Sunday, October 30, 2011
Immortality and the Multiverse
Have you seen Roger, G3XBM's new blog, Miscellaneous Musings?
I especially liked his recent post on the simple pleasures. I'd say he's spot-on.
I wanted to comment on his topic, "Death in a Multiverse," only, it overcame the space provided. I'll just post it here on my blog.
I enjoyed reading your comments, Roger.
Suppose it were factually true that a nearly identical replica of you will continue to live somewhere in the Multiverse following your death here. Would having a nearly identical replica of you carry on somewhere "out there" effectively extend your conscious life?
Fortunately, there is no need to wait for our death in order to test this idea. The test consists of one straight-forward question, namely; Have you lost consciousness at any time since you were born? This test can be administered at any time and the results stand for all time.
The very notion of immortality stands critically on the precept that our consciousness is independent of a functioning brain or body. Thus, the test for absent consciousness is valid regardless of the present state of our brain or body. Plainly speaking; we need not wait until we die in order to test for the continuation of our consciousness. Again, this is so because immortal consciousness is not contingent upon a functioning brain, or the lack thereof.
I've taken the test and the results are unambiguous. In fact, I have lost consciousness several times in the course of my life. In each case my experience abruptly halted, only to restart at a later time. While my consciousness was "off-line" I had no dreams, nor could I reflect upon the fact that I was unconscious. Upon waking I noticed the world had apparently gone about its business while I was entirely absent from it. No "hot standby" rushed in to pick up my loss of consciousness. No secondary "light" was illuminated. Until my brain had "re-booted" there was for me only time-less nonexistence.
Indeed, those missing moments stand out no differently than the semi-eternity during which my consciousness was absent from the world prior to my birth. Of course, the fact that our consciousness suddenly arose with our physical birth should have been the first tip-off that our consciousness might not survive without our brain/body.
There is little that we can say about the world with metaphysically warranted certainty. However, it seems a fair bet that none of us will survive the death of our brain. Some of us won't survive until the death of our body (e.g. terminal coma, advanced Alzheimer's, etc.).
This isn't the last word on the subject. Granted, the person who presently peers at the world through my own eyes will eventually disappear. But new consciousness will continue to reappear (i.e., children will continue to be born). Of course they won't bear my personal identity, but they will be somebody.
Well, I wasn't born "me" either. I was born a "somebody" that eventually became a "someone;" the same as they will. They won't have my memories or share my person proclivities, but I wonder how much do those particulars actually matter? I admit it's a head-banging question, but if a child is born a nebulous "somebody," just as I once was, what is it that distinguishes one raw consciousness from another?
I believe the question has much to do with the notion of identity. I can imagine looking out through these same eyes even if my life had been radically different. If primal consciousness is fungible, then what stands between the individual consciousness within which each one of us awakened? If consciousness does not arise stamped with a "serial number," what could there be to distinguish one newly minted consciousness from another?
I don't see this as some backdoor path to personal immortality. Neither do I envision it as some type of reincarnation. Rather, I think that we ought to re-examine our concept of Self. And I think that we could do worse than to merge, or at least blur, our notion of individual self with that of our brethren; past, present and future. I suspect that I exist in this broader sense, and in some degree, in every conscious being.
If you have an interest in the subject of personal identity then you might be interested in Derek Parfit's masterpiece, Reasons and Persons. A sample of his arguments may be found here.