correspondentA nice podcast about the late great Hilary Putnam. Meaning ain’t in the head!

Joe Kern has conducted a careful investigation of identity and personhood, paring away the contingent properties and coming up with a form of materialist reincarnation which is a more serious cousin of my daughter’s metempsychotic solipsism.

A less attractive conclusion (I may be biased) but with thanks to Jesus Olmo, here’s an examination of  whether the Internet is a superorganism of a kind that may attain consciousness. I remember when they used to say the brain was like a telephone exchange (my daughter would probably think that was a kind of second-hand market for mobes).


  1. 1. Jorge says:

    “metempsychotic solipsism”

    Yeah, I’m just going to warn everyone that hasn’t looked into it that it’s a pretty sticky meme. I can’t stop thinking about that or Terry Horgan’s hyper-parsimonious blobjectivism and how they might be related.

  2. 2. Jorge says:

    OK, this thing is long. I’m on page 8 and I already have an objection. I don’t think it follows that if you take gametes A and fertilize them elsewhere (or at a different time) that what comes out the other end is the same “me”. “Me” is the product of a collection of synaptic connections that are environment dependent. If the patterns of connections are different, and the matter that makes them up are different, how in the world is that “me”? Simply because the original gametes are the same? I reject that premise wholeheartedly.

    Anyhow, I’m going to slog through if only because it is well-written!

  3. 3. Joe Kern says:

    Jorge, I’m curious if you managed to continue reading, or if the continuation of that unjustified assumption proved too much to take? I actually do address it in Part II sections 2 and 4, but that’s 80 pages in, so I would understand if you hadn’t made it that far.

    I actually received several comments like yours from different types of readers (one who had never studied any sort of philosophy of personal identity before), so I realized I needed to bring the assumption out into the open and put it at the front, and address it. I’m working on a modest rewrite right now doing just that. I’ve really been helped by discovering the concepts of Closed, Empty and Open Individualism, which come from Daniel Kolak in his 2004 book I Am You. My gloss on these concepts (i.e., don’t blame Kolak for these) is that Closed Individualism is what most people believe, that they exist only as one particular human body, wherever and whenever that human body is or goes. Empty Individualism is the idea you described, and what it seems Parfit believes: you can only say you exist now and then in a fading way in the past and future of now or in counterfactuals of your body, as the content gets more and more different from the present. Open Individualism is what Kolak advocates, and is another (more respectable, I reckon) name for metempsychotic solipsism or what I called materialist reincarnation. It’s the idea that there is only one personal existence or personal identity that all conscious beings have. In other words, a single personal existence does extend throughout the life of a body, but doesn’t start and end with a particular body, as is the common (Closed Individualist) belief.

    I recommend Vettori’s latest essay called “Reduction To Open Individualism” for an introduction to the ideas that is shorter than Kolak’s book. (I don’t know if I can post a link here, but just Google it.)

    Anyway, since I’m rewriting now, I am interested to know how far you got in my work and if you had any comments or objections that might be helpful. Cheers!

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