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Can Your 'Self' Survive Death?

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Can Your 'Self' Survive Death? Empty Can Your 'Self' Survive Death?

Post by Cloud Fri Jun 04, 2021 7:51 pm

By Robert Lawrence Kuhn Source

Can Your 'Self' Survive Death? O5em8LFQ8ZonzbCpvXgm4T-1024-80.jpg
Could your "self" be uploaded into an artificial, nonbiological brain? (Image credit: Titima Ongkantong / Shutterstock.com)

Robert Lawrence Kuhn is the creator, writer and host of "Closer to Truth," a public television series and online resource that features the world's leading thinkers exploring humanity's deepest questions. This essay, the second of a four-part series on the Self, is based on "Closer to Truth" episodes and videos, produced and directed by Peter Getzels and streamed at closertotruth.com. Kuhn contributed it to Live Science's Expert Voices

Does the self really exist?

The answer depends on what you mean by self and on the expert with whom you speak. Some philosophers suggest there is no such thing as a self, while others consider a self to be a collection of experiences, memories and personality traits. Still others suggest persisting patterns of information represent the self. And while these definitions require a brain, some people suggest the self transcends the physical realm and instead is or involves some sort of nonphysical, spiritual or cosmic consciousness.

Such contrasting views and thoughts on self do not converge. But let's not stop there. What do these musings on the self mean for death, the demise of the body and the destruction of the brain? Can the self survive? And could your self be uploaded into another brain, even a nonbiological one?

Science of self
University of Notre Dame philosopher Peter van Inwagen contrasts "myself" and "my self."

"When I talk about 'myself,' 'myself' is just me," he says. "I already have the words 'I' and 'me.' Why do I need this additional word, 'self'? Is there this thing that isn't me but is 'my self'? If not, why not just call it 'me'?"

Galen Strawson, a philosopher at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the book "Selves: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics" (Oxford University Press, 2011), has identified about 50 different uses of the word self. He constructs two categories: "metaphysical selves: what selves are, how long they last," and "experiential selves: how long you feel they last."

"What are the core characteristics of self?" Strawson asks. "First and foremost, you're a subject of experience. You engage in mental activity, and you've got to be in some way single or unified, although that doesn't mean you can't be conflicted. You're some sort of entity. That's vague, but you're not just a property. A self isn't just a property of a human being. It belongs in the category of a 'thing.'" [10 of the Biggest Mysteries of the Mind]

University of Colorado philosopher Michael Tooley argues that a real self is "a matter of causal connection. It doesn't have to be a direct connection for me now to me in the past. It's continuity of things like memory, personality traits, basic beliefs, fundamental attitudes and desires, and so on, that make one the same person.

"There is a question whether you need the same brain (even with different molecules) continuing to exist together with causal connections," Tooley says, "or whether it's only the causal connections that matter."

If the same brain is not needed, then theoretically you could take the information from my brain — my "self" — and insert it into another brain, even an artificial, nonbiological brain. Would that 'self' still be 'my self'"?

"You need continuity across causal connections," Tooley responds. "But you may also need more. You may need something like continued existence of the brain in order to have identity, rather than [having] merely a replica."




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Can Your 'Self' Survive Death? Empty Re: Can Your 'Self' Survive Death?

Post by Cloud Fri Jun 04, 2021 7:54 pm

Self and time
To Strawson, the concept of self is tied to people's experiences of time, and how individuals view themselves in the past and future, he says.

"Many people, when they look back, think, 'That's me back there', whether five, 10, 15 years ago. And similarly, in viewing the future, though more vaguely, [they feel the same continuity]. Other people live in a completely different way: They look back six months and think, 'I don't find myself there,' and they don't think much about the future."

Strawson admits he fits into the latter category. "If I look back even a minute, I just don't feel that I'm there." He continues: "We're all human beings, and we're all born, grow up and eventually die, so we're all the same in that respect. But we have this different experience of being in time. I call the long-term people 'diachronic' and the short-term 'episodic.'"

That's why Strawson "finds it useful to use the word 'selves,' as opposed to the words 'persons' or 'human beings,'" because, he says, "while we're all persisting human beings, and in that sense persisting persons, we may be different selves at different times."

A natural way to think of the self, Strawson says, is as "a complex brain system that persists for a long time," but two people who both have selves in this sense can have very different experiences of the persistence of the self.

"One of them may say, 'I wasn't really there a year ago.' The other may say, 'I was disappointed by the presents I received at my fourth birthday party.'"




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Can Your 'Self' Survive Death? Empty Re: Can Your 'Self' Survive Death?

Post by Cloud Fri Jun 04, 2021 7:56 pm

Can the self survive death?
Most philosophers of mind, while stressing their disagreements, share the same opinion on the core fundamental: that whatever the self may or may not be, it is entirely dependent on the brain and thus entirely physical and entirely devoid of nonphysical pretensions.

Even so, I recognize two categories of claims that the self can transcend the brain: One claim assumes that consciousness is supernatural (cosmic consciousness, psychic phenomena and ESP, philosophical idealism, and the like); the second is based on religious doctrines. These are vast areas of pursuit, controversy and unending argument, from serious philosophical analyses to uncharted oceans of anecdotes and countless libraries of belief systems (not to mention fraud, illusion and delusion). [Teleportation, ESP & Time Travel: 10 Tales of Superpowers]

Social anthropologist Marilyn Schlitz promotes the nature and significance of people's inner experience in defining a self. "Science needs to reconcile its physicalist orientation with insights of wisdom and spiritual traditions," she says. "We have the potential of a breakthrough in understanding who we are and what we're capable of becoming — what motivates and inspires us, the qualities of our humanness. To reduce all of that to its physicality," argues Schlitz, a parapsychologist who has investigated psychic phenomena and wisdom traditions, "is to lose the potential of what it means to be fully human."



Whether one can support parapsychology as a possible window onto an expanded self "depends in part on how much exotic data you are willing to entertain," says philosopher Stephen Braude, referring to what he calls "data suggesting a persistence of personality after bodily death." If after the body is decomposed there is such evidence, he claims, then "certainly the neurophysiological view goes out the window."

Parapsychologist Charles Tart says, "You can talk about afterlife in terms of what various religions believe, but as a scientist, I prefer data. What can we actually find out?



"There are two kinds of data: One are things like near-death experiences, where people feel they got a glimpse of the afterlife — and you have no idea how accurate that [glimpse] was. The other is the work of spiritualist mediums, who claim to channel the souls of people who survive death and then tell you about what it's like — you don't know how much of this is just imagination. I don't think there's been enough work to come to a real conclusion about whether anybody actually survives death, but there's enough evidence that I wouldn't just dismiss it."

Tart adds, "We should be investigating the experiences that people impute to their 'soul,' or something like soul, not just throwing them out as impossible."


Continued/ Full Article Source


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