PAPER TOPIC II
A LETTER IN PHILOSOPHY
Drawing on the reading and your own sound reasoning and good judgment, write a letter in which you make an argument for or against the following claims and/or conclusions about Julia and Mary in "Who Killed Jack?"
Please feel free to address the letter to anyone, a close relative, a friend, another philosopher. So, too, please feel free to think of the letter as one that you do not need to send. Explain to whomever the letter is addressed why you believe what you do or why you think the way you do. Propose a possible objection or set of objections to your line of thought and explain how you would address that objection or set of objections.
The letter will be graded pass/fail or credit/no credit, although it will be possible to receive a "high pass" and/or "credit plus." In order to receive a "high pass" or "credit plus," which could improve any one of your graded papers in the course by a third of a grade, turning one of your paper grades, from, for example, a "B" to a "B+", a "B+" to an "A-", and an "A-" to an "A," you must summarize in one paragraph or page what Bernard Williams says in
"The Self and the Future" (1970) and in another paragraph or page what Derek Parfit says in "Personal Identity" (1971). Then, too, you should say as simply and clearly how you believe Wiliams and Parfit would answer Part Two: "Who is Julia?" and Part Three "The Teletransporter" and Part Four: "Where Are You?"as well as say briefly and succinctly which one of the two, Williams or Parfit is more right in each case and/or whether you think there is some other answer that they both may have missed.
The letter should total about five to six (5-6) pages in length, or longer if you wish. If you elect to pursue a "high pass" or "credit plus," you may wish to add three "extra" pages. Papers are due on Tuesday, October 28th, in class.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Although there was considerable coverage of the incident at the time in the newspapers and on TV, many of you were quite young and so perhaps do not recall the case or perhaps never heard of it. In any event, Julia North was run over by a San Francisco trolley, although she is now alive and well and living in Seattle . Or is she? More of this anon.
At the time Julia noticed a child wander onto the tracks just as a trolley was bearing down. She dashed in front of it and managed to push (ever so gently) the small child out of the path of the on-coming trolley just before the trolley crashed into her and crushed her. The child's mother Mary Frances Beaudine had a massive stroke while she watched these events unfold and she collapsed the very moment that the trolley hit and crushed Julia. An ambulance took both women to the hospital where a Dr. Matthews, a brilliant neurosurgeon, was in residence. Some of you may recall that Dr. John Matthews had perfected a surgical technique for performing what he called "body transplant," and he removed Julia's brain (which was healthy) from Julia's head and placed it in Mary Frances' body, being ever so careful to splice the nerves at the brain stem, using the techniques that he had perfected.
As you might guess, the operation was one of the longer operations ever performed in the twentieth century, lasting a little over seventeen days. Dr. Matthews would catch some "zzzzz" every ten hours or so when his equally brilliant assistant would take over and continue the meticulous nerve splicing process. The operation was - as some of you may recall or as some of you may have heard from your parents or older siblings - a success. Julia survived. And although she was in recovery for a little more than a year, she held a press conference at the hospital one year to the day after she was admitted. Dr. Matthews and his assistant stood proudly at her side.
Then as if Julia's survival was not enough, a most bizarre incident occurred. Now nearly
everyone at the press conference took the survivor of this horrible accident to be Julia, except (unfortunately) Mary Frances' husband, Jack, who had also come to the press conference and who kept interrupting the proceedings by waving to Julia and saying "Hi, Mary. It's great to have you back," and occasionally picking up their daughter Sarah, the child whom Julia's heroic efforts had saved, and hauling her onto his shoulders and saying, "Mary! Hey there, Mary! Say 'hello' to our daughter Sarah." When the press conference was over he tried to kiss Julia a gesture Julia herself found somewhat distasteful, although she did admit to friends later, that she understood how he might be confused since she looks just like Mary Frances since she (after all) has her body. During the next few weeks Mary Frances' husband continued to pursue, some would say, "hound" Julia.
After Julia was released from the hospital, Jack continued to "follow" her around San
Francisco. She took a small apartment near the Golden gate Bridge and often thought she could see Jack from her second floor window standing in the shadow of the small arbor of trees across the street, sometimes for what she later described in court "for hours on end." I mention the court case because this much you may have heard and it would be remiss of me to leave it out. Julia, as some of you know, reached a breaking point. She became "tired," she said at the trial, "of having this guy whom I did not know follow me around the city and call me to tell me how our daughter was doing, a daughter I never had and did not know. "He was," she said, "in a word driving me crazy and so I shot him." As you may recall Julia was arrested and tried for the murder of Jack Beaudine.
One of the first decisions, however, facing the court was to determine who Jack's killer was. The gun that was recovered at the scene of the crime had Mary Frances Beaudine's
fingerprints on it and a videotape recovered at an automatic cash withdrawal machine two blocks from the crime scene unmistakably showed Mary Frances Beaudine making a large cash withdrawal fifteen minutes before the murder and an old friend of the Beaudine's, Peter Coyote, the actor, saw, or so he testified at the trial, Mary run from the "scene of the crime" just one minute after Jack was shot and killed, the murder weapon still in her hand. Who murdered Jack Beaudine? Was it Julia who admitted at the trial that she had become increasingly frustrated by Jack's having "hounded" her for days and weeks on end. Or was it Mary Frances Beaudine, whose fingerprints were, as one of the detectives in the case said at trial, "all over this crime?"
This case went all the way to the California Supreme Court and their decision was almost as celebrated as Dr, Matthews' operation that triggered this bizarre series of events. The Supreme Court's decision in this case is reported by Dave Cohen in John Perry's "A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality" where the participants in that dialogue also discuss "The Strange Case of Julia North" on the third night of their conversation. But quite apart from the Supreme Court's decision, what do you think?
Even if you knew or remembered how the Court decided, Courts do not always get it right? So what's your answer? Who murdered Jack Beaudine? Mary or Julia?
How would you decide? And why?
Clearly you and the Court face a preliminary question: who survived the operation? Indeed once this question is answered you probably have your answer to the question: who killed Jack?
Who survives the operation? The question would appear to involve some hard thinking
about a topic you remember that came up in a class you are taking with a Professor Teuber at Brandeis University.. There is the reading, already mentioned, John Perry's "A
Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality" pp. 396-416 in the INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHYtext, a basic text in the course, a book that you have come to love and keep by your bed-side and open now and then just to do a little "study" of some of the great problems of philosophy.
This case, indeed, seems to touch upon one of those great problems, the problem, as philosophers have called it, of "personal identity." From what little you remember of the class discussions so far, it would help to answer the Court's question if you had a clearer idea of what constitutes the nature of persons and the nature of personal identity over time. This might, in turn, be broken down into three, perhaps four questions:
(1) What makes some thing what it is and not some other thing
The answer to (2), for instance, might take the form: "So-and-so today is one and the same person at some past time if and only if . . . The answer would state, as it were, the necessary and sufficient conditions for personal identity over time. The answer to (2) would then provide the answer to (3). Question (4) is added because you may believe that (3) only provides a partial answer to (4).
So there you have it. What do you think?
Who killed Jack?
Of course, Julia has part of her own body; she has her brain. And if memories, beliefs, desires and the like are largely dependent on brain states (whether or not they are identical with them), it is not so surprising to find that post-operative Julia remembers things that pre-operative Julia did and that post-operative Julia is, with respect to psychological characteristics generally, like pre-operative Julia, in spite of her physical appearance and fingerprints. As a result, these same philosophers believe that it is not just having pre-operative Julia's brain that inclines them to take post-operative Julia as Julia rather than Mary Frances. It is not the brain, but what the brain, as it were, brings in its wake. And for some philosophers what's crucial is what the brain (in Mary Frances' body) brings with it, i. e. Julia's memories.
Indeed this episode in twentieth century medicine has helped to revive the John Locke Society which had fallen on hard times in the late 80's since it was Locke who thought that personal identity consisted in links of memory or as he might put it, "our ability to extend our consciousness into the past." Julia's case seemed to vindicate Locke and membership in the John Locke Society has increased ten-fold since Julia appeared at her press conference and helps to explain why John Locke T-shirts are so popular.
There are others, however, who believe that John Locke could not be right. He was, after all English and a rather plodding and methodical thinker, if much of a "thinker" at all, and they find it odd that he should be given credit for much of anything.
that is there.
The David Hume Society has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance, sending out copies of relevant passages from Hume's work wherein Hume argues that memory cannot be the source of personal identity.
that is there.
To complicate matters a bit further, rumor has it that Dr. John Matthews has been working all these years on a new process and that he is about to perform another operation on Julia. He too is apparently living somewhere in and around Seattle. Did I mention that Julia moved to Seattle after her trail? Some say that Dr. Matthews is carrying out his research on the grounds of Microsoft Corporation and that his most recent research is being funded by none other than Bill Gates.
that is there.
Dr. Matthews apparently has developed a technique of brain rejuvenation or "brain revitalization," as he calls it. It is a technique which allows him to replace a person's brain with an exact duplicate.
that is there.
Well, it's not absolutely identical. It's a perfect replica of a person's old brain in all physical and chemical respects, except the blood vessels in the new brain are healthier and stronger than the vessels in the old brain. Julia has developed weakening of the arteries and she fears a stroke like that which killed Mary Frances. The brain transplant operation, rumor has it, is scheduled to take place this weekend somewhere in Seattle.
Would the new person be Julia? It is expected that the post-post-operative Julia will have Julia's pre-pre-operative memories and beliefs, so if memory is key to personal identity, this new, new Julia should be Julia, no?
Well, that's what many members of the John Locke Society believe, although there is some disagreement among the membership. In any event they eagerly await the outcome of this latest medical moment in the annals of neurological science, as does a philosopher by the name of Bernard Williams. Perhaps you have heard of him. Perhaps not. He hold views similar to the character of Gretchen in John Perry's "Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality."
Williams has apparently been corresponding secretly with Dr. Matthews and encouraging him to perform a second operation making use of Julia's "old" brain. Waste not, want not. Matthews is now hoping (apparently) to have a fresh body for Julia's old brain and he plans to transplant Julia's old brain in this new body after he has removed it from her present body and performed the transplant of the duplicate.
So sometime after this weekend there will be two survivors, call them, "Julia-A" and "Julia-B." Both will remember sailing on Puget Sound on July 14th - Julia went sailing last Sunday - and both will remember having saved Mary Frances' daughter Sarah in 1992.
Both Julia-A and Julia-B will have Julia's psychological characteristics. But only one, Bernard Williams believes, will really remember, only one will be really Julia, the other will not. But some other philosophers, Lockeans among them, think Williams' view is a crackpot theory. Both will have Julia's memories, but one will have a far greater chance to live a full life than the other. Both will remember sailing on Puget Sound and saving little Sarah ten years ago, but one could have a stroke any day after this weekend and die; whereas the other is much less likely to have a stroke and is likely to enjoy many more evenings on Puget Sound in the waning light of a setting Pacific sun
Indeed a member of the Locke Society has suggested the following thought experiement: "Assume," he says. "that this weekend has come and gone. Julia-A has received the duplicate brain and Julia-B has the old brain.
"Imagine that they both wake up but have not yet opened their eyes to examine their bodies. How is Julia-A to know that she has the original brain and is who she seems to be or whether she has a duplicate brain and is a new person, only a few minutes young, and, "he scoffs, "with no real memories, only delusions of having been Julia?
"Indeed," he continues, "If Dr, Matthews keeps careless records or neglects to tell Julia-A and Julia-B who received which brain, the old brain or the duplicate brain, neither will feel any more or less Julia." Which
So gaze into your philosopher's cap on your head. What do you think? It is Friday, October, the 17th. By Monday there will be two survivors of Dr. Matthews' operation.
Which one will be Julia?
Each of us assumes that we are who we are through various changes over time. In some sense, perhaps, the person who enrolled in the PHIL 1A: Introduction to Philosophy class 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 had 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 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, nearly 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 Parfit. Dr. Parfit has been working in the area of telekinesis and he has 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 2004. 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. Parfit, the company has also donated one of its machines to Brandeis University (seeThe Justice, January 20, 2002) where it has been in use for a little overa year and half.. The Brandeis Teletransporter is in the basement of Rabb in the Graybiel Spatial Orientation Laboratory. 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 Rabb looks at first glance very much like a phone booth or one of those sound proof booths that you sometimes see on game shows on television where a contestant is placed so he or she cannot hear what is happening in the studio. This booth or "cubicle," as Dr Parfit 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 minutes to "travel" by this method from the basement 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., Miami, Atlanta and Phoenix. The trip to downtown Boston takes less than twenty seconds, 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 closed 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 twenty seconds if you are travelling to downtown Boston; three minutes 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 Rabb basement 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 a half days and you did not get much sleep and the plane trips have taken as much as nine hours, when you take into account lay-overs and ground transportation.
If you use the Teletransporter in the basement in Rabb, 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 January before last when it was first installed in the concrete bunker in Graybiel lab in Rabb. Imagine that he or she has relatives in Miami and has "teletransported" (the verb form of "teletransportation," recently accepted by American Heritage Dictionary) and he or she seems fine. Your friend has "traveled" three times by this method in April of this year and received "A's" on all his or her 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 Florida Marlins as well as several members of the Chicago Cubs used Teletransportation to get back and forth between Miami and Chicago during the National League Championship Series.. If you watched the NLCS on television 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 ones had traveled via the "old method," i.e., by air, and which ones had used the new "teletransportation" method? Be honest now.
Say you decide to try teletransportation for yourself to visit the West Coast. You go to Rabb basement, 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 in the Graybiel Lab. "Welcome to the West Coast," she says.
Would you make use of the teletransporter, if someone covered the costs and you did not have to pay for it? If so, why, if not, why not? Would you have any reason to "think twice" about using this "method" of travel? What might give you "pause," and why? What view about persons and personhood does your answer to these questions reflect? Make a case for a view of personal identity over time that makes sense of (that "explains") your decision to make use of or not to make use of the teletransporter in Rabb, think of the strongest objections that someone might make against your view, and respond to them.
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. Parfit 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 this new and 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 Rabb stuck once again in Waltham for the weekend."
The assistant passes you a note in Dr. Parfit'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. Parfit.
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. Parfit 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. Parfit 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 "the you" in Waltham has three days to live. "But, not to worry," Dr. Parfit says cheerily, "you will survive on the West Coast" And 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. Parfit. You ask Dr. Parfit to go over "the situation" with you one more time.
"It is perfectly understandable," Dr. Parfit says, "that this situation would arouse in you 'strong beliefs.'" "Strong beliefs!" you exclaim, "that is putting it very mildly."
"And these are beliefs," Dr. Parfit continues as if he did not hear your expression of exasperation, "not about the use of words, but about ourselves, By considering cases such as the one you now find yourself in, we discover what we believe to be involved in our own continued existence, or what it is that makes us today and next year the same people 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!" I realize that I am beginning to sound petulant.
"Listen," says Dr. Parfit, seeming to try to get me 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," I say. "Let me see if I understand. You are saying that my Replica is I. Is that right?"
"Yes," says Dr. Parfit, "that's it exactly. Although you who are here at Brandeis now shall die in three days, you shall nevertheless survive, you shall persist. Your Replica, who is right now on the West Coast, is you and so you shall 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. Parfit is saying now, that this was a way of travelling 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 I be speaking? To yourself or to someone else?"
Make a case for a view of personal identity over time that makes sense of your decision in the situation you now find yourself in after stepping into the new improved Teletransporter and stepping out again, think of the strongest objections that someone might make against your view, and respond to them.
Send comments to: Andreas Teuberr
Last Modified: 03/26/02
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