Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2006
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 1A

Introduction to Philosophy

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber



Until now, you have lived your life with various assumptions in mind. Some of these assumptions are more, some less obvious and some may even be false.

For example, the person who applied to the Brandeis and was accepted is reading this page right now. You assume that the person who is reading this page right now is the same person who applied to Brandeis University and was accepted. In this respect you are not so different from the rest of us.

Each of us assumes that we are who we are through various changes over time. In some sense, perhaps, the person who enrolled in PHIL 1A is not the same person who goes on to do the work and completes the course. Once you complete the course you are a person who has had Intro to Philosophy and when you enrolled you were someone who had not yet taken it. Still you assume that it is you who have gone through these changes. You have, for example, not become your sister.

Put simply, you see yourself as a being that persists. What accounts for this persistence, for your persistence over time and through various changes, is the philosophical problem of personal identity.

The question facing the California Supreme Court in Julia's case was one of having to answer whether it was Julia or Mary who survived the operation performed by Dr. Matthews. As you know from that case, more than ten years have passed since Dr. Matthews performed the operation on Julia. We are now living in the 21st century. Other techniques have been developed that test our considered judgments about personal identity. Indeed in some respects those "early" experiments by Dr. Matthews have become "old hat." There is now, for instance, an especially brilliant doctor - perhaps you have heard of him - by the name of Wiggins.

Dr. Wiggins has been working in the area of telekinesis and built a device called a Teletransporter.

Since September 11th a company has been formed with a three billion dollar investment of venture capital to manufacture Teletransporters and install them in every major city in the United States, although the company sees a world-wide demand for its product and plans to enter the global market some time in 2007. Teletransporters already exist, as you may know, in ten major cities in the United States and have been "in service" for a little more than seventeen months.

At the request of Dr. Wiggins, the company has also donated one of its machines to Brandeis University (see The Justice, January 20, 2002) where it has been in use for a little over four years now.

The Brandeis Teletransporter is in the basement of the Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Lab of Rabb. You can, if you wish, visit the Lab and check it out. But if you have friends on campus who have used it or if you have read the story in The Justice, you know all this already.

For those of you who have not heard about this device or taken advantage of its services, here is how it works. The Teletransporter in the basement of the Graybiel Lab looks at first glance very much like a phone booth or one of those sound proof booths that you sometimes see on TV game shows where a contestant is placed so he or she cannot hear what is happening in the studio.

This booth or "cubicle," as Dr Wiggins described it in one of his early papers on the subject, has a series of panels that line its inner walls. These panels are extraordinarily sophisticated scanners that record the "exact state" of a user's cells and can then transmit this information over laser optic cable to a Replicator in one of the ten major cities that are currently online, i.e., a part of the teletransportation system network.

A Replicator is essentially a Teletransporter on the receiving end of the information sent to it and it (the Replicator) then creates out of new matter a brain and body exactly like the original user's.

With recent adjustments to the system it takes no more than three milliseconds to "travel" by this method from the basement of the Graybiel Lab of Rabb to any West Coast city, currently the furthest point in the teletransportation network from Brandeis. At present there are Transporters/Replicators in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington, D. C., Detroit, Atlanta and Phoenix. The trip to downtown Boston takes less than two milliseconds as many Brandeis students will attest.

If you have not made use of the device or have not read much about it, a few further facts about its operation are perhaps worthy of mention. To "travel" by this method, you must make sure the door is securely fastened after you enter the cubicle. Otherwise the Teletransporter will not operate. A highly trained professional will ascertain, however, that the door is securely fastened once you have entered the chamber.

To activate the Teletransporter you need to push a "green" button, which is just to the left of the door on the cubicle wall. After you press the button, you will momentarily lose consciousness and you will be without consciousness for the duration of the time it takes to "travel" to your chosen destination; so two milliseconds if you are traveling to downtown Boston; three milliseconds if you are traveling to L. A. The Scanner or Scanning system destroys your brain and your body while recording the "exact state" of all your cells, sending this information and re-creating out of new matter a brain and body exactly like yours. It is with this brain and in this body that you wake up, i.e., regain consciousness, on the "other" end, whether that be downtown Boston or L. A. or any of the other cities on the network.

You can perhaps see now why a company has received such a huge injection of venture capital and why it is rushing to bring Teletransporters to market given the current international climate. Teletransportation performs an "end run" around security checks at airports as well as traffic jams on roadways to and from every major urban center. Several executives who live in Newton, and Belmont, Massachusetts have made special arrangements with the university to use the Teletransporter in the Graybiel Lab to travel in and out of Boston in the morning and late afternoon, "just to avoid," as one executive from Gillette put it, "the commute." In exchange for the privilege, these executives have agreed to share their medical information with the research and development team for Teletransport America.

So, imagine the following, although, of course, if you have traveled by this method, you will have to do less imagining than others do. Imagine that you need to go to the West Coast for a weekend. You have been to the West Coast before, but only by the "old method." You drove across country once and have "flown" several times.

The drive took three and half days and you did not get much sleep and the plane trips have taken as much as six and a half hours when you take into account lay-overs and ground transportation.

If you use the Teletransporter in the basement of the Graybiel Lab, you can get to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Seattle in "no time," compared to the "old methods." Imagine, too, that someone you know at Brandeis has used the "new" method any number of times since it was first installed in the concrete bunker of the Graybiel Lab. Imagine that your friend has relatives in Miami and has "teletransported" (the verb form of "teletransportation," recently accepted by The American Heritage Dictionary) and yout friend seems fine. Your friend has "traveled" three times by this method in April of this year and received "A's" on all his exams at the end of the semester. Indeed you have had many occasions to observe your friend's behavior before and after teletransporting and your friend seems no different now than your friend was, say, two years ago.

If you still have any doubts about the method, you might wish to engage in the following study. Rumor has it that several members of the Detroit Tigers as well as several members of the New York Yankees used Teletransportation to get back and forth between New York and Detroit during their Division Series. If you watched the Series and looked closely at the players on the field, did you detect any difference in their style of play and, honestly, could you "tell" which members of the team had traveled via the "old method," i.e., by air, and which ones had used the new "teletransportation" method?

Say you decide to try teletransportation for yourself to visit the West Coast. You go to the Graybiel Lab, enter the Teletransporter and press the "green" button. As expected, you lose consciousness and then in what appears to be "no time flat" you regain consciousness, but in a different cubicle. You open the door and there is a professional assistant in a white coat but not the same assistant who helped you get into the cubicle at the Brandeis end.

"Welcome to the West Coast," she says.

Imagine that you have taken the "trip" to San Francisco, Los Angeles or Seattle several times by this method. Imagine that you are now back in the cubicle in the basement of the Graybiel Lab set to go off once again to one of these three cities. You're really looking forward to the trip this time because you plan to look at some real estate and perhaps in the not-so-distant future settle down "out there."

You enter the Teletransporter and press the "green" button. But this time you do not lose consciousness. There is a rather odd, grinding sound and then silence. You seem to be still in the Brandeis cubicle.

You think to yourself. "The machine must not have worked." You open the door and say to the assistant, "I don't think it worked."

But the assistant says, "No, no, it worked just fine. Dr. Wiggins has been working on the device in the last few days and has come up with a new and improved way to 'travel.' You are one of the first to use our new, improved Teletransporter."

"Well," you say, "I don't know about that, but I wanted to be on the West Coast this weekend. This is an important 'trip' for me."

"But you are," says the assistant.

"What do you mean 'I am'?" you say. "I'm right here in the basement of the Graybiel Lab stuck (once again) in Waltham for the weekend."

The assistant passes you a note in Dr. Wiggins's handwriting. It reads: "The New Scanner records your blueprint just as before but without destroying your brain and body. We hope that you will welcome the opportunities which this technical advance affords."

"Wait a minute," you say in some disbelief, "you mean to tell me that I am also now on the West Coast? That's hard for me to believe! I cannot be in two places at the same time!"

At this point your conversation with the assistant is interrupted by a polite cough from the control room next to the Teletransporter. The door to the control room opens and out steps Dr. Wiggins.

He gestures to you to step into the control room and says, after closing the door, "I'm afraid that we're having problems with the New Scanner. It records your blueprint just as accurately, as you will see when you talk to yourself on the West Coast. But it seems to be damaging the cardiac systems, which it scans. Judging from the results so far, though you will be quite healthy on the West Coast, here in Waltham you must expect cardiac failure in the next few days."

Dr. Wiggins looks at you expectantly. You stare back in his direction and say nothing; you seem to have been rendered speechless.

Hearing nothing from you, Dr. Wiggins rises from his chair, opens the door, and asks the assistant to set up a "teleconferencing session" so you can see and speak with yourself on the West Coast.

So, you think to yourself, the "you" who is now here in Waltham has three days to live.

"Not to worry," Dr. Wiggins says, as if he has read your mind, "you will survive on the West Coast"

He promises you that when your West Coast business is done, you can return to Brandeis and Waltham via the old unimproved method of teletransportation, if you wish.

You do not know whether to scream or thank Dr. Wiggins. You ask Dr. Wiggins to go over "the situation" with you one more time.

"It is perfectly understandable," Dr. Wiggins says, "that this situation would arouse in you 'strong beliefs.'"

"Strong beliefs!" you exclaim, "That is putting it very mildly."

"These beliefs," Dr. Wiggins continues as if he did not hear you express your exasperation, "are not about the use of words, but about ourselves, By considering cases such as the one in which you now find yourself, we discover what we believe to be involved in our own continued existence or what it is that makes us one and the same person today and tomorrow. This is a marvelous opportunity, don't you see, to discover our beliefs about the nature of personal identity over time."

"I do not want to discover my beliefs about the nature of personal identity! I want to live!" You realize that you are beginning to sound petulant.

"Listen," says Dr. Wiggins, seeming to try to get you to calm down, "everything has worked as it worked before. Your blueprint was beamed to the West Coast, where another machine has made an organic Replica of you. Your Replica thinks that he, she is you, and remembers living your life up to the moment that you pressed the green button. In every other way, both physically and psychologically, your Replica is just like you. If your Replica returns to Brandeis, everyone will think that he, she is you."

"So," you say. "let me see if I understand. You are saying that my Replica is me! Is that right?"

"Yes," says Dr. Wiggins, "that's it exactly. Although the "you" who are here at Brandeis will die, you will nevertheless survive, you will continue to persist. Your Replica on the West Coast will live. There is no need to worry."

"Hmmmmm!" you say to yourself, not very comforted by the fact that there is right now an organic Replica of you alive and well on the West Coast.

The assistant announces that she has the teleconferencing system, both sound and video, all set up and "ready to go."

"What will I say to my Replica?" You wonder.

You think to yourself "when the Teletransporter worked in the old way and I 'traveled' to the West Coast and back and I did not 'co-exist' with my Replica, it was easier to believe, what Dr. Wiggins is saying now, that this was a way of traveling and my Replica was me."

But now you are not so sure. You think: "maybe my Replica is someone else, who has been made to be exactly like me."

"You're on," the assistant calls from the teleconferencing room.

You rise slowly from your chair, "I'm on!" you mutter to yourself, but loud enough for the assistant to hear.

"Yes," she says, "you're on. You're on the West Coast and you're here about to go into a teleconferencing session with yourself."

"With myself!" you mutter again. This time the assistant does not reply.

You wonder what you are going to say?

You wonder to whom you will be speaking?

To yourself or to someone else?

Where are you?

On the East or West Coast?

In both places at once?

In neither one place or the other?

Who's who?

Is the West Coast person you?

The East Coast person?

Are they both you?

Are you neither?

What's your answer and what "theory," "view," "story" of personal identity clarifies and makes sense of your answer and does that theory or story also capture your intuitions about how the brain transplant, brain rejuvenation, brain information extraction and fission cases are decided?

Make a case for your view and for deciding the cases in the way that you do, offer what you think are several powerful objections to your view and respond to them.








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