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“Self-Identity and Other Minds”

By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center presents the 24-part Great Courses series Philosophy of Mind: Part 9, “Self-Identity and Other Minds” at 5:30pm, Thursday, August 3, 2017, at the Meditation Center, Callejon Blanco 4.

Video Presentation
Philosophy of Mind: Part 9, “Self-Identity and Other Minds”
Thu, Aug 3, 5:30pm
Meditation Center,  Callejon Blanco 4
Free, donations accepted

William James said there’s one thing about our conscious experience we’re never uncertain about: whose is it? It’s mine, of course, but who is this “me”? What is it to be me? We acquire a self-concept at about the age of two. And have been the same person since. What makes your body the same over time? What makes you the same person? This lecture explores our sense of ourselves and our sense of other people.

John Locke in 1689 gave a Functionalist account of when someone is the same person: the same functional organization must be continuous over time. There must be a continuity of consciousness through memory. But, what about amnesia patients? Teletransportation thought experiments pose problems for personal identity. The teletransporter maps all information about the chemical composition of your body and brain and then sends it to some distant planet. “Ah,” you say as you step out, “here I am.” Is it really you? Could “you” be sent to multiple locations? In the end, bodily continuity, causal continuity, and continuity of memory do not seem to fare well as accounts of personal identity.

How do we know that other people and consciousnesses exist? We infer by analogy from our own cases. Philosophers and psychologists have used the term” mind-reading” to label our ability to read one another’s mental states. How do we do that? One hypothesis, the “theory” theory, is that we have a theory that links behavior and context to mental states. Another simulation theory is that we know what someone else is feeling by directly simulating their situation in our minds.

Professor Patrick Grim, as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, has provided his students with invaluable insights into issues of philosophy, artificial intelligence, theoretical biology, and other fields. Professor Grim was awarded the university’s Presidential and Chancellor’s awards for teaching excellence and was elected to the Academy of Teachers and Scholars.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


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