, finally, every bit of matter in the ship has been changed. Is it the same ship? If yes, then how can it be the same ship if not a bit of the matter that was in the original ship is still there? Is it a different ship? It looks and functions exactly the same and common sense tells us it’s the same ship. And if it is a different ship, exactly when did it become different? When the first wooden plank was replaced, or the last? Why choose either?…

But you need not pore over Aristotle’s De Anima to figure out that Blackmore’s denial of personal continuity is rubbish. After all, if Blackmore is not the same person now that she was a moment ago, then it makes no sense to call the YouTube video above an interview with Susan Blackmore. Perhaps it should be called interviews with Susan Blackmores or interviews with countless women, one of whom was Susan Blackmore. Or interviews with women formerly known as Susan Blackmore.

Michael Egnor, “Interview with a woman (or women) formerly called Susan Blackmore” at Mind Matters News

Nobody believes that when it matters. It makes a good naturalist dodge though.

See also:

My right hemisphere is an atheist! No, wait… In reality, split-brain surgery does not split consciousness in any meaningful sense.

and

No free will means no justice. Materialist biologist Jerry Coyne doesn’t seem to understand what denying free will would mean for the criminal justice system.

9 Replies to “Michael Egnor skewers claim that there is no continuity of the human self

  1. 1
    doubter says:

    News, please fix the UD news page item to add the title and leading statement which are missing in the present version:

    “Michael Egnor skewers claim that there is no continuity of the human self

    Professor of psychology Susan Blackmore argues that there is no continuity between our present selves and our past selves.”

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    As with all design, the more you know about the details the more amazing the continuity becomes. Glial cells are constantly repairing and replacing myelin to clear out old unused memory patterns and make room for new ones. When a neuron signals that it wants to form a new synapse, glia rush to the area and sweep out the leftovers to clear the path, like brooms in a curling match. Result: each well-formed and occasionally-referenced memory remains in place from birth to death.

    In the hair cells of the cochlea, the little windowshade pulley mechanisms that adapt instantaneously to loud sounds in each frequency range in order to focus on the most important sounds, wear out every two days and get replaced with new pulley mechanisms.

    An infinite amount of infinitely detailed and infinitely purposeful wearing and fixing and replacing is happening all the time in every part of every creature, and yet every creature is a continuous entity from birth to death.

  3. 3
    AaronS1978 says:

    She reminds me of Alex Rosenberg

  4. 4
    Mac McTavish says:

    I may not agree with her, but I like to see people like her who continually make us question our beliefs. I think this is a healthy thing to do.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    As to:

    But you need not pore over Aristotle’s De Anima to figure out that Blackmore’s denial of personal continuity is rubbish. After all, if Blackmore is not the same person now that she was a moment ago, then it makes no sense to call the YouTube video above an interview with Susan Blackmore. Perhaps it should be called interviews with Susan Blackmores or interviews with countless women, one of whom was Susan Blackmore. Or interviews with women formerly known as Susan Blackmore.

    Reductive Materialism simply has no basis in which to even begin to address the question of why we each personally experience “persistence of self identity through time’.

    The Mind and Materialist Superstition – Michael Egnor – 2008
    Six “conditions of mind” that are irreconcilable with materialism: –
    Excerpt: Intentionality,,, Qualia,,, Persistence of Self-Identity,,, Restricted Access,,, Incorrigibility,,, Free Will,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....13961.html

    “Persistence of self identity through time” can also be referred to as ‘the experience of the now”

    As Dr Suarez succinctly put the irresolvable problem for atheistic materialists,,,, (paraphrased quote),

    Nothing: God’s new Name – Antoine Suarez – video
    Paraphrased quote: (“it is impossible for us to be ‘persons’ experiencing ‘now’ if we are nothing but particles flowing in space time. Moreover, for us to refer to ourselves as ‘persons’, we cannot refer to space-time as the ultimate substratum upon which everything exists, but must refer to a Person who is not bound by space time. i.e. We must refer to God!”)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOr9QqyaLlA

    And as Stanley Jaki put the irresolvable dilemma for atheistic materialists, ““There can be no active mind without its sensing its existence in the moment called now.,,, ,,,There is no physical parallel to the mind’s ability to extend from its position in the momentary present to its past moments, or in its ability to imagine its future. The mind remains identical with itself while it lives through its momentary nows.”

    The Mind and Its Now – Stanley L. Jaki, May 2008
    Excerpts: There can be no active mind without its sensing its existence in the moment called now.,,,
    Three quarters of a century ago Charles Sherrington, the greatest modern student of the brain, spoke memorably on the mind’s baffling independence of the brain. The mind lives in a self-continued now or rather in the now continued in the self. This life involves the entire brain, some parts of which overlap, others do not.
    ,,,There is no physical parallel to the mind’s ability to extend from its position in the momentary present to its past moments, or in its ability to imagine its future. The mind remains identical with itself while it lives through its momentary nows.
    ,,, the now is immensely richer an experience than any marvelous set of numbers, even if science could give an account of the set of numbers, in terms of energy levels. The now is not a number. It is rather a word, the most decisive of all words. It is through experiencing that word that the mind comes alive and registers all existence around and well beyond.
    ,,, All our moments, all our nows, flow into a personal continuum, of which the supreme form is the NOW which is uncreated, because it simply IS.
    http://metanexus.net/essay/mind-and-its-now

    And ‘the experience of ‘the now” also happens to be exactly where Albert Einstein got into trouble with leading philosophers of his day and also happens to be exactly where Einstein eventually got into trouble with quantum mechanics itself. Around 1935, Einstein was asked by Rudolf Carnap (who was a philosopher):

    “Can physics demonstrate the existence of ‘the now’ in order to make the notion of ‘now’ into a scientifically valid term?”
    – Rudolf Carnap

    Einstein’s answer was categorical, he said: “The experience of ‘the now’ cannot be turned into an object of physical measurement, it can never be a part of physics.”

    The Mind and Its Now – May 22, 2008 – By Stanley L. Jaki
    Excerpt: ,,, Rudolf Carnap, and the only one among them who was bothered with the mind’s experience of its now. His concern for this is noteworthy because he went about it in the wrong way. He thought that physics was the only sound way to know and to know anything. It was therefore only logical on his part that he should approach, we are around 1935, Albert Einstein, the greatest physicist of the day, with the question whether it was possible to turn the experience of the now into a scientific knowledge. Such knowledge must of course be verified with measurement. We do not have the exact record of Carnap’s conversation with Einstein whom he went to visit in Princeton, at eighteen hours by train at that time from Chicago. But from Einstein’s reply which Carnap jotted down later, it is safe to assume that Carnap reasoned with him as outlined above. Einstein’s answer was categorical: The experience of the now cannot be turned into an object of physical measurement. It can never be part of physics.
    http://metanexus.net/essay/mind-and-its-now

    Prior to that encounter with Carnap, Einstein also had another disagreement with another famous philosopher, Henri Bergson, over what the proper definition of time should be (Bergson was also very well versed in the specific mental attribute of the ‘experience of the now’). In fact, that disagreement with Henri Bergson over what the proper definition of time should actually be was one of the primary reasons that Einstein failed to ever receive a Nobel prize for his work on relativity:

    Einstein, Bergson, and the Experiment that Failed: Intellectual Cooperation at the League of Nations! – Jimena Canales
    page 1177
    Excerpt: Bergson temporarily had the last word during their meeting at Société française de philosophie. His intervention negatively affected Einstein’s Nobel Prize, which was given “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect” and not for relativity. The reasons behind this decision, as stated in the prize’s presentation speech, were related to Bergson’s intervention: “Most discussion [of Einstein’s work] centers on his Theory of Relativity. This pertains to epistemology and has therefore been the subject of lively debate in philosophical circles. It will be no secret that the famous philosopher Bergson in Paris has challenged this theory, while other philosophers have acclaimed it wholeheartedly.”51 For a moment, their debate dragged matters of time out of the solid terrain of “matters of fact” and into the shaky ground of “matters of concern.”52
    https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3210598/canales-Einstein,%20Bergson%20and%20the%20Experiment%20that%20Failed%282%29.pdf?sequence=2

    The specific statement that Einstein made to Carnap on the train, “The experience of ‘the now’ cannot be turned into an object of physical measurement, it can never be a part of physics.” was a very interesting statement for Einstein to make to the philosopher since “The experience of ‘the now’ has, from many recent experiments in quantum mechanics, established itself as very much being a defining part of our physical measurements in quantum mechanics.

    For instance, the following delayed choice experiment with atoms demonstrated that, “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,”

    Reality doesn’t exist until we measure it, (Delayed Choice) quantum experiment confirms – Mind = blown. – FIONA MACDONALD – 1 JUN 2015
    Excerpt: “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” lead researcher and physicist Andrew Truscott said in a press release.
    http://www.sciencealert.com/re.....t-confirms

    Likewise, the following violation of Leggett’s inequality stressed the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it.

    Quantum physics says goodbye to reality – Apr 20, 2007
    Excerpt: They found that, just as in the realizations of Bell’s thought experiment, Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it. “Our study shows that ‘just’ giving up the concept of locality would not be enough to obtain a more complete description of quantum mechanics,” Aspelmeyer told Physics Web. “You would also have to give up certain intuitive features of realism.”
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640

    Thus from experiments like the preceding, and many other recent experiments in quantum mechanics that are very similar to the preceding, (and directly contrary to what Einstein himself thought was possible for experimental physics), these advances in quantum mechanics have now shown, in overwhelming fashion, that ‘the experience of the now’ is very much a part of experimental physics. In fact, due to advances in quantum mechanics, it would now be much more appropriate to rephrase Einstein’s answer to the philosopher Rudolph Carnap in this way:

    “It is impossible for “the experience of ‘the now’” to ever be divorced from physical measurement, it will always be a part of physics.”

    In short, one of the primary reasons that quantum mechanics is so bizarre for so many people is because reality is not based on material particles, as is commonly presupposed, but is instead based on the infinite Mind of God for which “The Experience of The Now” plays an integral part.

    As Physics Professor Richard Conn Henry stated, “The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.”

    The mental Universe – Richard Conn Henry – 2005
    Excerpt: The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/436029a

    Verse:

    Psalm 90:4
    A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

  6. 6
    EDTA says:

    > Is it the same ship?

    Depends on how you are referring to the ship. If you are counting atoms, then it gradually morphs into one different from the original. I suppose you could figure a percentage somehow. But if you are using the name of the ship to refer to the current and useful collection of atoms as known in the ship’s registration, then yes, it is still the same ship. Same name, same purpose, same registration, so it’s the same ship.

    Same with our bodies. The atoms change, but it’s the collection of them plus our volition that we care about, we keep the same name throughout, so we’re the same person.

  7. 7
    AaronS1978 says:

    Think about the position that they’re trying to hold here

    Every moment, every second, every minute, and every hour you were different

    But you have to hold the continuity of your opinion through these infinite number of changes

    Every single change in your body would contribute to your opinion

    Yet you were able to hold this belief or opinion through all of these changes that happen constantly

    Now you have to explain to me why it is that I can go to sleep at night and wake up with the exact same opinion when the matter that composes myself has changed

    This type of philosophy embraces extreme Epiphenomenology

    It embraces it to absurdity
    That means any change That occurs to your physiology could not be discerned by your consciousness

    That even means that an individual with Parkinson’s wouldn’t know that they had this disease as it was their brain that was generating it and that just happens to be the change in their overall material as it has been reduced

    That also means that her opinion is not guaranteed to be the same from one second to the next and her position would change but yet she would not know the difference

    From my understanding even when our brain is damaged we know a difference and we are capable of understanding a difference we are also capable of discerning that an individual poking around in your brain made you jerk your arm and that you didn’t

    But I know of nothing that proves your point to be correct other than it’s a logical thought experiment

    I also would like to point out that we do not view reality in this reduced capacity

    We experience it, judge it, and understand it as a whole

    I believe it to be quite literally impossible to try to experience it in the reduced capacity that she is proposing

    If we are truly different from one second to the next due to the alterations in our material then there is no way that we would experience existence as a whole as it would be constantly changing

  8. 8
    drc466 says:

    “At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it.”

    Technically speaking – wouldn’t it be more accurate to say “At the quantum level, reality did not exist if you didn’t look at it at some point in the future”?
    After all, none of us “look” at anything at the exact same moment it occurs. Or even at the exact same moment that anyone else looked at it. In terms of experiencing the world around us, we are all on slightly different “now”s, based on how long it took the light to reach our eyes, our senses to process the input, the input signal to get to our brain, etc., etc.
    Which leads to the unavoidable quantum reality conclusion that past reality is determined by future observation. The “reality” of that supernova exploding didn’t actually occur millions of light-years travel ago until someone today observed it happen.

    Or we could just pretend that the tree that fell in the forest did in fact make a sound when it fell and observation of the fallen tree at some point in the future doesn’t actually trigger the “reality” of the tree falling and making a sound. (E.g. thought experiment – say the tree falls, startles a deer, the deer takes off running. Due to the change in deer position from running from the sound, the deer later ends up in a spot to be shot by a deer hunter, which wouldn’t have happened if the tree hadn’t made a sound. Does the act of observing and shooting the deer post facto make the sound of the tree falling a reality? Or, if you don’t believe it made a sound, do you believe that no deer are ever spooked by trees if no human is around to hear it? Or do deer qualify as observers of reality? If so, what else qualifies as observers – all life forms? Just life forms that can detect sound/sound waves? Etc., etc. Much easier to simply accept that events ARE affected by observation, but are not literally DEPENDENT on observation in order to be real.)

  9. 9
    Fasteddious says:

    I had a go at this philosophical question at:
    https://thopid.blogspot.com/2020/06/philosophy-103-who-am-i-who-are-you.html
    Philosophy is always great fun, even if it doesn’t take you very far.

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